Outdoors column: Hot strategies for summer walleyes

The late spring may have delayed the start of the walleye season, but the action started out red-hot and is still going strong.

The only difference is the depth that most of the fish are being caught has gradually moved deeper. On Leech Lake, for example, we were ripping on fish as shallow as four feet of water and as deep as eight the week after the opener.

Ron Anlauf had to make a change to nab this nice summer walleye.   Submitted photo
Ron Anlauf had to make a change to nab this nice summer walleye. Submitted photo

We had just as much action on our last trip just a week ago but 11 to 13 feet proved to be the hottest depth and I would

expect it to move even deeper on our next trip over the Fourth of July.

My buddy and I started where we left off almost a month before on shallower gravel and sandy breaks but the fish just weren’t there. A move to an offshore rocky reef in a little deeper water proved to be a whole different story and the Humminbird was loaded with fish which ended up being active walleyes that were on the bite big time.

It took a few moves to get on them but when we did we kept plenty busy catching our limit of keepers as well as a half dozen “overs,” and a quite a few that were too small indicating a healthy fishery.

Our tactics changed too with the jig minnow giving way to leeches on a live bait rig which accounted for most of the fish. We started out with jigs and shiners, but they just weren’t producing like they should, especially when we were marking so many fish. When my partner dropped a rig with a leech down and picked up a fish almost immediately he got my attention. When he racked up five fish to my one it became painfully apparent that a change had to be made and it was high time.

We weren’t using your standard walking sinker and leader though but rather a half-ounce Northland Rock Runner Slip bouncer which stands five inches tall along with about a three-foot leader and a red hook. The reef we were working was too snaggy for regular sinkers and the slip bouncer was able to slide over and through the rocks without hanging up.

Because of its design you can also drop line to a fish that has picked up the bait and let it run a bit before setting the hook, although you really don’t have to do that when the fish are really wound up. To work even deeper water you might have to go to a heavier sinker like three quarters to even an ounce. The key is to stay in contact with the bottom while keeping the bouncer running as straight up and down as possible.

Dragging the bouncer on its side will result in snags and breakoffs and won’t hold the leech off the bottom like an up and down bouncer which is much more productive. See you on the water.