Fishing the walleye opener is all about finding the fish. Once you do that, your day is going to be filled with netting nice walleye.
As most people know, walleye spawn in the spring in fast flowing streams that connect with the body of water where they make their home. The exact time frame of when they spawn varies from year to year, according to weather and water levels, but it is generally in early May. So when the opener occurs, the fish are usually either still in the river system, or in very close proximity. If there was a particularly early thaw, walleye will have spawned early and may be a little more dispersed than usual. When this occurs it takes a little more effort to find them. But they are almost always in shallow water. Here’s a little plan of attack for making the best of the season opener.
- Bait selection: Walleye are most definitely not fussy in early spring. They are voraciously feeding after the rigours of spawning. If your bait gets near a walleye it will get eaten. You don’t need live bait to have good results, so even if you swear by tipping your hook with something that has a pulse, you can dispense with that notion right now and save your bait money. Use a jig with a bright coloured tail and vertically jig in shallow water. The secret is to find walleye and let them see your offering.
- Find the bait fish: Not unlike any other time of year, the walleye will concentrate where the food is. Most species of baitfish (minnows, smelt, shiners etc.) spawn in the spring. They spawn in streams or along the shoreline where the water warms up first. Hence the walleye will be feeding near these areas. Darker water just off the edge of a sand or cobble beach can be a perfect ambush place for walleye. Pay attention to those areas as well as any shoreline near the mouth of a creek or river.
- Fish the shallows: Walleye won’t necessarily be in their summer haunts just yet so fish the shallows with confidence. When I say shallow, I mean shallow. As long as you can get your boat into an area without hitting the rocks with your motor, you’re shallow enough. That said, you can spook walleye so the best approach is to situate your boat a nice casting distance from the target area. Then cast right to shore and work your offering back to the boat.
- Stick and move: Don’t spend too much time fishing unproductive water. One way to frustrate yourself is by fishing the same spot too long and not catching fish. Instead stick and move like Sugar Ray Leonard. If you don’t hook-up after several good casts to good-looking water, move to another location. You can also troll along shorelines in search of fish as well. Have one angler cast from the bow while the motor operator trolls his or her lure. Once you find one walleye they’ll likely be several more nearby.
Remember the secret sauce to fishing the opener is to find the walleye. Once that is accomplished your day will be a success.