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Claude Bissonnette, Hunting and Fishing Category Manager at SAIL, gives his recommendations for walleye fishing techniques. Stack the odds in your favour by following these tips and tricks.
In this article, you will learn more about:
In both Ontario and Quebec, you can fish for walleye primarily in lakes, but rivers are also great places to go for a successful fishing trip.
Walleye can be fished primarily in two ways; both techniques are equally effective in making a catch.
Using a jig is the most classic technique for walleye fishing. This technique consists of casting your line with a soft lure vertically and reeling it in immediately. By making several casts and retrieves, you increase your chances of attracting fish and getting them to strike. The lure looks like a larva or small fish. This technique is best used in areas deeper than 15 feet (4.5 metres).
This technique can be done on a lake, in an anchored and stationary boat, or on a dock. You can also wade fish in a lake or river by standing in a body of water near a stream or current of bubbling water.
Trolling involves covering a large area of water at low speed by dragging your hook through the water behind the boat.
This technique is mostly done on lakes, where it is easier to navigate at low speed in a boat equipped with an electric motor.
For the trolling technique, two lures can be used:
Hard baits: this technique is to be preferred for prospecting in order to locate a school of walleye. It is also very useful in windy conditions. The hard baits used can look like a smelt, a yellow perch, a small sunfish or a small minnow, depending on what the walleye feed upon as well as the location in which you find yourself. This technique is used in lakes, when the depth is 10 to 15 feet of water (3 to 4.5 metres).
Bottom bouncer sinkers: This alternative trolling technique is appropriate for even deeper areas, beyond 15 feet (4.5 metres) of water. A bottom bouncer is a bent metal rod with a sinker that varies in size depending on the depth.
The walleye is particularly fond of cool (13 to 21 degrees Celsius), shallow (less than 15 m) and turbid waters. You will find it in abundance in lakes, rivers and large bodies of water (such as the St. Lawrence River). It is also very present at the mouths of rivers and near hydroelectric dams. Impressive numbers of walleye are found at the Gouin Reservoir (Mauricie) in Quebec or in the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario, for example.
The walleye is a very sensitive fish to sunlight. It is therefore fond of turbid waters where it frequently feeds on insects, leeches, crayfish or frogs during the day. However, in lakes where the water is very clear, it feeds in the morning, in the evening and during the night because of its great sensitivity to the light of the day. It may also be active in shallower water on cloudy or windy days when the sun’s rays do not penetrate the surface of the water as easily.
It varies according to the season and the water temperature.
The walleye is a fish that does not give spectacular resistance when hooked, but it is a fighter and always tries to rush to the bottom of the water.
Claude Bissonnette suggests fishing for walleye in a water depth of 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 metres).
Certainly, because a sonar can help you determine the right depth and pinpoint where walleyes are feeding. The sonar won’t do the job for you, but it will help you target the spots where the fish are biting.
A sonar unit with GPS capability is also useful for accessing detailed maps and locating and saving key fishing areas. It’s also a great tool if you’re fishing on a new lake, as you can familiarize yourself with the water’s structure and depth.
Walleye fishing can be done almost year round (except from mid-April to mid-May during the fish’s reproduction period). In winter, walleye fishing is done under the ice.
The best time to fish during the summer season is generally from mid-May to mid-September. However, the dates differ from one area to another, so pay attention to provincial regulations:
Spring, after the spawning season, through early summer is an excellent time to catch walleye. In July and August, you should fish deeper, where the water is cooler. Also, walleye are gregarious fish and travel in schools. This is why the use of a thermometer and a sonar with GPS is recommended to locate the sections to be favoured.
The end of the summer, from mid-August to the closing of the fishing season, is also an appropriate time to catch large walleye, which have eaten all summer and gained a lot of weight.
As for the most favourable time of day, it is ideal to go to the water in the morning, between 7 and 11 am and in the late afternoon, from 4 pm until sunset during the emergence of aquatic insects.
Walleye are still active throughout the day, but fishing in direct sunlight in the middle of the day is not recommended.
You have to adapt to the strength of the strike or the bite of the walleye.
Claude Bissonnette advises to shut down the motor as soon as you feel a bite.
Shut off your motor firmly and immediately on a strong and aggressive bite. Adjust the drag on the reel to adjust the tension and not risk breaking the line while reeling in the walleye. Once the fish is on the surface of the water, keep the line taut and catch it with a landing net.
It is important to measure your catch in order to respect the minimum and maximum size and weight limits according to provincial and regional regulations.
If the walleye you caught is bleeding, do not release it and count it in your quota (if its size and weight are within the regulations).
If you wish to fish for a catch and release, the fight should be short or avoided and you should leave the fish in the water when you unhook it; do not use a landing net, use pliers to unhook the hooks from the mouth of the walleye and do not handle it with dry hands (to avoid removing the essential mucus layer that covers the scales of the fish).
Finally, Claude Bissonnette adds that there are no infallible techniques for catching walleye. As you fish, you will learn where walleye lives, its habitat, its behaviours, the ideal water temperature, etc.
Specialized magazines, various YouTube channels and Facebook groups will also allow you to perfect your knowledge on the different walleye fishing techniques.