Walleyes are smarter than bass or trout a lot. That’s why when going fishing, chances you will lose a walleye are higher, especially in winter and you go walleye ice fishing. They are strong and naughty to try everything to escape.
If you are new to this kind of fish or even have tried to catch them a couple of times but not be a success, don’t miss out this article. Here, I will show you detailed information about walleyes, about their habitat, when they spawn alongside with the most suitable tips, tricks and How to Catch Walleye in different times of a year.
Now, let’s get straight into it!
What is walleye? What does a walleye look like?
Actually, if searching on the Internet, you can find a lot of detail information about walleye, but so here, I am going to talk in brief about it whereas focus more on its favorite foods, baits and how to catch them.
Walleye is basically one of the freshwater species living in North America and most of Canada. There are a few other names for it such as pikeperch and pickerel. (But actually, they are not pickerel!)
Walleye comes in two major kinds: the blue walleye and the yellow walleye, but in fact, they aren’t different from each other, just their color.
As you can see in the picture, walleyes get yellowy in color with olive dorsal side and white belly. Its mouth is quite large, having many sharp teeth. Besides, don’t get wrong with their cousin who is saugers.
Walleyes have a white coloration on the caudal fin’s lower lobe whereas the saugers distinctively get black dots grading into two special rows on its caudal fin and dorsal.
When do walleye spawn?
Like most of the other freshwater fishes, walleye’s spawning time starts at the end of winter and early of spring, when the water temperature is getting warmer and warmer thanks to the appearing sunlight.
There is a basic rule of thumb: warmer the water is, faster the spawn time is coming. From that point, walleyes in streambeds will start their spawn time earlier than those in deeper lake or river.
So now, another question is what will happen if it’s suddenly getting old again or re-freezing? Then, female walleyes will keep holding onto their eggs. Even in the worst case which is the winter lasts longer, they are going to re-absorb the eggs.
How to Catch Walleye
There are two favorite seasons to catch walleye: early spring and winter.
Why early spring? Because it’s in the early of their season, the weather is absolutely gorgeous and the fish is biting like crazy. Meanwhile, in the winter, the weather is harsh and their food source is going to decrease, which means walleyes will hunt for food strongly and your chances to catch some nice sized fishes are more.
In this part, I will guide you how to fish for walleye in both early spring and winter. Firstly, we will start off with my favorite season – spring.
Early spring walleye fishing
How to find the best location
You know that location is really key in any fishing situation based on the seasonal movements of fish. Your task now is trying to find a big shallow water for last, which is the real keeper binding school of walleye.
My favorite fishing spot for walleye is allowing my boat to drift over top of weed lines and drop-offs. That’s also the ideal structure to catch walleye as they attract bait fish. It allows walleye to go deeper and stay out of the bright light after they feed.
Lake Winnebago is a typical example for this. Besides, not only walleye, this shallow water area also has other species like yellow perch, pike, etc.
The technique I’m using is the same as spin fishers who are using a jig. It’s a systematic jerking of the line make the fly go up and then, down. Walleye always seems to hit when the fly is falling.
Walleye fishing techniques: Should I troll or vertically jig?
Well, the answer I always give to this question is both.
Yes, you should do both!
What I like to do when I’m visiting, especially the lake that I don’t know well and it’s fairly big, I always start out trolling. My favorite trolling approach is probably a bottom bouncer and a spinner rig.
If it’s early in the year and the water is still cold, you should go for a single hook spinner rig and tip it with a minnow. On the opposite, if the water is fairly warm, tip it with a crawler or another single hook and a leech.
There’s just one thing to bear in mind when it comes to the bottom bouncer and the spinner rig is that you should troll along at about 1.0 to 1.3 MPH.
Another key with trolling early in the season for walleyes is not to throw your lure out or your bottom bouncer or drop it over the side of your boat and start random trolling.
What I always like to do is picking a contour. I’ll try and gauge when I think those fishes are. In fact, I might go down about 15-foot contour for half a mile or so in an area I suspect it got walleyes. In case I don’t pick anything up, I might to another area and try 17, 20 or 22 feet.
You should also vary the depth and contour troll.
