Chasin' Ole Marble Eyes

by Keith Sarasin (c) 2001

walleye fishing

More people want to know how to catch walleye than any other game fish.

Also known as pickerel, they are often difficult to locate and land. The challenge they present makes fishing them successfully an angling accomplishment.

So it doesn't hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve when you head out on the water this spring. Early season walleye are best located in shallow waters as they are not long out of spawning and are looking to stock up on feed to replace what was lost as they where preoccupied during the spawn. Shoals with gravel are excellent places to start looking, especially near the drop off to deeper water.

Quite often you will be able to visually spot them in these areas as the water is generally clearer and the walleye will stand out against the gravel bottom. In the water you are fishing, look for the edges of weed beds with a change in depth. This can be in a river were the deeper part of the water slopes up toward the bank, or on a bend in the river on the inside of the turn creating a sand bar, fish on the edge of this. The current is slower here and is a good place for harboring bait and acts like a snack table for feeding fish.

Sunken islands in the lake work well as do old break lines or dock structures. If you search the water that you will be fishing in, you should not have too much trouble locating these types of spots. Old wharves are another thing to look for.

Several types of baits work well for walleye. My personal favourites are crank-baits. Rapalas, straight or jointed, floating or sinking, suspending or rattle types. Next are the walleye divers, which imitate baitfish so accurately that walleye can't resist them if presented properly.

I fish these baits with a start stop motion, jerking the bait through the water instead of steady retrieves. Suspending lures are fished in the same manner, letting them sink to the bottom and then start jerking softly about a foot or so at a time. This allows the bait to sink slowly again to a predetermined depth before being tugged forward and up again. This motion represents smaller food chain species chasing and feeding which will attract larger fish and cause them to feed on the smaller fish.

If fishing is more what you are after rather than angling try using minnows or leeches. Keep the leech stretched out as long as you can without ripping it. I will use a pickerel rig and hook a second hook to each. Do this by placing the second hook over the barb on the first hook and letting it trail.

Now you can hook the leech on the first hook and pull the tail down over the second hook. A bigger leech is more inviting than a small rounded one. Be sure not to have more than four hooks in total on your rig!

When fishing live minnows choose a medium to large minnow. Hook through the top of the mouth, taking care to hook the lip or upper mouth, avoiding the actual head. This allows the minnow to swim freely and walleye often will mouth the bait, turning it and playing with it before swallowing it. Watch closely for light taps on your rod or float, and be prepared to set the hook at this point.

If trolling or cast retrieving is your preference then try using a three-way swivel on your line with the bait trailing, and the center swivel used to attach the weight. Do this by tying on about one foot of lighter line to the bottom eye of the swivel. The lighter line will break off easier in the event of a snag, saving the rest of the line. I use about four feet of line from the swivel to the bait, giving the bait lots of freedom to move side to side or up and down when retrieving the cast or trolling.

The foregoing methods are pretty much fail safe, but it remains that walleye are as challenging to fish as they are good to eat. So the best advice is to get out there and try it for yourself. Enjoy the day and the fishing will fall into place!

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