Which one – when?
Pro Angler Gary Parsons talks about the Flicker family.
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As the leaves begin to drop and the temperature starts to cool, the walleye begins a migration to typical areas in search of food to fatten-up for the upcoming winter. Fall time is synonymous with trophy time as these fish display size, strength and a willingness to bite. Locating and tempting these lunker fish can be a rewarding experience by trying the following tactics and techniques for hot action on those cool days of autumn.
Finding the Fish
Cooler water temperatures signal an impulse in the walleye to “migrate” to areas that they typically frequented during the spring months. River mouths and inlets, shallow water weedlines and island breaks are just three locations that the walleye will call home for the fall months. One key aspect to keep in mind is that most fish will be found in water predominantly shallower than they occupy during the summer months. One reason for this shift is due to water temperature, mainly, a more comfortable level. Another reason is in part to the influx of baitfish that are calling the shallows home at this time of year. The walleye are gorging right now, leaving the shallows the best bet to appease their appetite.
Mud flats are another interesting option to seek out fall walleye you will have tremendous success fishing these “structure less” areas, as they seem to group up and hold large pods of feeding fish.
Nighttime is Right Time
If you are looking for an eventful time on the water with the possibility of some trophy ‘eyes, then book yourself a night shift at your the lake. Due to their light-sensitive eyes, the walleye will feed actively during this period of darkness and will head right up shallow to fill their bellies full. Search out an area that consists of mud, sand and green weeds and has close access to deeper water. Water depths can vary, but a rule of thumb is to start shallow (2 to 3 feet) and progressively move deeper until you connect with fish. Shallow running cranks are your best bet, especially thin minnow-style baits. BIG baits are the norm at this time of year, with 6-inches being a common length to throw. Remember, the fish you will catch are generally larger and are gorging on baitfish – this is no time for small 2 or 3-inch crankbaits.
Choosing baits that have rattles can be a definite plus as it will help the walleye hone in on your bait during the darkness. Bagley’s, Rebel and Wally Divers have all proven their merit while out on the water with an action and frequency that walleye jump all over.
Casting or trolling are two techniques that are both productive for nighttime walleye. If the area is a confined spot with a small feeding shelf or flat, casting is your best route to take. If the stretch is long and even with a prominent weedline along the edge, a trolling style will be best suited. Test the water at night this fall and see what’s lurking under the surface.
Live Bait Applications
Live bait can be a deadly application during the fall months due to the fact that it represents what the walleye are feeding on to the truest sense. Leeches and minnows are your two tops bets for connecting with fish at this time of year, and they will also last longest on the hook in the colder water.
Although there are many different types and styles of live bait rigs available to the angler, sticking to bottom bouncers and jigs will keep things simple and productive. Bottom bouncing shoals, breaklines and mud flats with a leech can be deadly at this time of year, and will also help in locating fish quickly and efficiently. Choose a rig with large, flashy spinners and add a jumbo leech for maximum effect. Drift or back troll this offering along any breaks or flats that might hold fish, paying close attention to your electronics for signs of schools of baitfish or walleye.
Jigging can be a tough tactic to beat during the fall as it presents your offering to the fish where most will be found – on or near the bottom. Pay attention to the word “most” – some will suspend in which case trolling or casting are the preferred method of attack. Larger size jigs in ¼ to ½ oz. sizes will cover most situations and keep your offering on the bottom. (Larger jig heads can also help during the blustery wind conditions that are often encountered during the fall months…) Tipping your jig with a minnow is your best bet, and choosing the largest and liveliest a definite plus when it comes to fall walleye. I often choose minnows between 4 and 6-inches long, most times erring on the larger size. Walleyes are feeding on perch, smelt, shad or a number of other “large” baitfish at this time, so it makes sense to give them something to really eat. Stinger hooks are a necessity during the fall due to the large bait and short bites. Adding a stinger will help your catch ratio increase in leaps and bounds.
Experimentation is the key to jigging techniques. Some days the fish may prefer a jig dragging on the bottom, while other days it may be a two-foot lift and pause. Generally a slow jigging motion is the preferred method due to the cooler water and decrease in metabolism in the fish. Trying different applications, as well as jig colours, will lead you on the path to success.
Test the waters this fall for wonderful walleye. If you’re looking for a trophy or two, this is the time of year that can surely cough them up.
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Getting out-fished by someone in your boat is a humbling experience, but when that someone is your spouse or child, a jaw can get awful tight. At least you’re not alone, as many experience the same lack of luck catching watching someone else catch 3-4 pike to your one. Sometimes it’s hard to figure it out. You can be fishing in all the right spots such as; wide, flat, shallow bays and fish with all the right lures but what can give one person an edge over another? What are they doing that we weren’t? Obviously something was going on under the surface that you might not be paying attention to.
