Walleye Fishing Tips and Techniques
There are different walleye fishing scenarios. You can go for numbers or you can go for size. Some people are happy to find a hotspot off a shoal or rocky point and catch small Walleyes one after another. Catching Walleye after Walleye can get boring and loses it’s appeal after a day or two because the anticipation of catching a big trophy Walleye dissipates and before you know it, your fishing trip is over.
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 Shield 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 (1/8th or 1/16th oz) and cast along the shore and retrieve it quit 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 are not feeding will still hit bright colors because they are defending the spawning grounds and bright colors aggravate them. Generally, white is always the best 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. Red, Blue, Chartreuse and Fire Tiger are the best 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 casing. Trolling back and forth too many times will spook the area and they will stop feeding.
A few years ago in very early spring (just after ice-out), we fished right along the shore. If we were more then 10 feet away from shore; we would not catch anything. Across the lake was a bunch of guys that were staying in a different camp. They watched us fishing along the shore and catching Walleye after Walleye. They were fishing out in the middle of the lake and catching nothing. They watched us catch fish all day. We told them the Walleyes were right on shore yet they would not listen and fished out in the middle of the lake and continued to catch nothing.
If you are going to be a stubborn fisherman who never tries anything new or will not accept the fact that the fishing in Northern Ontario is different then down south, then all you’ll catch is disappointment. In 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.
Walleye Fishing Tips and Techniques:
Using light jigs with a white twistertail and a piece of worm, Walleye gullet, leech, live minnow or salted minnow works best (see my complete tackle list included at the bottom of this page). This is the most popular way to catch high numbers of Walleyes. One of my preferred jigs (pictured below) is an VMC 1/4 oz Hot Tiger Jig. The ingenious bait keeper is perfect for longevity of live bait or plastic. The rounded jig head allows for a realistic look while at the same time increasing hook up percentages (I prefer the Hot Tiger, but any fluorescent will do the trick). These hooks are super sharp too! (You can purchase this jig – click here)
In the summer the walleyes go a little deeper, hang out at the mouth of rivers or 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.
In the summer, 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 (I prefer the ladder) on your jig. Fish in the north can be cautious about scented rubbers, but you’ll find success with both. They do like salted plastics. Live minnows, if allowed, are excellent whether on a jig or just a strait hook. If you are on a lake where you cannot use live bait, get some salted minnows. We use to catch minnows and then cure them with salt. It seems a little cruel but it’s convenient and the Walleyes go nuts over them. Just put a bunch of minnows on a cookie sheet and cover them with a generous amount of table salt.
Hot Days: Some times 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 scented 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, Walleye gullet or salted minnow on your jig and use the slow bottom drag methed and you will start hitting Walleyes again.
Trolling off the rocky points with a X-Raps 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 on the rocks creates 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.
Fall: Fishing in the fall for Walleyes can be very frustrating. What happens in many lakes is the water cools down and the weeds start to die. As the weeds die, they absorb oxygen out of the water as then decompose. 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 into the weeds.
Rivers: The Walleyes will swim up stream 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.
Open Water: In the fall, many of the Walleyes go out into open water and stay suspended. Generally (not always) they tend to stay in 10 to 25 foot of water. Many fishermen like to troll with the Rapala “Down Deep Husky Jerks” and the Rattling Fat Raps. This is not the most exciting type of fishing but it’s better then 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 effect what depth the Walleyes are at. If the pressure goes really low, the walleyes may stop feeding all together. BUT…if the pressure starts rising, the Walleyes will start feeding and aggressively. Walleyes always feed the best when the pressure is 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. Big Deep-Water Walleyes:
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 lake shad and lake Herring. This is especially true in lakes where the shoreline is a gauntlet of Pike teeth. They will also stay right on bottom and hang around large rocks or deep weeds on the bottom of the lake.
There are two things you can do. If you are in a bigger boat you can use downriggers or use down-deep Husky Jerks or J-13 down deep jointed Rapalas and troll out in open water. Look for schools of baitfish 20 to 40 yards off rocky points or river mouths. Try fishing 15 to 35 feet deep.
If you are in a small boat and you can troll really slow, 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.
At night in the fall: Some of the really big females will come in close to shore at night, especially in the fall or late summer. Between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, try trolling with an Original Floating Rapala along the shore in 2 or 3 feet of water or troll past rocky shoals. You can also troll along patches of thick weeds out in the lake. The prime areas are where there are lots of minnows but lack of protection from the sun during the day. For some reason blue is the magic color for fishing along the shore at night in summer and late fall. In the spring you can use other colors like Fire-Tiger, Red or Chartreuse. You have to troll your boat very slowly and you have to be quiet. In the evening and at night is when the biggest Walleyes are feeding. The Loten Walleye Rig
Another fantastic way to fish deep and make sure you are right on bottom is by using a Loten Floating Jig Rig. This rig is named after Greg Loten, who was a professional fishing guide and commercial bush plane pilot in Ontario’s far north for many years. He was well known for catching monster size Walleyes in lakes that are not known for large Walleyes.
The Loten Rig has elements of a Little Joe rig and also similar to a Lindy Rig. You need a floating jig head, a big fat dew-worm, a trailer hook on 2.5 inches of line, ½ oz slide-sinker, a small splitshot sinker and a clean syringe.
First, slide your slide-sinker down your line and then tie on the floating jig. Take your jig and put the hook into the end of the worm (head) and just far enough in so that you do not break the skin below the clitellum (see diagram below). Then put on a trailer hook on the jig’s hook. Let the trailer hook dangle. Do not stick it in the tail of the worm. Do not break the skin on the bottom halt of the worm. Then with a clean syringe, inject air into the tail of the worm. Don’t stick the syringe into the worm at a 90-degree angle or the air leaks out. Try to penetrate the worm’s skin at 45-degrees or less.
Before you tied your jig on the line, you were suppose to slide a slip-sinker onto the line. Then you put a small splitshot sinker 3 to 4 feet down the line from the floating jig so your slip sinker does not slide any closer to the jig.
The rig can be used in any depth of water and any time of day but it seems to produce the biggest walleyes at night when closer to shore and bigger Walleyes during the day when fishing little deeper.
To use the rig, just troll very slowly and give long slow jigs and let the sinker hit bottom or even drag bottom. The whole purpose of the rig is to keep your worm off bottom but close to the bottom and be able to do long slow lazy jigs, which the bigger and less aggressive Walleyes seem to respond to. There are more 10-pound + Walleyes caught on this rig than any other rig. The prime time is ¥ hour after dark and right in close to shore. When you are jigging, just think that a big old fat Walleye that’s out of breath is trying to catch up to it so jig smooth and slow.
Chad’s Preferred Walleye Tackle (click the item to purchase)
- VMC Jigs (make sure to get 1/4 and 3/8oz, size 6 hook)
- Berkley Gulp! (3″ white and green)
- X-Raps (I prefer size 8)
- Rapala Down Deep (go with size 8 or 10)
- Floating Rig (used with crawler)
- Three Way Barrel Swivels (Size 3/0 )