Early Spring Walleyes
By Norb Wallock
A variety of different methods will take early spring walleyes, since
the fish’s general attitude can range from aggressive to neutral. Walleyes
are often aggressive during this period of time right up to spawning time.
When the spawning period begins the feeding activity will drop to zero.
Whether you fish during the day or night, the fish are rarely deeper
that 30 feet. Many are shallower than 15 feet, and at night, 2 to
8 feet is common. There are some advantages when the fish are this
shallow. Location is easy, but the fish are often extremely spooky.
Jigs and live bait rigs are generally your best choices for this period.
The simpler the better. Small jigs, tipped with a small chub or fathead
minnow, are perfect. Fish bright or fluorescent colors in dirty water,
and natural or subtle colors in clear water. Use 1/8 to 3/8 ounce
jigs, depending on the depth or current conditions you are faced with.
In most current situations, you want the jig to slowly bounce up and down,
on and off the bottom in the current. Just bounce, sweep, bounce, sweep.
Backtrolling, anchoring and casting, or drifting all work well for
fishing the adjacent drop-off areas during the day. The real importance
lies in the speed at which you present the jig. As long as it is
slow and close to the bottom, you’re all set. The water temperature
is cold, and the walleyes are lethargic. Slow jigging is perfect
for these conditions.
What about the slow approach of slip bobbers? This approach has
had a real revival in the last couple of years. It is quite effective
when the bite is slow and when the walleyes are in difficult structure
such as rock piles and floating timber.
Live bait rigs work best with weights ranging from simple split shots
up to 3/8 ounce sinkers. Small plain hooks generally work best, although
you can try a spinner rig in dark water. Minnows are generally the
top live bait choice at this time of year, although leeches and
nightcrawlers can work, too. The same boat-control methods apply.
Look for structure that the fish use as ambush points or places to hide,
out of the current. Such structure might be logs, weeds, rocks or
boat docks. All of these make excellent casting points to target
fishing from shore. If you are in an area that allows you to
have two poles out, such as the Mississippi River, use a rod tipped with
live bait and the other rod with an artificial lure. If you position
your live bait adjacent to the structure, you can use the artificial lure
to entice a fish to follow and have them hook up on your live bait rig.
Several other systems work particularly well at night . Try fancasting
or long-line trolling minnow imitation baits in the immediate vicinity,
right up in areas with good spawning it close to the bottom in current,
or in water deeper than 6 to 8 feet. At night, however, fish commonly
cruise 2 to 8 foot depths, and trolling is perfect. If you're going
to be using a crankbait, however, you should also think about the action
of the lure in the water. The wobble of the bait can
make a difference in how many walleyes you catch. It seems like a minor
thing, and many walleye chasers don't even notice that different baits
have different wobbles as they're pulled through the water. It's
been my experience, though, that marble-eyed fish aredefinitely influenced
by the action of the lure.
Early spring walleyes are some of the best tasting table fare. Remember
to slow down your presentation and try a variety of methods and you will
be having a fresh fish dinner before to long.
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