As the ice melts, walleye will start moving towards shallow water in the spring as they get ready to spawn. Reproduction is their main motivation during this time of year. Bulrush beds on shallow points and reefs will hold many fish throughout the spring. Gravel shorelines will also hold many walleye and sauger in the spring. Gravel shorelines exposed to wind will hold more fish than gravel shorelines that are calm. Don’t forget to fish in and around wood. Many walleye are caught in 5 to 6 feet of water holding tight to wood. The pre-spawn bite is usually very good and you can catch plenty of fish in water as cold as the upper 30s. When water temperatures rise into the low 40s to mid-40s, walleye will begin to spawn. In the rivers, walleye and sauger usually travel until their migration is halted by a dam, waterfall or some other type of structure.
During the spawn, fishing can be tougher at times, but the males will usually cooperate. Fishing at night can be effective for the bigger females. Once the spawn is over, walleye will move into deeper water to recover. The bigger females are usually very tough to catch for 1 to 2 weeks. Some of the males will remain shallow, but a good percentage of them will also go into deeper water with the females. It usually take a week or two for the walleye to recover after the spawn, then the fishing gets very good again as they begin to search for food.
In the summer, walleye will start to move out to deeper water and they can usually be found near some type of structure such as main lake humps, points with sharp drop-offs, irregular breaklines and large flats near deeper water. Deeper weed lines, reefs and large mud flats are some of the best places to fish for summer walleye. Because walleye like colder water and they are sensitive to light, typical summer weather will force them into deeper water throughout the day. On days with a chop on the water and cloud cover, you will find more fish in the shallows, but once that sun comes out, head towards deeper water. Early morning, evenings and nights are great times to catch walleye on shallower water mud flats, humps, points and along shorelines with weed growth. Walleye have great vision in low light conditions and they will make use of it by targeting bait fish in shallower water.
When fishing during the summer, a depth finder is one of the most important tools you can have on the boat. It might take some time to search before you find a good spot, but it will be time well spent. Find some deeper water that has shallow water nearby and you should find some fish. You could end up fishing the mud flats, humps, a point or a 35 foot drop off. Let your locator dictate where you fish. Find the bait fish and you will find some walleye. Trolling with crankbaits on leadcore line and bottom-bouncing spinner rigs are a couple of great ways to target walleye in deep water during the summer. Vertical jigging is also a good option if you can find some fish on your fish finder.
The fall can be an exciting time for walleye fishing. With shorter days and cooler water temperatures, you will have a lot more options for catching fish. If you are comfortable fishing deeper water, go ahead and hit some of the same spots you hit in the summer. There should still be fish there, but you might find some of those deep fish heading up to shallower water. If you find fish deep, stay on them with your depth finder and keep catching them. Don’t be afraid to go shallower if the deep bite is a little slow. Find some shallow water close to your deep water hot spots and you will find some walleye. For the shallow water fisherman, you can target some of those same areas that you fished in the spring and have good success. Get out there on a cloudy day and you can have blast in the shallows. Find some cover such as rocks, wood or a nice weed line and you will boat plenty of walleye.
In the rivers, walleye and sauger will move back into the rivers. Shiner minnows are usually the main food source, so smaller crankbaits and jigging spoons tend to work well during the fall. As water temperatures drop below 50 degrees and head towards the lower 40s, it pays to slow down and vertical jig with a jig and minnow. It’s a simple, but very productive rig for catching walleye during the late fall. Walleye will feed into November, so don’t put the boat away too early if you want to experience some good walleye fishing.
Most ice fishermen fish for crappie, perch and bluegill because they are more prevalent and easier to catch than walleye, but that doesn’t mean that anglers would rather catch panfish than walleye. Walleye are definitely desired more than panfish, but many anglers have problems catching walleye consistently. Good crappie fishermen will catch a lot of walleye as well because walleye and crappie are usually located in the same areas. Early in the winter season, you can find walleye in 8 to 20 feet of water. As winter progresses, go slightly deeper and you will find fish.
If you are fishing for crappie and walleye, a small minnow on a jig will work for both species. If you are just focusing on walleye, you can go a little bigger with your bait. Jigs can be slightly bigger and minnows in the 3 to 4 inch range will work.