Spring Time Walleye’s
by Shane Belter
Spring walleye fishing can offer some of the years best fishing, and some of the worst. Warming weather is usually the indicator in this department. If the temperature rises just a degree or two, and stays relatively constant, the bite can really turn on. If the mercury goes south so often does the bite. During the pre-spawn period walleye’s are usually found in deeper water, fifteen to twenty feet down just off their spawning beds. As the spawn gets underway the opposite is true and most fish will be caught in the two to six foot ranges. Catching walleye, particularly big females, during this time can also be tricky. Often the smaller, more aggressive males are the first so strike a passing jig or live bait rig. Once the spawn is in full swing the females stop feeding and any fish caught during this period are all males. Once the females have finished spawning they begin their journey to their summer holding spots. Big females can be caught at this time as they gorge themselves trying to replenish energy used during the spawn. Catching walleyes in the spring can require a wide range of tactics. Jigging and rigging are probably the most popular, but don’t count out slip bobbers or crankbaits. The only way to know what works is to experiment. I’ve always done what I do best and work my way through the different techniques until I start catching fish.
When jigging in Western Canada I start by using a ¼ ounce jig head or bigger usually tipped with a minnow, leech, or night crawler. I work my down in size until I consistently catch fish. I usually start by lifting and dropping the jig keeping my line tight at all times to feel even the slightest hit. If that does not produce I use a dragging method which almost always triggers a strike. Experiment with size and different bait until the fish tells you what it wants, and then fine-tune your color contrast to hook in to that big one.
LIVE BAIT RIGS
Live bait rigging can be done so many different ways that it’s tough to get in to detail on all aspects of rigging. I generally prefer a straight J hook with a leech on a ¼ ounce walking sinker and a black barrel swivel stopper. When the water is stained or fish are holding just off the bottom, I’ll use a floating jig head or a northland gumdrop floater. Either technique will generally produce fish in a more aggressive mood. Catching fish on these rigs depends on two things. Bait choice and most importantly, boat speed. This will generally be the indicator for the day on how fast to travel to catch fish. Live bait rigging is a great way to cover more water quicker and find fish faster.
On the other end of the spectrum from jigfishing is crankin’. Cranks will generally find aggressive fish fast and eliminate unproductive waters equally as fast. They can be fished in variety of ways from planer boards to bottom bouncers. I typically use Reef Runner crankbaits because of the exceptional wobble they produce. I generally long line these cranks, but use boards in shallow and when fish are spooky, like in clearer water. The key to catching walleye’s on cranks is experimentation and duplication. Once you catch a fish duplicate the exact boat speed, amount of line out, and the size and shape of bait and you could have a good day runnin’ cranks’.
Once you have found a concentration of fish, slip bobbing can be the deadliest way to catch walleyes yet. Many tournament anglers do not like this style of fishing but it has been proven to produce time and again. A simple J hook with an active leech on is sufficient. The more natural you can present the bait the better your odds at a good fish. Fish will often pass on moving baits but take a bait dangling right in front of their noses. Never count out this simple yet deadly walleye pattern. The springtime can offer some of the best fishing of the year. Get out on the water and try these techniques and I guarantee that you’ll catch more fish and have more fun doing so. Remember to always take a kid fishing and introduce them to the outdoors at an early age, they’ll thank you for it.