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FALL WALLEYE – IN THE ROCKS

imagesCAI0OI51Though it can get cold – make that, very cold – during the fall, you don’t need rocks in your head to chase late-season walleyes. Even more than spring, autumn can be the best time to hook the trophy of a lifetime. The fish are big and hungry and unlike spring when they are spawning, eating is the only thing on their minds in fall as they fatten up for winter. Weather and water levels can also be more stable later in the season than earlier in the year.

But, whether we’re targeting rivers or lakes in fall, we certainly should have rocks on our minds. The biggest walleyes (and highest concentrations) will be schooled around places with hard bottoms. Take the time to find rocks, then locate the spot-on-the-spot and hold onto your rod. That chill in the air just might signal the hottest bite you’ve seen all year.

Many walleye fishermen will head to Wawang Lake in spring when the spawning instinct sends huge numbers of walleyes and saugers to their regular, shallow spawing beds. But the savviest walleye anglers know the spawning migration actually begins in fall. The fish that were scattered and hard to find all summer begin schooling and traveling toward hard-bottom spots where they’ll spawn when the combination of temperature, daylight and current is right, come springtime. Conditions can be better in August to November than they are in May and June.

You’re also not dealing with the crowds you see earlier in the year. By this time, many anglers have set aside fishing rods and picked up their guns or bows to hunt deer. If they head to the water, it’s only to down geese or ducks. Points and where current strength lessens offers fish places to rest, are key. But where inside bends were best in spring, outside bends may hold fish in fall. Check for places where hard bottom areas feature gravel and clam shells.

Hard-bottom areas at the mouths of bays and narrows are also key spots.  As colder nights lower the water temperature and kill vegetation in the shallows, baitfish move toward the main lake.   Predators station themselves at the openings and make a killing – literally. The mouths of creeks or inlets offer the same scenario.

Keep it simple. Slip jig with a Fuzz-E-Grub jig just heavy enough to maintain bottom contact. Lindy’s new X-Change jigheads allow you to change the weight to match the depth, current and other factors like wind. They also let you change up colors to see if walleye show a preference, and they often do. Use braided line to increase sensitivity, so you can feel transition areas from mud to rocks. Turn up the gain on your sonar. When you see a double bottom (‘second echo’) appear on the screen, you know the bottom is hard.

Pull three-way rigs as an alternative. Use a Lindy NO-SNAGG sinker with a dropper and enough weight to keep the line at a 45-degree angle while slowly moving or hovering with your trolling motor. Use a floating shallow diving crankbait or plain hook tipped with a lively minnow. Add color with a bead or a floating jig.

30.5 inch wawang lake walleye

Shoreline points and islands that feature fast drops to deep water are key spots on Wawang Lake. Walleyes in areas like that can hold in deeper water for security and swim to shallower water to feed without much effort. Use Lindy Rigs with big chubs and NO-SNAGG sinkers to move up and down the dropoffs. Keep your bait fresh and tail hook it so it struggles to attract nearby walleyes. Try using 10-pound braided line, like Power Pro, for your main line, with a fluorocarbon leader on a rod rated for 8- to 14-pound-test line. The rod must have enough backbone for good hooksets in deep water but have a limber enough tip to vibrate when the forage reacts to an approaching walleye. Be ready when the chub starts to struggle a walleye is close by.

imagesCA9GUKSFA soft tip also lets the rod absorb the shock of a big fish, a must when using no-stretch braided line. Don’t overlook rock piles. But, it’s important to realize the impact of turnover on fish location. Lakes stratify in summer with walleyes and other fish trapped in the water above the thermocline when oxygen content below it drops too low to support life. But that changes when water temperature drops down into the low 50s F. Water becomes heavier at that point and the water on top sinks and allows oxygen to mix at all depths again. Fish are free to travel downward as water near the surface dips below their comfort zones.

