Walleye Fishing Tips and Techniques
Bluffy Lake is noted for great numbers and sizes of Walleyes. Everybody knows that if you want to catch big Walleye, you need to go fishing in Canada. Here, every time you step into the boat, you have a realistic chance of catching a true trophy fish.
In the spring, Walleyes are either in a river current or right close to shore. When I say close to shore, I mean 3 to 10 feet from shore. In Northern Ontario Canadian lakes, the walleyes that don’t spawn in the river will find sandy areas along the shore to spawn. By the time fishing season opens, most Walleyes are finished spawning but they will hang around to protect their spawning beds.
You can put on a light jig (1/8 or 1/16 oz) and cast along the shore and retrieve it quite aggressively as the Walleyes are very aggressive this time of year. Use bright colors like red, chartreuse, yellow or white. Walleyes that are feeding will hit the jig. Walleyes that not feeding will hit bright colors because they are defending the spawning grounds and bright colors aggravate them. Generally, white is always a good color.
In the daytime and in early spring, you will most likely catch smaller males, which stay at the spawning beds. The bigger females usually take off into deeper water during the day. If you are going after size instead of numbers, fish off the areas where Walleyes were spawning and fish deeper in the 10 to 15 foot depth. That’s where the big females are.
How do you find that special spot along the shore where the Walleyes are congregating? In the spring, put on a small Original Floating Rapala or Thunderstick and troll really slow right along the shoreline. The Walleyes will be in 2 to 4 feet of water. Again red, blue, chartreuse and Fire Tiger are the great colors in the spring. If you keep trolling past a spot and hit Walleyes, then that’s where they are. In this case, stop the motor and start casting. Trolling back and forth too many times will spook the area and they will stop feeding. In the early spring, 95% of the walleyes will be in water shallower than 5 feet. In the afternoon, the big females will go deeper to protect themselves from the sun and Pike.
In the summer the walleyes go a little deeper, hang out at the mouth of rivers of lay off rocky points. Islands that have patches of gravel around them are good spots. Rocky drop-offs are also good. With lakes that have a flat structure, the Walleyes will head into the thick weeds to get protection from the sun.
During this time, Walleyes tend to go after more natural colors like greens, silver, brown, black and white. When fishing with jigs, you can go to a heavier jig like a 3/8 oz or even 1/4 oz depending on how deep you are fishing. You can use live bait, twistertails or 3″ Gulp on your jig. Sometimes scented rubbers don’t work as well but you can try them. A preferred jig is a 1/4 oz fluorescent rounded jig head. It has realistic look while increasing hood up percentages. Also salted minnows work well. Or you can salt your own minnows with table salt. See recipe at end.
DREADED MAYFLY HATCH
It’s really sad that some people travel a long way from home to go on their dream Walleye fishing trip only to hit the Mayfly hatch and don’t know what to do. Luckily it only last a couple of days. When the Walleyes are feeding on Mayflies it is really hard to catch them with traditional fishing methods. Walleyes are bottom feeders and they are right on bottom during the Mayfly hatch picking off the newly hatch larva as they come out of the mud. This is when the Loten Bottom Bouncing Walleye rig comes in really handy and will produce outstanding results. (See Below) You can tell what the Walleyes are eating by looking in their stomachs when you clean them and looking at the color of their meat.
Sometimes the Walleyes get very lazy in the summer, especially if it’s a hot sunny day. Use a 1/8 oz jig and put a white twistertail on. Then cast out and literally drag the jig across the bottom. Give it tiny little jigs (2 or 3 inches) once in a while just to shake off any mud or weeds. This bottom dragging gets the Walleyes feeding. It really works. You should always jig slowly. Just make the jig motion longer in the morning, as the Walleyes are more aggressive. Sharp quick jigs will attract pike. In the afternoon when the Walleyes slow down, put a piece of worm, minnow or salted minnow on your jig and use the slow bottom drag method and you will start hitting Walleyes again.
Trolling off the rocky points with a Rapala or Thunderstick is also good in the summer. Natural colors like silver or brown seem to work best. If you use bright colors, you will hit tons of pike. In the summer, the Walleyes tend to go a little deeper and stay off rocky points or rocky drop-offs because wave action the rocks crates more oxygen. Also, bugs and other food floating on the surface tend to get more dense when drifting past a point so small minnows show up to feed and the Walleyes feed on the minnows.
