Perhaps no other place in the country offers more to the walleye fisherman than right here in Central Minnesota. Our glacier-styled lakes and the winding Mississippi River make the perfect walleye habitat.
Along with the walleyes, and other fish, come the fishermen. Every good lake, stream and river is fished continually from opening to closing of the season. Is it any wonder the fishing can be tough?
Dealing with pressured walleyes is perhaps the biggest challenge angler’s face. There is one thing than can help you catch more walleyes, it’s to be flexible and experiment. Walleyes can get turned off to certain fishing methods. What was good two years ago may not be the best now.
One theory is walleyes get conditioned to certain techniques. Evidently they see too many of their buddies chomp down on a particular lure and slowly struggle away to the surface. Another theory is that certain walleyes are very vulnerable to a fishing technique, while others aren’t. Eventually most of the “easy” ones are caught until they are all gone.
Regardless of the reason, it does pay to try new presentations and lures. So many times a little change can mean the difference between getting skunked and a nice stringer of walleyes. Here are some things to experiment with that may work and help you catch more walleyes this year:
Downriggers are trolling devices that allow you to troll a lure at a precise depth. They were made popular by salmon fishermen on theGreat Lakes, but I thought the idea would work for small lake fish as well. I first started using downriggers for trout in managed lakes years ago, and they worked great. So I tried them on walleyes and they worked equally well. Since then downriggers have become very popular up on The Lake of the Woods.
Walleyes that feed over reefs pose a problem for jig and live bait rig anglers, reason is that you almost have to have a tackle shop in the boat with you to keep up with the number of baits you lose due to snagging. Although, a downrigger you can work a lure right over the rocks and appeal to any walleyes foraging over the reef.
Most astute walleye anglers are familiar with walleyes’ habit of holding in deep water during inactive periods and moving up on flats and bars during feeding periods. What better way to work a lure precisely over the bottom than with a well placed downrigger weight?
Downriggers permit you to closely troll the borders and inside turns in weed lines. Then because they keep your lures tracking straight behind the boat, downriggers work perfectly for trolling precisely around points and little irregularities in the break line. But one super way of using portable ‘riggers is to work individual fish you may see on your locator. Attach your line to the downrigger weight so the lure will run about twenty- or thirty- feet behind the ball. Then keep a sharp eye on your locator for any walleyes. When you spot a fish, quickly raise, or lower the ball so the lure will run right by the fish’s nose. The extra long distance that the lure is running behind the weight will give you the needed time to change the lure’s depth. You’d be surprised at how many times this little maneuver will result in a bucking rod tied to a bulldogging walleye.
WALLEYES IN WEEDS
Over the years it has become increasingly evident that a large portion of our walleyes live in weeds. That idea runs contrary to the belief that walleyes only inhabit deep water structures with rock and gravel bottoms. But walleyes do like weeds, and you can catch many of them by fishing along weed edges.
You may find walleyes using weeds more and more all the time. Consider that many of our lakes are being stocked with walleye fingerlings. These fish are raised in ponds until they are several inches long and then released into the lakes. The shallow ponds these fingerlings are raised in often have thick weed growths in them, and the small walleyes use the weeds for cover. So what is going to happen the minute the fingerlings are dumped in the lake? Likely they will head for the first sets of weeds they can see. Also, if there are plenty of forage minnows there, the walleyes may spend their entire lives in the weeds.
The trick to catching these walleyes is to find weeds like pondweed or coontail, they are near water at least ten feet deep. Walleyes will not usually be in weeds surrounded by expansive shallow water. Cast lures like jigs tipped with live bait, or even spinner baits, past the weed edge and let it settle down into the weeds. Retrieve the lure so it stays near the base of the weeds. If you feel it hang up on a weed, and you will, just snap it loose and continue reeling it in.
Another technique is to wait until dusk and “long line” troll a floating minnow bait over the weed beds. As darkness settles, big walleyes often move up to the weed tops to feed. Let out enough line so the lure just skims over the weed tops. It isn’t rare to let out up to 100 feet of line. Again, weeds adjacent to deep water will be more productive.
BE OPEN MINDED
A final idea to harvesting more walleyes is not a method, but a way of thinking. Never become dependent on one walleye fishing technique or area. I don’t know of one method or spot that continually produces walleyes, yet so many anglers rigidly stick to them. Keep up to date on new fishing techniques written up in magazines, newspapers and online or demonstrated on videos, TV and online. Pick up some of the new tackle demonstrated and keep it in your tackle box. After all, trying new ways to catch walleyes is part of the fun and can mean the difference between going fishless and being on the bragging board at the bait shop.