As a result, rock piles at ever-increasing depths start to hold walleyes. If you aren’t catching fish on rock piles that held walleyes in the warm months, go deeper.

It’s not all about hard bottoms in autumn. Walleyes will converge on mud flats if an insect hatch occurs. But at the same time, turn up the gain on the sonar and watch for places where a double bottom appears, signaling a transition to harder bottom. Travel around the area slowly. You might stumble across a peak (slightly higher point) in the rocks, where walleyes are gathered as if they were invited to dinner.  Just because it’s cold and deer season is open doesn’t mean that fishing in autumn requires rocks in your head. But, you sure should have rocks on your mind.

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Fall Walleye Fishing

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Walleye fishing in the cooler weather of autumn is probably second best only to early spring, although there are anglers who would argue this point. Early season walleye fishing is great to say the least, but try a night in the fall when you shiver with cold and excitement as the line goes tight and the fish takes off for deeper water. Fall fishing is hard to beat for great action.

As the water cools and the wave action turns the water over, the oxygen levels go up and the walleye will be stimulated and become more active. Walleye seem to like the break between shallow and deep water at this time of year. Try trolling along these areas and dont be afraid to try different depths. Look for contours near the shore in daylight hours and note their locations. At dusk you can troll along these contours and work them from shallow to deep. But the actual edge of the contours can often be the most productive. Try a zigzag pattern of trolling or casting to cover more water.

Baits:
Wally Minnow, Smithwick Rogue, Rapalas, countdowns, long wally jigs, Wally Divers, shad raps and spinners with coloured blades are among the top choice lures to have in your arsenal..

Remember that late fall will mean a slower troll or presentation if casting. Keep the bait near bottom and retrieve very slowly, letting the bait strike the bottom as you reel it in. Try using shad raps, trolled close to bottom, #7 or #9 with a drop weight on a three-way swivel to keep the bait at or close to bottom, or with a bottom-walking sinker. Bottom walkers are best in murky water or in low light conditions. As they are dragged across the bottom they will create a trail of riled water and the bait you have attached will resemble a feeding baitfish. This action is what will attract the walleye. Spinner blades attached to a 1/8 or ¼ oz. jig head with scent impregnated power baits such as power leeches or power worms are another sure fire way to attract the walleye to your line. The same rig can be used successfully with live minnows. Keep the retrieves relatively slow, as the walleye will be feeding steadily, but not very aggressively. If you are using a live minnow on its own with a weight, keep the hook within eight inches of the weight. This will give the walleye a better chance to take the minnow.

Jim 26 inch

The vibrations of the larger minnow will bring the walleye in from a greater distance as the walleye are initially attracted by sound and then by sight. If you are fishing at night, you will want to fish shallower, as the walleye will feed closer to the surface. Walleye will usually start to feed just at dusk in clear water and this will last until full dark, at this point the action will stop. The eyes on a walleye take up to an hour or more to become accustomed to the dark. This usually happens at the last light of day or full dark, as we know it. At this point they will be able to see again and will start night feeding. Many anglers stop fishing after the initial evening feeding action slows or stops and by doing so miss out on a lot of good fishing. If you are using strong lights, keep them at a good distance from where you are fishing, as the light will spook the walleye. It is always better to keep the lights low and use a flashlight if more light is needed.

 

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Walleye fishing in the fall generally produces the best results after the sun has set. Once the fish have adjusted to their night vision, they are able to see very well. Thus the lures that work best are usually those worked closer to the surface, as this is where the fish tend to seek out their food. You can start by using a suspending jerk-bait and fishing it about half the distance to bottom. Work the bait in short jerks and let it rest for a while before the next jerk. This gives the fish time to zero in on it before it is tugged out of their strike zone. The speed that you retrieve should be varied until you find the one that gets results. If using a crank-bait, then you can let it sink slowly a few feet and start a slow retrieve. With all the walleye that Wawang Lake has to offer  is it any wonder that we see so many active anglers out on the lake at this time of year with good catches and more great fishing memories of a trophy fish & quite possibly more.

