Bright Skies, Big Eyes - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Bright Skies, Big Eyes

Like most people, I grew up with the belief that walleye hated sun, and all but quit biting when it got bright and flat. This mantra was repeated so often it seemed to be gospel. Yet about a dozen years ago, I caught my first ten pound walleye on a flat, sunny afternoon.  It was so hot my bare feet were burning on the bottom of the boat. That same summer, I witnessed a school of walleye  swimming through shoreline reeds in less then 5 feet of water, at high noon. Some of the fish were enormous. During the last half a dozen years, I’ve been regularly finding  big walleye up shallow during sunny days.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that walleye are active on sunny days. If you’ve spent much time sight fishing on shallow lakes, you’ve probably seen the amount of activity that occurs as the sun warms things up. When the sun is high, perch school up and feed; leeches and crayfish forage freely; and all manner of insect life starts to move around in the weeds and along the bottom. If the lake has shallow vegetation, so much the better. But I’ve also seen situations where big walleye are out cruising bare sand flats under very bright skies. My assumption is these fish are chasing the minnows, perch, and small whitefish that feed on pill clams and other invertebrates. Perhaps the nicest thing about sunny day walleye fishing  is just how active they usually are. Generally, if a sunny day walleye is shallow, it’s a  fish that can be caught.

Unfortunately, most died in the wool walleye anglers are not used to fishing  shallow walleye, especially with the sun blazing down. Most people simply spook these fish. For starters, the majority of sunny day walleye are fish you’ll have to cast to. And when I say cast, I mean long casts. Yes, there will be situations when you can pitch to shallow fish on a relatively short line, usually in weeds. Dark waters and wind action  will also make shallow fish less spooked by  a boat. However, on slightly stained and clear lakes, you will have to go into stealth mode to be consistently successful. The problem is compounded if there is no wind. Anchoring on a spot is one solution, especially if the fish are not moving far. You must be quiet however, and keep rattling and banging to a minimum.
Most of the time, I make long casts to prime areas. Long casts equal more hits.  High percentage sunny day spots include reefs, emerging weed beds, large sand bays, and reed lines. A light breeze blowing in on any type of  structure can also be very good indeed.  If it’s cold, however, you may be better off fishing out of the wind. The sun will heat up shallow, calm bays much more quickly then  windy ones.

Jigs are a great choice for this type of fishing. In some instances, a jig tipped with live bait is the go to technique. Many of the very largest sunny days walleye I’ve seen have fallen to jigs with artificial bodies. Just about any type of plastic body has potential in this situation including shads, lizards, grubs, and jerks. However, my dark horse lure for trophy sized  walleye is a basic 4 inch white or purple tube. The simplicity of the tube, and its fat profile, does something to large walleye that few other artificial baits do. Another go to lure for shallow water walleye is a jerk bait like the Rapala Husky Jerk or X Rap. These lures throw off a lot of vibration when snapped back in, and the strikes will be crushing. My favourite finishes on sunny days are silver and perch, although a bronze bodied crank will work, especially in darker water. Make sure you just use a steel clip when you attach your crank to the line. There is no need for a snap swivel, but a metal snap allows the bait to have great action.

On super clear lakes, the fish may be in deeper water that’s tight to drop offs. I’ve seen this pattern on lake trout lakes that have small populations of large walleye. The crystal clear water makes these fish ultra spooky, yet they can still be caught on sunny days. Look for fish to be cruising on the edge of large feeding flats, where the water breaks off into the deep. Sure, there will be days when the hot sun  is not your friend and the walleye are in serious hiding.  It happens. In exactly the same way some “classic” grey ,windy walleye days can fail to produce the golden harvest you might expect.  It always pays  to keep an open mind when you  hit the water looking for walleye, no matter what the conditions. This season, don’t let the heat of the afternoon sun scare you off the water. The walleye bite might just be getting good.

Gord Ellis

Get all the latest Wilderness news

By signing up for our Newsletter you agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.