Walleye Fishing for Beginners: A Helpful Guide

By Sonnox | Fishing Advice

walleye fishing for beginners
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There are countless reasons why walleye remains one of the most popular fish to catch amongst anglers. For sportier anglers, this fish has proven to be a brilliant game fish due to its unique appearance and habitat. For hobbyists, this fish is an excellent catch for its fantastic taste.

For these very reasons, several beginner anglers also want to make the walleye their first catch. If you are amongst them too, then you must have good knowledge of walleye fishing for beginners, and that’s what we will be talking about today. We aim to provide you with insider information necessary for you to catch the walleye successfully.

Walleye Fishing for Beginners: Identifying the Fish Correctly

One of the top reasons anglers prefer catching the walleye is because they are one of the easiest fish you can identify. There are a single species, which means you can be quite sure that this is the right fish you are catching. That said, it is still a good idea to know the distinguishing features of the walleye so that you avoid any mistakes altogether.

1. Body Shape

The walleye tends to have a torpedo-shaped body. Its top portion tends to be dark olive-brown, and as you go lower, it will turn into golden yellow. This fish will often have brassy spots on both sides.

2. Dorsal Fin

You will also notice that the dorsal fin is separated quite clearly. The fish’s anterior portion typically has stronger spines, whereas the second dorsal fin will tend to have a softer spine. The fish’s pectoral fins do not have any spines and will be quite rounded.

At times, the walleye tends to be mistaken for the sauger. One of the distinguishing features here would be the dorsal fin since the walleye has a dark spot.

3. Eyes

Walleyes can easily be set apart from other species through their eyes as they tend to be pearlescent. This is because it has a reflective pigment layer that is known for the tapetum lucidum.

4. Size and Weight

Size-wise, the walleye can reach up to 35 inches in length. However, anything over 20 to 25 inches is considered to be too large. In terms of weight, a normal-sized walleye will weigh up to five pounds. That said, there have been instances where the walleye has reached even 10 pounds.  

Catching the Walleye: The Best Places

Ideally, you can catch the walleye in rivers, lakes, or reservoirs because they like cooler and deeper waters that are afforded by such bodies of water. The walleye can be caught in deep and shallow waters.

That said, this fish tends to frequent in deeper waters during the daytime. Since they are known to be nocturnal hunters, they come towards the shallow depths of the water during nighttime.

It is also important to note that the walleye is capable of surviving in waters that have a varying temperature, but they still do prefer more temperate waters. During the day, the fish can be found in areas that have a heavy cover. You will also notice that they tend to lie more towards the bottom of the lake or river where there are sand and rocks.

This fish also lookout for spots that have a thicker covering of weeds where they can hide in. It isn’t unusual for the fish to hide in spots covered with woods or logs too. In short, you need to look for spots that provide the walleye with a decent hiding spot.

It is only during the night time where you can see the fish more clearly in open and clear waters.

1. Baits and Lures

It does not matter even if you have the best equipment in the world, it all means nothing if nothing entices the walleye to take a nibble, and this is where baits and lures come in. Let us discuss them more in detail below.

  • Live Baits: Walleyes tend to be selective about what they eat. Hence, using live bait may be handy. Live baits such as nightcrawlers, leeches, and minnows tend to work well with walleyes.
  • Nightcrawlers: If you are searching for the walleye in deep waters, then the nightcrawler is a great bait to opt for. In fact, the larger its size, the higher the chance of you catching a walleye. 
  • Leeches: If you are going to use leeches as live bait, then it is ideal to use large ones. These tend to be very effective when used during the summers.
  • Minnows: When you are fishing for the walleye in shallow water, it is ideal to opt for the minnow. What you must keep in mind when using them is that they must remain on the hook itself until the fish takes a nibble. To do so, you need to place the hook first through the mouth and then pierce it through the head.

2. Walleye Lures

If you ask any expert angler, they will surely tell you that jigs will become your go-to lure when it comes to catching walleyes. This is mainly because lures will allow you to set up a closer presentation to the bottom of the river or lake where the walleye typically is.

Most anglers will opt for a rounded, lead headed jig, and this can either be paired with live bait or a plastic one. If you feel that the fish is not biting this all that well, then it is ideal to opt for live bait. When it comes to ice fishing lures, jigs are often considered to be the first choice in colder months.

The most important thing you must pay close attention to with jigs is that when you choose one, it should be the right weight, which is according to the depth where you will be fishing.