Give the “pause concept” a try. Many pike will follow lures, then turn off as they near the boat. This is a common occurrence with post-spawn pike that hadn’t really started to feed yet Whenever you stop reeling for a short while the lure it then flutters down, but more importantly, the tapered spoons would backup toward the pike. Most pike were lazily following in a straight retrieved spoon, and would spook to the side as the lure neared the boat. But when the retrieve was halted, (and as we further discovered) the rod tip dropped back towards the spoon, the lure would flutter backwards from 18-inches to 4-feet, right back into a following pikes face. And if there is a best way to trigger a following pike cruising behind a lure into striking, the in their face approach is tops.
The distance a lure will flutter backwards is determined by the style of the spoon, depth of the water, and how the falling, flat spoon planes as it sinks. Try this next to the boat. Have 5-6 feet of line between the lure and rod tip. Move the spoon through the water parallel to the boat’s side, then stop and drop the rod tip back towards the lure. This gives the lure some line so it can back up the maximum distance. Clear shallow water will give you the best view of how the drop-back works. The best drop-back spoons I’ve used are the size 6 Lindy Gator Spoon, Eppinger TrollDevle, and the 1-ounce standard Dardevle.
The Drop-Back technique is a great way to trigger following pike.
Summary: Whenever casting spoons for pike, especially if conditions are tough, try dropping the lure back several times on each retrieve. This is a good technique to practice whenever casting a spoon.
When normally confronted by a big weed bed with lots of potentially good-looking water, trolling usually allows for quickly checking it over. Run bucktails, big spinnerbaits, or shallow-running jerkbaits over the top, and deeper-diving jerkbaits and crankbaits along the edge. Fifteen minutes of trying some of those techniques can quickly show if they are a waste of time or not. Here is what a potential problem could be. Weed growth is very inconsistent, sometimes it comes to the surface, other times it could be 3-4 feet below. Lures that ran at a specific, near-surface depth level would constantly foul up in the erratic growth. Another option would be is to run a spinnerbait or buzz-bait across the surface. But what can tossed this plan for a loop, is the hundreds of dark, shadowy weed pockets that exist throughout the vegetation. And due to the bright sky conditions, light winds and fairly clear water, you can sense that pike are holding in those weedy lairs. But there has to be a way of rooting them out. If the weed bed is smaller, you could jig fish it with plastic-bodied lizards, reapers, big double twister tails, Sassy Shads, or other types of soft-bodied “creatures.” At least these presentations will penetrate down into the weeds, and the single hook on the jig would allow to snap and rip through any clinging vegetation.
An excellent lure is a Johnson Silver Minnow, but instead of casting with it – troll with varying speeds in a lazy S pattern. This prevents the lure from following the boat’s path. When turning toward the lure it would sink into the weeds, but as the boat swung the other way the lure would be on the outside of the turn, going faster and swimming out of the weeds. This method works like a charm, as the spoon was actually being jigged down into the weeds, then pulled out, while the boat was constantly moving over new waters in the search for pike. Many have had excellent success with this technique, rooting many pike out of weedy cover that would not come up for a high-running, more horizontal presentation. But there are certain things that must be done for maximum success.
The plated hook on a Silver Minnow is dull and must be sharpened along the sides and tip with a fine grain file. South Bend makes a great one. Adjust the weed guard so it lines up with the hooks tip and extends out a little past it. If the hook point and weed guard aren’t in a straight line, you’ll grab a lot more weeds. Don’t adjust the wire weed guard too far out from the point or it will be too hard to set. Adjust the setting according to the density of the vegetation.
Trolling silver minnows gives you a great way to cover massive weed beds
and to get down into the vegetation.
Most hook-ups on larger fish occurred after quickly gunning the motor to pick up line as the hook is being set. As the technique evolved , here’s what works best.:
Dress the Silver Minnow with pork or plastic. A dressing’s length and bulk will alter how fast or slow the spoon will wiggle or sink. Be careful not to use a soft plastic dressing that slides up on the hooks shank every time a sharp forward rip is executed to clear weeds. Gluing some plastics to several spoons with a “Krazy” glue can solve this problem. The standard silver-colored “Silver Minnow” is a must, but gold, perch and fire tiger can also be hot, especially when the water has some color, or darker skies exist.
Summary: When faced with lots of weeds, trolling can help to quickly find the pike. But be careful not to go too fast in a straight line. A soft zigzag pattern allows the lures to constantly sink down and be pulled out of the weed clumps. It’s this “jigging action” that roots out the big ones!
When game fish are aggressive, fishing fast and horizontal is often the best way to cover water and catch the maximum amount of fish. But as the action starts to decrease, slower speeds and lures that fall, flutter or pause usually become more productive. A slower falling lure may also be more effective on suspended fish, or those holding tight to cover, as it gives them a little more time to zero in on the presentation.
