Where to Fish for Walleyes in the Beginning of the Season
If you’ve ever wondered where you should try to fish for your walleye fishing opener, you are not alone. Almost everyone has thoughts of catching lots and lots of fish on the opener, and not just a lot of walleyes, but also big walleyes. Anglers with the most experience have the upper hand when it comes to finding and catching those fish. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be very experienced to have success. Here are some ideas to help you catch those walleyes you desire.
Where to Start
Your first task should be deciding which body of water you want to start fishing. You should do some research at home, on message boards online, at your local baitshops, and even calling baitshops near the lake or river you plan to fish. This prefishing will be well worth your time if you do it right. You need to decide if you are interested in catching high numbers of walleyes, or larger size walleyes, or hopefully both.
Here in Minnesota, the DNR website has lake creel surveys that tell you the number of fish caught in the nets, including size. These are too valuable to pass up. In just an hour’s time, I can look at the fish species numbers/sizes for several possible fishing destinations and determine if they ‘qualify’ for my fishing needs.
Dissecting the Body of Water You Will Fish
I plan on fishing Mille Lacs Lake for the Minnesota walleye opener, because it is chock full of walleyes, and many big ones at that. Mille Lacs is a huge body of water, and there are so many places to try, it can be intimidating. I will do further research in online forums to decide where I want to fish. I also will study my lake map that displays the contour depths of structure. Depending on what time of day I will be fishing, I will have plans on different spots to try, for all different scenarios: deep, shallow, windy, calm, sunny, cloudy, you get the idea. With a solid plan built, before I actually start fishing, I can eliminate a lot of the driving around in my boat to decide where to go.
Where are Walleyes In the Spring Time?
Generally, you want to look near post spawn areas in the beginning of the year. Walleyes tend to spawn in shallower areas close to rocky structure. You may find many other anglers fishing these spots, but this year, I want to encourage you to start looking a little bit deeper. With the warm spring, we are a couple weeks ahead of a normal spawning year. This would lead me to believe that the fish are moving to more traditional structure than you might find a couple of weeks into a season.
With the general idea that the walleyes will be deeper, using your electronics will be key. Having a quality fish finder, will help you figure out what depths the fish will be at. If you have an imaging type fish finder, such as a Humminbird 998, or Lowrance HDS-8, you can eliminate a lot of the guesswork that your sonar reads. Being able to distinguish a fish in an image may be easier than your traditional 2-D sonar.
What Bait or Presentation Should You Use?
Generally, the water is a little bit colder this time of year, and a minnow presentation will be your best bet for catching walleyes. A jig/minnow combo or stick bait style of crankbait will be a great choice. Working your jig along dropoffs or in deeper water will be a good place to start once you’ve found some marks on your sonar. If you’ve found a school of fish that are biting, slow down and set up over the fish. While anchoring or holding your position with a trolling motor, fan cast to all sides of the boat and slowly jig your bait back to the boat. If you find fish a little bit shallower, be careful not to spook the fish. Perhaps you could try a slip bobber approach and hang a minnow in the school, a little bit off of the bottom. Don’t underestimate the approach of using a slip bobber. A minnow sitting in one spot, moving with the wind and current, can be deadly for walleyes. Besides, EVERYONE loves watching a bobber go down. It brings that kid out in all of us.
Reflect on Your Fishing Trip
This is what separates the fisherman from the great fisherman. You need to learn from your experience. If you don’t learn anything, or haven’t figured out any sort of pattern from the situation you were in, you will be doomed to start over from scratch every time.
Paying attention to the depth, water temperature, weather pattern, and bait you used will pay dividends every year you fish in a similar situation. Soon you will be able to predict and pattern where the walleyes are on any given body of water, including the baits they bit on. Keeping a written log or journal can help you retain the information you’ve learned and it will serve as a guide for next time.
Hopefully you can use some of the tips above to help you get on the fish this spring. I can’t wait to get out there and try my hand at some lunker walleyes, with a few for the dinner table. I’d love to hear any of your tips for spring walleyes or how you do for your opening weekend. Leave a comment below and help other fisherman out for there next trip.
Good luck fish’n
Brad – @SonarFish
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My name is Brad Bolton, a husband and father of four. I live in Minnesota and I enjoy spending time in the outdoors and also spending time with my family. If there is water nearby, I want to fish it.