Riege: Looking for summer walleyes

Published 10:42 pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013

By Bob and Ginny Riege

Livebait rigging or jigging the edges of prominent midlake structure captures the essence of fishing walleyes in lakes throughout the Midwest. Fish like an edge. Fish are not randomly scattered through any body of water, be it a pond, lake, large reservoir, stream, river, ocean, bay or slough. Fish are always found in specific areas. These areas will vary with the species of fish and the environment in which they live, but are based on typical factors that involve every living thing – food, oxygen levels, temperature, pH, light levels, structure and schooling tendencies.

Learning to understand the special needs and preferences of a species is critical to locating fish in any body of water. For example largemouth bass have a preference for wood as structure, while smallmouth bass prefer gravel, rock or stone rip rap.

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At this point you are probably wondering what constitutes an edge? Well an edge is anything that is different about the environment where the fish lives. When looking at structure, the edge is where gravel turns to sand, mud meets rock, drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottle necks between two different land masses, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtered through a rock causeway. The more subtle structure might be where there is a confluence of two rivers, a mud line (cloudy discharge from one river or stream into a lake), a current break in a river or a stream, even shadows on the water, or a fallen tree to provide an edge that fish like to relate to.

With this in mind anglers should stop and think, where are the edges on this body of water. For example, walleyes in cold water will probably be where there is a warmer temperature. That might mean the northern part of the lake or where a feed creek dumps into the river. Then, what other structures are present to make up the edge? Is there a barrier from current or wind? Has the vegetation or weed growth started yet? Is the bottom sandy, muddy, rocky etc.

In effect, search drop-off edges of large midlake points and humps rising above the summer thermocline, using electronics to detect the presence of baitfish and game fish. Some may be up along the first drop-off or deep weededge; others may be lying along the base of the break where it bottoms out into the main basin. Slowly backtroll livebait or a livebait and artificial combo at the depth of the spotted fish. If they’re tight to the bottom or slightly into weed cover and hard to see, weave your rigs along the drop-off or weedline, paying particular attention to irregularities that may concentrate fish. Points, turns, changes in weed growth. This subtle structure change should hold groups of fish in distinct areas.

A common summer pattern is to work the weedline area over with a jig and minnow or jig and plastic tail combos from slightly outside to slightly inside the deep weededge. Using a pop of the rod tip to rip the weed growth, let the jig fall between stalks to trigger fish.

Night fishing the shallows with diving Shad Raps or casting Tail Dancers across weed tops or rocky points and humps can be very effective especially if the lake you are on gets a great deal of boat pressure in the day or it is an extremely clear lake. Don’t overlook slipbobber fishing shallow rocky spots with livebait after dark and drifting the shallows with long line snap jigging tactics on large bodies of water where active walleyes penetrate and feed in the shallows day or night.

Where jig or rig eating snags are bad switch to a bottom bouncer teamed with either a Rainbow spinner or a livebait rig like a Roach rig. For jigging or rigging, drift or troll your baits or lures as vertically as possible, trying to hold them just off the bottom to minimize snagging and loosing tackle. In many cases, tipping jigs with livebait is unnecessary; walleyes will inhale Power Grub tails with gusto.

Summertime walleyes are the most aggressive fish during June, July and August. Therefore, get out on the edges and find the hungry walleyes and enjoy the summer with a stringer full of summertime walleyes.