Anyone with basic pike fishing experience knows that spoons are tops for these toothy predators, and we’ve already discussed two deadly tactics. But the ultimate “tease” technique, the tactic that temps even the most tight-jawed pike into hitting a spoon, is the one that gives us the slowest, falling, most tantalizing action. This involves casting with super-light weight flutter spoons, those wafer thin spoons that are usually trolled in deeper water for trout or salmon while using weights or planer devices to get them down. Before going out and trying to cast these spoons on baitcasting gear spooled with heavy line, three words of advice-don’t try it:
Flutter spoons have a lot of flash and movement with a minimal amount of forward or drop speed. You can slow the frantic fluttering action down a bit by adding a plastic or pork trailer, but I rarely do. These spoons won’t let you cover a lot of territory, but they are deadly under certain situations. One of them is when sight fishing for pike. Although this may sound easy it’s not. In stained waters only slight shadows or dark spots on the bottom may be noted. In clear water the fish can more easily be seen, but a cast made too close will usually send them bolting away. Always cast at least 10-15 feet past the pike, and not directly over it. If the fish is moving, cast well in front. Even if you lead the pike too far, let the spoon sit on the bottom until the fish is within 5-8 feet. The lift up and allow the spoon to flutter downward.
Sometimes the pike may just watch the lure sink, and nose up to within inches of the lure. Short little jiggles or soft “pops” will usually provoke a strike. A flutter spoon can also be rigged on a follow-up rod. When a pike follows in a faster-moving, more horizontal presentation then turns off, a flutter spoon can be blind cast in the direction the fish headed. Let it sink 5-6 seconds pull it upward, then repeat. This slow-falling, crippled action is often different enough to trigger a response. Flutter spoons also work well when allowed to sink into larger holes in a weed bed, or into the shaded areas between higher clumps. Let the light lureP5 slowly flutter down into the pocket a few feet, or down between the clumps, then left the rod to pull it back out. These thin spoons sink much slower than a conventional spoon, and have a wilder, flashing action. This attracts pike and gives them plenty of time to react to the slow falling lure.
When fishing flutter spoons around weeds, use one with a large single hook, and put the hook on so the point faces the inside or cupped side of the spoon. This rigging will give you the minimum amount of weed snags and make releasing pike easy. With a little practice this single hook spoon can be cast over thick vegetation and skittered across the top, periodically stopping the retrieve so the lure flutters down into holes or along edges. The trick to avoid hanging weeds is to halt the lures flight just before it hits the water by engaging the reel and lifting the rod tip.
Wire leaders should be used with all the spoon techniques discussed. Always use a quality ball-bearing snap-swivel to the lure. A size 4 Berkley Cross-Loc snap swivel is ideal. When casting a spoon, either with the drop-back technique or with a flutter spoon, a 12-inch leader is perfect. When trolling with the Silver Minnow, where a lot of pulling and ripping of weeds is going on, a 3-foot leader is better as it will slice through the vegetation and won’t weaken. Put these 3 techniques in your pike-fishing bag of tricks and watch your catches soar!
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The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!
That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.
Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.
One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike. As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.
One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.
If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.
If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
Lure suggestions to start with: ·
Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.
Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!
Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.
The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!
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It has been referred to as the dog days of summer, but we like to call it the summer walleye bonanza. July, August & into September are the best walleye producing months, and here is a quick explanation why.
During the summer, walleye drop to deeper water in large schools. Hundreds of fish group up together and hold, and move, on the edges of rock bars, the tops of deep hard bottomed flats, as well as over deep grass beds. Using your locator, and/or drifting these areas are both good ways to help locate these big schools of fish. Usually the fish are concentrated about 4-8 feet above the thermo-cline, in 20-40 feet of water. As the season progresses, and the water warms, the fish get deeper.
Once located, the fish are easily caught. Jig/minnow, jig/crawler, or slip sinker rigs, like a lindy rig, are all good producers. Putting as many as 100 Walleyes in the boat is not uncommon, BIG fish are also caught at this time of year, as they seem to hold with the other fish at optimum depths. The use of an underwater camera can aid tremendously in searching out these fish. Some might call it cheating, but it’s more commonly refer to it as a technological advantage. A good locator only sees so much of the bottom, and most boats are rigged with a lesser A model of sonar, unable to pick up these schools of fish, especially if they are tight to the bottom. When found, a marker buoy, and good boat control are key to staying on the fish. Vertical jigging is a technique that is commonly used whenever possible on calm days, but on windy days, anchoring and slip bobbers, or drifting slip-sinker rigs with a drift sock can also produce good results. The schools of fish can move on these structures, so if your anchored and the bite slows, you will have to re-position on the fish.
Colors of jigs for fish on the clearer lakes can be critical at times, so be sure to carry colors like chartreuse, any of the foil colors, green, orange, yellow and even glow in the dark jigs. Dark colored jigs don’t seem to get near the attention that the brighter colors do. The amount of light that penetrates these depths is greatly reduced, making the dark colors harder for the eyes to locate. Brighter colors can be seen from a further distance, attracting more attention to them.
