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Fishing articles by Carl Madson on Walleyes Inc. Your one stop internet fishing source
Day Time Walleyes
By Carl Madson
On many fisheries, walleye activity peaks during the low light periods of morning and evening. Each body of water and pattern might be different however with some fisheries producing a bite that occurs during the duration of night under the cover of complete darkness. Other stained water fisheries like Lake of the Woods are notorious for great daytime bites with little activity after dark. So while there are exceptions, most walleye anglers dread the light of day on many walleye fisheries. The old train of thought was that the bight would become impossible as the sun crept higher.

That isn’t to say however that anglers can’t catch fish during the dreaded mid day doldrums. In fact, some anglers have gotten really good at putting together programs that put walleye on the ice all day long on lakes that typically are known for producing fish during the twilight periods of sunrise and sunset. Perhaps no other ice anglers have put more walleyes on the ice over the past ten years than a group of guides from Devils Lake, North Dakota known as the Perch Patrol. This group of hard core ice anglers rest on the pinnacle of ice fishing guides, spending more time on the ice than most “guides” who call themselves “professional” or “fulltime.” These guys are the real deal and their insights on catching walleyes all day long are worth noting.

Jason Mitchell from the Perch Patrol has spent an incredible amount of time fishing for walleye through the ice and is regarded as one of the top winter guides in the industry

“Yes, we can and do catch walleyes all day long on Devils Lake and many other lakes as well that aren’t known for a day time walleye bite but there is a method to do so and it has taken us years of pounding the ice hard to get that understanding,” explains Jason Mitchell from the Perch Patrol. “First off not to mislead anybody, usually on most patterns… first light and last light are prime times for what the traditional school of thought is regarding catching and locating walleyes,” adds Mitchell. Walleye anglers generally target fish on the tops of structure during these times, the tops of sunken humps and points, the edges of weed beds, shoreline structure that fish might be using. Now obviously, different patterns are going to be more conductive to a daytime bite. There are situations that tilt the odds towards the daytime walleye angler. Some of these situations are obvious like cloud cover, fog or weather that cuts down the light penetration. “Last winter, we caught walleyes all day long in less than ten feet of water in a few spots and I think the amount of snow we had on the ice was a factor.” Other factors might occur late in the season when runoff entering the lake from a thawing shoreline clouds the water.

Listed above are obvious reasons that make sense why walleyes would continue to bite during the duration of the day. What is surprising however is just how many walleyes anglers can catch during the day when the sun is high, the water is clear and even more surprisingly, some of these fish remain shallow.

“We often get this picture pounded in to our heads that fish move shallower to feed and slide deeper during periods of inactivity. Now this movement absolutely happens on many patterns but there are other things that happen as well,” stresses Mitchell. Sometimes, it seems like aggressive fish during that prime time window move a lot looking for something to eat, obviously these fish are much easier to find and catch. “What some fish seem to do however after that prime time is over is not slide deeper, not do anything, just sit next to the bottom, fanning their pectoral fins. You might have short periods right during the middle of the day where these fish will make a small patrol around their immediate vicinity but otherwise, they just wait.” Another thing to remember is that not all of the fish are on the same page in that a percentage of fish will keep prowling long after most of the school has turned off. So the moral of the story is that Mitchell often spends a lot of time drilling an area out where he caught fish during first light and fishing through the area quickly to pick up scattered fish instead of sliding deeper. “What works for me is to just saturate the area with holes and scratch a few more fish after the prime period is over, also I don’t think that drilling holes has that much of an impact on fish as far as spooking but what does seem to spook fish is just commotion, heavy footsteps, vehicles driving up… things of that nature. “Fish spooking from drilling holes is way overrated. This concept of pre-drilling holes to avoid spooking fish is not all that functional in the sense that no matter how many holes you drill ahead of time, you still don’t put the picture together until you start fishing and that is when you have the information as to where the next holes should be drilled because a good game plan is always adapting and changing. Never be scared to drill more holes. The Perch Patrol have all used the StrikeMaster augers for years and cite that the dual cutting blades, weight of auger and ease of start during some grueling North Dakota winters as the reason for their loyalty to this particular type of ice auger. “If drilling a hole takes some effort, you won’t be able to catch walleyes during the day because you do have to drill some holes,” stresses Mitchell.

Another wrinkle in Mitchell’s approach is his presentation. Mitchell finds that he often triggers fish to bite by either being extremely aggressive or extremely subtle. “A good lure to walk from hole to hole with that takes aggressive fish is a Salmo Chubby Darter. We work these lures aggressively with sharp snaps and pounds to attempt to bring in any fish nearby. These lures seem to work best using a braided line and let the lure fall so that it wobbles, this wobble is the key and also why I recommend the Chubby as many of the other lures out on the market that look like a Chubby but are made of plastic just don’t have that wobble. Some days they like the Chubby Darters, other days I have to use a traditional spoon tipped with a minnow head but again, I work the lure aggressively. By far, the most effective spoon I have used for walleyes is the Northland Buckshot Rattle Spoon,” explains Mitchell.

This aggressive mindset is one side of the coin. If fish come into the vicinity hot and just stall as they approach the aggressive tactics, Mitchell turns 180 degrees on his presentational approach. “Especially, mid morning just as that prime period starts to fade, you will often still mark fish for awhile but they just start acting different… much less aggressive. These fish have a tendency to just follow you up and down but don’t come in hot and smoke it like they might have done just an hour earlier. What I do at that point is to use toned down tackle that is intended for panfish. Sometimes, droppers below the spoons work well. Small horizontal jigs with just a minnow head or a few wax worms can often be hot. In your mind, pretend the marks you are fishing are panfish. Often, midday walleyes can be caught especially well with this mindset.

Now another situation that the Perch Patrol often targets to catch walleye during the day is to find patterns that occur on the basins in deeper water. “Some of these deeper patterns don’t start until a couple of hours after sunrise,” explains Mitchell. These deep fish might be running basins, relating to deep rock piles or other structure that is deep. “I usually don’t look for real sharp breaking stuff because those fish seem to slide up and down more and can be easy to miss. What I like is transitions and edges that are more subtle. Some of my best locations for walleyes during the middle of the day are rock piles where we typically find fish on the edges where big rocks (usually on top of the pile) meet small rocks (on the edges of the pile). Another good location can be sand ridges that interest the muck that is found in the basin. Again, there will be sweet spots to key on but we usually have to pound out the area with holes. Another thing I have noticed with a camera is that there are times when rocks or dips will create shadows and there are times when it mattered, fishing on the north edge of rocks for example often puts you in the shadows during the middle of the day. There have been other times however where shadows didn’t seem to be a factor.

The shear amount of time that Jason Mitchell and the rest of the Perch Patrol has spent on the ice under the constant pressure of producing fish for paying customers is hard to duplicate. Their experience, knowledge and insights are valuable for putting together day time walleye patterns between the prime windows of opportunity. “There is a lot of time between sunrise and sunset when you are guiding people who expect to catch fish so we had to learn how to catch walleyes during the day out of necessity,” stresses Mitchell.

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