Average Size: 12-20 inches
Average Weight: 1-3 lbs
Walleye are a predatory fish that travels in schools. With there black/bronze coloring they prefer cloudy, turbulent water where they use their specialized eyes and sense of smell to hunt down prey. Walleyes spawn over sandy bottoms of lakes and rivers in the spring. Preferring choppy, cloudy water around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Walleye will be more active in the twilight hours of the day when the visibility is lower and the sun is not beating down yet. Walleye are very sensory, live bait is highly preferred while fishing for them.
Native Walleye range is as far south as northern Georgia and as far north as the Northern Territories of Canada. East to West Walleyes range from Maine to Montana. Walleye prefer turbid waters and shallower lakes, deeper pools and runs of rivers and tributaries. Walleyes will usually stick to shallower weedy bays where they can use their eyesight to their advantage. When its clear and calm Walleyes will migrate to deeper holes where they can hunt from below and take advantage of drop offs and ledges.
The techniques used for Walleye vary greatly depending on the weather, the lake and the time of year. Some techniques like trolling and drifting can be done all year and are the preferred method for going after them. Walleye are most active when there is a good wind across the lake, better known as a "Walleye-Chop". Jigging and Casting can be tough in these conditions. Trolling and drifting cover more water and allow you to find the fish. Once a Walleye or two are caught, go back over the area a few times to see if any more can be pulled out of that spot, there have been times when the boat I've been fishing in has pulled 6 to 10 Walleye out of one spot before moving on. Once the fish have been found be sure to stay at that depth as you move around the lake.
There are a few variations on trolling for Walleyes. If the waves are not to bad always troll on the windward side of the water you are fishing on. Fishing on the windward side serves two purposes with Walleyes, the first is that it is the turmoil on the surface clouds the water below giving them a hunting advantage. The second is that bait fish tend to get pushed along with the wind currents and the big fish will be where the bait fish are. The preferred method is trolling a Lindy Rig in about 6-10 feet of water with a 1/4 oz weight and a leech for bait. Trolling speed with the Lindy Rig should be about 1-3 mph. Medium sized blades in chartreuse or red and white work the best. Trolling crank baits is also an effective way to troll for Walleyes. When trolling cranks speed needs to be between 2-4 mph. The ideal depth for trolling cranks is 10-20 feet. It is vital that when trolling cranks that it is above bait fish, unlike the Lindy Rig approach cranks don't have any scent or live bait appeal. Cranks swim like small bait fish, fishing above schools of them makes it more likely the bait will be hit. In both cases working structure; right above drop offs or the outskirts of weed beds and rocky sandy areas are ideal.
When trolling for Walleye the gear should be medium light, 7 foot plus rod with 10-14 lb mono filament line. Most Walleye do not hit hard and are usually tentative, the lighter rod and line set up allows for more sensitivity to detect soft hits on the bait. One piece rods are preferred as they up the sensitivity. As mentioned above leeches are the prime live bait, however minnows and night crawlers are also effective. The crankbaits should be flashy, if fish are suspended white is a great go-to color.
Casting for Walleye works when the fish are very aggressive, right before a storm for example. Casting for Walleye can be a challenge as they tend to be less impulsive than Northern Pike. When casting for Walleye, casting crank baits that run 5-10 feet deep is the best way to go. Casting over shallow reefs, sandy and rocky areas are ideal. In turbid water Walleye don't need to stick to weeds to hunt and with their eyesight they have the advantage. Unlike Northern Pike, Walleye need a fast, jerky retrieve to mimic an injured or scared bait fish.
For casting using a medium rod 6-7 feet that gives solid control on the retrieve and cast along with braided line between 10- 20 lbs works best. Hot'n'Tots are the go to crankbait when casting for Walleyes, with their wobble they are excellent at enticing Walleye to strike. Another great crank bait for casting is the Cordell Walleye Diver, this lure will sit motionless when paused.
Jigging can be done in two ways. Stationary and drifting. Stationary jigging is when you drop anchor and sit in one spot while jigging, this works best when there is not much wind and its near sunrise or sunset. Walleye see red, yellow and orange the best, a jig that color finished off with a leech or minnow. Jigging techniques can make or break getting a fish. A consistent retrieve with a pattern like: Up up down reel, Up up down reel. Change the speed of the reel, the ups, the downs. Most fish will hit on the down portion of the rotation.
Drift jigging is a little different and works best over flats during windy conditions. Drift jigging allows to slowly cover a stretch of water quietly and by using the wind will place you in the right areas for hunting Walleyes. Use the same kinds of jigs that you would use for stationary jigging, the difference here is a little faster retrieve can be helpful to entice the fish.
When Jigging, a medium light rod between 6-7 feet with monofilament between 10-15 lbs is ideal. While jigging mono or flourocarbon line is the most important as it can become near invisible in the water. Having near invisible line is very important for jigging as it is the time that fish are most likely to see the line.