That brings up what time of day is best to target these schools of walleye. Heavy cloud cover will provide all day catching along with some of the best fishing you’ll ever exerience, but, clear, sunny skies it’s best to fish early morning to 12:00 pm and then 7:00 pm to dark. will be the best time to be out. However, we are dealing with fish so these times are not cut in stone. The flat calm sunny days can be the best of fishing, boat control is simplified, making it easy to stay right on top of the fish. Factors such as weak cold fronts and other various weather conditions, don’t seem to affect the deep walleyes as much as they do when the fish are shallow. Making the deep season bite fairly consistent.
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After recuperating from spawning, walleye are more interested in feeding than anything else. Cabbage and other vegetation is ripe with life, concentrating baitfish and prey fish alike, providing cover and offering everything predator like a walleye would want.
Baitfish using the early season weed beds—and attracting walleye—include everything from shiners to shad, as well as, yellow perch.
Walleye eat more yellow perch that most anglers realize. Anyone who fishes for yellow perch knows that young perch hang out in the weeds, this time of year or any other. If more walleye anglers used perch or perch-patterns, they’d be surprised at how many more—and bigger—walleyes they’d catch, starting in the spring right through the fall.
Rocks, too, like weeds, rock piles and drop-offs, they offer edges where baitfish congregate and walleye can hide. They provide ambush points to attack from. If you can locate a rocky hump topped by weeds this time of year, you have the best of all worlds.
Give ‘Em A Break
Walleye will hang around the periphery of a rock hump during the day, and stay to the outside of the weeds up top if they are especially shallow. But the walleye will absolutely be on top after dark.
Whether comprised of vegetation, rock or both, steep breaks are very important, because schooling baitfish will hold off the edge, while the walleye cruise and hide in the protection of the structure. Breaks make great contact points for the walleye, which are seeking the larger, fatter baitfish they want.
Bigger walleye don’t want to feed often, they want to eat in one full sweep, on a big baitfish like a perch or shad or a fat shiner, when they can. If that size baitfish isn’t available, they’ll stick around and feed on lots of smaller baitfish.
Give ‘Em A Blow
Wind also affects where you can find active walleyes in June. You can start getting summer weather patterns in June, especially late in the month, but before everything really gets wild weather-wise, this time of year you can get winds that create an excellent bite. A good, steady wind will stack fish up in most lakes, and you can find walleyes feeding in the weeds or along rock edges.
When the wind is strong and steady, fish the windward sides of everything. Baitfish are weak swimmers; they’ll often get forced along or blown up against a break. And walleye are opportunistic feeders that like big, sluggish baitfish and know that’s where to find them.
Catching Walleye at the Bar
To catch these big walleye bellying-up to the salad bar in search of a mouthful by offering them precisely what the hungry predators came for: big live baits.
You can go with minnows up to 8 inches long, or big shiners, under a float or on a jig like a Fireball.
Crankbaits can work on the spring fish too, but are usually most effective when the walleye are being the most aggressive, early and late in the day. Bigger crankbaits that mimic injured baitfish can be really effective.
Fish around the weed beds or humps deeper during the day and move shallow as light fades. Use your fish finder to learn where and at what depths and the baitfish schools are holding to know what depth you want to make your presentation. As long as you are near weeds or rocks that offer breaks, this time of year the walleye shouldn’t be hard to find—’cause if you offer them something they want to eat, and that’s what they’re doing big time right now, they’ll find you.
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There’s a great reason to look forward to the spring with ice melting and rivers running. About 80 to 90 percent of the walleye across the country move from main lakes into the rivers to spawn. Unlike during the summer when trolling for big fish can be hit or miss, big walleye become more catchable when they migrate upstream with the masses.
These fish can often be monsters, which is exciting. You’ve got a better shot at the ten pounders as well as numbers of fish during the spring pre-spawn run.
Rain and melting snow will fill rivers at various times and produced strong current. Fast-moving water draws walleye upstream to spawning areas like a magnet.
The smaller part of the lake can also be a blessing because hills protect you from the cold winds that may continue to blow hard in late April and May when the spawn takes place.
As good as all that sounds, high water and spring fishing present their own problems. But, attention to detail and modifying presentations to meet conditions can overcome the obstacles.
Finding walleye during the spawning run isn’t always easy. It may seem simple to look at a map and predict where walleye will spawn – on hard-bottom areas of gravel and sand as far upstream as they can go until it stops.
After laying their eggs, females start back to the main lake while males wait near spawning areas for late-arriving females. When convinced the spawning run is over, males head to normal areas too. As a result, walleye are constantly on the move in the small part of the lake. Anglers must be, too, if they want a chance to connect with one of these monster walleye. Still, you’ll often see boats hovering at spots that produce for a while long after the bulk of the fish have passed by.
You really have to be mobile when it comes to fishing spring fish as they won’t hold in one area. That’s the problem. Many anglers get too hung up on one spot. Do not overlook the seams of slower water where current from feeder creeks or inlets. Water can be clearer there, which is an important detail when high water can dirty the main section of the lake.
