Open-water walleye tips for the opener
May 11 marks the 2019 walleye opener here in Minnesota, and it’s setting up to be a good one. Ice-out will be wrapped up statewide, and anglers will find walleyes ready to reactivate after the spawn across most of Minnesota.
Walleyes will most likely be in post-spawn mode, with water temperatures in the low 50s depending on weather and lake locations. Post spawn is recuperation time – meaning negative to neutral feeding moods – but some fish, especially smaller males, may begin snapping in warmer lakes by opener.
The spawn usually occurs in 45- to 50-degree temps on average and takes one to three days. Keep in mind that not all fish spawn at identical times.
Water temps will indicate fish location either spawn or post-spawn so use your electronics. Not all lakes are identical. Shallower lakes warm faster.
Typical spawn locations are inlet streams with rocks or gravel, rocky shorelines, shallow reefs – all great starting locations. If temperatures dictate, target those areas with a jig-and-minnow combination.
Post-spawn locations typically are resting grounds that offer food and security near spawning areas. Even fish in a post-spawn mood or “mode” will feed some during this time. Just understand that fish are not real aggressive so work slow and methodical.
You can accomplish that by casting light jigs tipped with fatheads or shiners. This technique forces you to fish slower. In deep water when using heavier jigs, do not use a typical lift-drop jigging protocol. Instead, try a hold, drag, or twitch method.
Another presentation that sometimes activates fish is to try shorter live-bait rigs tipped with shiners or fatheads trolled very slow. Shiners work best on lakes, and bites will be light, so concentrate.
Rigs with leeches can be very productive, so consider switching up from minnows on occasion. I have had great success with small, dark leeches on the opener.
Once water temperatures reach the mid-50s, walleyes should have the feed bag on, so if they’re not biting on any of the above top presentations, move to an active school.
Patience, concentration, and versatility are key ingredients in catching early season walleyes. In another few weeks, they’ll be really snapping.