If you are fishing in an area that is 10 feet or lesser in depth, you will find that the 1/8 ounces jigs work the best. If this jig is not able to settle around the bottom, then you can consider trying out the ¼ ounces jig in its place.

For waters that tend to be anywhere between 10 and 25 feet deep, you should consider trying out with a ¼ ounces jig. Anything beyond 25 feet deep, you should stick to using the ½ ounce jig.

walleye fishing for beginners

Fishing the Walleye in Every Season: Techniques and Tips

Like with all kinds of fish species, the walleye also tends to behave differently depending on the weather. Every new season will bring in a unique fishing opportunity and challenge, and as an angler, it is your job to adapt according to it so that you can catch the fish.

It is also important to note that geography can play a crucial part when it comes to locating the best areas to fish walleye. Sticking only to the northern states during cold climates can come with problems.

Nonetheless, you can still fish for plenty of walleyes, even in worse conditions if done correctly. Before that, we recommend you check out our article where we review fishing rods and reels that we think you will find helpful.

Spring

During the springtime, the temperature of the water tends to rise, and this will naturally make the walleye to spawn. This spawn will bring the walleye into a sandy-bottomed shallow that is closer to the shore where they will be making the nests and laying the eggs.

During this period, the walleye tends to become quite aggressive. This will also strike at almost anything that comes remotely close to their nests. Retrieve and cast fishing with crankbaits or shad imitation lures tend to become quite productive when this fish is in the shallow waters.

During times, such as dusk and dawn, are considered to be hot times if you want to catch a large-sized female walleye since this is often the time they leave the nest to cruise the shallow waters and feed. Make sure that you are casting the lure neatly in a structure that you would expect the baitfish to hold. Retrieve slowly and be ready to set your hook.

If you are trolling near the shore along with crankbaits, it can prove to be quite effective. This is especially true if you are not sure where exactly the walleye is located.

Try finding weeded areas with sandy bottoms or sand bars where you can slowly troll over. If you think you are getting a couple of bites at a specific spot, then you can consider halting your boat to do some cast and retrieve fishing.

Summer

Once the weather transitions from spring to summer, the water will warm, and this will make the walleye go deeper into the water. At this point, vertical jigging tends to be effective. White curly tail grub jigs or basic silver jigging spoons tend to be ideal lures that you can use during the summer.

As the summer progresses, the walleye will head even deeper into the deepest parts of the reservoir or the lake, and this is where having a good fish finder will come in handy. When you search for the fish during the summer, trolling techniques that use heavy bottoms bouncers, deep diving crankbaits, or planer, then diver boards will most likely become your best bet.

When you manage to find a pod of walleye, you will need to stop trolling and then switch over to vertical jigging with curly tail grubs, spoons, or even live bait.

While larger sized walleyes tend to spend a majority of the time in the deeper part of the water during the summer, they will still move towards the shallow part of the water at night to feed. This means that fishing at night with crankbaits in shallow water can be quite effective in the summer. That said, you must be familiar with that area if you are indeed planning on navigating at night.

Fall

Several walleye anglers tend to consider fall as the most challenging season to catch this fish consistently. If you are looking to do so successfully during this season, the key is to be versatile and be willing to experiment with several different techniques, locations, and even lures until you find a walleye that is willing to bite.

When the walleye begins to transition from its deepwater summer dwellings and into its winter and fall locations, its feeding activity will start to slow down. Regardless of the fishing methods you choose, you must slow down as well.

Try using lesser weight on the jigs so that they fall much slowly and also have a much more relaxed jigging action. Furthermore, make sure you are using smaller crankbaits that have a slower retrieve.

If this does not work, then you can try speeding up the entire process, as well! The way the walleye acts in the fall can be quite unpredictable, so you must be prepared to try out everything and get creative.

Winter

You will find that the majority of the walleye fisheries present in the north, so fishing for the walleye during the winter will typically mean ice fishing with power or hand auger by your side. In the southern states where the reservoirs and the lakes do not turn into ice, several of the same principles of walleye fishing in the fall can be applied here too.

Fishing during these periods is slower, and even the identification of patterns will become more challenging. Make sure that you are fishing with an open mind and always be willing to experiment. Most important of all, if you do manage to catch a walleye during the winter, you must celebrate!

Conclusion

We can say with certainty that the information we provided about walleye fishing for beginners will prove to be useful to not just beginners but even seasoned anglers who want to brush up on their knowledge. Armed with all of this information, we believe that it is time to put it to test. Go grab all your gear and head outside to find as many walleyes you can and make sure you visit our website to know more about fishing!

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