Not only are walleye an excellent fight on medium-light tackle, but they are also one of the most delicious fish to eat!
That makes them very popular among anglers…but knowing when to go, and where to go can mean the difference between success and an empty cooler.
In this article, ill explain why spring is the best time of year to catch walleye and give you some tips on how to catch them outside of that magical spawning season too.
Why Spring is the Best Walleye Season
The best time of the year to catch walleye is during the spring because the warmer weather leads to more fish activity and spawning, both of which will give you favorable conditions and better success rates.
While any time of year can be great for catching walleye, the best fishing happens in the spring. As the weather and the water warms up, all of the fish are hungry and out looking for food as the walleye spawning cycle begins.
Luckily, the spring weather brings about longer days, and warmer days…which also means more comfortable fishing!
In addition to the spawn, the spring also helps to warm the water and bring temperatures that are more conducive to feeding.
Walleye will quickly change their eating patterns as warm weather rolls in. They feel much more comfortable being active and will start to feed much more often.
Walleye are almost always found near shorelines and shallow waters during the spring season, so there is little need to fish in deeper waters.
They are generally found in 10 to 20 feet in depth. The best lures include jigs and tail baits. Stick with ⅛ ounce jigs and move to ⅜ ounce jigs throughout the day as the water warms up.
Casting from shore or a boat is best for this time of year, but some anglers can still find success from trolling. Whether it is soft baits or blades, trolling is a good tactic to keep in mind if the fish are in slightly deeper water from 15 feet or deeper in depth.
A good electronic fish finder such as a Garmin Livescope can help pinpoint what depth the fish are hiding at. Once you figure out where they are, you can adjust your tactics and bait accordingly.
When Do Walleye Spawn?
The walleye spawn will vary depending on where they live. It can even be different among different lakes or rivers in the same state or area. The most important thing to remember about the walleye spawn is that it generally happens early in the year as the fish come out of their winter areas.
Regardless of where it is, the walleye spawn happens during the spring. But this can fluctuate from as early as February to as late as May depending on the location and water temperatures in your area.
As the water temperatures start to increase, the walleye will begin to stage in their spawning areas.
When the water hits between 43 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect the walleye to begin spawning in the area.
While this is still pretty cold, walleye are adapted well to these conditions and even just a few degrees in water temperature can quickly change their behavior.
The key is to watch water temperatures as this will give you the best indicator that the spawn is close to starting.
Catching Walleye in the Summer
Many anglers would consider the summer months as the hardest times to catch walleye. While it does take some more patience and practice, there can still be some excellent fishing to be had.
Walleye will be living in many different areas during the summer, from heavy brush such as weed beds and woody cover to more open areas such as big structures and flat bottoms.
The key is to spend plenty of time combing through areas until you find where the walleye are congregating.
Once you find the fish and how to effectively fish the area, stick with it. Where you find one walleye, you are sure to find plenty more.
The summer is also a great time to fish for walleye at night.
Ever notice those giant eyes on a walleye? Well, those big eyes are perfect for night vision and one of the reasons why walleye prefer to feed during low-light conditions…including night!
Not only are temperatures more conducive to fish at night during the summer, but the fish will be much more active as well when compared to the daytime.
Using the same basic lures and presentations, you can find active fish patrolling the shorelines and structured areas as they are out hunting.
Catching Walleye in the Fall and Winter
The cooler fall weather can be an excellent time of year to catch walleye, as they will begin to be much more active thanks to the colder water temperatures. Once the winter sets in, however, they will shut down and begin to be very sluggish.
They will head down to deeper water to live out the winter and can be very hard to catch. During this time of year, walleye are generally found from 15 to 40 feet in depth.
Winter fishing for walleye will require much more patience with some slower presentations. Live bait will work wonders here, as long as it is not too large and you use the right size of hooks.
Some anglers will even clip off excess tail material of minnows or chubs in order to make them easier for a walleye to eat.
If live bait is not your speed, deep-diving crankbaits can also be useful. Trolling is a popular method to use this time of year, as it can allow you to cover more water.
Just remember to go slow and have patience, and the fish are more sluggish in cold weather.
What Time of Day Are Walleye Most Active?
The best time of day to fish for walleye is in low light conditions as this is when they prefer to feed.
Walleye use their large eyes and excellent senses to find prey in twilight conditions that help to keep them hidden. These perfect light conditions happen twice a day, once at sunrise and the other at sunset.
Many veteran anglers like to refer to these as “the golden hour”. This is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset.
During these times, you will maximize your chances of having the best success with walleye as this is when they should be the most active.
Of course, this also means some early morning, late nights, or both.
In fact, fishing the first few hours before the sun comes up can also be extremely productive for walleye but you must be prepared to wake up early.
The nighttime can also be productive for walleye fishing depending on the time of year.
During the summer, the fish will tend to be very sluggish in the warmer water temperatures but head out to feed at night when temperatures finally cool off.
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What is the Best Weather for Walleye Fishing?
Weather can also play a large role in successfully catching walleye, regardless of the time of year.
On bright, sunny days the walleye will not be as active in feeding as they will when the daylight is diminished. This is why conditions that affect water clarity or daylight are generally considered to be the best times to head out to your favorite walleye destination.
Cloud cover is one of the most important aspects of walleye activity during both the day and night. This can help create less light in the water and give walleye the chance to be more active.
With some cloud cover, there is no direct light from either the sun or moon to affect fish behavior. Light rain, or just after the rain can also be good for fishing as well, as long as it does not rain too heavily and create floodwater conditions.
Windy days can also be great for walleye fishing as well. The wind will create choppy water conditions that will diminish light penetration and stir up the water.
This makes bait fish much more active, which then triggers the walleye to come out to feed. During heavy winds, the shorelines are excellent places to target.
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