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Fall Rigs for Late Walleye Fishing

From late summer though fall, live-bait fishing catches walleye every day in Wawang Lake. Other methods may catch more, but don’t count on it.   Especially when that weight sliding on your main line is perfectly in tune with depth, wind, bait type and size.

A leader separates a struggling live bait from that weight, giving it room to swim, squirm and attract fish. Simple. Beautiful. Deadly. But the key is putting that living minnow, leech or crawler on a target below the boat. Like a bombardier, rigging experts know how to triangulate their targets and allow for current, velocity and depth.  But being a rigging bombardier doesn’t require magic or genius. Triangulating, in this case, is simple. As you move deeper, use a larger weight. As the wind picks up, go with a larger weight. And as the size of the bait increases – well, you get the idea.

There is no doubt that it’s a proven system, and the most efficient live-bait delivery system possible.  Success is really about location, followed by time of year and bait selection. Carefully considering these ups your odds. The key to success with rigging is placing live bait precisely on a small target below the boat, and to do that it’s better to use a weight that is too heavy than one that’s too light.

  • What are bass anglers good at – Accurate pitching to visible targets.

  • What are walleye anglers good at – Putting a sinker in a 12-inch circle 25-feet down.

  • That’s why sinker size and type is critical.

Leaders testing 4- to 8-pounds and 4 feet long (from swivel to hook) are optimum most of the time. Some anglers primarily rigs with two types of sinkers from late summer on: Lindy Walking Sinkers – the most popular rigging weights ever – and Lindy Rattlin’ No-Snagg Sinkers.

Lindy rigs really shine on main-lake points and humps from late summer through fall.  They maintain bottom contact to cover those critical transitions from hard to soft bottom that attract baitfish. Transitions are classic rigging zones.  Transitions show up on sonar – the hard bottom showing bright and dense while soft substrates return a weaker signal.

Use a sensitive, medium-light, 7-foot rod with braided line on the reel.  Braid doesn’t stretch, so it transmits vibration and feel much better.  You can tell when your bait is almost to that point where the bottom changes, helping you visualize exactly where it is.

During late summer, walleyes move out on main-lake points and humps to depths of 20 to 25 feet. By late autumn, it’s common to find them 35 to 55 feet down.  Follow them down through fall with heavier sinkers.  If it’s windy, go even heavier. Again, it’s better to go too heavy than too light. If you can’t feel bottom, go up a notch in weight.

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Weekend anglers often forget that rigging isn’t just dragging baits around on bottom.   Criss-cross transitions, moving from shallow to deep and back again.

When marking walleye on the edge of a break at 25 feet, snake from 27 to 23 and back down.  When the bait’s moving away from them, going shallower or deeper, they react as if it’s trying to get away.   vertical-jigging-1Also lift the rig off bottom as it approaches a marked fish.  Using the Rattlin’ No Snagg Sinker, shake it. Raising it off bottom can trigger a reluctant fish. It’s that escape trigger – making walleye think the baitfish is moving away.

Which brings up another important point, after every bite, try to remember exactly what you were doing before it happened – what direction you were going, how fast you were moving, how high or fast you lifted the bait. All those factors become pattern identification. That’s how you go on to catch four, five or a dozen more. And once you catch a few fish off a point or hump, try to find the same kind of spots. That’s how you create patterns with Lindy rigs in the fall.

When a fish bites, feed it line for at least 10 seconds while slowly maneuvering the boat toward the fish.   Sometimes wait up to a minute.  If they really whack it, it’s 10 seconds.  If they barely pick it up, let them take it longer and point the rod right at the fish and move the boat over it, slowly picking up slack. When you feel tension, set. If you miss,  let them take it longer next time.

The sinker selection is the key element that many anglers overlook for late-summer, early fall walleye rigging.

