Follow our HUNTING BLOG
Category Archives: Walleye Catches
Fishing for walleye early in the spring offers two undeniable benefits – the fish can be fairly easy to find, at least compared to other times of the year, and the fish can be the biggest you’ll catch all year. Do you need any other reasons to fish in the spring just as soon as the weather will let you?
Walleye fishing can sometimes be a tough proposition at other times of the year. But after ice-out, the biggest fish with the most advanced metabolisms begin to stir first, and that means big hens that have been forming up their eggs over the winter. “Pre-spawn fish can be the easiest of the year. Basically, that’s because the bigger females are starting to stage, starting to go into their spawn patterns.
Deeper water in the spring usually means looking for fish in 15 to 35 feet of water. They’re feeding when they can, but they’re not feeding as much as they do in warmer water.
So, you’re concentrating your search out and away from, but in proximity to, places where the walleyes will eventually spawn. Deep water close to a gravelly shoreline, for example, or deep water adjoining a hard-bottom reef or island with a gravel shoreline, are all good places to start looking in lakes.
Pre-spawn and spawn periods vary according to how far north you are. In northern waters, walleyes need warming water temperatures to mature their eggs. Water in the mid-40 degree range is about when they start the spawn proper, so pre-spawn is taking place in that period when the water is less than that ideal spawning temperature.
Methods that work in the spring aren’t all that difficult to figure out, either. Keep in mind that the water temperature is still low, producing somewhat sluggish, lethargic fish. That means you have to fish slowly and deliberately, really working over an area and being patient and fishing slow. You really have to change your methods to match the water temperature. That means using smaller baits and slowing down your presentation. Take it easy a little bit. Even the active, bigger fish are lethargic.
The recommended method for this time of year is vertical jigging. Use a short, 6-foot, medium-action rod with a fast-action tip for sensitivity but with plenty of backbone for bigger fish, spooled with 8- to 10-pound-test line. It’s a slow presentation and when you get bit, a lot of times you’ll only feel the slightest tap, even from a 10- to 12-pound walleye. Sometimes it just feels like a little bit of added weight. What’s happening is they’re coming up and inhaling the lure.”
A favorite lure is a Jiggin` Rap chrome/blue, or a Swedish Pimple. Tie the lure with a duo-snap, and then, 18 inches up, attaches a ball-bearing barrel swivel. Use a swivel because what you’re doing is vertically jigging and letting the bait rest. Jig it, and let it settle for five to 10 seconds. Then jig it again. The barrel swivel prevents line twist and imparts so much more action to the bait at rest.
Time of day?
Does it matter when you fish in the spring, in terms of the time of day? Not really. Spring fish can be active at just about anytime, from dawn to dusk. Time of day and light penetration or the warmest parts of the day versus the coldest parts of the day seem moot, because most of these fish are going to be deep anyway. As our guests can testify they’ve taken BIG fish and limits of fish at all times of the day.
What can play a role, of course, are currents. Current is obvious on a river system, but it can be less obvious on a lake system but still present, particularly on reservoirs with an inflow and outflow that can be pretty heavy in the spring. Slack areas with deep water around points, islands, reefs and shoals can be real hotspots at this time of year.
Perhaps more critically, incoming currents can highlight areas where walleye are heading later to spawn, and by fishing off these areas now, you’ve got a good shot at finding pre-spawn fish. This would include our spring-fed outlets.
“Most of the lakes have an inlet and outlet, have at least some place or places that are a current source. On a lot of systems, walleyes go up those places to spawn, a big walleye factory. They’ll make their spawning runs up creek arms. At pre-spawn, they’ll be just off those areas, staging. Look for any place with an influx of current, and fish off of it to find the pre-spawn walleyes.
Spring can produce some astonishingly big fish. The bigger females can add a couple of pounds purely with the weight of their eggs. The further along they get toward maturity and spawning, the bigger their weights.
Vertical jigging a top spring method
Walleye love a trolled crank bait, stick bait or worm harness. But in the spring, trolling may be just too fast for big, lethargic walleye to respond. That’s where vertical jigging really comes in to play.
Jigging allows you to fish slow, thoroughly working an area, putting your jigged offering right on their noses and tempting them to move an inch or two, flare their gills, and inhale what’s in front of them.
Top choices include jigging spoons, roundhead jigs with bait (minnows, leeches or night crawlers), Whistler jigs and even blade baits. “Rest” your jig on the bottom in intervals of 5 to 10 seconds, and jig with an easy motion, not too fast. The strike can be very subtle – just added weight or the jig stopping – so stay on your toes.
Follow our HUNTING BLOG
Guys 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.
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 and 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.
Follow our HUNTING BLOG
The Lure of Mepps Spinners Flash & Vibration
Most fishing lures are imitators. They look like a minnow, worm, crawfish, frog or other aquatic creature. Soft plastic fishing lures and crankbaits are molded in these shapes. Spoons imitate minnows. Feeding fish are quick to grab these lures.
