Outdoors column: Early-season walleye strategies

As we slide into the early fishing season, there are some tried and true fishing techniques that seem to work season after season.

The trick is recognize the situations that require certain styles and techniques and then implement them on the water.

Mother Nature has given us a very late spring and the modern angler needs to adapt to the conditions and improvise.

The author suggests trying the shallows first before heading deep to land some trophies like these.
The author suggests trying the shallows first before heading deep to land some trophies like these.
Submited photo

This will be a very challenging spring as water temperatures are hovering in the low 50s, which are well behind the norm. Here are some thoughts for the early angler and some ideas to put early season walleyes in the boat.

Think warm water

All game fish at this time of the spring are attracted to warm water.

It doesn’t matter what the species are because sunfish, crappies, carp, northern pike and walleyes always seek out and inhabit the warmest water on any given lake.

This could be a back channel, canal, muddy bay or any water that is significantly different than the main body of water.

Walleyes will remain there briefly and sometimes as long as two weeks but the important thing is they are shallow and catchable during this period.

I concentrate my efforts on these warmer areas especially during the evening period of 6 p.m. until dusk.

Small baits 

Once again, we are faced with an abnormal spring, meaning the walleyes will be somewhat sluggish and not in the mood to chase down a bait. This early spring period means slowing the bait down to a crawl and utilizing the smallest offerings you can muster.

This means dropping down to a 1/16th ounce jig instead of a 1/8th ounce.

This also means a small minnow crank bait that is 2 inches long instead of the traditional 6-inch size. Going small will enhance your chances  of catching those semi-sluggish walleyes over a large sized offering.

Don’t overlook deep water

Some anglers think I am crazy when I talk about catching early spring walleyes in deep water.

The fact is these walleyes often inhabit very deep water a couple of weeks before heading to the shallows and these fish are often overlooked by the masses of fisher people because they think all walleyes are shallow in the spring. Not true.

My strategy is trying the shallows first for a few hours and if the results are not what I am looking for, I adjust and go deep.

Very common deep water depths during spring are 22-32 feet of water.

The best time of the season is now 

The beauty of this time of the spring is the fishing just gets better and better.

May typically starts slow and then builds as we get into late May and early June when the fishing hits its peak in Minnesota. Get ready to experience the most consistent bite of the season starting any minute Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.