How to catch Walleye
Spring Walleye Fishing: In the spring, Walleyes are either in a river current or right close to shore. When I say close to shore, I mean 3 to 10 feet from shore. In Northern Ontario Canadian Shield Lakes, the Walleyes that don't spawn in the river will find sandy areas along the shore to spawn. By the time fishing season opens, most Walleyes are finished spawning but they will hang around to protect their spawning beds.
You can put on a light jig (1/8th or 1/16th oz) and cast along the shore and retrieve it quit aggressively as the Walleyes are very aggressive this time of year. Use bright colors like red, chartreuse, yellow or white. Walleyes that are feeding will hit the jig. Walleyes that are not feeding will still hit bright colors because they are defending the spawning grounds and bright colors aggravate them. Generally, white is always the best color.
In the daytime and in early spring, your will most likely catch smaller males, which stay at the spawning beds. The bigger females usually take off into deeper water during the day. If you are going after size instead of numbers, fish off the areas where Walleyes were spawning and fish deeper in the 10 to 15-foot depth. That's where the big females are.
How do you find that special spot along the shore where the Walleyes are congregating? In the spring, put on a small Original Floating Rapala or Thunderstick and troll really slow right along the shoreline. The Walleyes will be in 2 to 4 feet of water. Red, Blue, Chartreuse and Fire Tiger are the best colors in the spring. If you keep trolling past a spot and hit Walleyes, then that's where they are. In this case, stop the motor and start casing. Trolling back and forth too many times will spook the area and they will stop feeding.
A few years ago in very early spring (just after ice-out), we fished right along the shore. If we were more then 10 feet away from shore; we would not catch anything. Across the lake was a bunch of guys that were staying in a different camp. They watched us fishing along the shore and catching Walleye after Walleye. They were fishing out in the middle of the lake and catching nothing. They watched us catch fish all day. We told them the Walleyes were right on shore yet they would not listen and fished out in the middle of the lake and continued to catch nothing.
If you are going to be a stubborn fisherman who never tries anything new or will not accept the fact that the fishing in Northern Ontario is different then down south, then all you'll catch is disappointment. In early spring, 95% of the walleyes will be in water shallower than 5 feet. In the afternoon, the big females will go deeper to protect themselves from the sun, Muskie and Pike.
In the middle of the afternoon try trolling 30 feet from shore in deeper water using down-deep Husky Jerks to try to pick up those big females that leave the shore in the daytime.
Summer Walleye Fishing: In the summer the walleyes go a little deeper, hang out at the mouth of rivers or lay off rocky points. Islands that have patches of gravel around them are good spots. Rocky drop-offs are also good. With lakes that have a flat structure, the Walleyes will head into the thick weeds to get protection from the sun.
In the summer, Walleyes tend to go after more natural colors like silver, brown, black and white. When fishing with jigs, you can go to a heavier jig like a 3/8-oz or even 1/4-oz depending on how deep you are fishing. The unscented twistertails or rubber you put on the jig should be these natural colors. Fish in the north do not like scented rubbers. They do like salted rubbers. Live minnows, if allowed, are excellent whether on a jig or just a strait hook. If you are on a lake where you can not use live bait, get some salted minnows. We use to catch minnows and then cure them with salt. It seems a little cruel but it's convenient and the Walleyes go nuts over them. Just put a bunch of minnows on a cookie sheet and cover them with a generous amount of table salt.
Hot Days – Some times the Walleyes get very lazy in the summer, especially if it's a hot sunny day. Use a 1/8-oz jig and put a white unscented twistertail on. Then cast out and literally drag the jig across the bottom. Give it tiny little jigs (2 or 3 inches) once in a while just to shake off any mud or weeds. This bottom dragging gets the Walleyes feeding. It really works. You should always jig slowly. Just make the jig motion longer in the morning, as the Walleyes are more aggressive. Sharp quick jigs will attract pike. In the afternoon when the Walleyes slow down, put a piece of worm, Walleye gullet or salted minnow on your jig and use the slow bottom drag methed and you will start hitting Walleyes again.
