Spring Walleye Fishing – Complete Guide
Spring is the best time of year to go fishing. The weather is tolerable, lakes are ice-free (and fishable!), and the water temperature is perfect for walleye.
Purists will say that any other time of year can be just as good, but these pesky springtime anglers know how to beat the odds. It’s not too late to make this your best season yet! Here, are some tips and tricks for spring walleye fishing.
Understanding Walleye Behavior
Walleye are not generally found in rivers or streams, preferring to stay close to lakeshores. Once the ice melts on the lakes, walleye are found within ten feet of shorelines.
They eat by filtering food from the water so they need an easy way to get it.
The shallower the water is, the warmer it will be. This is why you’ll find fish near shallow areas where there’s no current flowing through them–this keeps the bottom waters heated up! Look for sand bars and drop-offs that lead into deeper waters if you want cooler waters populated with bigger fish.
If you’re fishing out of a boat, look for rocks jutting out of the lake at the water’s surface to indicate where deeper waters are.
The depth of this kind of fish is directly related to when it will strike your bait. Early in the season (April-May), they tend to be found in depths up to 30 feet. Once the water temperature reaches about 50°F, they move into slightly deeper waters–about 40 feet deep.
By summertime, that same temperature would have them moving into 60 foot deep waters or more! Because fishing in these deep areas can get pretty expensive, don’t neglect the shallower depths during springtime! If you’re hoping for bigger fish, use your sonar to check out deeper locations and snag some big ones before they head too far down!
Walleyes tend to lay in shallow water before going deeper in the summertime. When you see a school of fish suspended in the water column, they are most likely preparing to go down.
Don’t worry too much about catching them if deep waters are your priority, they’ll come back up at some point! Just keep an eye out for shallower fish when you’re not expecting it and cast deep into the school for a bonus catch!
The Best Time to Fish for Walleye
Walleye holding in shallow water is the best time to fish for them. The state record walleyes was caught during this time of year, so there’s no doubt that it’s the most successful tactic you can use! The next best way to fish a big one is by fishing deeper waters at night and early morning.
Midday and late afternoon are considered “notorious times to avoid” when it comes to catching walleyes. Pause your fishing efforts around noon and start up again after 3:00 pm if you want more bites. If these aren’t good hours for you, try going out on a different day or getting an earlier start!
As far as night-time goes, anytime from midnight until 3:00 am is prime time for walleyes. The light of the moon sets their biological clocks to “night-time” so they’re more active than usual.
Where to Find Walleye
Here are some places you can spot them on:
The mouth of any river tends to hold a bunch of walleyes because it’s the spot where food is most plentiful. They follow schools of shad and other types of forage fish as they travel out to the ocean and back, so be prepared for fast action!
During their stay, walleyes tend to feed on smaller prey like insects and crayfish. They also move into shallower areas (less than 15 feet deep), which makes this tactic slightly easier than fishing open water. The best times to target them here are during late spring and early summer when they’re spawning. This accounts for the highest catch rates!
Wing Dams and Rock Bars
Out in the open water, wing dam and rock bars (boulders sticking out of the water) tend to attract big walleyes. These structures slow down the current and provide shelter for lots of smaller fish that bait up, attract bigger predators like walleyes, and create food-rich areas to ambush prey.
They can be found on any body of water that has a current, but they’re most productive around mid-day when sunlight is at its peak.
Lake Bed Flats
Shallow flats in the middle of a lake are also known as deep water breaks and can be excellent spots to seize walleyes. They’re typically found in large lakes and hold lots of little creatures that walleyes like to eat (including many kinds of forage fish).
The best time to hit these areas is during low-light hours because they provide great cover for big fish!
The edges between shallow and deep waters tend to attract sneaky predators like walleyes. If you see a hard transition from one type of water into another, you might want to try your luck there.
These locations typically consist of rocks or vegetation that provides shelter and food, making them hotspots for spawning and feeding activity.
Anytime you see little tributary river feeding into a lake, they’re most likely carrying food that attracts walleyes. When the spring melt occurs and snowflakes hit the water, it creates an abundance of nutrients that feeds smaller creatures.
The biggest meals are later carried out to bigger bodies of water where walleyes prey on them heavily!
Things to Consider for Walleye
The best thing about fishing for trophy walleyes is that you never know where they are until you try! The three most productive locations mentioned above are just a small drop in the bucket. Once you see how active they are at different times of day, places, and weather conditions, it’ll be easier to fit them into your routine.
