How To Fish For Walleye-Ultimate Guide On How To Catch Walleye

Walleye is one of the best-eating fish there is. They can also be one of the most elusive fish to catch until you learn how to locate them in the different seasons. In this article, you will learn how to fish for walleye and more importantly, how to catch walleye consistently.

The walleye is a prevalent game fish in North America. They can be found in lakes and rivers throughout the U.S. and Canada. This fish is also known as the sauger or saugeye, which is a name that was given to the fish by the indigenous people who originally lived along the Great Lakes.

Many anglers are surprised to learn that the walleye is a native freshwater fish. They are found throughout the northern half of North America and were once so abundant that the Great Lakes alone contained more than 10 million fish. The walleye is an important game fish and is also called the "king of all fish" because of its size.

If you are new to fishing for walleye, you should know that you must use different methods at different times of the year and in different bodies of water. Walleye can be difficult to catch, and you will need a lot of patience and persistence.

Where To Catch Walleye

Angler with a nice walleye

We will start with location, location, location, as this can be the most challenging part of Walleye fishing. Walleye are migrating fish that love to be in a place where the water is cool and dark with some current. For that reason, they are continuously on the move with the changing seasons and temperatures. 

There are many lakes across the country that are excellent walleye locations. Doing a little research, you will find that generally, the further north you go, the better the walleye fishing. You can't go wrong with any area in the great lakes region or even Canada. Even Kentucky and a little farther south have some pretty healthy populations in some lakes and rivers. 

When To Fish For Walleye

Fisherman with a stringer of walleye caught at night

Walleyes are coldwater fish. This means they are most active at night, and during the day in cool weather. They are often found in the shallows, around the edges of the lake, and near the shore. They are bottom dwellers and are often found in the shallows near vegetation or on the bottom.

With all that in mind, walleye can be caught year-round, but the easiest time to catch them is in the early spring when the temperatures hit in the 50s. This is when they spawn. At this time, they will gather in the mouths of the creeks and begin feeding heavily for the spawn.

Other times of the year, they will be scattered out in places where they can move onto rocky flats to feed during low light conditions.

During the summer, they can usually be found schooled up and suspended in deeper water close to shallow flats, where they can easily feed and return to the deeper, cooler water.

Because walleye have very large eyes on top of their head, they are primarily nocturnal fish. The ideal time to catch them is early or late in the day.

During the heat of the summer, walleye tend to be mainly nocturnal. 

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When Do Walleye Spawn

A limit of spawning walleye

In the Northeast, Walleye spawns occur in March through April. If you live in the West, you will likely see walleye spawns from May through June. The best time to locate fish is during the spring months, so you can determine if it's time to get out on the water. 

When fishing for spawning walleye, choosing a suitable area is essential. Spawning occurs at a specific temperature and depth, and the ideal location can vary significantly between lakes. You'll want to choose a spot with the correct temperature, and you'll need to test it. The simple way is to use a thermometer to check the water temperature daily.

Spring Walleye fishing can be a gratifying experience, and I am happy to share what I have learned from years of experience. We have successfully targeted walleye on points and mud flats on the edge of rocky shores. They use the gravel bottoms to protect the eggs they lay while spawning. They are more likely to spawn in the first few weeks of March.

How To Fish For Walleye

How To Fish For Walleye From A Boat

Catching walleye can happen in many different ways and with different equipment. Generally, beginning with a 6 to 7-foot fishing rod with a spinning reel spooled with a 10 to 12-pound test line and a variety of different lures or live bait will do the trick to get started. we use our bass fishing rods and get double the use out of them.

If you talk to 10 different walleye fishermen, you will hear ten stories of their favorite ways to catch walleye. Some will only troll for them using crankbaits during the summer because that is what they learned from their dad or grandfather when they first started. Others only jig under lights at night. Many prefer to use only live bait in early spring and late fall. A few will ice fish for them in the north all winter long. The point is there are many different ways that work; don't be afraid to try them all to find what works best for you.

There are so many different baits and techniques that you would have a boatload of tackle if you tried them all. The collecting of other tackles is another part of the fun.

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How To Fish Plastics For walleye

A Limit of walleye caught on plastics

Jigs come in various sizes, weights, and colors fished with small plastic swim bait or curly tail grub in assorted bright colors. They can also be tipped with a minnow or nightcrawler and fished by bouncing them off the bottom along rocky flats or muddy river bottoms.

The lead head jig is used by a lot of fishermen across the country. Not only do they permit you to fish a variety of cover types effectively, but they also allow you to probe the entire water column by changing their weight choice. Not long ago, the only jig on the market was a round ball head with a light wire hook. In the last several years, the market has been flooded with new configurations of jigheads. This makes it a challenge to understand when and where to use each.

