The summer bite can be tough. Walleyes roam and are scattered in smaller schools more so than during spring spawn. The spawn is done, the young-of-the-year of nearly every species are growing and the water is filled with food for predators. The challenge is compounded because walleyes can be anywhere in the water column from just below the surface to just off the bottom chasing baitfish that suspend.
But finding walleyes doesn’t have to be that hard when you understand walleye movements and the ways to catch them. Head to mid-lake structure and speed up the presentation to cover more water.
Some walleyes stay in the rivers where action was hot and heavy early in the year. But, they break into smaller groups, spread out and are harder to find. If the river is connected to a reservoir or natural lake, most of the walleyes move to deeper water to find the right combination of food, water temperature and security.
Structure is always the key to walleye location even in places such as Lake Erie that appear like featureless bowls at first glance. Mapping chips used in conjunction with sonar and GPS reveal the truth. Walleyes only seem to be swimming helter skelter far from shore. Instead, walleyes relate to a slight change in depth — a foot or 2 is enough.
In rivers, focus on points and bends and man-made current breaks such as wing dams. In reservoirs, the focus should be on points closest to the old river channels and deeper water.
In natural lakes, fish move offshore to islands and underwater humps near deep water.
Find What They Are Eating
If this is a new body of water to you, search the Internet for information on details such as the primary food walleyes have to key on. On lakes and reservoirs, walleyes are likely suspended if shad or ciscoes are the main forage fish. If perch are the primary forage, expect them to be close to the bottom. Insect hatches can put walleyes anywhere in the water column.
Stop at bait shops for the latest and most specific information on where walleyes have been located on the specific body of water you plan to fish. Ask how deep the walleyes have been and what hard baits or spinners are working and what colors.
Do more than just look at a map of the reservoir or lake. Study what the productive areas you’ve learned about share in common that might explain why walleyes are there. Check the map for similar places others might have overlooked.
Trolling has several advantages as a summer tactic. Trolling is the fastest of all presentations, and a faster tactic just might trigger a reaction strike from a fish that’s already eaten all it can. Most states allow anglers to troll more than one rod at a time. Trolling boards take baits far to the sides of the boat, and a bait can be lowered to precise depths if you know how. The result is more baits wind up in front of more fish in less time.
A properly equipped boat can make all the difference in trolling comfort and efficiency. Good boat seats such as the Reflex by Tempress can smooth out long rough runs to the fishing spots. The Fisherman chair has a handle on the back to grasp if you’re standing watching rods in the Fish On rod holders. Lise Lozelle of Tempress also suggests a line of accessories such as cup holders placed where you want them with suction cups and gear holders for tools such as hook sharpeners and needle nose pliers.
Read ‘Precision Trolling’
For open-water trolling, use longer, softer-action rods to absorb the shock of strikes. The depth a lure will run is determined by its design. The book “Precision Trolling” tells exactly how much line needs to be let out to achieve a certain depth. You’ll know how deep you want to be when you reach a structure and motor slowly until you intercept huge schools of baitfish on the sonar screen. Line-counter reels accurately measure how much fishing line is out between the boat and the lure.
Water temperature above 70 degrees generally means active fish so stick with high-action baits. Spread them to the sides and let out different lengths of line to spread them from top to bottom.
Snap weights are good when using spinners and ‘crawlers for suspended fish. Let the spinner back 5- to 50 feet behind the boat, then add a 2- or 3 ounce weight and let out a known length of line, say 30- or 50 feet. You can repeat the successful combination that way. Bottom bouncers take spinners all the way down.
Spinner blades come in different styles, shapes and colors, too.
With lures, trolling speed should be about 1.5 mph up to 2.8 mph or even 3 mph. Spinners work best down to 0.8 mph and up to 1.7 mph. Start quick and go slower if you must.
Change up speed more by making “S” turns. Swerve one way and the next to makes the outside baits move faster and the inside baits move slower or even stall for a moment before darting ahead. The erratic action can trigger strikes. Pay attention to whether walleyes start to show a preference for outside or inside baits. If so, they are signaling they want the baits faster or slower.
The same approaches can be used to precision troll along shoreline, structural breaklines. Keep your eye on your side-imaging sonar from Humminbird. This innovative sonar can reveal an isolated rock pile, weed bed or submerged wood that may hold fish. When you reach the tip of a point, continue out into open water a ways to find fish holding just off the structure.
Trolling offers the same advantages in rivers as it does in open-water and on structure in lakes and reservoirs. More fish see more bait. Current is present, but often at its lowest point of the year. Fish can spread out, making jigging too slow.
Use 18-pound leadcore line for river fishing. Because less line out is needed with leadcore than with monofilament and allows you to troll deeper, leadcore offers more control. Travel upstream following the breaklines at 2 mph and let out enough line to keep your lure within one or two feet of the bottom. A line counter reel can help return the bait to the precise depth once you connect with fish. Go faster and the crankbait will rise out of the strike zone. Go slower, and the lure may get snagged. Keep the crankbait just off of the bottom.
Try some trolling this summer and you just might find some active fish!
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