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Updated 2012


Some basic stuff to help you 'know' walleye, and hopefully how to catch fish! 

As I update this in the early spring of 2012, I want you to know that as a walleye specialist, I've made some audio Cds on walleye, so you can learn easily, often on the way to/from work! These are not fancy at all – they are simply me giving you the important aspects of walleye and fishing. I have Cds of various disciplines such as river fishing, in-land lakes and Big Waters such as Lake Erie/Gt Lakes. See the write up at the end of this write up for more details, and do contact me if interested in them – or to come to my neck of the woods on your holidays for a workshop...just for you...

Walleye are one of the most aggressively sought after game fish in North America. The white flesh is pristine, savory, and incredibly mild. The walleye isn't a 'pushover' either, offering both, anglers with lots of earned savvy, and novices alike, excellent fishing opportunity. 

The walleye is a creature of habit like most of us here on earth; but it, like human folk, can and does live in very diverse locations. The diversity of watershed situations that the walleye inhabits, and consequently, many 'local' habits of the fish, will go a long way to ensure the survival of its specie. But catching walleye isn't rocket science - 'walleye do walleye things' - wherever they are. In any given location/area of its existence though, there WILL be variations of its' behavior at least, somewhat! If you are a seasoned walleye fisher, you'll know what I mean here! If you need more discussion, don't hesitate to contact me - that's what I'm here for.

Some walleye live primarily in rivers, and may never leave this watershed during the whole of its life. Too, there are lake living walleye, which may never enter into a river-shed in its' life. So what's the difference? 

Nothing, it's just that some walleye are river living fish, and some lake living walleye. I could go into a great lengthy oration about each potentially being a sub-species of walleye, but for our essay here, this isn't really important, and would only be splitting hair(s). We'll let the scientific community get all 'hung-up' into this tangle. We're more interested in the walleye from fisher- folk's point of view. 
I will say though, with certainty, that there are shoal spawning walleye, which primarily live in lakes and very large river systems, and then there are river spawning walleye, which either live in a river as already mentioned,  but often live in a lake and enter into a river during the spring, in which they'll spawn, and usually leave the river afterward to go back to the larger lake. This leaves a sort of 'rearing' place for the hatched out walleye ( in the river) then they'll head out into the larger water when they get larger, usually in their second year. If the river is large enough, some walleye may stay right in the river for their whole life, but the vast majority will head into a larger lake.

The reason I gave you this explanation is because while similar, the overall habits of these two fish will likely be different, offering two similar but different fisheries, sometimes within the same lake if it's large enough for both these walleye to exist.

If you are going to 'go north' and into Precambrian Shield water like that found in Northern Ontario Canada - some of the world's finest prime walleye water - then please see the NEW section of this web site  on primarily Northern Ontario. I also have a book named "Precambrian Shield Walleye Fishing" which covers both central and northern Ontario. You can find this exclusive book at the product section of this web site.

If you are an ICE fisher, and you want some particularly fascinating information, not found ANYWHERE else, then you may wish to consider my book "Northern Ontario Ice Fishing" which gives you some slick strategy and techniques that I've developed myself over the years.

Walleye are predators, and top predators at that, being very efficient at their life's entity within the eco-system of their home-water, no matter where they are. This can be easily illustrated; they of course must eat, and they do this with enough success and frequency, allowing themselves to grow to quite good sizes, and in relatively short time. Walleye can attain sizes upward of 13 pounds, but this would be regarded as a real trophy! Most anglers will enjoy catching walleye five pounds and under most of the time.

Many jurisdictions also have 'slot limits' which are often size and numbers of walleye of a size or under/over that can be taken. Be sure to ALWAYS check the area in which you are contemplating fishing in to see and honor any slot restrictions that may be in place for that water.

Walleye when they are just hatched, like most fish, eat plankton/zoo plankton, then as these young 'puppies' graduate to small aquatic insect life, after which, they'll move on to consuming larger fish fodder - namely; minnows. Once walleye have reached about six to ten inches in length, they will gradually wean off of insect life, and primarily eat minnows. This will be their food of choice for the rest of their life. True, any walleye will hit a large succulent insect, but for the most part, once walleye start to get larger, they need more and larger food-stuffs, which minnows provide. Usually, young walleye  will eat ravenously, growing quickly, and need to eat much food to sustain this rapid growth period. As well, once a walleye is mature and large, they must continue to eat a lot of food, just to maintain themselves. Walleye continue to grow throughout their whole lifetime. Walleye are opportunists as most creatures are, and will also feed on insect life during major hatches of lake flies and will also take crawfish and leeches; but the main staple of the walleye's existence once mature, will be minnows.

