It’s no secret that walleye are sensitive to light. I do catch fish at all hours of the day but definitely put most of my larger fish in the boat at dusk or dawn. You will have an easier time finding fish, particularly big fish very early in the morning and very late in the day. I’m lucky enough to have a place on the water so fishing these prime times is practical. I can head out for a few hours in the morning, take the middle of the day to get some things done or enjoy the waterfront on hot days, have a nice dinner and head out for a few hours at dusk. Most of the large fish I put in the boat are caught after the sun has all but disappeared behind the horizon when the sky is light up with pinks and pastels. Not only is it prime walleye time, it’s the most beautiful part of the day to be out on the water.
Two other factors, also related to light penetration seem to play a role in triggering bites. The first is wind. I don’t like fishing those dead-calm situations. Fish become sluggish and here on Lake St. Francis there are more weeds floating in the water-column on calm days making fishing more difficult. At this time of year an evening wind is a welcome ally for another reason; shad flies. The wind helps reduce the number of shad flies you have to contend with. And trust me, that is a very good thing. I’ve had people ask me to take them in because they couldn’t handle the amount of shad flies crawling all over them. The second factor that seems to “turn ’em on” is cloud cover. The ideal situation is a relatively windy, cloudy day (see picture below). They are the days when walleye activity peaks and also when most people shy away from heading out, meaning you have your spots and quite often the entire lake to yourself.
If you plan on fishing the evening bite this is the time of year to do it because dawn seems to drag on forever. Last night for example I was on the water until 10:15pm and there was still quite a bit of daylight left in the sky. One thing I highly recommend is keeping a tidy boat and preparing ahead for darkness on the water. I like to keep a head-lamp in my tackle box. They are inexpensive, very practical for fishing applications because they allow full use of your hands and the LED light will last you an entire season. Whether you’re re-tying, baiting, removing weeds, you name it these will quickly be worth the money you spent on them. They are also fantastic when you get back to shore. If there is a shortage of light near the boat-ramp you’ll love having these. You can find them anywhere they sell fishing, hunting and camping gear. Canadian Tire carries them too.
Another tool that has become indispensable for me is a decent GPS/Sonar unit, especially when venturing out at night. These units essentially combine 3 tools into 1; a contour/depth chart or map, a GPS system and of course a sonar unit. I can’t begin to explain how much I rely on this tool out on the water. This is especially true on a new body of water and again in conditions where your visibility is impaired (night, fog etc). The unit I own is the Eagle FishElite 500c and I absolutely love it. You will find that they are fairly expensive but believe me they quickly become worth their weight in gold. They are guaranteed to help you catch fish and navigate large bodies of water like St.Francis with ease and confidence. Keep in mind you need to purchase a separate chip/card with the maps and unfortunately they don’t come cheap. The detail of the maps and the sheer number of lakes on the chips explain their cost. They are very, very well made. Here’s a tip, take a look on Ebay and you can usually find pretty good deals out there. I ended up saving about a hundred bucks by shopping around a little.
Getting out on the water for many of us is therapeutic. It’s something we cherish and look forward to. If you are like me and spend hours on the water making a few valuable purchases will enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors. To make the best out of your walleye fishing experience remember the basics, wind and cloud cover are allies and chances are peak activity levels will be at dusk or dawn so focus on these times if you can. Ultimately the end result is more toothy critters like this guy in your boat and more stories to share with your fishing buddies by the campfire.
Until next time, stay outside! Jigger.