NORTHERN WATERSHED WALLEYE (Part 1 of a Northern Trilogy)
by Daniel Kiazyk
Have you ever seen those Saturday TV fishing shows where this or that personality is espousing this or that technique or product in water that looks unlike the stuff you normally fish. Well, you're not off the mark in thinking that even the least sophisticated angler could catch fish in these locations for hours… that's the way the business works. However, there is something to be said for these opportunities. If you have the opportunity to fish this kind of water you should be able to test your most questionable ideas/theories about walleye behaviours. Maybe you won't have your own television program but I suspect you'll have a better idea of what walleye behaviour can include on any given day. And still yet more important when fishing in such a context you'll start to appreciate what a privilege it is to angle in such a locale
The lake I'm referring to in this article is for the most part not at all known as walleye water. Pike and trout reign supreme throughout its cool and not so fertile waters. Walleye are limited to waters flowing into the lake or bays/area connected to the inflowing waters. Interestingly enough the inflowing waters tend to be stained tannin/bog waters. These darker waters are in stark contrast the majority of the lake that is near gin clear. I suspect that these warmer waters allow for greater aquatic life and hence hold significantly more foraging options for ol' marble eyes.
Our own pattern for walleye on this lake has been to go to the hot spot when we would want to "catch" a whole bunch of fish. Part of our plan has always been to take a few eaters back to camp for an evening snack. This spot would provide any TV show host with the perfect opportunity to suggest the effectiveness of this or that lure using this or that technique. But, over the years frequenting this spot we've made our own observations about this locale and the walleye that inhabit these waters.
These northern walleye are near running water or are in its vicinity. They are not found in such a concentration anywhere else in the lake.
The water isn't gin clear but stained probably affording them protection and a predatory advantage.
These fish bite pretty well throughout the summer whereas lakes 30 or 40 miles away seem to "cool" down when things heat up in summer.
There doesn't seem to be as many walleye in low water years. Current is significant.
We'll catch some walleye away from the heavier current areas but the majority will be in "close" proximity to current
Lakes in these far northern regions do have significant populations of walleye. They are however concentrated in specific areas. On this particular lake they will all be within a mile of where a major river flows into the lake (on some days we've caught considerable walleye fishing traditional structures within this small radius). We've also noted that they seem to disappear as you move outside of the hot zone.
As far as our technique/approach are concerned any number of techniques have proven to be effective. Perhaps the one reflexion that applies here is: because there is such a high concentration of fish in such a small area, it doesn't really matter what you throw at ‘em. But, I guess it should be noted how we go after these fish.
a) Jigs (with plastic) are perhaps our number one choice. They are cheap and deadly- we will tip the jig with a bit of fish belly as it is the hardiest form of bait and can be reused after a fish has been brought to the boat. Other parts are far less rugged and extremely perishable. The pieces used are left-overs eg.pieces belly from those fish we clean and eat.
b) A crank bait casted or trolled would be a second choice. The only downside to crank bait use is damage to the bait form the sheer number of bites (not a bad way to wear a hook out) and loss of hooks to big pike that are in the area predating on the high concentration of walleye. One suggestion for those who go to the crank bait in these waters is to remove one of hooks on a double and even two of the hooks when there are three trebles. Removing treble hooks make releasing fish a lot easier. Also significant is that fish do not tend to impale themselves on the other hooks (Note: Leave the rear hook on as it is the one hook which seems to make the greatest number of hook-ups).
c) We will use spinners for purely experimental purposes. Perhaps the best spinner rig will be one tied with wire, as the toothy critters will bite you off in short order.
d) Anything else will work: / lindy rigs, Bass flies, streamers bouncers, jigging spoons etc. etc. etc. But the question we often ask ourselves is why go through a whole tackle box when you've got something that can easily catch 100 fish in a morning and does not cost all that much!
These walleye are an extraordinary resource. In the lake being described they are at the northern most extent of their habitat range. As a result, they are incredibly susceptible to over harvest (not to mention the commercial fishing that goes on in this lake!). A selective harvest mentality is really important if this lake and its walleye opportunities are to survive. Personally I like to think of this particular water as an experimental ground for developing strategies and approaches to catching one of my favorite sport species: The walleye. If a walleye doesn't bite on a hook in this locale you can almost write it off anywhere else. Experimentation with technique and approaches, however, is not really the sole purpose for my wanderings to this lake. Rather, as a friend says to me repeatedly when up on one of these northern expeditions, it's just being there that's the privilege – he's right…. there is nothing I'd rather trade for the unique experience of angling for walleye in their northern most haunts.