Fishing the fall for Walleyes can be frustrating. What happens in many lakes is the water cools down and the weeds start to die. As the weeds die, the decomposition absorbs oxygen out of the water. Dead weeds also produce a dirty methane-sulfate and when the methane bubbles are released and float to the surface, the molecule capture a hydrogen molecule and releases the sulfur, which is poison to fish in high concentrations but with trace amounts, it’s annoying to them. The Walleyes take off into open water or up rivers and away from the dying weeds. They may move to the outer edge of big weed beds where the prevailing winds are blowing fresh water in the weeds.
In rivers, the Walleyes will swim upstream and hang around deep pools or back moving currents on either side of a rapids. When fishing in a river for Walleyes, the best thing to use is a float with a minnow or a worm. You can also cast Rapalas and Thundersticks and reel them in through the slower moving current and back-eddies. You can use jigs but you will get snagged many times and it can ruin your day.
In the fall in Open Water, many of the Walleyes go out into open water and stay suspended. Generally (not always) they tend to stay in 10 to 25 feet of water. Many fishermen like to troll with deep Rapala and Rattling Fat Raps. This is not the most exciting type of fishing but it’s better than nothing. If you are in an area where there is a good population of Walleyes, you should catch them. You will need a depth finder and see where you are marking fish. The atmospheric pressure will affect what depth the Walleyes are in. If the pressure goes really low, the walleyes may stop feeding all together. But if the pressure starts rising, the Walleyes will start feeding aggressively. Walleyes always feed the best when the pressure in on the rise.
HOW TO CATCH BIG TROPHY WALLEYES
Big trophy Walleyes are usually deep during the day and come up into shallow water at night to hunt down minnows along the shore. In the heat of the summer, most big Walleyes, especially the big females, will go deep and stay down between 15 and 35 feet deep. They only come to shore at night. During the day, they will move out into open water and feed on suspended schools of bait fish. They will also stay right on the bottom and hang around large rocks or deep weeds on the bottom of the lake. Use a 3-way swivel and a 1 or 2 oz weight and back-troll through the schools of bait fish or troll 20 feet deep along the shore and follow the contours of the shoreline. Use a worm harness with a big juicy worm or small floating Rapala. Another fantastic way to fish deep and make sure you are right on bottom is using a Loten Floating Jig Rig. The Loten Rig has elements of a Little Joe rig and also similar to a Lindy Rig. See Below
BOTTOM BOUCING WALLEYE FISHING RIG
A 3-way swivel method is great for fishing for deep Walleyes that are over 20 feet deep and it’s good for covering ground when the Walleyes are spread out. Sometimes because of sunlight or air pressure the Walleyes slow right down and go deeper in the 15 to 20-foot range. Deeper water tends to be where plant material settles and there is no wave action to clean the rocks so the bottom can be mucky. Because there is a lot less sunlight the weeds may only be a few inches high and in the case the Walleyes are not hiding in weeds but are hugging the tops and looking for bugs and stuff on the bottom. In this type of scenario, jigging with regular jigs is not that effective because your jig gets covered with muck and weeds really fast. Also the Walleyes are less aggressive and tend go after slow moving or stationary baits. When we are faced with this we usually go with a bottom bouncing Walleye rig, which is called a Loten Rig after Greg Loten, a commercial bush pilot who perfected the technique. It’s very similar to the traditional Lindy rig but with some refinements, which really do make a difference.
You need a floating jig, a hypodermic needle, a small trailer hook on a 3-inch lead-line, a 1/4 or 1/8 oz slip sinker and a split shot.
First, slide a 1/8 ounce (1/4 if it’s windy) slip-sinker down your line and tie on your floating jig. Second, put the trailer hook on your floating jig hook. Then hook your floating jig into the head of the worm but don’t go into or past the clitellum or the bottom half of the worm will not hold air. Then take your hypodermic needle and at an elongated angle inject the worm with air. If you just stick the needle in from the side (which my diagram shows incorrectly) the air leaks out and the rig will not be as buoyant. Then place the split-shot sinker between the jig and the slip sinker. If the weeds are 6 inches off the bottom then put the split-shot about 9 inches from the floating jig. If you are drifting fast than you can have two or three feet from the slip sinker to the jig.
Now you drop the rig down to the bottom in the 15 to 25-foot range. I would say the perfect depth is 20-foot for big female Walleyes but every lake is different. You do not want to jig the rig way up like a normal jig or jig it aggressively. Rather you want to drag the jig 6 to 12 inches at a time and do it very slowly. Then let the rig just sit on bottom for a few seconds and then do it again. If you feel resistance stop and see if you can feel the walleye sucking on the worm. If it feels like a Walleye set the hook hard. If you find the rig is staying really clean because the weeds and moss are really short, you can slide the split-shot sinker up towards the rig a bit more so that the floating jig and worm stay closer to the bottom. You want to be as close to the bottom as possible without touching the bottom.
