The Amazingly Adaptable Walleye
Whew ... I am finally back home afterspending the past 10 days fishing for walleyes down in the Kawartha lakes regionof southern Ontario. And if I had to sumup the experience in one word, it would be "adaptable".
I mean, man, is there any other species offish as flexible as old marble 'eyes? Ithink not.
As a matter of fact, the day before Istarted the long 2000 km (1200 mile) drive down - yes, Ontariois a huge province - I was catching good numbers of big walleyes in Lake of the Woods fishing breaklines, adjacent to sandbeaches, in 20 to 30 feet of water. WhenI texted this to buddy Pete Garnier, who is a living Kawartha lakes legend,Pete sent me back a single phrase response.
It read .... OMG!!!
That is when I knew, right then and there,that the way I was picking off walleyes on my home water wasn't likely toentice many Kawartha lake fish. Especially, the ones in SturgeonLake where the BobcaygeonCan/AM walleye tournament was held last weekend.
Indeed, biologists refer to walleyes as "eurybionts",which is nothing more than a fancy way of saying the giant perch tolerate awide range of conditions.
Geographically speaking, you can cast forthem one day in the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories where itempties into the Arctic Ocean, and then fly the next day to Alabama and fishfor them in a southern stream that spills into the Gulf of Mexico. In between,you can cast, drift, wade and troll for them in a huge number of equallydisparate environments.
And just as walleye prosper in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, creeks, streams,pits and ponds across the continent, they also adapt to a wide range of watertemperatures, water clarity and variabilities in pH, dissolved solids, oxygenand carbon dioxide. Believe it or not, taggedwalleye have even been known to change their sex from one year to the next -but that is a story for another day.
The bottom line is that walleye are so broadminded in terms of theirenvironmental likes, and so able to adapt to conditions, that it is oftendifficult to pin labels on the beggars.
(Sturgeon Lake was "off limits" on Friday so we played over on Balsam Lake where Pete nabbed this nice walleye)
Indeed, when I hooked up with Pete and his buddies Kim, Fabian and Rob,(gentlemen, thank you for a wonderful time), I quickly discovered that Kawarthalakes walleyes are as fixated on weeds - cabbage, coontail and milfoil - aslargemouth bass.
And I am not talking about deep weedlines, either. Rather, the fish were holed up in theshallowest, warmest, thickest, matted beds of vegetation that you couldfind. Think the snarliest, nastiest,snaggiest weed cover you can imagine and that is where we located the fish.
Which begs the question: why were the fish up so shallow in thehottest, steamiest, weediest water in the lake, under bright, blue bird skiesand scorching heat and humidity? Hadn'tthey read the rule book? What about allthe deep, cool, structure and cover?
Well, I don't have a ton of experience walleye fishing down there toknow, but I am convinced it boils down to the simple matter of food. Because every time we flipped, pitched andcasted our lures around the weeds, we caught perch, bluegills and rock bass aswell as muskies, walleyes, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. But, when we pulled away from the weeds andfished, dare I say it, traditional walleye structure, our lures went untouched.
Find the food and you find the fish - every time!
(Obviously Rob Lafleur's bucktail looked like something this dandy walleye thought was edible!)