Outdoors column: Western walleye primer

North and South Dakota’s walleye season is easy to keep up with; it never closes.Outdoors column photoYou can actually fish for (and hopefully catch) walleye all year long and April is the perfect time for getting on open water and trying your luck.

Humminbird Pro and professional angler Johnnie Candle of Devil’s Lake, N.D., has spent countless days finding and catching walleyes on western reservoirs and shares with the readers some of his extensive knowledge.

Candle on location: “Here on Lake on Oahe; April means there is open water somewhere and includes the upper reaches of the reservoir which is more like a river here on down to the lake where the river widens out and slows down a bit. Fish can be just about anywhere but typically they start out in the lake and then migrate upstream as water temperatures and current levels increase.”

Finding suitable spawning areas is the biggest key to finding early season fish and Candle has a trick up his sleeve to help narrow it down.

Candle on the shortcut: “The Humminbird 1198c on the dash of my boat has side imaging which provides a huge advantage over conventional depth finders and allows me to scan a shoreline and identify the hard bottom areas quickly and efficiently. With side imaging you can scan to 250 feet and identify bottom type, depth changes and breaks, as well as fish. I’ll usually stick within 100 feet and display it across the screen which produces more definition and I can actually draw out the rocks and boulders which is simply amazing.”

Techniques for catching fish can vary a bit and depends on the given conditions.

Candle’s plan of attack: “What I do depends on how shallow the fish are holding and a lot of that depends on water levels and current. A lot of current can push fish in tighter behind current breaks and that is when they are less likely to be found out in deeper water and when I’m more apt pitch or drag jigs. Light current can mean deeper fish that are more spread out and when I might use a trolling technique like pulling crankbaits on Fireline or leadcore. Fish inside four feet of water have to be pitched because a boat in that shallow will spook too many fish.”

It’s all there including the fish and the opportunity.

A trip to a big reservoir out west can be the perfect way to get the open water season started. Good days can be absolutely incredible, while the tough ones are usually still pretty darn good. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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