While the Mister Twister TwisterMite may be the best hellgrammite imitator you’ll find anywhere, it won’t do you a lot of good if the fish aren’t feeding. When the bite gets tough you have entice the fish to strike. This is the time to tie on a Mepps spinner.
Mepps spinners are very different. They are not designed to imitate anything. They entice a fish into striking by appealing to its basic survival instinct. “I don’t know what that is, but it’s invading my territory and I’m going to kill it.” Or, “Look at that. I can have some fun with that.” How does a spinner do this? It really is simple. Spinners use flash and vibration to attract fish. This flash and vibration comes from their revolving blade. No other fishing lure has this unique feature.
For this very reason, Mepps spinners will catch fish when no other lure will. Have you ever played with a cat? Feed a cat all it wants and it stops eating. It may even go to sleep. But, tie a toy to a string, drag it across the floor and the cat comes to life. It pounces on the toy. It’s not hungry, it’s been enticed it into striking. A Mepps spinner has the same effect on a fish. The fish sees the spinner and goes on the attack. The “key” word is “sees.” The fish must “see” the spinner to attack it.
“What is the best Mepps lure to use for…” To answer this, Mepps offers more than 4-thousand (that’s right 4,000) different lures in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
Lure size is important. The general rule of thumb is use smaller lures to catch smaller fish and larger lures to catch larger fish. But, this a rule of thumb. It is not pure science, nor is it etched in stone.
Mepps spinners in sizes #3 and #4 are preferred by walleye fishermen. In fact, the #3 dressed Mepps Aglia was rated the best all around lure.. Size #3 Mepps spinners are also ideal for walleye three pounds and over.
Size #4 and #5 Mepps are ideal for large rainbow trout and steelhead, as well as coho (silver) and chinook (king) salmon. Giant tackle busting northern pike will inhale a dressed #5 Mepps spinner. Or, if you are after trophy northern pike try a Mepps Musky Killer, Magnum Musky Killer, Giant Killer, Mepps Marabou or Musky Marabou.
Does water temperature influence lure selection? You bet is does. Fish are cold blooded creatures. This means their body temperature rises in warm water and falls in cold water. Fish are most active when the water they live in is cool. Think about it. Even though you are not a cold blooded creature, you are most active when the atmosphere you live in is comfortable… not too hot and not too cold. Cool is, “just right.”
When you are too hot or too cold, you alter your activities to adapt to your environment. If it’s too cold, you warp yourself in a warm blanket and hunker down with a favorite magazine or book. If you’re watching television, the remote had better be near-by because you are not getting up to change channels. If it’s sweltering, you’ll slip into a pair of comfortable shorts and stretch out in front of the air conditioner. You’re not about to get up to make yourself a sandwich, as just the thought of moving around can make you queasy.
Fish react the same way, only their reactions are stronger. They cannot warm or cool their blood as we do to control our body temperature. Instead, when the water is cold a fish will move to shallow warm water, especially if the sun is out and it is warming that water. Here it will rest until its body temperature warms up. On the other hand, when the water is warm, a fish will move into a deep pocket in a lake, or into a fast run in a stream. Here it will “rest” until its body temperature cools down.
Just like you, under these less than ideal conditions, a fish isn’t about to leave the comfort of his pocket or run. In other words, it’s not about to go chasing around after a lure. It’s also not about to eat, so it doesn’t matter if that crankbait is the perfect crawfish imitator, it will be ignored.
However, let a small Mepps spinner slowly “swim” by and that same fish will grab it, and why not? Here is a small unrecognized creature, bug or “thing” invading the sanctity of its comfort zone, its “easy chair” so to speak. BANG! After all, you might not get up to make that sandwich, but what if someone were kind enough to drop a piece of your favorite candy in your lap? BANG!
Now let’s take a look at what you do when the temperature is ideal. You wade your favorite lake, You jog, you go biking. You play 18 holes of golf and you carry your clubs. You may even paint the house or build a deck. In other words, you exercise and, as you do, you work up an appetite. So, you stoke up the grill.
When the water temperature is cool, a fish reacts the same way. This is the time to toss spoons and other imitators. Fish them fast or slow. Vary your retrieve to see what works best. Keep in mind, however, you will only catch fish as long as they are feeding. When they stop biting its time to tie on that spinner.
Follow our HUNTING BLOG
We’ve all had to face it at one time or another – waking up on the day of your fishing trip to a chill in the air and bluebird skies to boot. What you are experiencing is the passing of a cold front, a weather occurrence that can shut down fish, and cause severe headaches for an angler. Fishing will be tough – there’s no two ways about it – but it is possible to put some fins in the boat if you are prepared to alter your delivery.
