-And how to catch those Spring Walleye
Have you booked your Spring trip to Whitewater?
Or are you contemplating doing so? Are you interested in knowing where and how to catch more and bigger walleye this year? Perhaps this will be your first trip ever to the lake and you’re slightly intimidated by its size and layout. Or, maybe you are a long time guest, always interested in learning about new spots and techniques for this fantastic fishery. In any case, please read on as I outline some of the major Spring walleye areas on Whitewater Lake, and what you can do to trigger the most action from pre, spawn, and post-spawn fish.
Ok, so where do we start?
At the dock! Haha. We start where the walleye will be. These fish use the same spawning grounds year after year. Luckily, with time and science, we understand what types of conditions are required for the walleye spawn, and where these conditions are present on any given lake. On Whitewater Lake there are several ‘known holding areas’ in the spring. And there are also several overlooked locations as well. When most people think of spawning walleye, they automatically think of current or river. While this holds true a large percentage of the time, there are still plenty of fish that will use windswept shorelines made up of gravel and small stone. The wave action keeps sediment and silt from covering the eggs and also keeps them highly oxygenated. The same premise applies to river/current spawning walleye.
Another thing to consider is timing. Walleye begin spawning when the water reaches roughly 40*F and continue on until it climbs to 45*F and up. So what if you get to these spawning grounds and can’t find fish? Not to worry, they will not be far away. Pre-spawn walleye will hold in the closest deepest water until conditions become ideal and the games begin. If you’re not getting fish in the areas you think they should be, back off, move out, and look for deep water flats as close to the spawning grounds as possible. Present your baits slowly and subtly, using larger minnow imitations. If you’re getting walleye in these areas, chances are they are pre-spawn fish and slightly lethargic. Young of the year baitfish have not even been born yet, so they are looking for the larger 3-4” minnows that have made it through the winter.
A great location for Spring walleye is undoubtedly the Ogoki River inflow in the eastern basin of the lake, right next door to Whitewater Lodge. A huge amount of water pours in here, providing ample oxygen, flow, and baitfish. The best way to fish this area is to drift out with the current. Get your boat parallel with the current and control drift as far back as you can go. You’ll need to maintain bottom contact so I would recommend weights of 3/8 oz here. Standard 3/8 oz jighead and 3-4in white tails are almost unbeatable. Another good rig is a 3 way with drop shot.
Tie a 3 way swivel onto your mainline, tie about a 6-8in tag line on the bottom and a 3/8 oz drop shot weight onto that.
Then tie a 3-4 ft lead line to a single hook, tipped with live minnow, or lifelike imitation. This method tends to be slightly more snag free than jigging, and I find it keeps your bait in the strike zone longer. Depths vary greatly at the rivers inflow. I would begin with long, long drifts until you start getting fish in certain areas. After a pattern begins to emerge, simply make your drifts more precise to target those fish holding depths.
Another area you will definitely want to focus on will be the narrows. Large amounts of walleye have easy access to the narrows from both the eastern and western basins. I can recall about 4-5 years ago, we had a group of guys in at Striker’s Point for their first trip on the lake, and our first guests of the season. They started at the narrows on their first day, covering water. By the end of that day they had located a couple of different zones that would prove to provide them with hundreds of walleye and several trophy pike during their trip. Fishing in some sections of the narrows requires great boat control if you want to stay on top of those fish. Staying on top of them is key at this time, as they can really pile up in one specific area. And again, you want to use weights that will get your bait down to them fast and straight in any type of current. Some of the slack water, break lines, and pools are slow enough for ¼ oz to be effective, but 3/8 is recommended in most situations.
Fortunately for me, I like to explore and fish new water. This curiosity has often found me ‘honey holes.’ While sitting in one spot and catching fish after fish is a grand way to spend a day, I prefer to get my fill and move on, exploring not only the water structure and shorelines, but the splendid beauty of the boreal forest and often times its wildlife. During the spring my explorations have led me to several secondary walleye spots. Many which have produced unbelievable amounts of fish. Take the backside of Beckwith Island for example. Halfway between Beckwith’s Cabin and the furthest point south, there is another point jutting out. It must have the proper bottom structure for spawning walleye because I have had some exceptional early spring days there. The fish seem to get really active on this point when the wind is blowing south along the east side of Beckwith Island. When fish use these types of spawning beds often they will hug the shorelines fairly tightly. Drift this shoreline and along the point with ¼ oz jigheads and 3in tails or minnows.
Don’t be shy and poke in and out from the shoreline as you drift. I’ve found them stacked here in 8 feet and I’ve found them piled in at 18 feet.
One of my favorite locations in the spring is within the eastern basin. I refer to it as ‘the hallway.’ It is the first narrow section you must go through when entering the Grayson expanse. It is a literal fish highway in the spring and I have seen some really big walleye come out of it. It is a fairly shallow section, with its deepest hole being about 12 feet or so. It has a natural flow passing through from the distant Grayson Lake, out into the main lake. I usually stay on the edges of the channel and cast ahead as I work my way in. This is one area where I like to cast suspending or floating stick baits into the channel and retrieve them slowly, with pauses, to the outsides of the channel. Try Rapala Floating Minnows, Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue, Husky Jerks, Yo-Zuri Floating Crystal Minnows, and Storm Original Thundersticks. Clown colour, shad, pearl, shiner, and firetiger are my favourites.
There are so many amazing opportunities for walleye on Whitewater Lake, I’m not sure when to stop. The list could go on and on but I must leave some exploration opportunities for you all. Spring fishing on Whitewater is fast and action packed. You could go in there with no guidance at all and find fish, I’m sure. I hope that my advice and input may help you to finalize your game plan, and help you be prepared for the conditions. It will not be long now until the season is underway. I am looking forward to meeting all of you at some point, sharing some fishing stories, perhaps wetting a line, and maybe, just maybe, partaking in a famous Striker’s Point shorelunch.
Until next week’s Makokibatan Spring Breakdown,