It’s all about striking a balance between wind, depth, and bait size. You want to stay relatively vertical in deep water. Mostly use 1/2- to 1-ounce weights late summer through fall because walleyes are 25 to 45 feet down. And use bigger minnows in fall, lip hooked on size 4 to size 1 octopus-style hooks. You want to be right below the boat when you’re on fish, but you have to keep moving to find them, so you have to strike a balance that way, too. Once you start marking fish, zero in on that depth.

Sometimes it helps to pulse your trolling motor and change direction and speed.

That’s what triggers strikes when Lindy rigging – slight variations in speed and direction. And if using that Rattlin’ No Snagg sinker, lift, drop and shake it a lot to activate those rattles. That triggers strikes, too. But choose the shape and type of sinker based on bottom type, cover and conditions to be efficient.

  • The classic Lindy Walking Sinker is perfect for sand, gravel and subtle transitions in clear water.
  • The No Snagg shines around broken rock, wood and boulders, and the Rattlin’ No Snagg is right whenever the water is cloudy.

Another bonus is that No Snagg wobbles a little bit, which moves the bait. It twitches a leech, crawler, or minnow just a little bit. That’s all it can take to trigger a walleye.

But don’t forget to zig-zag. And pause when you mark a fish. Lift the bait, too. And shake it. Just dragging bait around won’t cut it most days.

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WALLEYE – Lures & Baits

To get a fish to bite, you need to know how, where, whe­n, and what it eats.

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Walleye are most active in morning and evening. They feed on small yellow perch, small northern pike, lake herring, other small bait fish and you can often find them around schools of these smaller fish. They eat a lot, they’re aggressive, and they’re not picky, which is good news for you. Because walleye eat by sucking in water around their prey, you’ll probably want to try smaller bait.

Look for walleye around submerged rocks, weedy flats, bars or other underwater barriers in the lakes.  Wawang Lake is known for all these types of great structure.

Many predators like such obstructio­ns, which help them ambush their food. Walleye locate their prey by sight, which means you’re not likely to find them in sunny waters; they retreat coyly to the shadows or the darker depths, often in groups. walleye’s strong vision also means you’ll have better luck with brightly colored lures, and you might even want to experiment with different colors.

­In the case of walleye, to seek out their location, you’ll also need to consider the time of year. Walleye like water between 55 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and they move to follow it. In spring and fall, you’ll find them in the shallows of lakes. In summer, they’ll be a bit deeper — though you’re not likely to find them in very deep waters (more than 50 feet).

Now that you know those basics, let’s find out how you can choose the right baits and lures.

Types of Walleye Fishing Lures

Nature-Jigs-1-WhiteLures are designed to mimic a fish’s natural prey, so think about­ walleye’s eating patterns and food. Lures that move quickly will attract these aggressive hunters. Additionally, lures should be similar in size to the smaller prey fish.

If you’re fishing with a jig head, choose the jig head based on water depth — the deeper the water, the heavier the head. For deeper walleye fishing, you’ll want a jig head of about ½ ounce. In shallower waters, you can go as light as a 1/8-ounce jig head. If conditions are rough or windy, a heavier jig can help.

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Depending on the time of year, you may want something that sticks close to the bottom, like a small but heavy jig (with a lead head) or a crank bait.   If you go with a crank bait, again, choose one that mimics walleye’s natural prey — narrow, and between three and five inches long.

In various fishing conditions, you might want to try:

  • High-action lures:  designed to go deep (especially in warmer months)
  • Crank baits:  such as shad raps, jointed shad raps, or glass shad raps (with built-in rattles)
  • A balsa lure: such as a rapala
  • Live bait jigs: (for casting or trolling at the beginning of the fall season)
  • A #3 or #4 spinner
  • Trolling crank baits with more subtle action (better for the colder months

Finally, you can key your color choice to the sort of water you’ll be fishing. Use brighter colors for weedy or muddy waters.

