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Catching Spring Walleye

30 Mar

IMG_4396Spawning begins in spring when the water warms to 45 to 50 degrees. The spawning area may be a tributary stream, a shallow area of a river or a desirable shoal area on a lake. The location is usually in clear water less than 10 feet deep over a bottom covered with rubble or gravel. The area usually has current as well, the result of either flowing water or wave action. If no such conditions are present, walleyes may spawn in other areas, but survival of eggs and young is unlikely.

Males arrive on the spawning beds first, followed by the larger females. The eggs are usually deposited at night. Several males accompany a female across the spawning ground, thrashing about as eggs and milt are simultaneously emitted. The fertilized eggs fall to the bottom. No protection is provided by the parents because when walleyes complete spawning, they leave the area.

During the peak of the spawn, walleyes are fairly easily located and caught in schools. Look for them in areas with current such as incoming rivers and major feeder creeks. Drawdowns during power generations also create underwater currents attractive to walleyes. Anywhere these currents move over or around flat, rocky points, submerged humps or dropoffs, they create prime walleye habitat. One excellent area is where a long, flat point drops off into an old river channel.

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Good springtime walleye catchers include both live baits and artificials. In waters where walleyes don’t receive undue pressure, you can catch them on a host of lures. Jigs are a special favorite, as are small crankbaits and slender, floating/diving minnow plugs. Using the appropriate terminal tackle to achieve the required depth and then being able to work that depth consistently is often the difference between success and no success on walleyes.

A bait/lure combo often is more effective than either bait or lures used alone. A leadhead jig tipped with a lively nightcrawler usually is effective wherever walleyes are found. Whether the jig has a feather, plastic or hair body is relatively unimportant; some anglers prefer a bare jig. Hook the worm through the head so it can wiggle full-length behind the jig. This combo makes an excellent drifting or trolling rig in relatively slow currents.

Jig/minnow and fluorescent spinner/minnow combinations are also popular for catching spring walleyes. The natural food base of minnows and small baitfish is reduced this time of year, making those offerings especially attractive to walleyes.

Minnows should be hooked upward through the lower jaw and out through the top of the head, so the bait rides in an upright, natural-looking position. When stream fishing, work in slow currents and backwater eddies. Lake anglers should work over dropoffs, the edges of weedbeds and point tips. Drifting a bottom-bumping minnow combo usually puts more fish in the boat than casting.

The size of the jig used is determined by the amount of current. Savvy walleye anglers should carry plenty of 1/32- to 1/2-ounce jigs in a variety of colors.

jig mouth

Here’s hoping, you’ve gleaned these important facts about catching spring walleye while reading this article.

  1. Walleyes shun bright light and are usually taken at night or during low-light conditions
  2. Walleyes congregate in schools, and when you catch one, it is likely others are nearby
  3. Walleyes are primarily bottom dwellers and usually found in areas with current on or near prominent structure that provides a good feeding or spawning area near deeper waters
  4. Baits and lures should be presented slowly and naturally.

While walleyes unexpectedly puzzle and confuse some anglers, there’s no reason they should. When you’ve figured out what kind of fish this is, and how and where it spends its time, putting walleyes on the stringer is really fairly easy.

So why not start your walleye campaign this spring? Walleyes feed actively now, and in many areas, schools are spawning or gathering to spawn. Regardless of where you live, the best walleye fishing of the year probably is just around the corner.

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