Run and gun until walleye are located. Spring fishing can often result in “pack fishing”, where several boats crowd onto the same spot. But, walleye will eventually respond to fishing pressure by moving away or shutting down their activity. Don’t be afraid to go your own way. Being a loner can pay big dividends.
Anglers can often “over-think” their approach to fishing. Big catches can be had by using a keep-it-simple philosophy while paying attention to details that others overlook. A jig and minnow combination can accomplish the task of catching multiple fish while having a chance at the trophy we all like to brag about.
Vertical jigging while slipping with the current is an extremely productive and enjoyable technique. Instead of waiting for fish to come to you, you can go to them. You never know what’s in store for you.
While most people might stick with monofilament, try using 10 pound test (2 pound dia.) Power Pro braided line. This switch to braided line can transform your jig into an extra “eye” beneath the water. Its sensitivity telegraphs the type of bottom content that lies below, whether gravel, sand or mud. Its sensitivity also helps detect light bites common in cold water, an edge that can be critical when water is high. Power Pro’s thinner diameter cuts through the water and permits use of lighter jigs.
With fast-moving current, it can be important to fine-tune your presentation by adding a small number 12 barrel swivel in line to prevent line twist. If you don’t use a swivel, you’re likely to feel a “thump” and set the hook, only to miss the walleye. In that case, it’s likely the jig was spinning and the hook was pointed away at the crucial moment when the fish attacked the bait. A Lindy Max Gap jig, with its custom, super sharp hook, can also help you catch more fish.
From the barrel swivel, try adding a two-foot Gamma fluorocarbon leader to the lightest jig that will reach the bottom and allow you to stay vertical as the boat moves downstream with the current. If your bait isn’t on the bottom, you aren’t in the walleye’s strike zone. The angler in the back of the boat usually must step up a jig size or stay as close to the front of the boat as possible to stay on the bottom.
Color of your jig can always be a key factor. Think about how many times you’ve been in a pack of boats and everyone seems to be netting walleye. Then, suddenly, the action stops. The fish quit taking the Chartreuse or orange jigs that everyone is using. Most anglers will assume conditions changed and the bite is off. Or, the fish moved away. These anglers will stick with the same jig, stay in the same place and hope for the best. Make the assumption that the active fish have been caught. More walleye probably lurk below, but they are the more inactive ones. Rather than trying to trigger a feeding strike, try changing colors, change your jigging motion, and go for a reaction bite. Even try something off of your normal color chart.
It can be amazing that the simple things you can do that will make a difference. You might only get one or two more, but by the end of the day that can work out to a lot of fish.
Anglers often have one mind-set. If they aren’t catching fish on chartreuse, they often believe that the fish aren’t biting. But, change is big. Try using blue, pinks, purples’ just something different. Techni-Glo colors can be hot as well. Try adding a plastic body like a Munchies Thumpin’ Grub tail.
In addition, try switching your live bait choice from the standard minnow to a leech or half a night-crawler. This typically happens a little later in the spring and when temperatures warm up.
Anglers also overlook the importance of scent, a factor that can be important when the water is cold. Jigs with hair, like Fuzz-E-Grubs, hold scent longer than jigs without it. There are a ton of commercial scent products to add to your jig.
Still not working? Fishermen also have the option of taking off the jig, adding a clip and snapping on a blade bait, like a Heddon Sonar. The vibration can help hungry fish locate it or trigger a reaction bite from inactive fish. Rip it hard three times and follow it down each time, then rip it half way and let it drop until it’s just off the bottom, then hold it there.
High water can sometimes create boat control problems and springtime cold fronts can sometimes turn action sour. Anchoring can help.
Have you gone back to the spot where slipping with jigs was producing for you the day before and you get stymied first thing in the morning? Did they move overnight or are they still there and just less interested than they were the day before? One way to find out is to anchor upstream from the spot and cast or work a Wolf River rig slowly on the bottom. Use a 3-way swivel with a short dropper and a sinker heavy enough to stay on bottom, a 3-foot leader to a simple hook, orange bead and a minnow. This can be a deadly technique during cold fronts on the river.
Instead of a 3-way, you can also use a jig as well, but use enough weight so the jig returns to the same exact spot every time you pump, pump, pump it so fast you wonder how a fish could hit it. The goal is to entice reaction bites. Follow the jig back down each time you snap it. Put your 3-way rig on the bottom and put the rod in a rod holder. Jig a jig on other rig ready to go. However, you are only permitted to have one rod fishing in Ontario.
The same tactic works if walleye simply moved closer to the bank on sharp turns to escape strong current. Some fish will go right into the trees, so position your boat right next to them and anchor.
After the walleye have spawned, food becomes more important as they begin moving back downstream to the main lake. As a result, walleye can be caught first thing in the morning by trolling crank baits on shallow flats. Don’t waste time. If they are there, you’ll catch them right away.
