Everything You Need To Learn About Walleye | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Skills
An upclose photo of a walleye Photo by Jefferey Fortuna

According to Wikipedia, walleye are called walleye because their outward facing eyes make the fish appear to be looking at a wall. But where would a walleye find a wall underwater? The fish swim in almost any northern river or lake making them one of the most popular gamefish in North America. In fact, walleye are the official fish of three U.S. states and one Canadian province. Two cities claim to be the walleye capital of the world. Many anglers love targeting and eating walleye, but these two pros find the fish where others have failed to look.

RIVER ‘EYES

New England anglers find some of the best walleye fishing in moving water. Pro guide, Tim Moore’s favorite walleye water is the Connecticut River south of Monroe, New Hampshire. “It takes time to find the best sections of a river for walleye,” Moore says. “But they have predictable feeding habits.” 

A day of walleye fishing starts early for Moore. “I begin before dawn pitching and dragging jigs along the weedlines,” he says. As the sun rises, he moves deeper and uses his fishfinder to find deadfalls and ledges. “I find the deepest structure and vertical jig,” he adds. To entice a bite, he tips the jig with a small piece of worm.

Moore says walleye prefer low light so the fish move shallow at dawn, dusk and

night. “Look for weedlines near setbacks along the river,” he says, explaining that walleye will school up in the weeds waiting to ambush bait as it passes.

As the sun rises, the fish move deep. “Find a downed tree or other structure in 15 feet of water and you’ll find walleye,” he says.

To fool wary walleye, Moore uses a 1/4 ounce orange jighead and three-inch curly tail grub. “Walleye prefer stained water, so a natural jig works well,” he says. “When water  levels are high a black jig gets bites.”

To find the fish, he slow trolls a 1 1/2 ounce bottom bouncer with floating crawler harness. Moore warns that the Connecticut River hosts many dams. “When they release the water the current can make it impossible to jig,” he says. “I switch to the bottom bouncer to reach the bottom.”

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NIGHT ‘EYES

Walleyes' unique eyes are designed for night hunting. Like a cat, in the dark a walleyes eyes catches light and reflects it back.

Ohio outdoor writer and walleye adventurer, Mike Mainhart targets monster walleye in the dark. Be aware, fishing the breakwaters outside Lake Erie harbors at night in winter is risky. Mainhart recommends a full survival suit, navigation lights and even a buddy boat. He stresses, “Double check all safety gear before leaving the launch.”

Mainhart looks for a warming trend during the brutally cold winter. Walleye will hide in the rocks waiting to ambush prey. To find the fish, he uses a sideview and downview fish finder. “You can actually see large fish marks in the peaks and valleys between 13 and 8 feet,” he says. The key is to troll the lure so it bounces off the rocks.

Mainhart trolls a Smithwick Perfect 10 jerkbait at around one-mile-per-hour. He uses a reel with a line counter to measure the distance to the lure. He starts with the lure at 80 feet back then drops more line until the lure is bouncing off the rocks.

When Mainhart hooks a walleye, he can watch the line counter to know how far his trophy is from his kayak. “The pull of a kayak and cold water work against the fish,” he says.

Managing a thrashing walleye swinging treble hooks is an accident waiting to happen. Mainhart uses a fish club to dispatch the walleye and save a trip to the emergency room.

So, why risk frigid temperatures and open water in the dark? The answer lies in Mainhart’s fish box. He explains, “Trophy walleye up to 12 pounds are an amazing achievement from a kayak.”

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