Walleye Fishing | The Ultimate Guide

walleye fishing
walleye fishing

Walleye thrive in lakes throughout the United States and Canada from the Great Lakes to the Western and Southern States. What makes walleye fishing better than anything else is it’s a four-season fishery. Walleye are cold-water fish and can be caught in the summer, spring, fall, and winter.

Walleye are located throughout the United States and Canada. The Great Lakes are the most fished for walleye, but these fish live in Southern and Western States as well. The Columbia River is home to some of the largest average-size walleye in the world. Tennessee is home to the original walleye record but was discredited due to inconsistencies. The current world walleye record comes from Arkansas in Greers Ferry Lake.

There are a lot of different techniques, tackle, lures, and locations used to catch walleye. It can be overwhelming and hopefully, this article will help you catch more walleye. Being on the water and reading about fishing for walleye are sometimes different. Hiring a walleye charter can greatly increase your chances of catching fish on your own in addition to reading this walleye guide.

Walleye | What are they?

Walleye Fishing Report

The technical name for walleye is Sander vitreus. Some other names for walleye are yellow pike, yellow pickerel, and just pickerel. There are two variations of walleye in the United States and Canada. The yellow walleye and blue walleye. The blue walleye is presumed extinct in Lake Erie. The difference in the two variations was presumed to be phenotypes within the species. Walleye have different variations depending on the watershed. Within each watershed, walleye will look similar. A great species guide is the: FWS Walleye Species Guide. This is a great guide to get a foundation for the walleye species.

Walleye have great night vision which makes them great night-hunters. Walleye have sharp teeth and being night-hunters gives them an advantage over other fish in the area. Most baitfish do not see well at night, hence why a white or green light is used to attract them at night. Shad, shiners, and alewives are some examples. All of which make great food for walleye. A walleye’s diet consists mostly of other fish but they have been known to feed on other things such as crawfish and mayflies. The mayfly hatch on Lake Erie is like no other, walleye will feed on mayflies throughout June.

Walleye Fishing in Your Home Lake

Lake Erie fishing charter

Walleye can be found in small lakes, the Great Lakes, and river systems. Some states even stock them in areas where they were never present or on top of an existing population. Whether man-made or natural, there is a high chance of any body of water in the North having walleye. Checking your state’s DNR website will confirm if there is or isn’t a walleye in a certain location. There are however certain features within bodies of water that will hold most of the walleye, below we touch on those key features.

During the spawn in the springtime, walleye can be found on shallow gravel in rivers, or shallow reefs and rock piles in open water. Pre-spawn, walleye can be found hanging around just outside of spawning habitat feeding. During the spawn, they will be located on top of the structure. Lastly, after the spawn, they will move back off in search of food. Some bodies of water have a migration, such as the Great Lakes. This means walleye will migrate to spawning grounds and then move throughout the lake finding cooler water and baitfish.

In river systems, the areas with the lowest water temperature and most oxygen will have walleye in the summer. Focus on current seams and tailouts. A tailout is the slower, deeper water at the end of a rapid run. Creek arms and runoff areas will hold walleye because of the dissolved oxygen content.

Walleye Fishing | The Best Time to Fish

Walleye Teeth

Low light conditions are key to having a successful day on the water. Early mornings and late evenings are good times to fish for walleye. An overcast day will produce a better walleye bite than a bright, sunny day with no cloud cover. If you have no choice but to fish on a sunny day, fish in deeper water or dirty water. Remember, walleye see well in low light so those areas will prove the best in those conditions.

The spring and fall are the best times to fish for walleye. At those times water temperatures don’t vary much throughout the body of water and the fish can move freely to feed. In the spring focus on spawning areas such as shallow gravel and rock piles. In the fall fish may still be deep, but they will be grouped up feeding on bait fish.

Ice fishing for walleye is popular. With walleye being a cold water species they thrive and are still in search of food under the ice. Any body of water that holds walleye will be good for ice fishing when conditions permit it. Anglers use electronics and small presentations to entice walleye through the ice.

Walleye Fishing Lures

Walleye Crankbait

Walleye fishing lures vary on different bodies of water. What lure to use depends on the depth, speed, and current. The color and shape depend on what the walleye eat in that particular body of water. However, crankbaits are a universal artificial bait that works for walleye on a river, small lake, or the Great Lakes.

Walleye Crankbaits

Some of the more popular crankbaits are Reef Runners, Husky Jerks, and Flicker Minnows. All of those baits come in a variety of colors, sizes, and diving abilities. The style of bait will depend on the body of water you are fishing. If you are casting a shallow billed stick type bait such as a Husky Jerk will serve well. If you are trolling on a lake then a deep-diving crankbait will be a better option.

Walleye Spinners

Walleye Spinner

Spinners are blades, similar to a spinner bait, with beads and 2 or 3 hooks. They are fished either casting or trolling and tipped with a nightcrawler or leech as bait. These are effective on inland lakes and the Great Lakes. They can be trolled shallow or deep by using clip-on weights.

Walleye spinners can also be fished on the bottom, called bottom bouncing. This is done by using a bottom bouncer made up of wire and weight to bounce the bottom of the lake. The spinner is then tied onto the top of the bottom bouncer using a few feet of line. This a great way to catch walleye that are hugging the bottom.

Walleye Jigs

Jigging for walleye is hands down the most fun way to catch them. Jigging is popular in the spring around their spawning time. When the walleye are grouped up in large schools. There are a variety of jigs to choose from. Most come in 1/4 – 3/4 ounce and either have bucktail hair or are bare. On a bare jig, tip it with either live bait or a soft plastic such as a curly tail.

Walleye Fishing Techniques

There are more ways than just mentioned here to fish for walleye but we will cover the basics. In general, there are three ways to fish for walleye: Casting, Jigging, and Trolling. There are just about endless variations of those and we will cover the basic principles.

Casting for Walleye

Fishing from shore, anglers are mostly casting crankbaits or some sort of jig. In rivers, it is popular to cast a single hook jig due to regulations. Casting a crankbait for a lake shoreline can be a great way to catch walleye. If casting a lake from shore, make sure you are there in low-light times. Dusk to dawn type of deal.

Fishermen can also cast from a boat. This is a popular technique during low-light conditions. Boat anglers use electronics to find walleye and then anchor and cast to them. In recent years, live sonar has become a large player in this type of fishing. Using live sonar, anglers cast individual fish.

Walleye Jigging

Jigging for walleye is popular in the spring and early summer when walleye are on shallow structure. Recently in the northern states, fishermen have been taking the jigging technique to deep water using live sonar.

There are a couple of different ways to jig for walleye. You can cast and retrieve while hopping the jig, or vertical jig. Jigging consists of hopping a jig off of the bottom and letting it fall on a slack line. This motion drives walleye crazy and will entice a bite.

Walleye Trolling

Trolling for walleye is pulling lures behind a moving boat using rod holders. In general, fishermen troll deep-billed crankbaits behind planer boards to cover water and fish multiple baits at once. This has proven to be effective on lakes across the North and even in the South. As stated above, crankbaits and spinners are great choices when choosing to troll for walleye. In the summertime, spoons pulled behind divers work just as well as crankbaits.

Line counter reels are a necessity when trolling for walleye. They provide a tool to keep your bait in the strike zone. By utilizing a line counter reel, you can keep all your lines at the same depth.