W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Perry Good
Fishing and Wadding the Shallows for 'Eyes
By Perry Good
This is one time of the year when the fish are close to shore and accessible to anglers who prefer to fish from shore. Sure there are plenty of opportunities for trolling, but the action that can be experienced while wading or standing on the bank is very enjoyable.
In the spring the warmest water will be close to shore. The warmest water is where the fish will be most active, so that's why you're fishing there. When fishing these shallow areas, it's important that you keep motions to a minimum. Fish in shallow water are generally spookier than they would be in deep water. Walk softly and wear light colored clothing. You want a jacket or a sweatshirt that blends in with the sky.
Gear necessary for wading for walleye is minimal. One piece of gear where I won't cut corners is my waders. The water this time of year can be cold, so I select a warm pair of waders, usually the neoprene style that insulates as well as fits tight.
One of my favorite spots to look for night-time walleye is near the entrances of a bay or harbor, especially if the entrance is narrow and there is at least seven to ten feet of water nearby.
The key to a productive area is the presence of baitfish such as shiners. If minnows are in the harbor or the bay during the day, walleyes will visit at night. Check the area to be fished during the day and see if there is an abundance of bait. If there are lots of minnows, the odds are good that lots of walleye will visit later on. These fish can be patterned. It might take a while to get them exactly figured out, but once the best fishing time is established, the fish will feed at that time, or close to it, the next few nights. A change in weather is the primary factor that can throw off this timing.
The best fishing conditions are when the surface of the water is being disrupted. Sometimes conditions can get a little miserable for fishing, but the action frequently makes up for less than balmy weather. I've had great catches during periods of gusty winds and sleet storms. The shallower the water, the more wary fish seem to be. In a deep river the anger's approach does not have to be quite as stealthy as in a shallower one.
Fish at rest always face into the flow of water; this is the case in rivers, streams or wind blow lakes and reservoirs. They have a small blind spot behind them, making it advantageous for fisherman to work in from behind them. Also, any silt or sand dislodged while wading will be carried downstream and not over the fish.
For these reasons, downstream wadding is more difficult to accomplish successfully without alerting the fish. Clumsy and careless wading is a primary cause of not catching stream fish. Each foot must be placed down as quietly as possible since the ripples and shock waves emanate outward as the angler wades. To prevent this, movements must be extremely slow.
Fish in a stream generally stay out of the main current, but close enough to grab a passing morsel. If one fish is caught in a particular spot, there is a good chance that another will take its place. With experience, an angler can learn to read the water surface and to know what is underneath. Slick places indicate a rock below the surface: the outside bend of moving water will be deeper than the inside of the bend; and rocks, trees and other structure that break the flow should all hold fish.
When working shallow areas to shore, especially when the water is clear, keep your cast parallel to the shore. The most active fish will be within 10 feet of shore, perhaps closer. If you cast the bait 30 feet out from the shore and retrieve it, the lure is in the most productive zone for only the last 10 feet of the cast. If you cast the bait parallel to the shore and retrieve it, it's in the fish zone all the time. This technique is very productive even later on in the summer when fishing for walleyes.
Several baits will take walleyes in the spring depending on their activity level. I like to start with a Reed-Runner or Black Flash spinnerbait. If the fish don't go along with this presentation, try a Buckshot Rattlin' Jig or Jungle Jig tipped with a plastic trailer. These two bait types will be most productive much of the time, but my all time favorite method for taking shallow water walleyes is twitching a Husky Jerk across the surface.
Walleyes will be along the riprap banks and rocky shorelines in the spring because they slide in behind the rocks and riprap to avoid current conditions and as a staging place for ambushing their next meal. In dirty or stained water it's possible to dabble a jig tipped with a minnow or plastic grub on a long rod. Just lift and drop the jig around rocks and anything else that breaks the current. Lately the advent of plastic lizards rigged on a Hidden Head hook floated and pulsated along the shore line drives big walleyes crazy and they crush that lizard as it swims by.
Fishing close to the shore will frequently be most productive from
mid-afternoon until temperatures cool down. This season you don't have
to get in the boat and head across the lake, try some fishing in the
shallows for opening day walleyes.
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Since August 1, 1998