Go With the (Water) Flow for Summer Walleyes

Go With the (Water) Flow for Summer Walleyes
Infographic by Ryan Kirby

Armed with the right approach, your summer walleye fishing will be great all season. Just check out this expert advice to learn how you can make it happen.

By Dan Johnson

Walleyes are prized catches year-round in lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the country.

While our love for these marble-eyed beauties doesn't diminish in midsummer, this can actually be one of the year's most challenging times to put together consistent catches.

summer walleye

Armed with the right approach, however, you can enjoy great fishing all summer long. Just check out this expert advice to learn how you can make it happen.

Summer Behavior

"The biggest difference between July and the rest of the season is that walleyes are scattered in different areas more so than any other time of year," said Scott Glorvigen, guide and tournament champion. In spring, you have large concentrations of fish confined to predictable areas. But now, the giant schools have broken up and are using different parts of the lake. Depending on what the fishery has to offer, you could have walleyes on weedlines, shoreline structure, offshore humps and reefs, deep main-lake basins and suspended following pelagic baitfish.

Inflowing water from storm sewers, culverts and creeks offers yet another overlooked option.

Jon Thelen, guide and tackle expert, said that a steady stream of fresh water from tributaries, ditches and other sources often carries nutrients that attract baitfish.

"It can also bring in water that's clearer than the main lake, especially when the lake has been stirred up by several days of strong winds," he said.

Water temperature will be a factor. Inflows carrying cool water from cold rains, springs or shaded sections of the tributary can be magnets for minnows and walleyes in the heat of summer. Also, keep in mind that in lakes that stratify by temperature, the fish are largely restricted to areas above the thermocline. This is a good time to avoid fishing cold, deep, oxygen-poor depths. Where oxygen levels are sufficient, however, such as in certain Great Lakes systems, you may find summer walleyes in depths of 50 feet or more.

The good news is, by late June/July, walleyes slip into summer feeding patterns that are stable for days or weeks at a time. The trick is finding the fish and capitalizing on peak feeding activity.

Click to enlarge.

Infographic by Ryan Kirby


COVER HUMPS with crankbaits. The first bait runs halfway between the surface and the top of the structure. The second splits that distance, and the third ticks the crown. Work the base of the structure with the deepest runner of the lot before leaving.

Electronic Help

To avoid wasting valuable time fishing unproductive water, Glorvigen doesn't wet a line until he's confident walleyes are in the neighborhood.

"The process starts before I leave for the lake," he said. "I learn as much as possible about the forage base and what the lake has to offer in terms of cover, structure and potential fishing patterns. For example, walleyes often suspend, while they tend to hug bottom in stained conditions."

Once you are on the water, use your electronics to find likely areas and scan them for fish. Recent developments in CHIRP and 3D sonar have really drawn back the curtain on the underwater world. They provide detail and perspective like never before.

"New 3D options, like Lowrance's StructureScan 3D, reveal the boat, baitfish, structure and predators in a three-dimensional view that makes it easy to wrap your head around what the sonar returns are trying to tell you," said Glorvigen.

And no matter how promising a spot may appear, he doesn't dally if no fish are marked.

"Too many times, anglers are guilty of fishing areas that look good, even if fish aren't present," he said. "That's a waste of precious fishing time."

Baitfish are often the best clue to walleye strike zones. If Glorvigen sees clouds of baitfish occupying a specific depth range, such as 15 feet down over 30 feet of water, that tells him this depth is probably their comfort zone in terms of temperature and oxygen. Structure or weedlines that coincide with this depth are often your best fishing areas.

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