The technique of fishing for walleyes is growing at a faster rate than any other. Whether you are dragging worms, hopping Super-Doo's in current, or swimming paddle tails, plastics are gaining popularity. Unfortunately, most traditional jig heads sold are not designed to effectively fish plastics. There are two things in common with the best plastic jig heads, a larger hook, and a plastics keeper. The larger hook is vital because threading a plastic onto a jig head creates added bulk, which eliminates the gap available to hook fish. The plastics keeper is essential. It will help secure the plastic to the jighead, which will mean more fish per bait and less time spent sliding it back up into the proper position.

Jig fishing in and around wood, grass, and other heavy cover is becoming more popular. It is also leading to a lot of frustration as it is found that traditional jigs are not nearly snagless enough to efficiently fish where the walleyes are. The weedless jig is how to enter it. They usually feature a more streamlined bullet or banana shape and either a plastic or wire weed guard. Weedless jigs are essential for eye-chasers that target weed lines, submerged wood, and stump fields. While maintaining good hooking percentages, the weed guard on jigs do an excellent job of deflecting cover.

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How To Fish Spoons For Walleye

Walleye caught on spoons

Adding spoons to your arsenal will increase your catch, add another option for the fish to bite, and some days are the best presentations available. To troll spoons properly, you need some knowledge, so here is some information to get you there. Look for a spoon that works at diverse speeds, from slow to fast. The spoon presentation is important, and having the ability to fish a spoon with any other presentation is a huge advantage. 

The most crucial step in getting more bites is picking a spoon that matches the size of the fish they are feeding on. To imitate young of the year, newly hatched baitfish in a 3 3/8" length t is a perfect imitator of mature emerald. Bigger spoons can be used early in the season and late in the summer and fall. Mix in smaller sizes from early May through late July.

Walleye spoons should have identical widths from nose to tail, unlike salmon spoons with a fat "rear end." Choosing a spoon with the right shape will result in catching more fish than choosing a spoon with the wrong shape. The form and bend in a spoon allow it to have the best action at all speeds. The finish of a spoon can be more important than the colors on the spoon. The three most popular finishes are gold, silver, and copper. Since brass or nickel finishes don't reflect light when they get a few feet below the surface, be sure to get one of these finishes. 

Spoons in different sizes and colors are great in a river with lots of currents or trolled when the fish are suspended deeper in the lakes. Spoons have a lot of flash and vibration when the water is stained. This can be a great way to draw attention.

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How To Fish Crankbaits For Walleye

Walleye caught on crankbaits

Crankbaits in different sizes and colors depending on the time of year and water temperature. It can be cast or trolled behind the boat. A crankbait is a very versatile lure for many different conditions. They can be fished in as shallow as 2 ft and as deep as you want to go to find the fish. The deeper you go, the more homework you will have to do to hit the proper depth, but it can be done.

No one can deny the effectiveness of a good crankbait. If you have never used cranks, they can be a little intimidating. Selecting the correct crankbait is one of the things that many fishermen get caught up in. If you don't know whether or not you're using the proper bait for the conditions you're fishing, it's hard to have confidence in your presentation. 

The question remains, how do you choose the right crankbait? The answer varies depending on the time of year you are fishing and the type of fish you are targeting. As walleyes wrap up their spawning, they move out to adjacent flats and shallow water structures. The wandering walleyes can be found anywhere between 4 to 12 feet of water, which is why crankbaits are an excellent tool for intercepting them. 

You should look for shallow running crankbaits that dive down and hit bottom when you retrieve them from the boat. Bottom contact is important, but don't opt for baits that dive too deep as they won't run well in the shallow water. Pick out your baits according to how deep you are fishing. It is a good idea to check to see what depth the crankbaits are running on the box.

How To Live bait Fish For Walleye

Big walleye caught on live bait

Live bait is always an excellent choice. Whether you are using nightcrawlers, shad, minnows, shiners, or leaches, you can't go wrong when offering a natural food source. Nightcrawler harnesses used with bottom bouncers can be very productive most any time of the year. This is a go-to for many anglers. It is fished just off the bottom and combines live bait with the flash and vibration of an inline spinner.

Minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches are some of the top live bait for walleye fishing. These are three live baits that can be used to catch fish all year long. Live baits have advantages and disadvantages like most things in fishing. Different baits work better in different situations and seasons.

When it comes to both catching and transporting live bait, anglers need to check the regulations. Invasive species are problematic in some areas, and the fish and game departments are serious about making sure these laws are enforced.

Nightcrawlers are great live bait for walleye fishing. They are readily available and can be purchased at any bait shop or retail outlet that sells fishing gear. In a lot of areas, this includes gas stations and convenience stores. Nightcrawlers are easy to keep alive and are reasonably priced. They will live a long time as long as they are kept cool, including in the fridge.

The main disadvantage to fishing for walleye with leeches is that all the other fish also love them. In shallow water, panfish and other species can be problematic. Some people are more than happy to catch whatever species they can, which is absolutely fine.

Live minnows are an excellent choice for fishing walleye. Minnows are the top choice for fishing from early fall through late spring because walleye feed heavily on bait fish. This also includes ice fishing for walleye as well. Minnows are most often hooked through the lips from the bottom but can also be hooked under the dorsal fin.

