Solving the Puzzle - Spring Walleye at Lake of the Prairies (LOTP)
By Daniel Kiazyk
It seems that each spring, waiting for the general fishing season to open, I take a moment to step back and recall previous experiences I‘ve had tracking down spring walleye. Surprisingly enough one of my fondest memories is one particular spring opener on LOTP (Lake of the Prairies) and how I watched a close friend act in a surgeon like fashion dissecting the water until he found what we were after.. walleye
Generally our experience of LOTP has been to arrive at the lake with the season already a couple of weeks old. By the middle June fish are somewhere between 12 and 14 feet of water. Bait and tactics becomes rather simple : worms and leeches, basic spinner rigs with various size and colours of blades . Bottom bouncers. Jigging will also be effective morning and evening or effective throughout the day if lifted or pitched and retrieved. One other tactic to employ with jigs is to drag them lazily over flats with the magic 12-14 feet of water, that is when its blowing a bit (something that can happen on occasion on this particular reservoir).
This particular year, however, we decided to head out as soon as the season opened. Water was cold and our spring that year had been a bit later than usual. Water temps were in the upper 40’s. We figured that given the cold water conditions minnows and jigs would be our “go-to” tactics. We started out at the spots that had produced in the past – a little later on in June that was.
Our first half a day of fishing was less than successful. We fished most of the spots that have produced and had a couple of pike and a small walleye to show for it. Given this situation we sat down for lunch and started discussing tactics that had been employed that morning. Everyone had jigged sitting still or jigged drifting in water 10 – 14 feet. Some had pulled spinners. Bait tried to that point had been worms and minnows.
It’s surprising how predictable the bite can be at LOTP throughout the latter part of June and through the rest of the summer. You’ll find fish related to structure and large flats. Fish will move closer into shore and higher up on structural elements as the wind and subsequent waves will rise. All forms of bait are effective but in the summer leeches reign as they tend to be tougher, more resilient to the number of bites you may get in a given hour. On a calm day you can work your way to these same spots (earlier and later in the day) but during the day you’d be better going off a little deeper.
Our luncheon deliberations arrived at a couple of conclusions. Firstly, minnows seemed to be the most effective bait. Few if any fish were caught on any other baits. We also figured that we had to go shallower or deeper but the quandary was: Which way? Well it only made sense that the lake’s aquatic life would be much more vibrant closer to shore. If that’s where the bait was going to be it also followed that this was where the predators were going to be as well.
So, we finished one of my brother’s mega luncheons and were ready to go. BTW a mega luncheon is very near to the size and proportions that “MEGA” refers to. If you can remain awake after one of these sessions it is likely that you have an additional blood supply available as most would be required by your stomach to digest one of his spreads.
It was about ten minutes later and back on the water that some pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. It so happened that our movement meant we would come a point in the lake that rises up and goes far out into the lake - typical point to say the least. Well almost. The difference in this instance was that we would hit on a double – walleye that is – every time we would start to feel our jigs pounding the bottom at the edge of this point. Subsequent passes however were not as successful but it was here that the fish were telling us something – they were shallow probably no deeper than a maximum of 3 feet.
We would continue to work the point’s edges and drop off to deeper water but with no success because we still had not associated the shallowness of the prior bites with walleye location.. But with our prior success we would move to a few other points. In each situation we would look to other details: bottom composition, depth, presentation and speed. It’s the finer points that with a little luck will put you on target. In each situation we didn’t find anymore fish but we were getting closer to finding more fish.
And so it would turn out when after fishing every known shallower structure (but in proximity to deeper water) that my friend suggested we fish a shallow saddle area in front of a small bay. The wind would push us into this small bay and we would drag over a bottom similar to where we had been finding the odd eye. It was here in this water that was no deeper than 3 feet that we had hit a vein of “gold” walleye that is, that would go on for a couple of hours. The area was large enough that repositioning and drifting in on it from a variety of angles would continue to put us on fish.
The only real peculiarity about this opening day trip was that water temp was quite low. TO be quite honest the fish were behaving according to their nature. Once we honed in on the shallow component the rest was academic. Presentation as is usually the case now made the difference with numbers. Slow lifts and nearly a “dead stick” dragging presentation would allow us to sight in even more precisely these very lethargic and cool water fish. And so it often goes fishing for walleye at LOTP. I found it more than once that patterning walleye on this lake can make the difference between hitting the mother load or coming off the lake feeling you’ve been after fools gold