Capitalize on the action as long as it lasts. Boat traffic and sunlight will push them deeper soon.
Got cabin fever? Fishing is the cure.
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I want to talk about the “Mayfly hatch,” and how to successfully fish for Walleyes during this time. It can be more difficult to catch numbers of walleyes and to make consistent catches during this time, but not impossible. There are hatches so thick that every fish in the lake gets their fill, and many times people use this as an excuse why they didn’t Mayflycatch anything, but even then walleyes can be caught. The most important aspect at this time is location.
First one must realize what “mayflies” are and where they live. I’m not going to get technical or scientific but rather offer some simple information to better understand how to deal with this situation when you encounter it. When I talk about mayflies, I am referring to all the aquatic bugs living in the water. The mayflies are actually a small part of the equation. There are stone flies, caddis flies, dragon flies and more flies than you can shake a stick at. The one thing they have in common is that they all live as larvae on the soft mud bottom and muck areas out in the basin. Another thing they have in common is that all fish love’em. They are fish candy.
To survive, the larvae must be able to bury themselves in the soft bottom to escape being eaten. They also crawl under sticks, stones, rocks and anything else that offers cover. When you haul up a snag, look it over and you’ll see lots of bugs of all shapes and sizes crawling on it; these are the larvae so be sure to put the stick back so those larvae can live to the next stage in their life cycle.
There are millions of different types of bugs living in the water and millions of each kind of bug. The next stage of their life cycle is determined by water temperature. As the water temperatures rise, it triggers a morphing stage where the larvae morph into a flying bug. This morphing stage is commonly referred to as a ‘hatch’. When this occurs, the larvae come out of their hiding areas in the soft bottom after dark and rise to the surface. It is this period that the bugs are the most vulnerable. All fish instinctively know this and cash in on it. It’s like opening the doors to the candy store. In the case of the walleyes, they not only eat the larvae, but most of the smaller fish eating the larvae. So it is a double bonus for them.
The many different types of bugs will continue to “hatch” as their preferred water temperature is achieved for most of the summer. While I’ve seen different types of bugs “hatching” as late as October, most of the bug “hatches” will occur during the summer months. After the bugs reach the surface of the water, they fly off to shore and stay in trees and bushes and anything else that offers protection. Then the next day they fly back to the water’s surface and land to lay their eggs. The eggs drift down to the bottom and as the next generation of larvae hatch, they must bury themselves into the soft bottom to prevent being fish food. If the larvae hatch out on a hard bottom, they instinctively crawl until they reach soft bottom and bury themselves. That is why the transition areas between soft and hard bottoms are overloaded with larvae. That is also why the transition areas are good places to fish. Perch actually root out the larvae and the walleyes cash in by eating the perch as well as the larvae.
Now the importance of location becomes clear. Not all, but many of the walleyes will be partaking in this fabulous forage feast. But where to fish? A good place to start is out in the soft bottom basin areas. Drifting spinner and floating rigs across the soft bottom basin areas is a good place to start. If allowed, trolling is also an excellent option. When trolling, not only is it effective to troll floating and spinner rigs, but also crankbaits.
Any sunken wood such as logs and stumps and the many cribs out in the soft bottom areas are also good places to find walleyes. Anchoring upwind of these cover areas and jigging and slip bobber fishing are real effective. The transition areas between the hard and soft bottom will be over loaded with larvae so walleyes will be close by.
Hard bottom can consist of rocks, so deep rock bars can be good areas. Anchoring upwind of the deep rock bars and using the jigging and slip bobber methods are again very effective. If fishing shallower rock bars, use your trolling motor for quiet maneuvering; it is easier and much faster to cast crank baits or spinners over and along side of them. Let the crank bait bump into the rocks now and again. Believe it or not, that can be like ringing the dinner bell for the walleyes.
Weeds are also an option when found near soft bottom drop offs. There are some species of larvae that cling to aquatic weeds, but most of the larvae are found in deeper soft bottom areas. Jigging and slip bobber fishing are again the methods of choice.
When fishing in the summer, the bait that many have found to be most effective for walleyes is a small leech. Minnows are always a good and most preferred bait of all, but nightcrawlers are a good choice.yet be sure to cut into small pieces are the key here is small baits and lures.
I hope this information will help put you on Mr. Walleye. Good luck fishing everyone.
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Northern pike is one of the most aggressive predators swimming in North American waters. Typically known for their aggressive nature, fast paced fight, and large size, they are an incredibly popular game fish, particularly in the Canada. Although pike can be caught all year round on a variety of lures and presentations, one of the most exciting times to fish pike is immediately after ice out every spring. Compared to many other species, pike remain fairly active even in cold water. This, coupled with the fact that they have just finished spawning and are beginning to feed aggressively, makes them a terrific choice for an early spring target.
