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Cold Water ‘Eyes
By Bob Riege
The walleye is a cold blooded animal. Its metabolism is directly
dependent upon water temperature. The lower the temperature, the
lower its metabolism and the less food its body demands. There is
no magic temperature when walleyes suddenly begin to feed. Feeding
gradually increases as the water warms. As a general rule of
thumb, feeding activity is greatest between 55 ° and 75 ° F.
When water temperature exceeds 80° F, walleye feeding falls off again
because of thermal stress.
If these are the conditions you are faced with on opening day or whenever
you venture out to fish for some walleyes keep a few tips in mind so you
can improve on your catch. Use smaller bait. A sluggish walleye is
more apt to grab a small fathead or leech than a big golden shiner or nightcrawler.
Don’t stubbornly stick with jumbo leeches, nightcrawlers or big artificial
lures just because they’ve produced in the past. Slow down, trolling
or casting is generally a waste of time in very cold water. Try some
slip-bobber fishing or some slow backtrolling or jigging. The key
here again is slow down. If you think you are slow now slow down
even further and watch your line, because if your presentation is in slow
motion your action will be fast. Try a stinger hook. Sluggish walleyes
have a habit of striking short and ripping up the tail of a minnow or snipping
the end off a crawler. By attaching a small treble or single hook to the
bend and then inserting one hook of the treble into the tail of your bait,
you can hook many of the short striking fish. This technique is deadly
with a jig and crawler or a jig and minnow. Try lighter line, walleyes
are often very line shy especially in clear lakes. The more the diameter
the more vibration and the better for walleyes to see the line. I
prefer to use
4lb. XT for early walleye fishing in cold water. Some people have
trouble breaking off when they set the hook, but this can be remedied by
using a rod that has
a fairly soft tip to absorb some of the hookset shock. Fish shallower
than usual especially in early season for spring walleyes. Often
walleyes in turbid waters are close to shore, some as shallow as two feet.
I have had some really good success pitching light jigs and spinners next
to shore and working them out to the waiting walleyes.
Try trolling a vibrating type lure or one that has sound chambers in
it that makes a rattle. Something like a
Rattlin’ Fat Rap, it has a great deal of wobble and rattle that attracts
the attention of the walleyes. Walleyes have the ability to detect vibration
using their lateral line
sensory system. Sometimes they will strike a fast moving vibrating
lurein turbid water when all else fails. Try fluorescent colors.
They show up better in dirty water and can often mean the difference between
success and failure. Regardless if you are fishing with lead head
jigs, floating jigs, spinners or vibrating lures, fluorescent colors will
out produce standard colors in cold water that is muddied by spring rains.
One factor that can result in poor fishing even though the lake is teeming
with walleyes is a lack of fish holding structure. This structure
will hold fish on barriers or give a resting place out of current.
You need to be on a lake that has a variety of depressions, rocks, holes,
weedbeds, stumps and logs. This is the type of structure that fish
relate to. Walleyes prefer hard bottom, preferably gravel or rubble.
If you can locate gravel or rubble area in a basin that is other wise all
muck or silt, chances are you’ve located the walleye hangout. If
you have a depth finder rigged up for sounding at high speeds you can check
out a lot of bottom conditions. Especially, with a little practice,
you will be able to differentiate the weak signal produced by soft bottom
from the stronger, sharper signal produced by hard bottoms. To
sum it up, cold water walleyes can be extremely frustrating because of
the tremendous variables that in some way affect the walleyes
behavior. Experiment with the techniques I have outlined in this
article and you too will be developing a "feel" for what it is like to
fish cold water
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