Obviously, your bait depends on your choice of lure, as well as the fishing conditions. Read on.

Types of Walleye Fishing Baits

182Remember that walleye’s behavior and location chan­ges seasonally — so, the b­ait that worked so well at the beginning of September might not be the best one for May. Come prepared to try a few different kinds of baits, and remember that every angler works by trial and error.

When the weather is cold, you may find the best results with live bait. In cold water, walleye are sluggish. The movement of live bait will likely be most effective at stimulating them to bite. Walleye are more aggressive in warmer weather, and that can sometimes let you get away with plastic bait, especially plastic worms.   But many anglers swear by minnows year-round.

If you’re using a live bait jig, try minnows, worms, leeches or red tail chub. With a spinner, try a piece of worm.

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One approach you may want to explore is coordinating your bait fish to whatever is schooling in the water. If you see a school of perch, for example, walleye are probably feeding close by, so use a perch colored lure tipped with live bait. Then let your jig drop a few feet at a time, the better to imitate the movement of the bait fish.   Obviously, this requires a bit more observation, flexibility and patience on your part. But isn’t that why you go fishing in the first place?

WEATHER TIP
Try to time your walleye fishing expedition so that it’s not coming right after a particularly cold snap. You can often have good luck during the turnover — the time when the weather is getting colder — because walleye follow their food into shallower waters, and often into less protected areas. But a particularly cold snap changes a lake’s temperature patterns so dramatically that it tends to put walleye into hiding until they’ve adjusted. Gradual changes are likely to offer better fishing

How To Cook Walleye
Now that you know how walleye eat, it’s time to learn how you can eat walleye. Walleye makes for a delicious meal, and depending on the preparation, it can be quite healthful as well. Try grilling walleye with fruit chutney, horseradish or pesto for a low-fat entrée. You can also bake, broil, fry, smoke or blacken walleye. Walleye is flavorful on its own, so you don’t need to do anything elaborate or complicated. Take a look at sites for walleye recipe suggestions — and don’t forget to clean the fish before cooking!

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Fishing Regulations: Ontario Zone 4

Fishing Regulations

Wawang Lake Resort is located in Ontario Fishing Zone 4

ZONE 4

Please Note:

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Walleye Fishing Regulations

  • Open Season Summer: 3rd Saturday in May to Dec. 31
  • Limit – Sport License: 4 in your possession
  • Limit – Conservation License: 2 in your possession
  • Size Restrictions: Only one greater than 18” and under 21”.  Anything over 21” has to be released back into Wawang Lake.

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Northern Pike Fishing Regulations

  • Open Season: Open all year
  • Limit – Sport License: 4 in your possession
  • Limit – Conservation License: 2 in your possession
  • Size Restrictions: Anything over 27.6” has to be returned back into the lake.

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Early Season Walleye Jigging Tactics

Jigging for Walleye

Using jigs can be very productive but too many anglers aren’t fishing them correctly. Just starters, understand that you won’t always feel the thump of a walleye when it strikes a jig.

TwoToneJigsGuys expect that sure bite or hit. Many times you don’t feel it. So often you  drop the jig down and it stops. Maybe you’ll just feel some extra weight.

Concentrate on your rod, and don’t wait too long to set the hook.

The right rod helps here. When jigging, use a 6-foot, 8-inch or 7-foot rod when jigging with a light-action and fast tip. This really helps increase the number of bites he detects, which translates into more fish.

Use a short shank jig for live bait and a long shank jig when combining that live bait with a dressing. The latter can be plastic, Gulp, or maribou. If you face a tougher bite, use less bulk and movement in the water. Don’t vibrate your offering as much. Listen to the fish to extrapolate their mood, then up size or downsize properly.

Under most conditions, avoid stinger hooks. If you’re missing strikes, however, and want to try a stinger, use it properly. Just let it free-fall behind the lure.4595-fireballs

You get fewer bites with a stinger, so if you’re missing fish, drop that rod tip first, and let them take it.