Try these techniques the next time you face a cold front and watch your catch rate increase dramatically.
What is a Cold Front?
A common definition of a cold front is as follows: “A narrow zone of transition between relatively cold, dense air that is advancing and relatively warm, less dense air that is retreating.”
A cold front actually takes a day or so before the drop in temperature sets in and the skies become blue. This typically shows itself in the form of high winds, rainy weather or thunderstorms. It’s those kinds of days where all hell breaks loose, as the approaching front is causing a disturbance as the differing masses come together.
As the cold front approaches, fishing can be excellent. Fish become wired and active, feeding up a storm and hitting baits with ferocious strength. Even the fish know that once the front passes, they will take on a neutral or negative mood, and will develop a case of lockjaw for a couple of days. So, they feed heavily in preparation of this ‘dormant’ stage.
If you can get out on the water as a front approaches, I would certainly suggest it. Enjoy it while you can, because within a day or so, things will be much different.
Post cold front conditions vary greatly from the actual cold front. Clear blue skies, calm winds and colder temperatures are the norm, and not the exception. The change in pressure and temperature seems to shut down the fish, causing them to retreat to heavier cover, sulk on the bottom structure and become extremely inactive.
For northern pike, thick vegetation or heavy cover are good places to start. Most fish under these circumstances will snuggle into the security of some sort of structure, content to sit still and wait out the prospect of changing weather. The thicker the cover you can find, the better your chances of having fish present.
Depending on the type of lake, walleye will either seek out a thick weed bed and position themselves smack dab in the middle, or if rocks and boulders are concerned, they will sit right on bottom, remaining primarily motionless.
No matter what the species, seeking out the shelter and comfort of thick vegetation or other structure is a likely scenario. Remaining in a neutral or negative mood is a given
Downsize Your Lures
Although a northern pike may have no trouble hitting a ten-inch lure during a ‘normal’ day of fishing, he certainly won’t be as forthcoming after a front has moved through. Scale back on the size of the lures you are tossing, downgrading to finesse style baits for a better reaction. Since you are downsizing your lures, lowering the thickness of your line is also a good idea. Not only will get more of a lifelike action with your baits, but also less likelihood of scaring away line-shy fish.
Lightweight lures and line are most certainly in, and will often be the only thing that gets the attention of a heavyweight.
S-l-o-w Things Down
When fish are inactive, the last thing they want to do is chase down a fast moving buzzbait, or a spinnerbait cranked at a lightning fast tempo. They just won’t exert the energy, nor do they have the initiative to do so.
Work your baits in a ‘slow motion’ mentality. Even if it seems excruciatingly painful to be fishing a worm or tube with nary a movement, continue to stick with it. If anything, slow it down even more. Dead sticking a bait is a great technique that can bring positive results.
Think Vertical Instead of Horizontal
A neutral fish has a small strike zone or feeding window. What this means is, unless a lure comes within six-inches or a foot to a fish’s snout, he will not be willing, or convinced to strike it. The closer you can get to the strike zone, the better your chances for success.
Vertical baits work well in this situation because they can spend more time in the strike zone, as opposed to a horizontal bait moving through relatively quickly.
Switch to Live Bait
When the fish are finicky, switching to God’s lures is the way to go – you guessed it, live bait. Minnows, worms or leeches will all work well, and will play on a fish’s natural prey attitudes and preference.
Slip floats, live bait rigs and tipped jigs all have a time and place, and post cold front conditions are definitely one of them.
Scent It Up
If live bait isn’t available to you, making your artificials smell and taste like the real thing is the next best thing to do. Go with tried and true scents, including crawdad, shad and worm. Any extra second you can get a fish to bite and hold on, is an extra second you can get those hooks into him.
Cold fronts don’t have to be the kiss of death in fishing. Although the fish may of changed locations, and be reluctant to hit baits, it doesn’t mean they are uncatchable. All it usually takes is a change of tactics to get into some fish again.
Follow our HUNTING BLOG
Although rivers get a ton of attention in the early part of the walleye fishing season, there is an army of anglers that concentrate their efforts fishing natural lakes and mid-sized reservoirs this time of year. The challenge for these dedicated souls is that finding walleyes right now can be tough. The walleye are in transition; it’s not really spring, and it’s not yet summer? It’s a time when we say the walleye are “in the middle of the road”, meaning they are between patterns. They’ve finished their spawning ritual, but haven’t set-up on classic summer habitat. It’s a pattern (or lack of one) that many walleye anglers struggle with every season. You can catch fish during this period … you can even have great catches … but the walleye tend to be “here today – gone tomorrow”, making consistent success iffy at best. The key to catching these “middle of the road” fish is to concentrate on structural edges.
Fishing Points with Break Lines A point extends out from the shoreline and slopes gradually down and into deeper water. It is a good place to fish. But a point with a quick drop-off or one that doesn’t extend into deeper water isn’t a good fishing place.
