Now that spring has arrived, it’s likely that your favorite local fishing spot is about to get crowded. Everybody with a fishing pole has that itch to fish - and the walleyes are there for the taking.
If you can find them. You and everyone else.
You know the scene. Lines of anglers along river banks and groups of boats on lakes packed tightly over schooling walleyes.
Here’s how you can catch your walleyes limit this spring - even among the crowds.
1. Never overlook location.
Location, location, location! That is the primary key to catching walleyes in spring. Now, on most popular lakes and rivers, where the schools gather in spring as walleyes post-spawn won’t be a secret.
Just look for everyone else.
However, maybe there’s a hotspot out there not getting as much attention.
Walleyes begin spawn when water temperatures reach the mid-40s. After spawning, they’ll gather in specific places.
Finding the walleye bite on lakes
On lakes, walleyes most often spawn in shallower water along shorelines and near inlets from rivers or streams that feed into the main lake body.
Find some form of structure - rocks or vegetation. If the walleyes are actively feeding, they’ll be on top of the structure looking for food. If the fish are not on the hunt, they are likely hanging out close to cover where water depth dips down.
Current breaks hold walleyes
If you’re fishing on a river, look for structures that break up the current. That could be a rock pile or some other underwater structure that keeps the current at bay and allows fish to gather.
Many professional anglers suggest looking for shallow water, but others note that slower-flowing water - shallow or deep - is what matters most. Either way, keep your eyes peeled for any area that could offer walleyes a place to shield themselves from the river current.
If you’re near a dam, even better. By spring, many walleye have been camped out up-river near dams. Once they are done spawning, they’ll typically hang out for the season near the dam.
2. Select the right tackle.
As always, presentation is everything when it comes to walleyes. That doesn’t change even when the bite may be on and fish are gathered in large numbers.
One way to make sure you land more fish than the fella next to you is to make sure you have brought with you the tackle that gives you the upper hand.
Jigs - and what to use with them
Whether with live bait or a plastic, jigs are a go-to for spring walleye fishermen. And for good reason: They work.
But let’s focus on changing up the bait you attach to your jig. Here again you have plenty of variety.
Make sure to carry twister tails (include baits with both one and two tails) and thumper tails. Color choice can vary based on conditions, but one rule of thumb that should always be considered is to try and match soft bait shape and color with something resembling what a walleye might actually hunt in your local waters.
Grab a variety of plastics that mimic minnows, shad and other baitfish. The options here are limitless, sure, but try to find a balance between knowing what is working for other anglers and thinking outside the box about what they may not have tried.
Hardbait options are just as varied
Like jigs and the bait options you can pair with them, there are many options that’ll land walleyes in the spring.
But the discerning angler needs to know which lures are best. After all, the other guy probably has many of the same lures at his disposal. This is all about how to land your limit.
So, with hardbaits, you can’t go wrong with crankbaits. Have a few color options on hand. Additionally, be sure to pack both lipped and lipless crankbait styles.
Which baits you will use depends on the body of water. Again, think what baitfish walleye come across in their natural habitat. Shad? Minnows? Mimic what’s available.
Finally, know your water depth. You don’t want a crankbait that swims at too deep a depth. That’s asking for snags - and lost lures. Be especially careful in smaller streams where hangups are more likely.
3. Don’t lose track of time
With spring here, don’t lose out on catching your walleye limit. Before we know it, walleyes will be making their journey back to summertime spots.
Still, even in this seasonal window, you have to know when fish are most likely to bite. For a couple of weeks before spawning, the walleye bite hits its peak. Then, it goes silent before picking up after the spawn.
The spawn in rivers near you could begin a few weeks before it does in a nearby lake - depending on the lake depth.
Hit rivers once water opens up and temperatures begin to rise for your best chance at pre-spawn walleyes.
The bite will pick up next on shallow lakes, since they don’t take as long as deep lakes to warm up. Look to the shorelines of these lakes in early spring.
Deep lakes could take as much as another month to warm up before walleyes begin to bite before the spawn. Head to deeper water for the best bet.
If you aren’t sure when the spring walleye bite heats up around you, then simply ask around. Or drive around. The crowds and boat trailers are obvious signs.
Stock up with Henning’s Tackle
Before you hit the water, make sure you have all your favorites from Henning’s Tackle. We carry a variety of tackle items that are sure to help you catch more walleye this spring. From our popular Mini Walleye Spins, to our jigs and custom shad divers - we have your covered.