Early Spring River Fishing:
Before the ice is even off the lake many Walleyes will go up small streams and rivers to spawn. By the time Walleye season has opened most of the Walleyes go back to the lake but a large population of Walleyes will stay in the current for a couple weeks after. These Walleyes may be late spawners or they are taking advantage of the abundance of minnows in the current. In the slow moving rapids you can cast light shallow running lures such as Floating Rapalas and Thundersticks. You don't want to use heavy spinners or diving lures because you will lose them on the rocks. You want to use minnow shaped lures as that is what the Walleyes are focusing on. Bright obnoxious colors work best in the spring such as red, chartreuse, firetiger, perch, white, pink and yellow. It has been theorized that the Walleyes strike these colors because they are aggravated and are trying to protect their spawning grounds. In the big slow moving pools you can try a worm or a minnow on a hook with a small sinker and let it bounce on bottom and also try dragging over the rocks. When fishing at night in a river all the methods above will still work but what has become popular in the last few years is casting with small glow-in-the-dark Little Cleos. Walleye seem to really like them at night but it only seems in the spring.
Early Spring Lake Fishing:
The majority of Walleyes spawn in the lake. Their favorite place to spawn is on beaches and sand bars; but they will on occasion choose gravel humps. They generally spawn in one or two feet of water. By the time the season has opened most of the Walleyes are finished spawning. Generally the Walleyes will still hang around the area. During the day the smaller male Walleyes will back off the sand bars into deeper water in the five to ten foot range. The bigger females will go even deeper into the ten to fifteen foot range. If the spawning area is close to a point they most often will head for it. You can catch them with a worm or a minnow on a hook. You can cast jigs with small twistertails and a tiny piece of worm or a jig tipped with a minnow. You can also cast smaller Down-Deep Husky Jerks or Deep Running Cotton Cordell lures. J-11 and J-13 Jointed Rapalas are also effective. The Walleyes will be right on bottom because in the spring the water is crystal clear and there is more light penetration pushing the Walleyes down.
These spawning areas can be spread out and if you are not sure where they are you have to cover some ground. The best thing to do is troll along the shore with small floating lures that only go a few feet deep such as Rapalas, Thundersticks or a Rebel Minnow. Again red, chartreuse, firetiger, Perch, white and yellow are the best colors to use in the spring. Once you hit a fish most likely there are more of them in the same spot.
When trolling; make sure you are as close to shore and in the five to ten foot range and have lots of line out. The boat may push the Walleyes farther out and once the boat passes they will come closer to shore again so you need enough line out that your lure passes by after the Walleyes have repositioned themselves. You can also troll light jigs. Just make sure you have a long slow jigging motion and then let the jig sink back down to the bottom. Once you find these spawning areas where the Walleyes are congregating you can stop trolling and start casting or jigging.
Fishing at Night in Early Spring:
Just after dark all the spring Walleyes come shallow. The smaller males will go back to the spawning areas or get close to them. You want to troll by these areas with light line and lots of line out. If you know precisely where the spawning areas are its best to turn your motor off and quietly paddle until you are in a good position the start casting. Try to be quiet as possible and casting small floating lures. Keep your retrieval speed slower so the lure is just a few inches until the surface. The same colors mentioned above are best. The smaller males will be in one to three feet of water. The big females will come up into the shallows but they are done spawning and have no interest in the spawning grounds. Most likely you will not catch a big Walleye where the other small males are congregating.
It's very rare for a male Walleye to grow over five pounds. 95% of all Walleyes five pounds or bigger are female. The big females are loners and swim along the shore at night looking for minnows. They will hit most Walleye lures and baits this time of year but the bigger Walleyes seem to hit small jointed lures even more. A J-9 or J-11 Floating Jointed Rapala work fantastic along the shore in the spring. If you are in a slow trolling boat such as a 9.9hp to 15hp them you can troll with the bigger J-11. If you have a 20+ hp your trolling speed may be too fast and a J-11 will go too deep and hit bottom. In the case go to the smaller J-9, which do not sink as much. The same spring colors work as mention above.