- The sloping-out formation of a point creates a break line.
- A break line draws fish from deeper water to shallow water in search of food.
- Fish the tip of the point and the corners of the point (the part that curves back into the shore).
Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames. Other than the rare scenario where you are dealing with ultra-clear water, walleye won’t be found on deep structure, nor do they tend to be really shallow right now. Look for these transitional walleye somewhere in between … in that eight to twenty foot range … usually relating to the primary break closest to their spawning areas; the primary break defined as the first major drop off from shore. For instance, if the shore tapers off to say ten feet, then drops into fifteen, that’s the primary break for that area. Now that sounds simple enough, but it’s where they are located on the break that’s the trick. They may be on the bottom edge, the top edge, someplace in between, on the flat adjacent to the top edge or even suspended just off the break.
If the weather has been stable, and conditions prime for the fish to be active and feeding, look for them to be near the top edge of the break. That’s not to say they’ll be right on the edge, but they won’t be far from it. They could be cruising the adjoining flat chasing schools of minnows, but they won’t be far from the edge. A flat with sporadic or newly emerging weed growth makes the situation even better. In fact, weeds on the flat create a different set of edges that attract the fish this time of year. These edges offer travel routes as well as ambush points for feeding fish. On Wawang Lake, you’ll begin noticing better catch rates early and late in the day … probably because the walleye are sitting tight to the primary break during mid-day, and moving on to the flat to feed during low-light periods.
So what’s the best way to catch these “middle of the road walleyes”? That’s a tough one … the problem being that May can be a time when virtually every tactic in your arsenal will catch fish under the right circumstances. That may make it sound easy, but the key here is “under the right circumstances”. Picking the right presentation for the given situation when you have so many options can play mind-games with the best of anglers.
Let’s look at a couple scenarios to give you some insight into how to approach fishing this time of the season. It’s a perfect, calm and sunny spring day. You’ve found a primary drop off that goes from eight feet down to twelve off a large flat with scattered weeds along the top edge. The break runs pretty well defined for about a hundred yards, so you start off working along it with bottom bouncers and spinners. Things aren’t looking very promising for the first fifty yards, then “bang” … you catch a nice sixteen incher. Thinking you’re on to something you continue on. Another thirty yards you go untouched and then “bang” … another decent fish. You could go all day like that but you decide to turn around and go back through the area. This time you pay close attention to your electronics, and notice that the spots those fish came from were two small hard-bottom points that jut out into deeper water. These irregularities in the break are classic fish holding structures. While you could keep trolling back and forth with the spinners, and probably pick up a few more fish, you’ll risk spooking those fish off and be forced to start looking all over again. A better plan of attack would be to put away the bouncer rod, pick up a jig stick and try pitching small jigs tipped with a minnow or an artificial like a Berkley GULP! 3 inch Minnow or PowerBait Ripple Shad to those isolated spots on the break.
For the next scenario, the primary break runs across the entire mouth of a large bay … several hundred yards wide, dropping off from fifteen to twenty feet off the edge. The flat is covered with scattered rock piles, clam beds, and sparse newly emergent weed growth. There’s a fair “walleye chop”, and it’s an overcast day. With the low-light conditions and the deeper flat, it’s a good bet that the walleye will be up and roaming. This would be a great time to pull out the trolling rods and concentrate your efforts pulling crankbaits over the flat just inside the edge of the break. While there’s little need to spread lines out too far (remember, the walleye are likely to be close to the edge of the drop), we’ve found that it never hurts in a situation like this to run one line out on an Off Shore Tackle OR-12 Side Planer so that it’s running well up on the flat. It’s amazing how many times that has accounted for a bonus fish or two in the course of a day. Keep your crankbait selection simple … you’re still dealing with fairly cool water temps, so stick with moderate action lures like Berkley Flicker Shads.
Of course that’s just two scenarios out of dozens that you may encounter during this transition period. And this “middle of the road” deal doesn’t come in to play on every body of walleye water …
Follow our HUNTING BLOG
Nothing is better than catching fish all day on the lake and then thinking of how to prepare your fresh caught fish for the evening meal, once back at camp.
You’re in for a yummy treat with this fish
dish for sure!
4 pcs. 6/8 oz. portions fresh walleye (or pike) fillets (about 2#)
1/4 cup melted butter
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. chopped parsley
1/4 t. dill, rosemary or marjoram, crumbled
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. coarsely ground pepper
Directions first be sure to remove bones.
Line broiled pan with foil and place the fillets on the rack. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Combine remaining ingredients and use to baste the fish. Place the broiler pan 4 inches from heat and broil, allowing 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness. Do not turn the fish. Baste several times during cooking. Makes 4 servings.
“No angler merely watches nature in a passive way.
He enters into its very existence.”
Follow our HUNTING BLOG