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Early Spring Walleye Fishing
By Sam Anderson
Spring walleyes are the first focus of fishermen as winter turns to
spring. In order to be successful it is necessary to understand some
basic patterns of walleyes at that time of the year. In the northern
states, the walleyes can spawn anytime from the middle of April to the
middle of May. This timetable is affected by how early we have warm
weather in the spring. My experience has shown that walleyes do not
spawn at the same time, but some start early with the majority spawning
during the ideal conditions and some will spawn extremely late in the spring,
especially the younger females. The males arrive on the spawning
beds first with the females following when the water conditions
What are ideal conditions? Conditions that ignite the spawning
activity are water temperature, rock or rubble shore lines, and in some
cases, the length of day light. While this last item is an arguable
point, I know for a fact that fall feeding patterns are trigged by the
day light hours, an item for a future article. The reason I believe
this is a factor is the fact that on late ice-out years, the walleyes will
spawn under the ice. Water temperature is a known factor, for
starting the spawning activity and the water temperature is also very
important for maximum reproduction. A spawning temperature of forty
degrees Fahrenheit will start the spawning action and fifty-two degrees
is the top end of spawning temperature.
Rock and rubble are important structure for a successful hatch. The
eggs must have something uneven to fall into to be protected from small
predator fish which will feed on
the eggs. To provide ideal spawning conditions the water temperature
should warm slowly and constantly with no severe temperature swings or
wave action during the gestation and hatching period. The north and
east shorelines are usually the areas where the majority of the walleyes
spawn. While the fish do not know east from west or north from south,
what makes these shore lines most desirable is the fact that the sun penetrates
the north and east shore lines with the hottest sun of the day. Therefore,
the water is the warmest close to shore and in some cases, the ice can
be ten feet from shore with the lake covered with ice, yet the walleyes
will spawn. When the spawning ritual is complete, these battered and exhausted
fish move to the deepest structure of the lake to rest for four to ten
days. After the rest period, the walleyes are eminently hungry and that's
when they move back to their spawning areas and the early spring action
is at its best.
We have discussed the spring spawning patterns of walleyes, so now
fisherman must use their knowledge and skill to boat several of these
hungry fish. Keep in mind that you must have an exact knowledge of
the spring weather patterns so when you arrive at the lake you wish to
fish, you know what stage the spring spawn pattern is at. If you
hit a late spring and the fish are still spawning or in the rest stage,
you can still catch fish, but you will work harder for fewer fish. Walleyes
are the one fish species that the right rod makes the difference.
Being able to feel that subtle bite can only happen with
quality rod. I prefer a
spinning rod 6'6" or 7' graphite, medium action with a fast tip.
The Quantum Energy is my choice for the reel because I like the peddrag
system that Quantum produces. In addition, stainless steel ball bearings
provide a smooth reel and a smooth reliable drag. If the fish are
between the spawn and resting period, I use four pound test
Sensithin line with 1/16 oz. jig tipped with a fathead minnow. If
the rest period is over and the fish are back in their spawning areas feeding,
I go up to six pound Berkley Premium Strength line and 1/16 or 1/8 oz.
jigs depending on the wind and water depth. I use
Lindy Little Joe Fuzzy Grub jigs
1/16 oz. for depths to 15' and 1/8 oz. for 15' and deeper, or on windy
days in shallow water. In either case, my line of choice is Berkley.
I know from experience that this line has strength, low visibility, and
low memory in cold weather. New emerging weeds are usually the best area
to find these fish but also rock and wood shore lines are outstanding locations.
Keep in mind that wood cluttered bottoms are one of the best spring walleye
producers, but you might have to carry a large supply of jigs. Use
a very, very slow retrieve technique as the water is still cold and the
fish metabolism is low and they will not attack or chase a fast moving
meal. Work a likely area for and hour or more, and if any fish is
caught, keep working the area or any similar area, since walleyes are a
schooling fish. If you have the misfortune to hit a cold front
( as little as five degrees lower than average from the day before) you
will find that the walleye action will be noticeably slower. If you remember
these patterns and follow them in your spring fishing outing, I guarantee
your fishing success will improve. Let me know how you do this spring.
You can contact me on the web at
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