Bass may be the most popular freshwater game fish, but they’re not the tastiest.
In today’s fishing society a good percentage of the anglers, especially the bass anglers, are releasing all they catch.
However, there’s another group catching and eating their fish. I’m not referring to the panfishing group, but to walleye anglers.
I don’t know of any angler who goes fishing for just walleyes and releases all the ’eyes they catch. The walleye anglers I know, and all I meet on the water, enjoy eating their catch as much as they enjoy fishing for them.
Since the season opened the first Saturday in May, I’ve spoken to a number of the walleye anglers who fish the Mohawk River, Great Sacandaga Lake and Saratoga Lake. On each occasion, I’ve managed to squeeze out a few of their secrets, but all were rather vague about revealing exact locations. The following is what I was able to pry out of them.
Walleyes, like any of the other freshwater game fish, are structure-oriented, but that’s not all that attracts them there; it’s the schools of baitfish that frequent the area. These areas are many, but those I heard mentioned most frequently were drops along the channel edges close to the deeper water, deep weedy bottoms, shoals, humps coming sharply up from the deeper water, rocks and riprap.
Fluctuations in water temperatures, oxygen, pH levels and light penetration also play an important part in where walleyes will be found, and it’s why the majority of successful walleye anglers’ boats are equipped with electronic LCD fish/depth finders.
When fishing for river walleye where there’s generally a current, the ’eyes are a bit more predictable. Their primary holding areas are usually in current breaks, the slack water behind islands, bridge abutments and along the sides of dams.
When fishing dam areas, stay behind the danger buoys! Position the boat so lure and bait offerings can be drifted past these structures.
For those without a depth finder, especially on new water, they suggest getting a good contour map of the lake/river before going fishing.
The Fishing Hot Spot maps are among the best. They’re very detailed, and reveal areas where walleyes can be found, but I still recommend an LCD unit to not only find the spot, but also actually be able to see the fish.
One other excellent source for finding a walleye bite is local bait and tackle shops. They think and talk fishing every day, and can be a great help even if it’s not your first time on the lake/river.
There are a number of techniques, lures and live bait used when walleye fishing. The most popular appears to be trolling, an ideal way to find them. This technique allows covering a lot of water.
There are a number of lure choices for trolling, but the number one in the group I interviewed was the old June Bug Spinner or variation trailing a nightcrawler on one rod. They all use one rod without any weight added to the spinner and another with a split shot or two to get the spinner down deep.
Other favorites are stick baits like the Rapalas, Bombers, etc. Just be sure to vary depths, and always have a buoy marker nearby.
They all agreed the speed should be just fast enough to keep the spinners spinning and the stick baits wiggling. Two of the anglers I spoke with at Great Sacandaga Lake had boats equipped with speedometers. And both said the ideal speed range should be 1.5 to 2.5 mph. Now we’re getting technical.
Why the buoy? When they get a strike, they immediately throw the buoy marker out.
“Don’t run away from fish,” was their response. Generally, walleyes are a schooling breed, so they’ll either troll back and forth over the area where they caught the fish or anchor and fish it with jigs and or live bait.
Jig choices vary from an eighth-ounce to a half-ounce, and the more popular colors are black, white, yellow and, in a rocky area, brown/orange, crayfish colors. Those fishing live bait generally use a Lindy Rig to fish leeches, nightcrawlers and minnows. Hook sizes vary from No.4-6. I also noticed those I spoke with were all using fluorocarbon leaders.
Here are a few tips for catching walleye on local waters:
The walleye bite has picked up a bit on Great Sacandaga Lake, and the ’eyes seem to be moving deeper, into the 20-foot range, and drifting with a three- to five-inch minnow is working well.
Actually, there are reports of those catching walleyes with minnows fished below a bobber, and others are catching them on crankbaits tossed to shore and retrieved slowly back to the boat.
Hot spots include Scout Island, MacMurry’s Bay, around Northampton, Sinclair Point, Kunkel Point and the Mayfield channel.
Tim Blodgett of Saratoga Tackle and Archery said walleyes are in their usual bite pattern of early in the morning and at dusk into night.
Those that are successful are trolling the weedlines in 10 to 15 feet of water with spinners and worms. Some ’eyes are coming on the rattling crankbaits. Try all the weedlines along the eastern shoreline and in and around Snake Hill, varying the depths until you catch one.
If you have had a successful day on the water and want to share it with other anglers email me the full details at enoonan@nycap.-rr.com.