Locating walleyes during the open water fishing season
Where I choose to find early season walleyes depends on weather and the preceding winter and early spring. Last winter we had minimal snow allowing many weeds to survive under the ice, then this spring lake ice-out occurred early. These two conditions have set us up for some warmer water with actively growing weeds this May.
By the May 14 opener, I expect walleyes will have spawned and moved onto feeding locations. Baitfish will be hiding out around newly forming weeds, and walleyes will be nearby.
My go-to tactic for locating early season walleyes with these conditions will be spinner rigs with nightcrawlers or fathead minnows and possibly leeches. I’ll troll along those newly forming weeds to draw out active fish in 8 to 14 feet of water depending on weed growth and water clarity. In stained water, try shallower, but if the water is clear and the sun is out, you risk spooking fish out of these areas.
Consider changing your tactics and cast with a jig-and-minnow or jig and artificial bait to reach to these fish without spooking them. Other tactics can include bobber fishing, long-line trolling, or casting crankbaits.
Once you locate fish, you have to move with them. As the sun rises higher, fish will slide down into deeper depths. This can happen rapidly as soon as the sky brightens, but more often it is a gradual change throughout the day. Then they move back up to shallower water as the sun begins to fade.
Windy conditions can also adversely affect fish locations. If waves have been pounding into a shoreline for a couple days, expect reduced water clarity and invertebrates near shore. In that scenario, baitfish will feed on the invertebrates, and game fish will follow.
Have a game plan when heading out, but it’s a new year, so don’t get stuck repeating tactics that aren’t working.
Good luck and stay safe.