You can also fish different types of fish at night, so bring a friend and try spending some time around the water together. Just be sure to check local regulations before heading out!
So get your gear ready, head out on the water, and start fishing for walleyes! May you find all the big ones.
Pro Tips from Walleye Anglers
- Fish in cold water. Generally, when winter starts to fade, so does the ice on your favorite fishing hole(s). This is when walleyes typically become very active because water temps are in the lower 50’s.
- Be sure to target areas where warm and cold waters mix; this includes deep spots adjacent to flats, rock bars laden with sunken trees, and other spots where currents collide.
- Using the correct bait is also key! Live bait like shiners, leeches, and nightcrawlers are all great options for attracting firm-fighting fish. The best thing about these baits is that they can be used in lakes (or both) depending on what time of year it is, where you are, and what you’re targeting.
- Fishing with jigs is another reliable tactic that can produce a variety of species. They work great for catching perch in deep water, panfish in shallower areas, and trophy-sized walleye! Be sure to pick up plastics or metal lures depending on the season, water clarity, and targeted species.
- Regardless of what you end up using, make sure your lures are rigged with a wire leader! This will keep your hooks sharper for longer periods of time because it prevents teeth from cutting through metal.
- Use a stinger hook.
Important Fishing Tips to Know
- Be mindful of the trolling speed of your line. If you’re constantly noticing that it moves too fast or too slow, try moving up or down the gears to find your sweet spot.
- You can get more fish if you have the right gear! There are several different rods, line, and reel combos that work wonders. A longer pole will allow you to cover more ground while a smaller model is ideal for fishing in tight spots.
- Trolling requires specialized equipment too! Flat-sided lures are best when targeting walleyes since they produce less sound when moving through the water. Also, crankbaits are optimal for walleyes because they can dive deep and produce a wide-frequency vibration profile.
Tricks to Catch Fish Fast
- Use a live bait rig. This consists of a small wire or VMC treble hook, slip sinker, and swivel tied to the mainline.
- When a fish bites your bait, it will move up towards your rod tip while the sinker drags below your rig.
- Fish during some of the best times.
- Most anglers recommend fishing during low light conditions, but try their suggestions and see what works best for you!
- Use different types of lures. Many anglers prefer using jigs or crankbaits because they can be fished in various areas.
- Check your trolling motor battery. If it’s not fully charged, you won’t be able to get the results you want!
- Take frequent breaks. It’s easy to become exhausted while standing in one spot for hours, so take a rest if your body starts hurting too much to stay alert.
Best Lures and Bait for Spring
This is the best option for catching walleyes of all sizes. Use heavy jig heads to target larger fish, but lighter heads work great for panfish like bluegill and crappies too!
These are great for walleyes and other species near drop-offs or channels that move into deeper water.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Detect Strikes?
It’s easy to tell when a walleye strikes! These fish tend to be very aggressive which means they’ll usually fight their way up towards your rod tip.
When this happens, the line will start moving quickly so drop your rod if it pulls!
When Should I Use Live Bait?
Baits are awesome for attracting multiple species including walleyes, muskies, and channel catfish.
When Should I Use Crankbaits?
There are two options: shallow water and deep water.
Shallow-diving crankbaits work great for rivers or small lakes whereas deeper, larger models can be used in large bodies of water like Lake Erie!
What Time of Day Should I Fish?
Most anglers prefer fishing at low-light conditions for long periods of time, but try experimenting with different times of day to see what works best for you!
How Do I Set Up a Stinger Hook?
There are two types of stinger hooks: short and long.
Longer models are used when your targeted fish has long teeth, but short ones can be used for smaller species like bass and panfish.
What’s the Best Lures for Muskie?
Inline spinnerbaits, bucktail jigs, and large crankbaits are all popular choices. Make sure you’re using a heavy-duty line that can hold up to the sharp teeth of these predators!
How Should I Set my Drag?
Setting your drag might take some time to figure out, but it mainly depends on the species you’re targeting and how much tension they put when swimming around. If your line moves too fast or too slow, adjust accordingly by cranking up or down your reel.
You can create more tension by making quick jerks in between reels so be prepared to do this!
Final Thoughts on Spring Walleye Fishing
You have reached the end, which means that you know all the tips and tricks to catch fish. If you are planning on sticking out in the water, remember to have fun!
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