The Switch From Bass to Walleyes, 4 Facts You Need to Know
When many fishermen think about fishing, their thoughts turn toward largemouth bass; no other species of gamefish is more popular, but in some parts of the country, Ol' Bucketmouth plays second fiddle to what is, in fact, an oversized perch
Some call it jack salmon, dore or pike-perch. Others use thenicknames yellow pickerel, blue pickerel, marble-eye or walleyed pike. Butwhatever handle you hang on it, the walleye’s size, sporting qualities andsavory flesh make it one of North America’s most important sportfish.
Despite the walleye’s popularity with some anglers, however,it often is ignored by others, even where common, often because the fishermendon’t understand what kind of fish this is, what its habits are and how tocatch it consistently.
Anglers need not shun the walleye, however. This fish isdifferent, yes, but much easier to catch than many suppose.
The eyes are important indicators of walleye behavior. Thesepeculiar, opaque-appearing organs, from which the walleye derives its name, lendthe impression walleyes are blind. In fact, walleyes see quite well. Their eyesare adaptations for a life spend in dark haunts. Walleyes shirk bright lightand are most active at night.
This doesn’t mean walleyes can’t be caught during daytime. Indeep water, where only moderate light penetrates, walleyes strike readilybetween dawn and dusk. They are more active on overcast days than bright ones,often feeding in shallower water under a cloudy sky. If wind disturbs the water’ssurface, diffusing light rays, this improves daylight conditions as well. Mostsuccessful walleye anglers therefore usually fish on cloudy, windy days, duringlow-light periods or after dark.
The type of bottom over which onefishes is also exceedingly important. Walleyes seldom are found over mud or inareas of dense vegetation, preferring areas of open bottom covered with rocks,gravel or, outside the spawning season, firm sand. Spawning walleyes avoid sandbecause it may suffocate their eggs.
Walleyes also are attracted tocurrent, which brings food to the fish. In streams, narrow stretches where thecurrent quickens are walleye attractors. Incoming rivers and major feedercreeks provide reliable and easily located sources of current on lakes,especially in early spring when walleyes use them as both feeding areas andspawning sites. Dam tailwaters also attract walleyes, and tailwater fishing isso popular in some areas it seems fishermen must outnumber fish.
Walleyes are bottom dwellers, too,usually caught with lures or bait worked on or near the substrate. They’reschooling fish as well. When you catch one, others are usually nearby,especially during spring spawning when huge concentrations often are found.Where one is caught, keep fishing until no more strikes occur.
In waters where walleyes don’treceive undue pressure, you can catch them on a host of lures. Jigs are aspecial favorite, as are small crankbaits and slender, three-hook floating/divingminnow plugs. Using the appropriate terminal tackle to achieve the requireddepth, and then being able to work that depth consistently, is often thedifference between success and no success.
A bait/lure combo often is moreeffective than either bait or lures used alone. A leadhead jig tipped with alively night crawler usually is effective wherever walleyes are found. Whetherthe jig has a feather, plastic or hair body is unimportant, and many anglersprefer a bare jig. Hook the worm through the head so it can wiggle full-lengthbehind the jig. This combo makes an excellent drifting or trolling rig inrelatively slow currents. Jig/minnow and fluorescent spinner/minnow combinationsare also popular for catching walleyes.
Minnows are among the best livebaits. They should be hooked upward through the lower jaw and out through thetop of the head, so the bait rides in an upright, natural-looking position.When stream fishing, work in slow currents and backwater eddies. Lake anglersshould work over drop-offs, the edges of weedbeds and point tips. Drifting abottom-bumping minnow combo usually puts more fish in the boat than casting.The size of the jig used is determined by the amount of current, and walleyeanglers should carry plenty of 1/32- to 1/2-ounce jigs in a variety of colors.
Hopefully, you’ve gleaned these important facts whilereading this article: (1) walleyes shun bright light and are usually taken atnight or during low-light conditions; (2) walleyes congregate in schools, andwhen you catch one, it is likely others are in the same vicinity; (3) walleyesare primarily bottom dwellers and usually found in areas with current on ornear prominent structure that provides a good feeding or spawning area neardeeper waters; (4) baits and lures should be presented slowly and naturally.
While walleyes puzzle and confuse many bass anglers,there’s no reason they should. When you’ve figured out what kind of fish thisis, and how and where it spends its time, putting walleyes on the stringer isreally fairly easy.