W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Late Season Eyes
By Sam Anderson
The weather forecast sounds like there might be a storm a brewin’. Winter storm warnings are mentioned and the cold north wind is suppose to build all day long. This is the time that the tough head out to do some open water fishing before the water gets hard for the winter. This is also some of the best fishing that a person can have. As the old timers would say. "If things are a fixin to change then that’s when I go a fishin." Some words of caution should be mentioned here make sure that your equipment is in good working order, and most important of all make sure you have on a good personal flotation device, just in case.
The walleye is a cold blooded animal. Its metabolism is directly dependent upon water temperature. The lower the temperature, the lower its metabolism and the less food its body demands. There is no magic temperature when walleyes suddenly begin to feed. Feeding activity gradually increases as the water warms. Most of the time, feeding activity is greatest between 55 ° and 75 ° F. When water temperature exceeds 80° F, walleye feeding falls off again because of thermal stress.
If these are the conditions you are faced with in late season fishing for walleyes, or whenever you venture out to fish for some walleyes, keep a few tips in mind so you can improve on your catch.
Use smaller bait. A sluggish walleye is more apt to grab a small fathead or leech than a big golden shiner or nightcrawler. Don’t stubbornly stick with jumbo leeches, nightcrawlers or big artificial lures just because they’ve produced in the past.
Slow down, trolling or casting is generally a waste of time in very cold water. Try some slip-bobber fishing or some slow backtrolling or jigging. The key here again is slow down. If you think you are slow now slow down even further and watch your line, because if your presentation is in slow motion your action will be fast.
Try a stinger hook. Sluggish walleyes have a habit of striking short and ripping up the tail of a minnow or snipping the end off a crawler. By attaching a small treble or single hook to the bend and then inserting one hook of the treble into the tail of your bait, you can hook many of the short striking fish. This technique is deadly with a jig and crawler or a jig and minnow.
Try lighter line, walleyes are often very line shy especially in clear lakes. The more the diameter the more vibration and the better for walleyes to see the line. I prefer to use Berkley 4lb. XT for late season walleye fishing in cold water. Some people have trouble breaking off when they set the hook, but this can be remedied by using a rod that has a fairly soft tip to absorb some of the hookset shock.
Fish shallower than usual especially during late season. Often walleyes in turbid waters are close to shore, some as shallow as two feet. I have had some really good success pitching light jigs and spinners next to shore and working them out to the waiting walleyes. Also, this area will warm quicker than the larger body of water and when the walleyes move up to feed on any remaining smaller fish or minnows you will be there to ambush them.
Try trolling a vibrating type lure or one that has sound chambers in it that makes a rattle. Something like a Rattlin’ Fat Rap, it has a great deal of wobble and rattle that attracts the attention of the walleyes. Walleyes have the ability to detect vibration using their lateral line sensory system. Sometimes they will strike a fast moving vibrating lure in turbid water when all else fails.
Try fluorescent colors. They show up better in dirty water and can often mean the difference between success and failure. Regardless if you are fishing with lead head jigs, floating jigs, spinners or vibrating lures, fluorescent colors will out produce standard colors in cold water that is turbid.
One factor that can result in poor fishing even though the lake is teeming with walleyes is a lack of fish holding structure. This structure will hold fish on barriers or give a resting place out of current. You need to be on a lake that has a variety of depressions, rocks, holes, weedbeds, stumps and logs. This is the type of structure that fish relate to.
Walleyes prefer hard bottom, preferably gravel or rubble. If you can locate a gravel or rubble area in a basin that is other wise all muck or silt, chances are you’ve located the walleye hangout. If you have a depth finder rigged up for sounding at high speeds you can check out a lot of bottom conditions. Especially, with a little practice, you will be able to differentiate the weak signal produced by soft bottom types from the stronger, sharper signal produced by hard bottoms.
To sum it up, cold water walleyes can be extremely frustrating because
of the tremendous variables that in some way affect the walleyes
behavior. Experiment with the techniques I have outlined in this
article and you too will be developing a "feel" for what it is like to
fish cold water walleyes. Let me know how you are doing with these
techniques by contacting me on the web at www.samandeson.com
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Since August 1, 1998