The best live-bait jig heads are round ball heads with short shank hooks. When using a traditional ball-head with live bait, a longer hook shank allows the minnow, leech, or crawlers too much slack to slide around and get tangled or slide off. More hookups and fewer bait cast-offs can be achieved by using shorter live bait jigs, which have a more compact profile than walleyes.

How To Fish For Walleye Trolling

Nice walleye caught at night

Trolling with planer boards is another way to spread out and cover a lot of water quickly. This technique can be used with any combination of lures we have discussed, but live bait is usually the best when doing this. This is one of our favorite methods for walleye fishing. Once you have located a group of fish that are feeding, you should be able to catch several fish from the same group. 

There are a lot of planer boards used for fishing. When it comes to using a device, the angler feels overwhelmed. Planer boards are the place to start if you want to learn about modern walleye fishing setups. You can become comfortable using them, even though they may seem slightly intimidating at first glance. Fishermen find planer boards useful in places that don't work with traditional fishing methods. You can reach harder-to-reach areas with the help of these boards. You will find them effective when it comes to trolling. If you live in a state that allows it, you will be allowed to use a certain number of lines.

For example, in some states, an angler is permitted to use three trolling lines. If you add another angler, together you will be permitted six lines. A disastrous mess can occur if lines get tangled up behind your boat. This is the most notable advantage of fishing with planer boards. The boards spread the lines and thus prevent the lines from getting twisted. The boards remain neatly on both sides of the boat. When a board falls behind other boards, a fish has hit the line. The board slips behind due to the weight of the fish. Some planer boards come with a feature known as the tattle-flag system.

The tattle-flag system lets you know if a fish has hit the line. The boards are made of polypropylene which makes them solid and durable. It also prevents them from wearing out fast. Planer boards also come with adjustable hooks and other accessories. There are many sizes and shapes of planer boards available. They vary in price depending upon their size and shape. You will be able to find planer boards at various price points. Anglers use planing boards to spread lines evenly and prevent them from getting tangled.

The flag pops up when the line is hit by a fish, cluttered with debris, or gets caught in the line. The planer boards increase your chances of catching more fish. The lines must be staggered throughout the water column if you want to find active walleye. Spreading the lines is what you need to send each line to a specific depth. It is possible to set specific depths for your lines with a planer board that is designed in such a way.

Smaller boards are better for lures that are lighter in weight. When your intended targets are light-biting walleyes, they are helpful as well. If you want to use a multi-use board, you should choose a mid-sized board. There isn't a model that can be used to do everything perfectly. You must choose a model that can be used for most of your purposes. You should take into account the rod and reel you are using. A lot of drag is created when you troll at a couple of miles per hour with a lure and a planer board. It's essential that you have the correct type of rod for the job.

How To Fish For Walleye Expert Tips and Tricks

  • As with any other fishing or hunting, there is a lot to be said about the experience. We have learned that if the old gentleman at the boat ramp wants to talk, take the time to listen. Sometimes he is just talking, but remember, he's probably got a lifetime of fishing that body of water under his belt, and there is nothing like experience to learn new tricks and spots. 
  • Through my 40 years of fishing, Some say when you hear thunder, the walleye go deep and will not feed for hours, sometimes the next day. We don't know if there is any science behind it, but a lot of oldtimers fish by it.
  • Walleye seem to bite better when the water is choppy and flowing rather than flat and slow. Always be open to new techniques and keep up with technology.
  • To locate more fish, use a side scan. That's a great way to find fish before you even start fishing. Good anglers will spend hours on the water with electronics before they ever drop the first hook. We are running two different units on the boat 1 of them gives us down imaging so we can see what is going on under the boat. The other is side imaging which will let us look up to 100 feet on each side of the boat.
  • You will not learn without being on the water, and the guys that put in the time are going to catch the fish.

Final thoughts

Fried Walleye On a Plate

Walleye are one of the best eating fish there is.

Catching them can be very frustrating, but it can also be gratifying when you get it figured out. 

As always, be sure to check local laws and regulations, as they will vary in different locations. Some bodies of water also have a slot limit that can be tricky, but it is your job to know and understand the laws before you go.

It's not easy to catch walleye, but it's definitely possible. The key to catching walleye is patience and persistence. The ideal time for walleye is after a rainstorm because the fish come out to feed, and the water is clearer. Our best advice is to start with the basics, the fundamentals, and try to improve them.

Always remember a disappointing day on the water is still way better than a good day at work.

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Photo of author

Jimmy Martin

Jimmy is an outdoor writer and frequent contributor to Fisherman's Authority. Jimmy fishes 12 months a year and is an expert in bass fishing, panfish, catfishing and more. He loves to fish from his boat, but he also does a lot of fishing from the banks of rivers and the shoreline of lakes and ponds. Jimmy is proud to share his methods with others, so that they can enjoy the outdoors with their friends and family. He has a passion for introducing kids to the outdoors and the sport of fishing.

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