Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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For cold-water walleye opener, ease back the throttle

With cold water on tap for the fishing opener, Carney suggests keeping your walleye presentations slow and simple. Focus on moving water, too.

By Steve Carney

Contributing Writer

The cold and wet spring weather has finally turned and things are looking up. However, water temperatures are lagging well behind last year’s pattern, so I expect this year’s fishing opener to be a challenge.

Here are some tips to consider for the 2022 opener.

Slow, slow, and slower

As is the case during most springs that are slow to warm, your fishing strategy, no matter what presentation you choose, should be presented slowly. 

If you’re dragging a live-bait rig, keep your forward or back-troll speed as slow as possible. Walleyes will still be lethargic because water temperatures will be in the low 40s – maybe even colder in the far north. If you prefer to troll crankbaits, troll as slowly as possible, because walleyes won’t be in an aggressive, chasing mood for about two weeks.

Plain is perfect

A plain hook and split shot rig is one of my favorites for late-arriving spring-like weather, and this setup is hands down a great choice for the walleye opener. 

Tie on a red No. 6 hook and attach a large split shot about 5 feet above the hook.

This is a simple rig that can be cast and retrieved back to the boat at a snail’s pace. Or, it can be used when drifting along breaklines – again, as slowly as possible. 

In cold water, walleyes tend to pick up lighter offerings, and a plain hook and split shot rig is a better option than traditional live-bait sinkers and rigs. 

Use leeches – if you can find them – on this plain rig, or impale a lively fathead minnow. 

It’s amazing how this rig crawls over rocks and never gets hung up. It’s old-school but effective.

Go with the flow

Ice in some places has hung around way too long, meaning spawning walleyes will be close to current areas during the first two weeks of May.

Any incoming creek or river will hold walleyes, especially at dawn and dusk. I’ve been doing well lately on the South Dakota border waters of Big Stone Lake and Lake Traverse by fishing current areas and slowly pitching and retrieving a split shot rig. 

The male walleyes are still milking and on the spawn, which means our northern lakes are about two weeks behind their normal patterns.

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