Spring pike offers an angler many techniques and presentations that allow for a variety of angling methods. Your choice of tackle largely depends on your technique. Typically, lighter pike presentations can easy be accomplished with medium to medium-heavy action spinning gear, whereas heavier presentations require medium-heavy casting or even flipping rods. Your presentation is largely dictated by the location of the fish, and the water temperature. There are times where the fish are very shallow and you can easily sight-fish them and target individual fish, and there are times where whether conditions force those fish into the adjacent deep water.
Sight fishing is by far the most enjoyable, and it requires stealth and sometimes patience to coax the fish into biting. When sight fishing, a good set of polarized glasses is a must have item. You’ll also want to be as quiet as possible while moving in the boat, and be sure to use an electric trolling motor to approach the spot. Soft plastics really shine at this time, because it can be fished fast or slow, and really resembles an injured baitfish. Swim baits in the 5-7″ range rigged weedless work well and can be swam in front of the fish, or you can hop and pause it across the bottom. Medium sized Bulldawgs are another good option, particularly the shallow models. If you find fish in the shallows and they are more aggressive, then try smaller buck tails or spinner baits. Inline, French, or willow leaf blades seem to work better than larger Colorado blades. The subtle vibration and flash are all it takes to close the deal on aggressive pike. Shallow running crank baits can also be used with great success, particularly suspending models. Use them like a twitch bait and include many long pauses in the retrieve. Baits like X-Raps work great for this presentation. Another great option is to fish a sucker minnow on a quick-strike rig under a bobber. Simply cast it out to areas holding the pike and set the hook as soon as the bobber is pulled under. You really don’t want to give the fish any time to swallow the hook, an immediate hook set will typically land the hooks in the mouth, not in the gills or throat.
As far as tackle in these shallow water situations, spinning tackle is ideal for the spinners and crank baits, but you’ll want to throw the plastics and the bobbers with a bait casting or heavy flipping rod. These baits are typically heavier and require a heavier rod to get a proper hook set. If you’re in or around areas that hold post-spawn pike and you’re not finding them shallow, don’t be discouraged. Chances are the pike are still in the immediate area, however some variable has caused them to slide deeper. Perhaps a cold front moved in, or a strong wind has pushed the baitfish out over deeper water.
Regardless, you have to pay attention to the deeper adjacent water. Deeper water pike fishing can be a little trickier because you have to determine exactly what depth the fish are holding in. Typically, deeper pike are not that aggressive this time of year, and so slower finesse presentations are usually needed. Luckily, many of the same tackle options for shallow water also work in deeper water, just with a few modifications. Plastics are hands down a favorite technique for deeper water. Bull dawgs and Tiger Tubes can be used as a jig or cast out and hopped slowly back to the boat. This has accounted for some of the largest fish in our annual photo albums.
Slowing down and paying attention is critical as these fish rarely slam your bait. Rather, you’re looking for a small tick on the line and when you feel it, set the hook hard. Braided line is a must in this situation. Crank baits also work well, but sinking or “countdown” models are best unless you want to modify your shallow running models to sink deeper. Again, fishing as close to the bottom as possible is what you’re aiming to do. Let it hit the bottom and give it a solid rip to stir up the bottom and dart the bait forward. Finally, spinner baits can be slow-rolled across the bottom, however it’s far less success in this technique than the others.
So now that you know how to catch the fish, where do you start looking for them in the first place? Well, pike spawn immediately after ice out in roughly 36 degree water temperature. They seek out shallow areas with emergent vegetation. Areas with an incoming creek are even better as it will typically be a little warmer and therefore hold more baitfish, and more active pike. Often these areas will have a mix of mud or sand, rock, timber, and generally dead weeds. Many times you’ll see baitfish or other species spawning in these areas following the pike spawn. Naturally, some fish will stick around while others will move out of the bays. Fishing smart, knowing the pike’s movements, and experimenting with baits will no doubt provide you with an exciting start to your open water season!
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No matter what your preferred fishing technique is; jigging spoons or trolling baits you’re bound to find a bit of knowledge here that will help up your walleye fishing skills for the upcoming season.
Vertical jigging is probably the most productive technique for walleye fishing, but high winds or rains that dirty the water can put the fish off the jig bite. When water conditions change for the worse, try trolling near bottom. Use a three-way swivel and tie a sinker on a 6- to 12-inch dropper, or use a bottom-bouncing rig and trail a floating/diving minnow. Troll upstream and cross-current.
Three-way swivels allow you to double your trolling offerings. Attach a deep-diving crankbait to a 2-to 3-foot leader tied to the bottom of the swivel. Then add to the top of the swivel a leader twice as long as the other and a floating/diving minnow-style bait or a light, thin spoon. When putting the baits out, drop the deep-diver in the water first and let it start diving before letting go of the second leader. This will keep them from tangling and ensure a proper presentation of both baits.