Of course this all leads to the fact that walleye are primarily minnow eaters as adults, and these are the fish that we are ( usually) wishing to catch. This is why most walleye baits will depict minnows in some fashion. It is also true that minnows are one of the best walleye baits going. Even lead head jigs are designed to 'dupe' a walleye, and primarily 'supposedly' act like a minnow( some may depict a crawfish, but few) darting to the safety of the bottom of the lake/river bed. 

But, Gosh! Not so easy - worm harnesses work well too! Just for discussion of it, most walleye that take a worm (harness) will have never seen a night crawler before!  That's fishin' folks!

Fishing is an inexact science at best - and as soon as one comes up with any sort of 'Rule of thumb', it's bound to be blasted out of the water sooner or later, most often sooner. So we have to deal with what will work most of the time, and offer the closest thing to 'consistency' as possible. This leads us right back to minnows as the number one walleye bait choice – where they can legally be used! Many jurisdictions simply don't allow live minnow use, and that's ok, because most pro and ardent sportsfishers can still do a phenominal job without live minnow use!. 

We're going to talk fishin' - both river and lake concepts here, but if you've found what I've just covered interesting, you may be interested in my book "WALLEYE BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR... from a fisherman's point of view", available here in my 'products' section of this homepage.

Just the basics, if you please!

Some river-sheds hold walleye all year long, especially large rivers. It's paramount to fishing success to determine if though, there are actually walleye in the river at the time you intend to fish. Just as the opening statement is true, it is also true that walleye may not stay in any 'given' river. Some walleye prefer to live in a lake/impoundment, and only enter the river to spawn, or to seek their preferred water temperature. 

Likely the best/quickest source of this information will be from local bait/tackle shops, or your nearest Natural Resources office, or Conservation Officer. It would be equally as prudent to check to make sure the walleye fishing season is open, and if there are any size (often called 'slot' restrictions) requirements pertaining 'legal sizes' of walleye that may/may-not be kept in this watershed. 

Most of the time, walleye will be caught in water 25 feet deep and under in most rivers. Most rivers aren't usually too deep, and I've taken a lot of walleye in ten feet of water. 

In mid- summer, and the dead-of-winter though, I've taken them in water deeper than 25 feet in rivers, but most rivers don't often have water much deeper than this anyway, with only 'occasional holes' deeper than 25 feet. The exceptions to this of course, would be in very large rivers systems.  To narrow down your search a bit, except during the extreme middle of a hot or cold season, when walleye MAY ( or may not) go deeper, I've taken thousands upon thousands of walleye in water MOSTLY UNDER 15 feet deep, up to water only four feet deep. I've also taken thousands upon thousands of walleye at the average of 20 feet when fishing the larger 'lake walleye' which may well suspend in a large lake such as Lake Erie which is regarded as a 'fish factory' lake. 
For most smaller in-land lakes and rivers, except again, in the far south where water may get extremely warm, most walleye will be taken in water AVERAGING about 12 feet deep ( give/take a foot or two).

The number one choice( of other fishers) of fishing strategy for river fishing is with lead head jigs. I prefer a 3/8 oz jig, which offers me great casting distance, and is often needed to cover a good expanse of water per cast/retrieve. I like a chartreuse or yellow colored jig, followed by either jet-black or pure white. The current of the river may dictate the size you use, especially during high water during the spring.

If there is an active/viable/discernible current, cast upstream, allowing the jig to bounce  along the bottom, retrieving slowly. Sometimes I will jig/jerk the jig fairly lightly, adding zip/zing to the lure presentation. I keep this subtle though, preferring a slower retrieve. Yes - you'll loose lots of jig heads because of snags - this will go with the territory for walleye river fishin'! 

The number two choice ( of other fishers) for river fishing set-ups, is with live minnows. I like my minnows to be about 3 inches long. I hook them through the lips, using just enough  weight to get the bait down near bottom. I like to allow the minnow to drift along with the current, covering territory, and hopefully into the path of a 'major' walleye! If the walleye are hitting short ( hitting- but just not getting hooked) I'll try baiting up with the minnow hooked just behind and underneath the minnow's dorsal fin. This often allows for more positive hooking of a 'hitting' walleye, but isn't used much if the current is fast/stiff. 

