It’s no secret that when it comes to successful walleye fishing, location is one of, if not the most important factor. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I’m asked about where the walleyes are. Those who know me know I’m not overly secretive about spots, though all of us do keep a few honey-holes to ourselves and I’m no different. If there is anything I’ve learned it’s that good fishermen don’t fixate on spots. What I mean by this is that rather than just being content with knowing there are fish in a given area, good anglers ask themselves what that area offers to walleyes, and extrapolate this knowledge to help find many more suitable locations for walleyes. A spot fisherman instead is more likely to hit dead ends when the bite subsides in known spots. Anyone who has spent time chasing walleyes will tell you this is bound to happen at some point. You hit the nail on the head one day, but if the fish move it’s easy to quickly lose confidence and come home empty-handed or just assume “they weren’t biting today”. A good fisherman adapts, tries a variety of techniques and presentations, always looks for new locations and most importantly, establishes patterns. Ask yourself, “what does this spot offer” and more importantly, “where can I find other spots like this”. In our local waters there are literally hundreds of places that hold walleyes. This has helped me stay on fish, and often big fish, all year. This is also what really gets my blood pumping and a huge part of why I love to catch walleyes so much. I get a kick out of putting a pattern together and catching ‘eyes in new places regularly. It is as they say, the thrill of the chase that keeps me coming back. Now, I am not claiming to be the authority on walleye fishing around here, far from it, but what I can tell you is this approach has almost doubled my catches and all but eliminated those dreaded proverbial goose egg days. If there are no fish in a spot, I’m gone. If I find fish in another spot, I break out the map and find other similar spots until I find a pattern.
Speaking of patterns, I have been working on something different lately thanks to a tip from my a friend and local angler. I have been finding fish off of typical structure wandering open water. This certainly goes against the grain of what is commonly said about walleyes. Indeed the vast majority most of fish I catch are bottom and structure oriented. It’s no secret that in places like large northern, deep reservoirs or the great lakes walleye do suspend. However in the shallows of the St-Lawrence surely this can’t be right? Well, I remember one time, as a kid, a friend and I accidentally spotted a huge school of walleyes suspended in the main channel in 10 feet of water over 40 feet. I could not believe my eyes. There were dozens of them just sitting there on a sunny day, in plain sight, in the middle of the channel. I was amazed at what turned out to be a lasting image for me. However, it wasn’t until very recently when this same friend confirmed he was onto suspended fish that I decided to try and find some of my own. I really wasn’t sure where to start and was warned to stay away from my friend’s spot 🙂 so I began working gradually off my usual structures towards open water while paying close attention to sonar. It took a while to adjust to fishing what seems like featureless water, but then I started noticing a few promising signs. Fist off there was a lot of activity on the surface. Baitfish were breaking surface over deep water and I headed towards them. I then began to find nice arches on the sonar 10-15 feet above bottom and also seeing larger fish break surface (which I assume were not walleyes though). I quickly gained confidence and worked the area thoroughly trying different depths and presentations. Before long, I had my first suspended fish in the net.
I wanted to make sure that fish wasn’t a fluke, so we worked that area pretty thoroughly and much to my surprise before you know it we were putting gold in the boat using sonar to find suspended fish. It seems a lot of the open water walters were fairly large; no monsters but all slightly above average. Once we scattered that spot we began studying the map and quickly found another area very close by which seemed to offer the same characteristics. Our instincts proved correct and we were rewarded with two more open water walleyes. The best part about the last two fish is that they came out of an area I had never fished before. In fact, I had never really noticed it until it caught my eye on the map that day because of the similarities between the two areas. This to me is what walleye fishing is all about.
On the beautiful boat ride back to the dock on a dead calm warm September night I thought to myself, this is definitely a good place to be. Anytime you’re fishing in a tee-shirt near mid-September after sunset you have to think life is pretty good. And anytime you’re not fishing your usual spots, trying to discover something new and the plan comes together, there is no better feeling.
Until next time, stay outside.