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Secrets to Finding Late Summer Walleyes
by Mark Leadens

Man holding walleye Caption: Mark Leadens looked a little deeper for this late summer walleye.

Late summer walleyes seem to get an attitude and can be hard to find, and even harder to catch. It’s not that they give up eating, to the contrary. It’s a time of the year when they chow down big time, and make their annual growth gains. So what’s the problem? If they’re not fasting, and there’s still a few left in the lake; Why are they so hard to catch? Part of the problem is that the amount of available food is at a seasonal high. Huge schools of young of the year perch, white bass, etc., start to show up and it gets a little tough trying to compete with all of that available forage. Even with that the good news is the fact that there are fish to be caught and good late summer catches can still be made, you just need to know where and when. Fortunately for us late summer walleyes aren’t all that hard to find if you know where to look and readily show up on good electronics. Good electronics aren’t all that hard to find either, and there is plenty available to today’s walleye angler and includes units from Marcum, Lowrance, Humminbird, Garmin, and Raymarine to name a few, and there’s more. Marcum makes a three color flasher type depth finder that may seem old fashioned to some, but definitely has it’s time and place. For example; The Marcum provides instantaneous information and will show exactly what’s below you right now while the liquid crystal graphs have a slight delay. The advantage is being able to stay on the slightest break line because it will show a change in depth immediately. The downside is the information is here and gone immediately while the LCG’s will give you some time to study what you’ve passed over. They can also do an excellent job of showing fish that are holding tight to the bottom, as well as reveal transition lines where hard bottom meets soft.

The reason summer walleyes show up so well on good electronics is because in most cases they can be found holding in deeper water. “Deeper” is a relative term and will depend on the type of lake your on and what all is available, which could mean fifteen to twenty feet deep, or even eighty to a hundred. Good structure in deeper water can hold plenty of late summer walleyes as long as you have decent water clarity. In a situation like that look for fish during the day to hold off of the sides or even right over the top of a deep point or hump, if the top is deep enough.

At dusk and dawn look for deeper holding fish to move up on top of shallower flats and shelves and is an excellent situation to take advantage of. If you’ve been marking fish on a deeper break and it’s getting late in the day and the action slows up don’t be afraid to move right up on top. On the other hand if you’ve been working the top and they disappear or slow up head for deeper water and take a look. Transition areas where hard bottom meets soft are often overlooked and can produce some real monsters. Areas where a hard rock or gravel bottom meets mud or silt, or where gravel meets sand, creates an edge or concentration point and can hold decent numbers of late summer walleyes. The downside is the fact the fish are often spread out and you may have to spend extra time between hookups, but that’s the price you’ll have to pay for a shot at a genuine trophy. If you’re marking fish here and there you might want to put down a crankbait and cover some ground. If you’ve found a concentration; a bottom bouncer and spinner may be in order, or even a live bait rig and a crawler or minnow like a red tail chub. Basin areas are another late summer hot spot, especially if there really isn’t any suitable structure in deeper water. Look for fish to be holding from belly to the bottom to riding high, way up off the bottom. Clearer lakes are more apt to have active schools of high riding walleyes. If you’re seeing fish on the depth finder well off the bottom there’s a good chance at least a few of them are walleyes. A crank bait or spinner and crawler combination trolled right over the top of them can produce remarkable late summer catches. The darker lakes are more likely to have fish holding tight, and you may have to keep your presentations within a foot of the bottom to be effective. Darker lakes like Lake of the Woods hold plenty of basin fish which are regularly caught by anglers speed trolling crankbaits right next to the bottom. They’ll run baits along the bottom at speeds up to five miles per hour or more, which is really moving but the technique does produce! The basin pattern exists just about anywhere you find walleyes and has been relatively unknown and under fished, up to now. The key to good late summer catches is sticking with it and not giving up, especially if you’re not seeing or catching fish right away. Learning to catch walleyes when they’re not supposed to be biting can be extremely rewarding, you just have to keep an open mind and get back on the water.

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