Mid to Late Spring:
In Crotch Lake during the latter half of spring many of the Walleyes will head into small satellite lakes and remote bays while the water is high and the satellite lakes and bays are not choked with weeds. They will also head to weedy narrows or to inlets formed by feeder streams. These are great places to catch Walleye in the ten to fifteen foot range with some of the bigger fish being down twenty feet. Rapalas and worm harnesses are very effective when trolling through narrows or along rocky cliffs. With rocky points and inlets where the Walleyes can be more concentrated and a little deeper a jig tipped with a minnow or a small twistertail and some worm works great.
Summer Walleye Techniques:
On Crotch Lake the water is lower than in the spring and the water is also warmer. Walleyes travel from the shallows to four different habitats in this lake. Some Walleyes will find rocky points with deep drop-offs and will sit off the points in twenty to twenty-five feet of water. Some swim out into the lake and congregate around structure such as islands, humps, shoals and reefs (reef being a long skinny shoal that is well below the surface). Because water is generally cooler out on the open lake the Walleyes may be a bit shallower so try the range of fifteen to twenty-five feet. Walleyes also head out to open water and feed on suspended schools of Lake Herring, also called Cisco. On sunny days they will be down twenty feet or more. On dull rainy days they will come shallower and if it is not windy they may come as shallow as ten feet. Finally, some Walleye will go into the weeds. They will look for patches of weeds on deeper humps and plateaus. They will also head for the edge of the thick weed beds that are facing the open lake. Walleyes like to have quick access to deep water. Generally the Walleyes you catch along the weed lines will be smaller than the Walleyes you find around obvious structure.
Fishing Shoals, Islands & Points in Summer:
One of the places Walleyes tend to be concentrated in the summer is off rocky points and down twenty to twenty-five feet. The best way to fish for them is with jigs or just straight hook and sinker. In the summer the Walleyes are not as aggressive as the spring and tend to go after more natural earthy colors such as black-&-silver, brown, green and white. The color of your jig head or rubber should reflect these earthy colors however for some reason the Walleyes really like pink jig heads with a white or dark green rubber. Jigs should have a rubber that does not fully cover the hook or the Walleye only gets hooked at the tip of the hook and the hook gets bent out and you lose fish. Jigs tipped with worm or a minnow work great. You can also try fishing straight down with just a hook and sinker. A minnow or a big fat worm will get the less aggressive Walleyes.
When fishing deep humps, reefs and plateaus you can try jigging with the same baits and techniques as above. Because the fish are spread out a little more you may want to try a different technique that covers more area and is extremely effective. The Loten Walleye Rig has elements of a Little Joe rig and also similar to a Lindy Rig. You need a floating jig head, a big fat dew-worm, minnow or leech, a trailer hook on 2.5 inches of line, 1/4 oz slide-sinker, a small splitshot sinker and a clean syringe.
First, slide your slide-sinker down your line and then tie on the floating jig. Take your jig and put the hook into the end of the worm (head) and just far enough in so that you do not break the skin below the clitellum (see diagram below). Then put on a trailer hook on the jig's hook. Let the trailer hook dangle. Do not stick it in the tail of the worm. Do not break the skin on the bottom halt of the worm. Then with a clean syringe, inject air into the tail of the worm. Don't stick the syringe into the worm at a 90-degree angle or the air leaks out. Try to penetrate the worm's skin at 15-degrees or less just like when a nurse takes blood.
Before you tied your jig on the line, you were supposed to slide a slip-sinker onto the line. Then you put a small split-shot sinker one to two feet down the line from the floating jig so your slip sinker does not slide any closer to the jig. If you are in an area where there are longer weeds growing then you may want to put the split shot three or four feet from the jig.
The rig can be used in any depth of water and any time of day but it seems to produce the biggest walleyes at night when closer to shore and bigger Walleyes during the day when fishing little deeper.
To use the rig, just troll very slowly and give long slow jigs and let the sinker hit bottom or even drag bottom. The whole purpose of the rig is to keep your worm off bottom but close to the bottom and be able to do long slow lazy jigs, which the bigger and less aggressive Walleyes seem to respond to. There are a lot of ten-pound+ Walleyes caught on this rig. You want to troll over humps and along reefs with this rig. It's an extremely effective way of catching Walleyes. The one downfall of this technique is snags so it's not effective over loose rock piles. You can also use this rig for trolling along open lake weeds beds in the deeper water off the weeds.
