Springtime Walleye Fishing Tips

By Patricia Strutz - April 1, 2007
Want to put some tasty walleyes on your dinner table? Vilas county guides share some insights with us…

In early spring you have a great shot fishing for walleyes because they are so accessible. If there is late ice out the fish stay very shallow for two to three weeks after the spawning process. They may still be in only 3-4' of water.

The best time to fish in early spring is either during the very warmest part of the day or at night. During the daylight hours the warming water temperatures make the fish very active, however, we also do well at night because the entire fish population is instinctively in a very narrow band of water. Even if they are not biting there will be a fair percentage of them that will react to a bait.

Night fishing requires some special abilities, though. There is a great need to be accomplished at casting since "bird's nests" (your line in a tangled mess) are very difficult to get out in the dark. Using spincasting equipment alleviates this problem.

It is essential to use a 6-6 ½' rod that throws light baits effectively and is very sensitive. There has to be flexibility in the tip to enable you to detect the bite. The key to catching walleyes is 'the lighter the better'. Most guides use 4 to 6# line and stay with a 1/16 oz jig as long as they can because a walleye grabs at it and he doesn't throw it from his mouth. The walleyes may feel an 1/8 oz jig and will often drop it. Fish the 1/16 oz jig down to as far as 15'. You may not be able to cover as much water with it because you'll have to fish it slowly but they'll grab it and hold on-even when they are in a neutral mood.

During early springtime you'll finds live bait (small minnows) and artificial lures (Rapalas, Rebels, stickbaits) are equally effective. However, in early ice out or post spawn situations jigging is the most effective technique. After the spawn their primary interests revolve around looking for food and for cover. Start looking for them in the newly emerging weeds.

Most guides are not too particular about jig color, feeling that most of the time they are more interested in the bait than the color. Use very light jigs so you won't get hung up in the weeds, or bend the point of the hook in a little ways to get through heavy weed cover. In late spring walleyes can still be caught on artificial lures on windy or dark days.

Walleyes have earned a reputation of spooking easily. They are very sensitive to light and noise. It helps if they are in the weeds since they feel more secure in cover. When they are not cooperating at all slow down your presentation. And, downsize everything-- use very small baits. Also, when you pull up to fish stay a long way out-like 25'-then use your anchor, pulling it up slowly to move into the area where you earlier marked fish on your locator. Drifting across the area is another very effective technique.

Our area lakes see walleye spawn when they reach about 44 degrees. The shallow lakes warm up much earlier than the deep ones do. In spring you will catch a lot of male walleyes. The males move into the shallow water earlier and stay there for several weeks after the spawn takes place. The females move out in deeper water while recovering from the spawn. They will refuse to eat. But mid spring will find them feeding heavy again.

A 25" walleye in the Northwoods is quite old-about 10 to 12 years old. Walleyes in the north grow much slower than they do in the south. Growth rate is determined by the lake's ability to produce nutrients (the availability of food) and the length of the growing season. In Virginia an average 8 year old walleye is 32". It is important to release the large females to ensure their genetics get passed on.

Want to increase your chance of catching fish?

The four best ingredients are:

  • a warming trend
  • cloud cover
  • wind
  • good weed growth.
On spring days when there is going to be a big temperature change-a dramatic warm up- I'm very optimistic. I know it'll be a good day. But, then again, isn't any day out on the water a good day?

Author Patricia Strutz
Patricia Strutz
Patricia Strutz, "A Blond and Her Boat", is a musky fishing zealot whose energy and enthusiasm for the sport is contagious. Her true passion is row trolling for 'skies in late fall. She offers traditional casting packages, too. Strutz also works with other pro's to offer group fishing trips to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. Check out the WOW! Women on the Water page for complete details. Patricia especially enjoys teaching other women how to hunt muskies. She is an outdoor writer,co-inventor of the Sea-View Marine Shield, instructional DVD host, and may be booked to give presentations on musky fishing to interested groups. www.ablondandherboat.com