It’s a new season and I’m happy to be back on the water sharing my weekend adventures with you once again. It’s been a strange spring in Walleye land for me this year. The usual spawning runs were cut short by low river runoffs due to lack of snow in Ontario. Unseasonably high temperatures and little precipitation only made matters worse, although I’m certainly not complaining about the weather. This year we are seeing very low water levels in the St-Lawrence River system. Sure-fire areas where I normally catch fish into mid-to-late June look like they normally do in July. The shallow bays are already getting choked up with weeds and the water-skiers are out. They’re a bit overzealous if you ask me but out there nonetheless. However, as the old adage says, the fish are still there, and they have to eat. It took me a while longer than it normally does this year but after completely changing my approach, the result of a happy accident no less, I found a pattern that located the big boys who were only thinking about one thing; feeding.
A friend of mine pointed out that walleye were readily hitting tubes in the mouth of feeder rivers. He theorizes (as do I) that predatory fish in the St-Lawrence have developed a taste for Gobies, which are easily imitated with a tube and fat jig head. He was absolutely right, and although we did quite well numbers-wise on sandy flats adjacent to river mouths, the size of the fish wasn’t up to par. The largest walleye we caught on tubes was probably about 2.5lbs. We did catch about 40 fish in one morning on the first weekend and 25 or so but most were what I would consider small fish. Of course, they were tons of fun to catch on jigs and great eating, especially in the cold water. I kept my limit for the first two weekends of the season and had myself a feast fit for kings. There is nothing like fresh cold water walleye so if that’s what you’re into large sand flats where murky waters of feeder rivers meet the clear running waters of the St-Lawrence offer fantastic jigging opportunities where you can really rake in the numbers. That bite tapered off with the warming waters and fish moved on. So did I.
One thing to consider at this time of year is that you have a wider depth spectrum to work with. Although the water in the shallow bays is nearing 70 it’s far from the case in the cool, deeper, running waters of the open lake. This allows fish to move comfortably from deep pockets to shallow bars and humps to feed depending on how much light is penetrating the water column. I was fishing an area where two 30-foot holes are connected by a sandy saddle area that peeks at about 12 feet. After landing a few fish here and there in the deeper parts of the structure I sort of accidentally drifted over the shallow area and immediately landed a very respectable fish. Thinking this might be a fluke I reluctantly back-tracked and caught four more really nice walleye in the exact same spot within 45 minutes. This was in the middle of the afternoon also, however the North wind was chopping up the water quite a bit. Boat control was challenging to say the least.
One thing I noticed is that paying attention to light conditions and sky colour really helps when trying to select the right size blade and colour for your spinners, crankbaits or jigs. For example, when confronted with a high sun in mid afternoon you might want to go with the silvers. Think of a baitfish reflecting the mid-day sunlight. Add a bit of cloud cover to the mix like yesterday and you will notice that purples and blues tend to stand out. Once the evening sun sets and the sky turns orangey-pink the chartreuse, gold and orange spinners really shine (no pun intended). The best way I can describe how to know which colour to use is that they will “jump out” at you if you pay attention to the colour of the sky and try to imagine how much light is penetrating in the water. Of course, if you are trying to mimic Gobies on bottom you’ll want something much more subtle.
With a little adaptation to the early summer conditions this year and a little bit of experimentation I added another weapon to my walleye arsenal; shallow saddles in windy conditions and cold water. I also figured out that it pays to really focus in on detail like matching colour to surroundings, looking for fish in areas where you normally would not this time of year and adapting to conditions. Get out there and think outside the box a little. It’ll pay off. Just remember, if you’re not catching fish doing what you normally do you’re better off not catching any experimenting. At least you’re getting out there trying new tricks
Stay outside! Jigger.