Outdoors column: Catching walleyes in tough conditions

If I had to describe the perfect day to go walleye fishing it would go something like this:

There would be a nice cloud cover with no precipitation, the wind would be from the southwest creating a manageable walleye chop and the water temperatures would still be cool enough to support my all-time favorite bait, the spot tail shiner.

Good luck, especially this year.

Jim Johnson, Assistant Head Coach of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, caught this walleye last week with the author fishing flat water and high blue skies.Submitted photo
Jim Johnson, Assistant Head Coach of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, caught this walleye last week with the author fishing flat water and high blue skies.Submitted photo

If an angler waits for the perfect day to go out on the water to chase walleyes, you would never go. It just doesn’t happen all that often. It’s that type of scenario of non-perfect conditions that builds an angler into a more diverse, educated angler that can put together a fish catching game plan and strategy that will be productive under all types of changing weather patterns that we constantly have in Minnesota.

Fishing conditions in Minnesota started off the season challenged by cold water conditions created by the winter that never wanted to end. These cold water conditions trickled down to a shortage, or non-existence of premium walleye bait which most anglers live or die with every year.

It was those anglers which shifted strategies to look for current areas feeding good walleye lakes, or those who trolled plugs or fished after dark that really struck consistent success. As the season has progressed, it has been the persistent rain, flooding, and winds which have hampered, or even stopped even the most die-hard walleye anglers from heading out onto the lake.

Rain isn’t a bad thing for fishing at all. Sure, it is a pain to get soaked, but if you have the proper rain gear, and there is no thunder or lightning, I wouldn’t be afraid to give it a go for walleyes. Rain runoff creates extra current in streams and rivers dumping into most Minnesota lakes.

This runoff is carrying all types of worms and bugs, which attract minnows into the shallows, which in turn attracts game fish looking for an easy meal. Don’t be afraid to pitch small jigs up into the shallows, or against rock outcroppings at the outflow. If the stream, or river allows, don’t be afraid to long line a light jig while slowly back-trolling against the current, this technique can be red hot. These types of patterns work best all season long and can be very rewarding.

Wind and walleyes go together like baseball and apple pie.

I will always play the wind and will search for active walleyes on wind driven points or wind driven inside corners and cups. Wind just plain mixes things up. It disorients baitfish and seems to push them into inside corners and cups, or disperses them over points and outside bends. When searching these types of areas on the lake, I look for lots of activity on my electronics. Many times you will know immediately that you have hit the jackpot of active walleyes when there are marks or arch’s scattered throughout the water column. Stop and fish.

Perfect weather days can also make tough walleyes conditions. Flat calm water and high blue skies can make for a tough bite. A couple of basic ‘must do’ items should be on your radar when you encounter these types of conditions. First locate a pod of fish. Second, make sure you have fresh bait. Leeches, minnows and night crawlers should be the best you can find. Third and most important is being as stealthy as possible. Using your electric trolling motor to eliminate any unneeded noise will give you an advantage and not spook a school of walleyes.

Every any angler should work at being as diverse as possible. Trying new techniques and going out and fishing even under non-ideal conditions will broaden your understanding and fish catching abilities. This knowledge and experience will help you consistently put more walleyes into your boat.

Jeff Weaver is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.