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Walleye Information and Fishing Tips

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wayne gustaveson

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Walleye are caught on bottom bouncing rigs tipped with live nightcrawlers during the month of May. They are most often caught by accident while fishing for bass, but some anglers fish specifically for walleye. Trolling close to cliff walls and across rocky points with a shad imitating minnow lure can be good at times. Consistent bottom contact while trolling or casting is the most important key in finding walleye.

Walleye are light sensitive. The huge eye is constructed to gather light in dim conditions and let walleye have a sight advantage when there isn’t much light. The eye becomes a liability in bright conditions.

May is the month when warming water increases fish metabolism and the need for food. Most species have spawned in April or May but numbers of small forage fish are at a low point for the year. Newly hatched fry are still very shallow and hidden in brush. There is not much food of the right size and in the right place for walleye yet. With more food needed and not much available, normally nocturnal walleye are forced to forage around the clock.

Fish seek out a comfort zone. With feeding expanded to daylight hours during May more anglers come in contact with hungry walleye. The walleye comfort zone still requires low light. Walleye strike from the shade of overhanging rock ledges, brush, cloudy water, wind washed mudlines trailing off a wind-swept clay point, and many other environmental conditions that filter light.

walleye01.jpg

Walleye feed on rocky reefs and points near brush where forage fish and crayfish live. They prowl uninhibited at night and are still present in fairly open habitat at daylight and dusk. Once the sun hits the water walleye are forced to seek shelter in the form of shade. Walleye can avoid bright light by going deeper where light penetration is filtered by plankton, algae and other microscopic organisms. The focal depth of the water can be estimated by simply watching your lure descend below the boat. In some locations the lure will disappear at 8 feet while in others it can still be seen at 25 or 30 feet. The lure disappearance point is the minimum depth that walleye will be hunting at that particular location. It works both ways. When the lure can’t be seen, a fish looking up will be protected from most of the sun’s bright rays.

Walleye like live bait. Walleye are omnivores which eat anything that swims, flips or crawls. They prefer not to chase prey but lie in wait and then strike like a snake as prey passes in range. They are notorious tail-biters, often just tasting the bait before eating the whole thing. A plastic bait is often struck and discarded before the angler knows he has been ambushed. Using scent, salt, amino acids, or adding a live worm really gives the taste and feel necessary for the walleye to take the bait in the mouth and hold it long enough for the hook set.

Vulnerability to angling is short lived. When young-of-year forage fish grow in size and number to the point that walleye can feed in the normal nocturnal fashion and obtain their daily food requirement, then feeding rituals return to those that exclude most daytime anglers. Walleye harvest decreases in June and is lowest in fall when the annual crop of small fish is most abundant. When fish are well fed they are extremely hard for anglers to catch.

Walleye spawn in March. They spawn in the main body of the lake on clean broken rock. Those residing near current will ascend to the headwaters of the lake searching for clean gravel to deposit eggs. Males seldom eat while in spawning condition and are hard to catch during March. Females continue to eat except for the one day when spawning actually occurs and the entire ovary is evacuated during that event. Walleye spawning in the lake are not congregated in isolated locations and in large enough groups to provide good fishing. There may be spawning aggregations near the flowing water where major tributaries enter Lake Powell where schools may stage prior to spawning and provide a large enough group of fish to provide a brief period of excellent fishing.
 
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