Trolling off the rocky points with a Rapala or Thunderstick is also good in the summer. Natural colors like silver or brown seem to work best. If you use bright colors, you will hit tons of pike. In the summer, the Walleyes tend to go a little deeper and stay off rocky points or rocky drop-offs because wave action on the rocks creates more oxygen. Also, bugs and other food floating on the surface tend to get more dense when drifting past a point so small minnows show up to feed and the Walleyes feed on the minnows.
Big Deep Summer Walleyes: In the heat of the summer, some Walleyes, especially the big females, will go deep and stay down between 15 and 35 feet deep. They only come to shore at night. During the day, they will move out into open water and feed on suspended schools of lake shad and lake Herring. This is especially true in lakes like Eagle Lake where the shoreline is a gauntlet of Muskie and Pike teeth.
There are two things you can do. If you are in a bigger boat you can use down-riggers or use down-deep Husky Jerks or J-13 down deep jointed Rapalas and troll out in open water. Look for schools of baitfish 20 to 40 yards off rocky points or river mouths. Try fishing 15 to 35 feet deep. If you are in a small boat and you can troll really slow, use a 3-way swivel and a 2-oz weight and back-troll through the schools of bait fish or troll 20 feet deep along the shore and follow the contours of the shoreline. Use a worm harness with a big juicy worm.
Fall: Fishing in the fall for Walleyes can be very frustrating. What happens in many lakes is the water cools down and the weeds start to die. As the weeds die, they absorb oxygen out of the water as then decompose. Dead weeds also produce a dirty methane-sulfate and when the methane bubbles are released and float to the surface, the molecule capture a hydrogen molecule and releases the sulfur, which is poison to fish in high concentrations but with trace amounts, it's annoying to them. The Walleyes take off into open water or up rivers and away from the dying weeds. They may more to the outer edge of big weed beds where the prevailing winds are blowing fresh water into the weeds.
Rivers: The Walleyes will swim up stream and hang around deep pools or back moving currents on either side of a rapids. When fishing in a river for Walleyes, the best thing to use is a float with a minnow or a worm. You can also cast Rapalas and Thundersticks and reel them in through the slower moving current and back-eddies. You can use jigs but you will get snagged many times and it can ruin your day.
Open Water: In the fall, many of the Walleyes go out into open water and stay suspended. Generally (not always) they tend to stay in 10 to 25 foot of water. Many fishermen like to troll with the Rapala "Down Deep Husky Jerks" and the Rattling Fat Raps. This is not the most exciting type of fishing but it's better then nothing. If you are in an area where there is a good population of Walleyes, you should catch them. You will need a depth finder and see where you are marking fish. The atmospheric pressure will effect what depth the Walleyes are at. If the pressure goes really low, the walleyes may stop feeding all together. BUT…if the pressure starts rising, the Walleyes will start feeding and aggressively. Walleyes always feed the best when the pressure is on the rise.
At night in the fall: Some of the really big females will come in close to shore at night, especially in the fall. Between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, try trolling with an Original Floating Rapala along the shore in 2 or 3 feet of water or troll past rocky shoals. Or put a worm or a minnow on a hook and cast off shore.
Best Walleye Lures and Baits:
Free Trolling Deep:
Storm Deep Jointed Minnow Stick
Storm Deep ThunderStick MadFlash
Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerks
Rapala J-13 Deep Running Jointed Rapala
Rapala J-11 Deep Running Jointed Rapala
Yellow or white Flatfish
Deep Tail Dancer
Jointed Deep Running Shad Rap
Free Trolling Shallow:
Original Floating Rapala
Original Floating Storm ThunderStick
Mepps Giant Killer Sassy Shad
Mepps SpinFlex with worm or minnow
Light Erie Dearie with worm
Spinners with worm
Worm Harness Spinner
Casting or drifting:
Jigs with unscented Twistertails or minnow
Heavy Erie Dearie with worm
Spinners with worm
Original Floating Rapala
Original Floating Storm ThunderStick
Hook with minnow or worm