Walleyes have a reputation of being one of the most delicious types of fish that you can catch but that’s not without jumping through a few hoops to catch one, but the challenge makes that taste of victory taste even better!
We will get you started off on the right foot with this guide on how to catch a walleye which will also cover what a walleye is in more detail as well as what equipment to get and locations to go to so that you can say that you were one of the few people who have caught one.
What Is A Walleye?
Also known as the yellow pickerel or the yellow pike, the walleye is a freshwater fish that is found in Canada and Northern America.
The walleye can come in two variations known as the yellow walleye and the blue walleye which since 1983 has been classified as extinct.
However, the yellow walleye is labeled as being of least concern in conservation status but there is still a daily catch limit of one a day but can be increased to two a day if you have a specific license.
The yellow walleye got its name from the way that the layer of tissue in their eyes reflects the light which makes them look like pearls and lets them see very well in dark conditions.
Since they are sensitive to light, they stick to places with low light and feed on smaller fish that cannot see as well as they can. They can be found in the depths of lakes and like to stay in areas where it is warmest.
By following this logic, a lot of anglers choose to fish for walleye at night as this is when they are not hiding as much and take the opportunity to have a mass feed closer to the surface.
They also like to feed when the water is choppy which some say is because it disrupts the light whereas others say it’s because they can see better in turbulent waters than their prey can which gives them an advantage when hunting.
Walleyes are visually striking and are mostly gold in color with olive fins and a bit of blue on their sides.
They have a white on their belly as well as on the lower part of the caudal fin. Black dots are scattered on both of their dorsal fins and caudal fin.
Female walleyes grow bigger than males and can reach 31-inches in length and weigh up to 20lbs with the biggest walleye fish ever recording being 42-inches long and weighing nearly 30lbs.
It has been found that those that live in the southern part grow larger and faster than the other population groups.
They can reach these sizes because they are known to live for decades, the oldest walleye was recorded as being 29 years old however, most walleye that have been caught have not been older than six years of age.
Walleye As Food
Once you have caught a walleye, how should you go about eating it? In places such as Minnesota where walleye is a popular fish to be caught, they like to deep fry and eat it off of a stick as well as serve it as a sandwich.
Walleye are known to be a bit bland on their own and don’t have a strong fishy flavor that other types of fish have but it is very versatile and there are multiple ways that you can cook it.
Another reason as to why they are a popular fish to eat is because they are very quick and easy to cook so even if you are not that experienced in the kitchen, you will still end up with a delicious dish.
As well as being very tasty, there are health benefits that come with eating walleye because it contains high-quality protein to build your muscles, vitamin D for strong bones, and healthy fats that keep your brain sharp and your heart healthy.
What Equipment Should You Use?
Rod & Reel
It depends on what kind of lure you are using and what time of the season that you are fishing at that for what fishing rod to use.
The most common rod used when fishing for walleye is the light spinning rod because it will give you more control over the lure.
There are two different spinning rods that you can choose from including one that is seven feet long and has light-power which is best for fishing in shallow water in early spring.
The line should have a strength of four to six pounds and the lures can weigh up to 1/8 ounces.
When you are fishing in fall, late spring, and summer, then you can choose a rod of the same length but has medium-light to medium power.
The line should be strong enough for eight to 12 pounds and the lure can be as heavy as ¾ ounces.
For the reel, there are lots of options that you can choose from but you should try and stick to one that is between 3000 to 35000.
These numbers refer to the diameter of the spool and the higher the number, the bigger the spool, the more lines of fishing line you will have.
Since walleyes have good eyesight, you will need to get a fishing line that is almost invisible such as one that is made from fluorocarbon.
This visibility of your fishing line also relies on what time of day you are fishing at as well as the condition of the waters.
Live bait is the best bet and the three of the walleyes’ favorites are minnows, nightcrawlers, and leeches which are relatively easy to get a hold of.
When picking bait, you should keep in mind what time of the season it is because this will coincide with what food the walleye is searching for.
Minnows are best used in spring and fall whereas leeches and nightcrawlers should be used in summer.
Lures are also known as jigs and will mimic little fish that the walleye will think of as real after they have bitten down on them and gotten a hook in the mouth.
They can come in a variety of colors and weights and choosing the right combination, again relies on what time of year you are fishing at.
It is recommended to use a light lure that weighs about 1/8 ounces if you are fishing in the spring. Having a lure that is white is considered to be the most appealing to walleye because it is the brightest but you can also use yellow or red.
Use lures that are heavier in the late spring and summer and if you are fishing in shallow waters, use a lure that weighs around 3/8 ounces.
Otherwise use a lure with a weight of ¼ if you are fishing in deeper waters. This is a good time to use lures that are more naturally colored as this is when the walleye is more drawn to them.
You should not use lures in the fall because they tend to get stuck on the bottom of rivers or lakes so it is best to use live bait instead.
When And Where To Fish?
Walleye like to keep it difficult for anglers and are known to change where to turn up. Spring is the best time to fish for walleye because this is when they keep more to the shoreline.
However, their pattern tends to involve them being found in sandy shallow areas in the spring where it is advised to fish at a depth of between three to eight feet.
They can also be found in the river current as well near objects in the water such as a tree stump or collection of rocks especially early on in the spring.
During this time of year, if you do catch a walleye, it will probably be a small male because the females tend to travel further down to keep away from the sun.
Because of this, you will need to fish a little bit deeper if you want a chance at catching one of the bigger females.
In the summer as the temperature rises, walleye will travel deeper into the water to get away from the heat and hide from other fish in the thick weeds.
This is when you will need to fish at depths of around 15 to 35 feet, but at night they will travel back to the shoreline to feed.
If you have not been successful at catching a walleye in the spring or summer, you have another go at it in the fall, but it will require lots of patience.
At this time of year, walleye travel even further into the depths because the temperature drops and the vegetation dies.
As well as this, they can be found in deep pools or in moving currents in rivers if you cannot reach deeper into the water.
The prime time for fishing in the fall is between 10 pm and 3 am because this is when the large females emerge up to the surface and can be found around rocky shoals at just three feet deep.
You should not try to catch walleye in the winter because this is when they are the least active and it can be dangerous for you as the temperatures get very low. Instead, wait until spring when you have had some practice and are ready to have another go.
Here are some tips and tricks that you can use when you are fishing for walleye that will increase your chances of success.
The first trick is to do something called working the line which involves you retrieving your hook as soon as it reaches the bottom of the lake or river.
You can do this slowly or quickly, it is up to you but either will prove most effective depending on the time of year.
Lay the rod back straight slowly and reel in the line as it sinks so that it stays taut, keep doing this until you have reeled all the line in.
Use the slow retrieval method in the late summer or fall at midday as this is when walleye are slower.
In the spring and early summer, walleye are most active and aggressive so you should use the fast retrieval method.
The next thing you should know when fishing for walleye is to pull firmly back on your rod as soon as you feel that the fish has bitten down on the hook.
This is known as setting the hook and will quickly secure the fish onto the hook which decreases the chances of it wriggling away.
Keep in mind that even though you have all the necessary equipment and knowledge, you will still have to master the art of patience and timing – as well as have a little bit of luck.
It is important to remember how the walleye behaves depending on the season and what techniques you will have to use in accordance with them, but it can be done.
Some people go through their whole lives in pursuit of the walleye so if you catch one, be sure to hold on tight.