Outdoors column: Wide open walleyes

When the walleye action slowed down late in the summer many anglers thought the fish lost their teeth.

It made sense, some of the walleyes that were caught had red looking gums and there had to be a reason for the lack of success.

Dave Mickelson of Cambridge was fishing with the author when he nailed this nice open water walleye. Submitted photo
Dave Mickelson of Cambridge was fishing with the author when he nailed this nice open water walleye. Submitted photo

Even though it sounded good the old wives tail wasn’t accurate in fact walleyes keep on feeding and downright heavy at times.

It’s just that they do it where most haven’t gone before, out in the middle of nowhere.

By mid-summer walleyes that have been holding on deep humps, reefs, and even transition lines will head a little deeper, out in the middle of nowhere. Ok, it is somewhere, it’s just not where you might expect.

Flats in the 25-to-50-feet range are what we’re talking about where there are no drop-offs, breaklines or so-called structure of any kind. Charter captains on Lake of the Woods picked up on the pattern years ago and now it’s the norm to see hordes of boats trolling back and forth over deep featureless flats all summer long. Mille Lacs has a growing population of flat fishing anglers who are doing quite well, thank you, late in the summer and into the fall.

The key to it all is fish and the best way to find them is with electronics.

Humminbird-sponsored professional angler Mark Courts of Harris found a short cut to finding fish:  “High speed marking is critical for finding wide open walleyes and I can actually see fish running flat out with my ‘Bird.

It’s effective down to maybe thirty-five feet.  When I mover deeper I may need to slow down to 20 [miles per hour] or so which still allows me to cover a lot of water. What you don’t see is the perfect hooks or marks like you may be used to. Instead you’ll see vertical bars or spikes and if you’re picking them up in a likely area you could be in luck. If you’re spiking fish it would be a good time to slow down and take a detailed look at what’s below. You’ll probably see schools of baitfish which will look like a ball or a cloud, along with the predators (walleyes).”

To give you an example I made a trip to the Northwest Angle two summers ago and stayed with Sportsman’s Lodge on Oak Island.

Upon arriving I managed to secure some local advice and headed for a deeper reef off of Little Oak.

On the way there as we cruised across the bay I marked spike after spike. I decided get off of plane and take a good look at what I was running over and saw fish after fish after fish and new that some of them had to be walleyes.

In fact I was never out of them, all the way to Little Oak.

We fished Little Oak and did well but decided to hit the bay on the way back and put down the downriggers and leadcore and started catching fish, all the way back to Oak.

And best of all we were the only boat trolling the big wide open bay and had it all to ourselves for the next five days. It was literally like shooting fish in a barrel and we all had a ball.

In fact when this article makes print I’ll be back at the same place probably doing the same thing. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.