Beating Summer Heat With Some ‘Eyes’
As summer sets in and water temperatures continue to rise, summer walleye fishing can become increasingly difficult. But once you locate where they are hiding and give the right setup and presentation, you can get your limit.
Some would say or think, “Robbins that is what everybody says who are catching walleye.” Here is a little secret: a bunch of folks are catching walleyes, they just aren’t letting you know about it until you show up at their house for a cookout.
Case in point: recently we attended a good friend’s first summer cookout. Along with the traditional burgers and hot dogs, he had fresh fish fillets. I asked, “Where did you get the tasty fresh walleye?” He said, with a huge smile, “Chautauqua.”
Now this is a friend who I speak with a couple times a week and he never shared that he was into walleye. Lesson learned. Anglers who are catching walleye often don’t share their hot spots with everybody until they have them in hand or, in my case, on my plate.
During summer months when lake vegetation is peaking, try spending time around weeds like milfoil, lily pads and cabbage weeds, which will hold schools of baitfish and new insect hatches. Weeds near any current or deeper water will typically hold more fish so focusing on these high-percentage spots will pay off.
“Snapping” a swimbait around weed lines and through grassy patches will help you locate the active fish, pitching the weed pocket just like you would for large fish. If the fish are more lethargic, try rigging up a more subtle live bait rig to coax the reluctant fish.
Summer, fall, winter or spring walleye prefer to feed during low-light conditions. Their large marble eyes are very sensitive to light, so try to fish around sunrise or sunset for the best results.
Here is one secret that literally took years to figure out. As water temps continue to rise, go deep. Try fishing deep, as summer walleye still will relate to points, main lake basins, breaklines, weed lines and channels. This is where the baitfish are hanging out and walleye being walleye, will be hanging around bait fish looking.
An added bonus is that fish in deeper water are usually a bit more aggressive during the day, so if you’re limited to fishing while the sun is up, try staying out deep.
We prefer trolling with Northland Tackle Walleye Spinner Rig crawlers around points and weed edges that will interest fish closely related to the bottom. The key to any “dog days” bite is trolling speed. We generally start trolling slowly and into the wind. When I mean slow, I mean slow. We watch the rod tip and want it to just bump/move a little.
If the fish are suspended in the water column, troll crankbaits that are an ideal presentation for the suspended summer walleye. Trolling speed at night is imperative. After you have tuned your crankbait to run straight, varying trolling speed depending on wind is important. Always watch the rod tips on the turn; this is when baits are changing speed and direction, and when walleye that have been following your offering will take advantage of something different.
During low-light conditions fish will move up to shallower water so make sure to adjust accordingly as conditions change.
Walleye night fishing can be the most effective way to catch not only a limit, but also a trophy. Walleye will typically move up to shallower flats, bars or points to gorge on available forage at night.
When fishing shallow cover at night, keeping “snag-free” will help you keep your line wet and also keep you in action.
A great way to target “eyes” at night is with slip-bobber. If you need added visibility, attach a glowing indicator to the top of your rig. Then, pinch on a few split shots about 12 inches above the hook, which will help keep your bait in the strike zone. Rig up a lively leech or crawler and just wait; that bobber should disappear in no time.
Fishing under a bobber may be old school to some but during this difficult bite time it is always good to go back to the basics. Use this rig in any high-percentage spots, or when the bite gets tough, and a finesse approach is needed to get bit.
We haven’t discussed rod, reel and line setup much, but we prefer to again keep it basic. A good quality medium-action 6-foot rod will help you keep in contact with your offerings. A feel that fits your rod is key. It needs to be not too large but not small; enough to handle fighting a 5- to 7-pound fish.
For inland waters where the clarity will change daily, we prefer using 8-to-12-pound mono. When trolling a 12-inch to 18-inch, fluorocarbon leader will give your baits that extra visibility that they need in particular conditions.
Walleye in many folks’ eyes are poor man’s lobster when prepared properly. That is true. Plus, there is nothing better on a cold winter’s night than walleye fillets. They not only taste great but bring you back to warm summer evening fishing trips.