Gauge on Shallow Water Walleyes
by Jason Mitchell
No secret that walleyes like shallow water. There does seem to
be so many
misperceptions however as to why or where we can catch walleyes in
four feet of water. So often, anglers believe that the only reason
occupy knee deep water is to either eat or spawn. Some anglers
the mistake that you need a hard gravel bottom or wind to catch walleyes
shallow water. Poor or reduced water clarity might help in catching
in the shallows assuming that fish are easier to approach in stained
dingy water. You can bet that walleyes often inhabit water less
feet of water however for a variety of reasons in a variety of seasons.
Some of the places we find walleyes using shallow water might surprise
anglers used to the traditional methods or locations.
We can’t absolutely say that we can count on walleye being shallow in
spring or deep in the fall. If only fishing were that easy.
I can tell you
where we found fish in shallow water in the past however and these
experiences become patterns we become to count on each season.
So often, it seems that the shallow water walleye game revolves around
temperature. Shallow water is water that can often be warmer
than the rest
of the lake. When surface water temperature means something like
often does early in the season, the shallow haunts can be the hottest
in town... Literally.
On the other hand, shallow water can also offer an unstable environment
well, much more unstable than deeper water. From my own experiences,
weather is more conductive to finding and catching fish in shallow
especially early in the season. But again, about the farthest
we can ever
get with fish locations are rules of thumb and generalizations.
To cut to
the chase, here are some scenarios where we catch nice walleyes in
less than four feet and we often find these fish by using an accurate
Early in the season, fish often seem to seek out locations that speed
their metabolism. Speeding up metabolism is just plain biology.
temperature determines metabolism. At times, warmer water jump
food chain and shallow water means food. Other times, the best
opportunities might in fact be deeper in the water column and the fish
the shallow water to digest their food quicker.
On big reservoirs like Lake Sakakawea located in western North Dakota,
often found walleyes in a few feet of water early in the season full
smelt. Ironically, most of the smelt seemed to be hanging deeper,
fifteen feet of water according to our electronics. It often
appeared as if
the walleyes weren’t utilizing shallow water to eat, but rather digest
meal that happened to be consumed in water that might have been two
degrees cooler and a dozen feet deeper.
Kind of backwards of what we so often assume, the traditional picture
walleyes laying inactive in deeper water and coming shallow to feed
always as accurate as we would like to think.
So often, calm, sunny days mean good fishing in shallow water for us
in the season. Often too, the fish seem more aggressive in the
early evening hours after the sun has warmed the water.
On Devils Lake located in north-central North Dakota where we make our
livings as guides, warmer water located in shallow water coincides
the food chain and higher metabolisms. Invertebrates, young of
fish fry and insect hatches become available in shallow water close
Interestingly enough, we often find walleye in three feet of water or
through the month of May and often find these fish in the back of bays
way up on shallow flats far from access to deep water. Many of
are primarily a soft muck bottom although the gradient may change to
some areas. We find fish with sensitive temperature gauges.
The surface temperature on the main lake basin might be 54 degrees for
example. As you enter a bay, the surface temp might climb to
exploring the back reaches of a bay along the shoreline brings you
that is just starting to hit the 62 degree mark. The more accurate
temperature gauge, the more dialed in you can get to fish location.
The Vexilar Edge 507’s most of our guide staff are running has a temperature
gauge built into the unit that measures degrees in tenths. There
is a huge
difference in just a degree to a cold blooded animal like a fish.
also probably notice that you can fine tune location even more when
start looking for small pools of water along the shoreline that are
less than a quarter of a degree warmer than the surrounding water.
These small pools of water that happen to be just the slightest bit
than the surrounding water often mean finding fish. These pools
might be quite large, covering several acres or tucked away and small,
covering less than an acre. This warm blanket of surface water
can also get
shifted around from wind, rain or current. This is perhaps why
weather makes this shallow water pattern more predictable. Strong
cool cloudy weather can send the temperatures backwards in the shallows,
resulting in finding fish deeper or not in the area at all. People
about the benefits of wind and walleye fishing but we often find ourselves
being more successful right away in the season if we can find fish
locations protected from the wind just because wind will change the
if cooler water from the lake bottom starts to get mixed into the shallow
water close to shore. A scenario where fishing the calm side
of the lake
might indeed be more productive.
Another interesting note, when fishing shallow water and trying to locate
fish, remember to fish the whole water column. For some reason,
anglers refuse to fish the whole water column when fishing shallow
Even in three or four feet of water, fish will lay low or high.
our own experiences, we find walleyes holding tight to the bottom in
morning, or if the sky is overcast. During the middle of the
day when you
can start to feel the heat from the sun, we often catch more fish by
higher in the water column because it seems like the fish will often
to the warmth. Comparable to a turtle laying on a log in the
middle of the
day. Walleyes are no different than us perhaps in the fact that
bit of sun feels pretty good on our shoulders after a long cold winter.
So many anglers don’t understand the importance of an accurate temperature
gauge or don’t use this device to monitor the environment they are
There is no magic temperature that every walleye spawns at or decides
eat, just generalizations because everything becomes so relevant.
As a body
of water goes through changes throughout the course of an open water
however, these changes get revealed by watching your temperature
There will be scenarios throughout the year when finding pockets of
that are warmer or cooler than the surrounding area means the difference
between catching walleyes and scratching your head. No doubt
that early in
the season on many natural lakes and reservoirs, the hottest action
found will take place close to shore and fish locations can indeed
determined by watching your temperature gauge.
Editors note: The author, Jason Mitchell heads Mitchell’s Guide
North Dakota’s Devils Lake. Recognized in the industry as one
premier guide services in the Midwest, Mitchell’s Guide Service is
largest and busiest open water guide service in the Devils Lake area.
find out more information on Mitchell’s Guide Service or Devils Lake’s
fishing opportunities, contact Jason Mitchell at (701) 351-1890.
Accommodations available at Woodland Resort, (701) 662-5996 or the
Lake Casino and Resort, 1-800-WIN-UBET.
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