Riege: Many overlook Spring tacticsPublished 5:34pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Walleyes live in a variety of aquatic environments, although they are usually found near rocky points, in places where the lake bottom changes from mud to gravel, along weedlines, near reefs and in areas with current. The trick is learning where walleyes are likely to be located throughout the year and to focus your fishing efforts in those places.
Walleye fishing success is determined by water clarity and temperature. The rule is usually the clearer the water, the tougher the bite, although clear lakes often have the largest walleyes. The best times to fish in clear lakes are dawn, dusk and at night. In stained water, walleyes will bite throughout the day. In northern rivers and lakes where food is limited and the growing season is short, walleyes will aggressively follow lures to the boat even on sunny days.
In the spring (from May until mid June), walleyes congregate near river outlets, in shallow bays, near emerging weeds, along shallow shorelines and close to gravel bars and reefs where they spawned. They’ll stay in the shallows as long as the water remains cool, so you can look for them along shorelines.
By summer, walleyes start moving to deeper structure from five to 30 feet depending on water clarity, sunlight, wind and wave action. Try the edge of drop-offs along long points. If the waves are up, look for feeding fish on top of the structure. Mid-lake humps, sunken islands, cabbage weeds and mud flats all hold summer walleyes. In the evening, you may find feeding fish in shoreline shallows.
Long lining the flats is a good way to find summer walleyes. Recently while fishing the flats I made a couple of backtrolling runs across the 6-10 foot areas and that produced a couple of fish, but that was it. The fish were there, but at midday they were spooky. A little experimentation, however, quickly produced the proper pattern.
The key was a silent presentation. The outboard was shut off and the MotorGuide electric motor lowered into the water. Lindy walking sinkers and Lindy rigs were replaced with a single, tiny, split shot and a #8 hook. The hook was baited with leeches or crawlers; about 40 yards of line was released, and the area slowly and silently backtrolled, back and forth, with this long-line presentation.
The long line reduces the feel but allows time for the boat to pass overhead of the walleyes and reduces the chances of them spooking. The walleyes if they do spook will regroup and be attentive to any live bait passing them. This same pattern can be used when fishing spinners. Slow down the presentation just like you would in the spring of the year. Maybe go to a smaller blade on your spinner or a lighter weight and slow down your speed, by using the electric trolling motor.
Another spring tactic that I use a lot is skimming or swimming a lure over the top of weed growth. This method uses the same type of presentation previously mentioned, but instead of live bait, I will use a crankbait. Again, here I will use my MotorGuide electric motor and troll across the top of the weeds. It’s particularly effective in shallow, weedy, stocked walleye lakes where walleyes relate to weedbeds, or in a lake that has received a lot of fishing pressure.
A favorite lure also is the Rapala type balsa minnow trolled ever so slowly across the shallow rocks and the tops of weed growth. By the way this is also a great way to find summer walleyes at night. The walleyes are feeding in the shallows and love to relate to those weedbeds.
This system is particularly effective on weedier lakes because walleyes tend to spread out in the emerging weed growth, rather than concentrate near shoreline rocks like they do in rocky, clean-bottomed lakes. You simply have to cover more water to find them, and the slow trolling approach works quite well.
One method overlooked by many anglers is the Thill Float approach. The Thill Float technique is a topnotch walleye method. When the walleyes are scattered and the waves are really pounding in, there’s no better way to fish. You can’t control the boat in such waves, so why bother to try. Simply anchor, cast out the float and let it do the work for you.
The stop, or rubber snubber enables you to set your bait at any depth you wish. It’s great for working those hard to get at fish snuggled in among boulders, or for reaching suspended fish lying off the side of a rocky reef. The Thill Float holds a leech, crawler or minnow right in front of the fishes’ nose, and sometimes that is what it takes to get a response from inactive walleyes.
If walleye anglers have one fault, it’s that they don’t experiment enough. Don’t get stuck in a rut, be a change up type of angler. Sometimes a little twist in presentation or fishing shallower than you think in the summer months can produce numbers of walleyes. Remember, to keep an open mind, and experiment with some of these methods. Versatility is one of the keys to consistent fishing success.