Trolling spoons is an effective way to catch walleye, but getting them deep enough can be a challenge. Use the same techniques that big-water salmon anglers employ to attain appropriate depth—downriggers, snap weights, in-line sinkers, diving planers or lead-core line. Walleye are often gear shy, so increase the length of the leader off a lead-core line or the distance behind the cannonball on a downrigger. Fluorocarbon leaders will help, but be careful, as they have no stretch.
DOWNSIZE THE BAIT
One of the toughest times to catch walleye is during a significant mayfly hatch. To increase your odds, use what guides call a mayfly rig—a small spinner with a portion of a night crawler on a small hook. Cast the rig out and count it down, then retrieve it slowly, experimenting with depth until you find the strike zone; walleyes often hit mayflies as they’re on their way to the surface to emerge. Keep the rig small; mayfly larvae are rarely longer than an inch.
The rule of thumb for jigging is to use minnows in cold water and night crawlers, leeches or soft-plastics as the water warms. BUT you’re making a mistake if you don’t take all types of live bait with you. Although leeches and crawlers may be hard to find in the fall, they’ll sometimes out produce minnows in cold water, especially if it’s dirty. Other times, even in the heat of the summer, fish want minnows more than other offerings.
HIT THE WHOLE COLUMN
Walleye fishermen usually concentrate on the bottom, but often the most active fish are suspended in the water column. When trolling, vary the depth of your offerings by changing your diving bait or adding weight to your lines if trolling with spinner rigs. Sometimes the ‘eyes are out on the prowl, foraging on minnows or shad that are schooled somewhere between the top and bottom. Watch your depth finder for clues to their whereabouts and fish accordingly.
JIG A PLUG
Spice up your jigging offering by substituting a chatter bait—such as a Rat-L-Trap—for a spoon. Cast it out, let it drop to the bottom, then yo-yo it back to the boat. Don’t snap it up as high as you would a spoon, as the hooks can foul on the line. Rattling baits fall more slowly than spoons, but you can fix that by adding a slip sinker to your line before you tie on the bait. The extra weight tightens the plug’s wobble on the fall.
WORK THE SHALLOWS
Most walleye anglers concentrate on moderate to deep water, but there are fish in shallow water that are generally ignored. This is especially true during periods of high water when the predators move shallow to forage. Jigs tipped with live bait produce in the weeds, often in water not much deeper than a walleye’s back. Jig spoons near cover. Night crawlers on harnesses with spinners work when cast around the edges and in cuts, but they’re tough to fish in thick stands of vegetation.
One of the toughest bites walleye anglers face is immediately after a weather front passes. With a high, clear sky, the fish often sulk in the depths. The key is to concentrate on deep water structure and fish with live bait, either slowly trolling or drifting around humps and break lines, usually right where the bottom begins to flatten out.
Planer boards that carry lures or bait away from the boat are especially important in ultra clear water. Anglers who troll many lines usually use large boards that are tethered to the boat, and they clip their lines to the tether line. Anglers in small boats can easily fish up to three lines per side with small in-line planers. The key is to set the far-running lines first and position those rods closest to the bow; set near-running lines last and toward the stern. Allow more line out before you attach the outside boards, so the baits trail farther behind the boat. That will let you reel in fish on an outside line without getting tangled.
LOWER A LEECH
Leeches are a terrific bait for walleyes, especially when presented on slip bobbers or jigs. To make them easier to grip, carry a rag or rub them against your pant leg to remove some of the slime. When hooking them, insert the point of the hook into their suction cup—this will let them swim freely instead of balling up on the hook. Keep the leeches in some sort of container in the live well to acclimate them to the lake temperature before you bait up.
LURK, DON’T JERK
Floating/diving minnow lures are known as “jerk baits” because they’re fished with a dramatic, erratic action. A quieter retrieve is often more productive for walleye, which tend to trail baits rather than simply lunging and striking. Neutrally buoyant baits are especially suited to walleye, as they sit still or rise ever so slowly when you stop working the bait. Walleyes take these lures during a pause in the action, so stop your retrieve often.
GIVE ‘EM OPTIONS
When it comes to trolling with artificial lures, increase your odds by adding soft-plastic trailers to your crank baits. Use small twister-tail grubs or short plastic worms. Attach a 2- to 3-foot length of monofilament to the back hook of the crank baits, tie on a hook and attach the grub. Make sure the hook is exposed, and if you’re using a worm, run the hook through at least three quarters of the soft-plastic; that way you won’t miss short-striking fish. Don’t add any weight to the leader or you’ll interfere with the crank bait’s action. And use opposite colors when trailing crank baits—dark grubs with light-colored plugs and vice versa.
TRY A NO-SLIDE BAIT
When jigging with live bait, try adding a piece of plastic to the hook shank. A body from a grub or a section of plastic worm helps keep the bait on the aft end of the jig and prevents it from sliding up the hook shank. That way, when a walleye grabs the bait, it’ll also get ahold of the hook.
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