Open Water & Deep Water Shore Contouring:
Out in Open Water the Walleyes are generally following the schools of Lake Herring, also known as Cisco. They are usually around twenty feet deep. On really bright sunny days they will even go deeper and on dull rainy days they will come shallower. There are many ways to fish deep. You can troll free-line with deep diving lures such as flatfish, deep diving Cotton Cordell, deep diving Rapala Husky Jerks, deep diving J-13 Jointed Rapalas. You can always add some weight if you are not getting down deep enough or use thinner line that has less friction with the water and allows the lure to go deeper. In the summer the best colors are white, Perch pattern, silver-&-blue and silver-&-black.
The problem with free lining is you do not know precisely at what depth your lure is. Summer-time Walleyes can be lazy and are not going to waste energy going after lures that are far above or below the school of minnows, which is right in front of them. An effective way to know how deep you are is to back-troll slowly with a three-way-swivel rig.
You need a three-way swivel, a one ounce weight and a light-weight shallow running lure such as Floating Rapala or Thunderstick. You do not want to use a lure with a deep diving scoop or it causes too much resistance and it will be hard to sink your rig down to the desired depth. A worm harness with a big fat worm and low resistance peddles is extremely effective. You need to drive your boat out into open water and look for schools of Herring with your dept finder. The Herring's protection is with numbers, not structure. They are out in open water feeding on plankton. Fishing open water for Walleyes goes against the grain with most people but they are out there and many of them are big trophies.
Drive the boat around until you find the school of Herring with your depth finder. They usually show up on the depth finder as a big underwater cloud. You may see bigger individual fish around the cloud. They are most likely Walleye and Northern Pike. If you are in a boat with a 15hp motor or smaller you want to back-troll as slow as you can.
Dropping the Three-Way-Swivel Rig Down Deep
Do not cast the rig and don't let it free fall to the bottom or it just gets all tangled. Place the rig just under the surface of the water, un-lock your bail and slowly reel backwards twenty times. This should get you 20 feet down and in the strike zone. If you have a bigger boat that is not equipped with an electric motor you may have to go with a heavier weight or abandon trying this technique all together. You must use a steel leader because in Crotch Lake the giant Northern Pike also go deep after Whitefish so there is a really good chance that you will run into one feeding on Lake Herring right along side of the Walleyes.
Night Fishing in the Summer:
At night the gigantic Walleyes that spend all day down deep come shallow and follow the shore looking for minnows. They will be in two to four feet of water. At night in the summer the most effective lure is the Perch or blue-&-silver jointed J-9 Rapala. You need to use light line and have lots of line out so the lure is far from the boat. You have to troll very slowly so the lure only goes a few inches under the surface. You need to troll as shallow as your boat lets you and follow the contours of the shore. The very best spot for this is along a sandy shore or a sand bar that has wild rice and drops off quickly into a deep hole. This is one of your best chances at getting a Walleye over thirty inches.
Fall Walleye Fishing:
In the fall the Walleye fishing is fantastic because they are all concentrated twenty to thirty feet down off the rocky points that face the open lake. Just drop a jig or a minnow down and you will get into them. Most of the trophy Walleyes will be at the thirty foot depth as well, which may explain why a majority of the gigantic Walleyes over thirty inches get caught in late season.
The three-way-swivel rig described above is also great in the fall. Even though the Walleyes are concentrated off the points this time of year the huge females tend to be loners but stay at the same depth as the smaller Walleyes. If you troll with a three-way swivel down thirty feet and follow the contour of the shore staying in the thirty foot depth range you should pick up a really big Walleye along with smaller ones.
At night, in the fall, the big Walleyes will come up to shore in shallow water so trolling with Perch or silver-&-blue Rapalas just like night fishing in the summer is very effected. In the fall at night the big Walleyes also get drawn to the mouths of feeder streams because generally there are more minnows. The big Walleyes will even go up these streams at night.