MY PERSONAL FAVORED METHOD OF FISHING WALLEYE in rivers and in-land lakes is to use a concept called BOTTOM BOUNCING!
This concept is not new, it has been used extensively by many of us, and is a very productive method of fishing walleye from a boat. It assures your bait is close to the bottom in what I call 'the kill zone', or just above bottom. When done correctly, you lose very few lures or bottom bouncers - far less loss than when using most other methods of fishing. Because walleye are structure oriented ( except the larger lake walleye that may suspend) you will have a lot of snags and hang-ups if fishing correctly. With a bottom bouncer concept, you simply have to back up and go slightly past where you are hung up, and most of the time the bottom bouncer will free itself.
If this is a new concept for you - do give it a try - it is very effective for ardent and seasoned walleye fishers. If you have tried it and you didn't do well using the concept, then perhaps you need to have more discussion on it - you must have been doing something wrong - do regard my FactSheet on Bottom Bouncing - it will accomplish you as a fisher.  I have a very detailed 13 page Pro FactSheet on Bottom Bouncing. This is like a chapter out of a book - but less formal than a book. Go to my products page to purchase the ProFactSheet on Bottom Bouncing.

Need more info on river fishin' - check-out my "PRO  FACTSHEETon river fishin' for walleye from the products section! 

More basics, no rocket science here!

Many anglers will be fishing for walleye in lakes, or very large impoundment type person made lakes. I'll give you a few basics here, enabling you to hopefully catch fish. Of course, I'd recommend purchasing my PRO FACTSHEETS, or minimally, a few PRO FACTSHEETS that interest you from my product section, but we'll discuss a few of the 'need to know' things here in this write-up. If you are coming north to fish Precambrian lakes, then my book on Precambrian Walleye Fishing would be a good bet - it'll save you time on where to find them and how to catch them. 

It will to a great extent, depend on the time of year where one should fish for the best success. Since most anglers will be fishing while on summer holidays, I'll keep our focus here on summer style fishing, hoping to cover the most consistency for the most fisher folk. 

In the summer, walleye will be seeking out the water closest to their preferred water temperature of 73 F; but they must also eat, and stay safe from other predators, and keep out of glaring sunlight! That says it all! 

Find out any local 'hot spots' from bait/tackle shops, CO's ( Game Wardens) or Ministry personnel before going out into strange water - it'll save you a lot of time! 

Basically, if it is early morning just at dawn, one should be able to find walleye between a weed-bed, where they've been feeding all night; at this time they'll be heading for structure in deeper water - which is likely cooler - and close to the 73 F range. By shortly after sun-up they'll likely already be in this preferred water temperature, and will (usually - but not necessarily) be around structure - and in the shade. If there is little/no structure, they may be right on the bottom. I've even seen them stay in shallow water, right in the weeds all day. The weeds give them shade. This happens in what are regarded as cold water lakes a lot. Less so in warmer waters, though. Warmer water will see them head out deeper only coming into the shallows at night. If the lake is quite deep, they'll be suspended ( remember, this discussion is for mid-summer) in their preferred water temp, which will likely be between 15 feet and down to fifty feet( as the extreme) of water. Up until the water in the lake is sufficiently warm , walleye may very well stay right in the weeds in relatively shallow water, especially if the water out deeper is considerably colder. I've taken walleye in shallow water, right amongst the weeds during the middle of July in cold water lakes. But once the water there exceeds 75F - know that they'll head out to cooler water, which may be only slightly deeper in these cold water lakes. If the lake is an inland lake that warms up sooner than a cold water lake, then they may already be deeper by mid July. Most weed beds are in water from  a foot deep to about 8 feet, even ten feet deep. Yes, there are deeper dwelling weeds - which can be tough to find, but by 20 feet and deeper,  few weeds will exist in most water.

A GOOD RULE OF THUMB is to start any fishing trip in shallow - and work out deeper until you find fish. Fish the weed beds in the evening from an hour before dark - until absolute dark. Use a floating plug such as a Rapala minnow if you can. These plugs don't go deep - and yes, you'll have to clear them of weeds once in a while, but they usually will dive down to just above most weeds. You can slow your troll slightly if they are diving too deep. If the weeds are surface weeds, then this may be impossible. In such a case - go with a weedless spoon. I make a few weedless crawler harnesses, but they are time consuming, and most would not wish to buy them. I DO, however, put on workshops you can attend each summer, to learn how to make your own rigs! Contact me if interested and to book your time here with me.
Come learn from a pro fisher while on your holidays! Cost sharing is also a possibility if you wish.

