Walleye are delicious! Nothing compares to a fresh shore lunch of flaky white fillets served up on a Canadian Shield granite outcrop. With dark olive brown to yellowish gold scales and large pearlescent eyes these fish are not only tasty but good looking! These finicky fish are a favorite of many fishermen and are highly sought after and regulated. The average caught size is 14” and 1 – 2 pounds. The best walleye to eat are the medium sized catch ranging from 14” to 18”. The state record for walleye holds at 35“ and 17 pounds which was caught right here in Cook County on the Seagull River, not far from Tuscarora! Walleye are closely regulated by the MN DNR so be sure to check current slot limits and regulations as they change frequently.
Native to much of Minnesota and introduced to many other lakes, the walleye can be found in the majority of suitable BWCA and Quetico lakes with some exceptions. They thrive in large, shallow, windy lakes with gravel shoals and plenty of sunken structure.
Walleye spawn in the spring just after ice out when water temperatures range from 44 to 47 degrees. When spawning, schools of fish seek out moving water near shallow points and rocky beds. Walleye typically spawn near fishing opener which is a very susceptible time for the fish so certain areas will be closed for walleye fishing. After they spawn, walleye are typically sluggish, not very hungry and moving back to their summer locales so fishing is difficult.
The rest of the summer, walleye are “cool-water” fish that prefer warmer water than lake trout but colder water than bass. During the hot summer days this pushes them down into 15 to 40 feet of water. Walleye prefer lake bottoms that are rocky with abrupt changes in topography near drop offs into deeper water. In the evenings they will rise up to hunt especially around reefs, rocky points, sunken islands, and close to drop offs where the cooler water is easily accessible.
Largely a nocturnal fish, they are most active at dawn and dusk. Some can even be caught at night with lighted bobbers. They tend to be found in schools near the lake bottom, so once you get a hit, continue to fish over the same area. During the day, walleye are sluggish and deep, avoiding the bright light and warmer water by hiding under cliffs, boulders, logs and in heavy weeds. The large opalescent eyes of walleye make them very sensitive to light so target areas that are in the shade. Days that are windy (walleye chop) and overcast can produce favorable fishing conditions especially near windswept points and shorelines close to deep shelves where the bait fish are being blown in.
The large shiny “wall eyes” allow these fish-eating predators to hunt in murky water with low light conditions. This is where walleye have the advantage over their prey so these are the conditions the determined walleye fishermen should seek. Walleye prey on yellow perch, minnows, tullibees (ciscoes), suckers, whitefish, leeches and aquatic insects such as May flies.
Walleye are active hunters that prefer their prey moving. In the spring, when the bait fish are small, walleye are more aggressive. In the summer when food is plentiful and large, walleye tend to be more sluggish and selective. Match your fishing speeds to the season. Quick movements during the lean spring months and slower, sluggish bait in the summer. Focus your tackle just off the bottom of reefs and sunken structures.
- 1/8 oz to 3/8 oz jigs in a variety of colors (chartreuse, white, etc.) and sizes. You will want to select the smallest jig that goes to the bottom.
- Jig with live bait such as leeches, night crawlers, or minnows. Minnows work well in the spring and fall. Leeches and night crawlers work well in the summer
- Slip bobbers with bobber stops to jig with.
- Lindy rig/crawler harness with or without a spinner with small hooks #4-#8 and a walking sinker with a 3’ snell
- Crank baits in a variety of colors (silver, blue chartreuse, etc.) and sizes. Remember to start with smaller lures in the spring and progressively larger lures into the summer.