How To Catch Walleye
Walleyes get their name from the outward facing placement of their eyes. The Walleye is a fish that is popular in the northern region of the United States and in Canada. Walleye predictably look for rock, gravel, and other hard-bottomed shallows to spawn. Females are generally larger than males, and like most fish, there's a pretty constant relationship between a walleye's length and weight. You should expect to catch more males than females; therefore, you’ll catch smaller walleyes overall. Walleye, especially as they mature, can be crafty fish, and their keen senses make them harder than most to trick.
Where to Catch Walleye
The trick to catching walleye is taking advantage of their sensitive lateral line and attraction to cloudy water with the right technique. A thick cover of grass and warm murky water are ideal spots for immature perch, minnows of all kinds, crappie, and a host of other prey on the walleye's menu. Walleye are located near the bottom of the water.
To catch walleye, look for flats, holes and humps that are 10-13 feet deep in the Spring. Walleye can be found in 15-25 feet in the transition from Spring to Summer, but in the peak of Summer, walleye move into deeper waters about 25-40 ft then back to 15-25 ft in the Fall.
Walleye spawn in early Spring yet they don’t protect their eggs so don’t target them until late Spring. Post Spawn is the hottest times to target walleye as there are larger females. If you’re fishing near Canada, the best time to catch walleye is May/June. If you’re closer to the Lower Midwest area, it’s April/May. In spring and early summer when walleye are more aggressive, use fast retrieval.
In the dim light of very early morning and evening hours, when the sun will not affect their eyes, walleye will feed in the shallows using weeds, wood, and rock for cover. In clear water, you can find walleye resting close to the bottom and searching for prey from the surface to the bottom during the evening.
How to Fish for Walleye
You need to align your gear selection to the water characteristics around you then execute the techniques most suitable for your trip. Keep reading to learn what fishing gear you need to catch walleye!
Jigging Live Bait
Jigging is lifting, dropping, and pausing the bait near the bottom to lure the fish. This is more successful during Spring, when Walleyes are feeding on Points. If you’re using a boat to jig, keep the bait in front of you so you can gauge where the bottom is as your boat slowly drifts. Feel the bottom and bounce your jig ever 3-5 seconds. When jigging for walleye, search for rocky or sandy bottoms or along the weedline when fishing on shore. Remember lift, drop then pause on the bottom for a second.
This technique is for Live Bait Rigs, and it’s great for tired walleyes during spawning season in Early Spring or during Late Spring and Early Summer when conditions make walleye fearful. Walleye Chop is ideal as the waves can move your boat alone about a .2-.4 MPH. If the winds are stronger, use a drift sock to slow the roll, but when there is no chop, use a Trolling Motor on low. Keep the line close to your boat, similar to jigging and let your bait drift in the water.
The best beginner technique option is drifting a Slip Bobber. Slip Bobber lets you put your bait at any depth. It’s most effective in Spring and Fall when you can find a school of walleye. You can also catch a lot of walleye during prime dusk/dawn feeding hours in the Summer. Cast 5-10 yards away and set your slip knot so your bait is a hanging a foot off the bottom. Make sure your Slip Float is upright.
Jigging Plastics are great for rivers with strong currents in the Fall. Jigging plastics is about covering a lot water casting and searching for walleye. Use soft plastics rigged to jig heads to bounce, drag, and swim them along the bottom. You can pause or jerk the line but keep it within a foot or two from the bottom.
Trolling is best executed in the right depths, which varies depending on the season (information in the “Where to Catch Walleye” section below), on Offshore Reefs during the Summer and near shore Mudflats during the Fall. Let your line out 50-100 yards with a boat speed of 1-2 MPH. The lure should stay trolling at the bottom.
Walleye Fishing Gear
Catch Walleye on Live Bait
If you’re just a beginner at fishing for walleye, then I suggest using live bait. Minnows are the most useful, but walleyes are also attracted to leaches, worms and walleye jigs. The walleye like natural colors such as brown, silver, black, and white. There are two type of minnows to use are Shine and Flathead Minnows. When targeting larger walleye, use the Shiner 4-6” to avoid smaller fish. The Shiner should get you a 25” walleye. If you’re looking for a smaller fish or the fish aren’t biting, use the Flathead Minnows 2-3”. Large leeches or nightcrawlers are a great second option. For jigging live bait, you should use Fireball jig heads (1/4 oz and 1/8 oz). These are specifically made for walleye and have no lead barb on the base and the hook shank is short with a wide gap.
Catch Walleye with Lures
Experienced walleye fishermen use Walleye Lures because it is more difficult. Crankbait and Soft Plastics are the popular lure options. Specifically, the curl tail grubs are the best walleye lure. This is what you use to fish fast and to avoid keeping your bait alive. Use a 3-4” grub with ¼ or 1/8 ox barged jigs. To catch walleye, use a crankbait that dives in deep water about 10-13 feet. In the summer, these should be trolled along wide flats and reefs. Vibrating ring worms (1/4 oz- 1/2 oz) are known to catch big walleye in a fast current. Ring worms are designed to have heavy tops to allow the tail end to float up when sitting on the bottom. If you find schools of baitfish in the summer and fall, use Paddle Tail Shads. Thump the tail on the bottom to get bites; however, you will get a mix of species biting your bait. Use natural colors like white, pearl, shad, and smelt to get the best results. You can also use a snap-jigging or swimming retrieve with a grub, minnow or fluke fools active walleye prowling shorelines, drop-offs, sand flats, humps and reefs.
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