If you are in a rocky area with lots of snags, don’t drag the rig horizontally like you would on a flat bottom. Rather slowly jig up and then over and then let the rig site back down on the bottom for a few seconds. The key is to do everything slow. When Walleyes go deep it means there is a reason why they went deep and their feeding patterns get disrupted and they become very lazy.
Most people do not want to admit it but Walleyes spend most of their time bottom feeding. They do go after minnows and leeches but their primary diet in many lakes is anything they can eat off the bottom. So when the Walleyes are deeper and have slowed down, a deep bottom bouncing Walleye rig works wonders.
SALT CURING MINNOWS
How to Salt Cure Minnows – Preserving Minnows with Table Salt
You may ask yourself; what is the big deal about salted minnows? Why am I hearing more and more about fishing with salted minnows? I’ll answer that question! Salted minnows work fantastic for Walleyes and Northern Pike. The reason they go crazy is the salt! When a fish swims the muscles produce excess static electricity and there is a special chemical in the skin along the lateral line that discharges this static electricity is the form of ions. Predatory fish have sensors under their bottom jaw that detect these ions and salt mimics the ions. So when fish detect the salt, the dinner bell rings.
How to Salt Cure Minnows:
Salting minnows is very easy but I have seen people make a couple of small mistakes that resulted in parts of the minnow rotting before it becomes salt-cured.
Step 1) Minnows that are too big take a long time to cure and may rot so finger size or smaller is best. Leave your minnows on a newspaper to dry for a couple of hours. You don’t want them to be wet or they may form a crusty coating, which stops the curing process. Minnows bigger than your finger should be scaled and gutted, especially if they are Shiners or other fish with big scales.
Step 2) Get a container that is at least semi-transparent and has an air-tight lid. Pour about 1/2 inch of salt in the bottom. You can use table salt or pickling salt. Do not use rock salt.
Step 3) Place a layer of minnows on the salt. Make sure they are on the salt and not on each other. Cover the first layer with minnows then cover them with another 1/4 inch of salt.
Step 4) The reason you want a container that is at least semi-transparent is to see if you have minnows touching the sides with no salt touching parts of the minnow. You need to grab a fork and nudge the minnows away from the side and let the salt fall in. You want the minnow completely surrounded by salt and not pushed up to the sides of the container. Then you make sure there is a 1/4 inch layer of salt on top of the minnows and then add the next layer of minnows and keep repeating the process until your container is full of salt and minnows.
Step 5) If you are generous with the salt and have an air tight lid, they should not smell at all. If you can’t keep them in the fridge, find the coolest spot possible.
Step 6 The night before you are going to use your dry salted minnows you can re-hydrate them by putting some in a plastic zip-loc bag and pour 100% pure Cod Liver Oil on them. After 12 to 24 hours they should re-hydrate and become plumper.
Fishing with Salted Minnows:
With smaller minnows, it’s best to put them on a jig and very gently jig so you do not rip the minnow off the jig. Let the fish suck on the minnow for a few seconds before you set the hook. For the big minnows, it’s best to get bigger single hooks and a small sinker and just let the minnow sink to the bottom and then drag the minnow over the tops of rocks and weeds. When a fish hits, release your bail and let the fish take the minnow for 30 seconds to give the fish time to get all the minnow in its mouth. Also, many fish (especially Pike) hit minnows by the side then spit it out to grab it again head first. So if the fish releases the minnow do not reel in. Give him time to bite again.
HOW TO HOLD A PIKE OR WALLEYE
If you hold a northern pike or walleye up by its eye sockets like they use to do in the old days, you squeeze their optic nerves into their brain and they die a slow death.
GAS AND BUG SPRAY
If you have touched a gas tank, gas line or get gasoline on your hands, scrub (wash) your hands with sugar. After you have put bug spray on, wash your hands with salt. Do this before you touch your lures to minimize transfer of undesirable scents. This will maximize fish strikes.
Fishing Line: Most people use 6 pound test for Walleye or 8 pound if you are also fishing for Pike.
Fishing Rod: A light to medium action rod is usually all you need. 95% of the Walleyes you will catch in Ontario are between 1 to 5 pounds so you don’t need a bigger rod. Your drag is set for your reel size and line strength.
Lures: See above for season. Jigs with twistertails, single-hook spinners, worm harnesses and Rapalas and Thundersticks. Again unscented twistertails work well.
Bait: Minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches work well.