As for jigging actions, think beyond just lift-drop. That’s fine if it’s producing, but often just holding it at one depth, say 3 inches off bottom, is enough. Let that minnow work.

If you want to get creative, try quiver jigging (gyrating the rod ahead of the reel), snap-jigging, dragging, or just casting and retrieving jigs.

Also, use a heavy enough jig to contact bottom, but not so heavy that fish blow it out. Vertical jigging should offer just the right weight to tick the bottom.

And if you feel a bite, set the hook hard. Really swing that rod tip up.  Always tie your jigs directly to the line. Suspend it periodically out of the water and let it unravel to eliminate line twist and tangling.

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Trolling for Walleye

Scenario: Warm, misty overcast evening in August. Mid lake rock humps topping out in the 16 to 22 foot range.

 

Usually, by late August many walleyes in deep clear lakes begin to leave their summer home ranges,suspended over deep open water, and migrate onto nearby rock and gravel humps. More often than not, the best humps top off at a range near the lake’s thermocline. For example, if a lake typically thermoclines at 22 feet, humps in the 18 to 22 foot range are most apt to hold fish, while shallower cropping structures will be less productive.

When these mid lake humps are small, one can usually do quite well jig fishing them, but more so these humps tend to be large. This is when board trolling a spread of crawler harnessed spinner rigs anchored to bottom bouncing weights off planer boards is the key way to catch them.  The mid lake rock/gravel structure is very large with a number of smaller “spines” topping out in the 14 to 18 foot range; however, most of the rock/gravel structure is much deeper at 22 to 26 feet.
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The small spines are holding the fish, but they are somewhat difficult to stay on top of and pinpoint precisely in open water. This problem is easily solved by repeated trolling passes using this board/bottom bouncer/crawler harness system. Trolling ever so slowly, once any bottom contact is made, you can literally drag an armada of tempting tidbits across these spots and find these small groups of walleyes that are utilizing these spines.
imageThe rigging trick here is to set out just enough line below the planer board so it will catch, or better termed “tick”, the top of these spines, yet not get hung up. The best way to accomplish this is by staying as vertical as possible with your set up. Using a larger weight, in the 2 ounce class, in order to stay as vertical as possible, let out just a tad more line than the spine depth tops. For example, measuring out around 20 feet of line between board and the bottom bouncer (Rock Runner) weight is nearly a perfect setting for 16 to 18 foot humps. It might require a bit more line length in strong winds and big waves, but not in soft winds and slow trolls. Troll very slowly across these humps; just fast enough to activate the spinner and keep the spinner/crawler harness suspended off the bottom. Watch the board closely and you will notice when the Rock Runner weight is touching bottom. It will make the board bounce back. boardThis is a key time to watch for a strike. Strikes, by the way, will respond on the board by the board jerking back in a tug-like fashion. Within a few seconds, the weight of the fish will then start to drag the board out of its original position destroying its side ways angle, and placing it more directly behind the boat. Then, it’s simply a matter of crankin’ the fish in and re rigging.

Throwing a floating marker off a reef after a fish is caught is a good idea for reference, as is punching in the coordinates on your GPS system. As soon as I get a strike, before pulling the rod from the rod holder, I immediately reach for a floating marker and pitch it over the side. Also, on purpose, I’ll usually heave the marker just past the outside of the planer board that’s showing the strike. This places me as close to the exact location of the strike as possible. All return trolling passes can then be made precisely close by the actual spot where the strike occurred.
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Summer trolling reefs with bottom bouncers, spinner harnesses and a crawler rigged off planer boards is a super hot tactic. It is especially good over large mid lake reef structures that may be more difficult to fish by casting and jig fishing. At the very least, this system enables you to cover a great deal of water very efficiently, and quickly eliminates the dead sections of a large reef. You can then refish the spot more slowly with finesse jig fishing presentations if you wish.

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