Catching walleye doesn’t take a seasoned, expert angler, but walleye aren’t going to make it easy for you either, especially if it’s your first rodeo. Walleye get pretty big too, reaching up to 25” in length. They’re a spirited, fighting fish, all the way until you see their spooky, moon-lie eyes.
Learning how to catch walleye is a matter of understanding their habits, where you’re likely to find them, their feeding choices, and the right setup to get their attention. There is also some technique involved as well as the age-old fishing requirement—patience.
If you want walleye, you’ll have to head north. As the native fish of Minnesota, walleye are mostly found in the northern states, including the aforementioned Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, and some of the southern Canadian provinces.
How to Fish for Walleye
Fishing for walleye is interesting, and it takes a little tactical know-how, but it’s not the most difficult fish to catch. You’ll struggle far more often trying to catch tarpon than you will walleye.
There are some rules on walleye fishing you should look out for, especially when they spawn in the spring. It’s not the same in every state, but you should check it before you make any plans.
Walleye are very sensitive to light, which makes sense considering their large, round eyes. Stick to the shady areas or fish on cloudy days for a better chance. The early morning hours and the last moments before the sun drops behind the horizon are excellent times.
Walleye prefer shallow water, especially when there is a lot of vegetation around. The farther from sunlight they can get, the better. They prefer to do most of their feeding in shallower waters and they stick to thick, underwater weeds or shade when the sun is up.
Walleye go for jigging setups more than anything else, and, as a result, it’s probably the most popular method for walleye fishing. Sinking swimbaits are perfect for this or your own, weighted hook with (insert choice here) lure as well.
All you have to do is let the lure sink and give it a little jerk every few seconds.
Trolling for walleye
Trolling is one of the simplest ways to go after walleye. You want your lure to ease along, about 75 yards behind the boat and 12’ deep. You don’t have to go any faster than 2 mph. Just ease along and let the lure do its thing.
Drifting is much the same, just without the boat. Make sure you have a weighted lure with a live bait rig to get lower in the water column and slowly reel it in. It’s not always the most successful way to go after walleye but when trolling isn’t an option, it’s the next best thing.
In the middle of the summer, the spinning lure is one of the best ways to go after walleye, especially if you can work your lure in shallow and heavily shaded areas.
Best Bait for Walleye
When you’re going with live bait, minnows are on the top of the walleye’s menu. Flathead minnows and shiner minnows stand out the most. Trolling with crankbaits are often successful as well, so long as you keep it 12’ down in the water column.
A surprising delicacy on the live bait walleye menu are leeches. They aren’t up there with minnow but depending on the walleye’s palette for the day, anglers often do well with them. Walleye also go for nightcrawlers, especially if you set them up on a spinner rig.
As we mentioned above, jigging is one of the most popular methods for luring walleye.
Many anglers will enthusiastically recommend fireball rigs because it covers up the shank, making it look a little more realistic, in terms of presentation.
As far as lures, grubs with curly tails, jerkbaits, shads, worms, and crankbaits are all up there on the menu. Glow lures are a good choice if you prefer going after your walleye through the ice. Walleye are often thought of as a late spring and summer fish, but ice anglers will tell you differently.
Best time to catch them
Your best bet during the day is to stick to the shaded areas, but you’ll have more luck early in the mornings and very late in the afternoons. Walleye aren’t fans of sunlight, so they will stick to the shade and are more active before the sun really gets going for the day.
It’s best to go about six weeks after spawning, which occurs in the middle of spring. Anytime during the summer is good but especially on heavily overcast days. In the fall, you’ll have more success hunting from the shore. Walleye move in close during the fall and feed in shallower waters.
Contrary to popular belief, you can catch walleye in the winter by ice fishing. Glow worms are the best bait of choice, but you probably won’t be as successful as in the summer months.
Catching walleye is fun because they present a challenge. They’re a spooky-looking fish, though probably not quite up there with alligator gar or barracuda. They’re also sizeable and excellent to eat.
It’s even more fun when you consider the number of ways you can catch them. The number one thing to understand with walleye is their behavior throughout the season and their dislike of sunshine.
You can also catch them all year long, except for springtime, where state laws may prohibit it. If you’re interested in catching walleye during the winter, ice fishing is a great way to go after them.
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