If there is a rock-pile or other structure in 25 feet of water - fish near it - right until nearly dark.

Troll or drift fish, using a live minnow if possible, covering water all around the structure. If you hit a fish, take your time,. Allowing the water to settle back down, and go right through the same area again - walleye are a schooling fish - others may be there too. 

Suspended fish can be taken using one of the many lures that are on the market today. These are made for trolling at various depths, which is 'just the ticket' for those after suspended walleye. Consult the package, or a depth trolling guide to tell how deep these lures will run. Planer board fishing is an excellent way to catch suspended walleye, but takes a bit of practice to accomplish. Walleye are notoriously timid - and move away from an approaching boat - and with a properly running planer board - right into your lure path - fish on!

Most suspended fish, in average water bodies will be taken using such lures as Luhr Jensen's Power Dives, or Hot Lips lures, purple/black is a walleye standard color. 

Dipsey divers can also be used to good effect, as can Jet DIVERS, especially when running with crawler harnesses. Jet Dives and Dipsey Divers are all methods of controlling trolling depth. All these deep diving lures and appliances have a very hard pull. You WILL need sturdy rod holders and fast actioned( relatively stiff) rods - like downrigger rods.

I developed what I call weight stackers which utilize egg sinkers - which are some of the least expensive sinkers on the market. With each package of weight stackers you get a formula for trolling with most crawler and spinner type lures. They( weight stackers) can also be used for getting plugs down deeper, too. They do not have the same hard pull as most of the above deep diving lugs have. I have even used weight stackers to take hot lips plugs deeper than what they normally run.
If you need a lot of weight stackers, then you'd be wise to take one of my workshops to learn how to make them yourself.

If you are evening fishing, don't 'pack-it-in' too soon. Fish walleye on the edge of large weed beds, where they will be coming to feed at dark. Fish right until absolute dark if you can. I like sonic lures such as Panther Martin's (with fly), Vibrax Spinners and the like. Live minnows, about 3 to 4 inches long, hooked just under the dorsal fin are also effective baits for this type of productive fishing. If you 'hit fish' you'll be amazed at just how short the time is between when they start hitting, and absolute dark. Most anglers will be leaving for home - just as the best fishing of the day/evening is going to start. 

- There you have it, a few brief walleye fishing strategies. If you need more information, please go my product section of this homepage, where I have more in-depth information available, such as: PRO REPORTS on "Effective Planer Board Fishing"; "Walleye Biology and Behavior... from a fisherman's point of view"; and many other 'outdoorsy' publications and PRO FACTSHEETSPLEASE SEE LINKS BELOW.


          Pro-Factsheets are now available :

- Single In-Line Planer Boards
- Double Boarded Planer Boards
- Simple, Effective and Functional Mast Set Up for Planer Boards
- Release and Stopper Clips for Planer Boards and Downrigging



2012 Update! New for 2012 are my audio Cds on a variety of outdoor & environmental topics including both open water fishing and ice fishing. Topics such as ( Open water) Walleye Fishing Inland Lakes: Walleye Fishing Rivers;

Walleye Fishing Precambrian Lakes: and a host of others....(Ice Fishing) Ice Fishing For Everyone ( set of 2 Cds):

Ice Fishing for Bluegill, Crappie & Perch: Ice Fishing for Walleye: Ice Fishing For Seniors...and a host of others...

Also new for 2012 – come to my neck-of-the-woods on your summer holidays here on the North Shore of Georgian Bay for a variety of outdoor, hunting/fishing & environmental oriented workshops, including -even summer ice fishing workshops! We have a clean & tidy campground here with access onto the Serpent River which flows into Georgian Bay ( approx a half mike away). So you can bring your own boat if you wish. They have RV hookup as well as tenting and cabins. There is also a small mom/pop Motel ( with Kitchenette Facilities of you wish) here for those not into camping.

Bring along your entire family – or fishin' buds and learn while on your holidays. My prices are reasonable, and I'll tailor a workshop to your schedule on most fishing and ice fishing subjects. Email me for pricing of my various workshops and details as well as any other questions you may have.

We also have superb ATV trails here, and a wonderful night sky-scape – campfire smoke – a true northern experience...John A. Vance

Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . . 

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