Bonus walleye fishing tips
There is another little secret with the spinner rig early in the season for walleyes, which I learned from John, who is also the only Canadian fisherman ever to win a PWT championship walleye tournament championship.
What he did, especially in lakes where there’s a lot of shallow weedy cover, was taking the bottom bouncer off and putting either a single split shot or no shot at all.
Then, he went into shallow back bays where the weeds are just starting to grow, trolling in about 3, 4 or 5 feet of water, just over the top of the emerging cabbage beds. It’s absolutely deadly at this time of the year.
Something else you need to consider if you start to find they walleyes very shallow is to forget about the bottom bouncer altogether and do what we call flatlining.
Now, what is flatlining?
It is simply taking your bait caster spinning rod and reel. The best fishing line, in this case, is either the braided or the gel spun line as they are a very thin diameter, no stretch at all, they cut the water quickly and go down.
What I will do is trolling a minnow bait or a crankbait and be roughly 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 feet of water.
How about the bait
In terms of walleye baits, I’ll pull a small one which is absolutely deadly for fish. I’ll tell you an even deadlier approach though if you find those fishes deep in about 12, 15, 20 or 25 feet is putting that on with lead core line.
Now, the next question is, of all those things, why should we do that?
Well, it’s all about finding the concentrations of fish and once we get theirs, believe it or not, we put the trolling outfits down and then, pick up probably the number one presentation in the spring and that’s a jig.
When the water is super cold again, a jig in a minnow. When it starts to warm up, a jig and half a crawler or a jig and a leech. But, the reason we troll is to find the fish. Now, after having them circle around, just stop, fish beside them, either a jig you can cast those very same baits or throw a slip bobber, then mop up.
Slip bobber tactics
When it comes to slipping bobber, I like to use a longer rod, roughly an eight and a half footer with medium action. The reason why I want to go long is that it helps me hook at long distances and I also can chuck a slip bobber rig easily 35 yards, maybe 40 yards if I wanted to.
In fact, oftentimes, you have to do that if the fish is spooky, which means a long rod is nice.
Pair it with an adequately sized spinning reel in the eight-pound test. Over the years, I have run all sorts of different types of monofilament line, but now, I prefer to utilize the plain old string because the slip bobber knot that I use eat up line but they don’t chew through the strand for some reason.
The bobber I like is Thrill as they have grommets in the top of them. From that point, your mono doesn’t eat through them like they would with a plastic top.
The biggest advantage of these grommets is that they’re indestructible and durable.
When you go out to try and catch walleye on bobbers, get a marker buoy and two different anchors, stay upwind of the target, sideways and you will catch a boatload of fish.
In terms of a leader, I run 12-pound fluorocarbon leader which is really abrasion resistant and importantly, fish can’t see it and they’re even unable to cut the line with their teeth.
Walleye ice fishing tips
When it comes to ice fishing for walleye, there are a lot of people jigging in roughly one to two feet above the hole, which is riskier to lose your fish. I lost my fish a couple of times.
Now, the best tip to prevent this is to get your rod tip to three inches off the water as it’s going to give you some extra foot up.
The next tip is to always keep your rod tip line of ice free. I don’t know how many times that I have seen many guys have ice covering the rod tip to the point where you cannot realize.
You get a good bite and reel, but just this tiny mistake can’t get any grounds in the fish. Thus, keep that ice clean in your rod tip.
Now, what should you do when fighting a fish?
There are two common cases that I have seen in many guys: either they stand up or keep their rod three feet above the hole and just cranking it.
Actually, when being hooked, walleyes will tend to swim quickly to the left of the hole and into the right, which will pin your line and take advantage of that to escape.
In the best way to fight a walleye, to avoid losing it, you should get your rod tip down to the hole so that the fishing line won’t pin into the edges of the ice. On the contrary, if you fight it up on the ground, it’s a good chance to lose the fish.
Honestly, the biggest mistakes I see on How to Catch Walleye are too slow and too efficient. No matter you go fishing in the spring or the winter, whether it’s lake or river, fastness and efficiency are two main keys to help you catch walleyes successfully. Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out the most common mistakes as well as learn some more new tips, tricks, and technique in walleye fishing.