I’ve heard from several dedicated walleye anglers that the fall ’eye patterns have begun.
Unfortunately, they neglected to tell me the where, when and how tactics they’re using to catch them. I’m not a dedicated walleye angler. When I catch one, it’s while I’m bass fishing.
I did find a walleye hole on a local river where on five casts I caught five walleyes on a wacky worm. All were over 20 inches, and I released all of them. However, I know that’s not necessarily a good walleye lure. To help me, help you to catch more ’eyes, I have solicited the help of several professional walleye anglers. Here are a few techniques that you can use on local waters, including the Great Sacandaga Lake, Saratoga Lake and the Mohawk River.
All the pros start their fall ’eye fishing with their fish/depth/GPS electronics looking for the schools of bait, and all agree that right now is the best time of the year, and it is just beginning.
Dan Quade, a member of the Lindy Fishing Team, prefers to use a standard round jighead (Lindy Max Gap) in size one-eighth-ounce (heavier, depending upon the depths and conditions), tipped with a four-inch sucker/minnow pierced through the mouth. And try to keep the bait alive.
If you’re looking for something new, try doubling up or “piggybacking” your presentation. Slide the plastic grub up snug tight to the jighead and add a separate head-hooked minnow, which offers those hungry fall ’eyes a bigger meal. Lindy makes a Watsit rig that can be used for this presentation.
There are several ways to fish this rig, depending on the wind, structure and depth conditions. For drop-offs where the wind is blowing and the fish are scattered at various depths, keep the boat in deep water
and cast the jig to the structure and slowly walk it down the drop-off. After each hop with your rod tip, let the bait/lure free-fall back to the bottom. Do not reel the bait continuously. You will be surprised how many times it will be picked up when it is on the bottom.
When do you set the hook? Obviously, if you see the line moving off, take up the slack and set the hook, or if you feel the tap, do the same thing. Other structures to consider are the shallows and sand bays which hold heat, and heat attracts baitfish in the fall.
River walleye fishing is somewhat different, and Lindy’s National Freshwater Hall of Fame inductee Ted Takasaki is an expert. He also recommends jigs in the fall, especially on the rivers.
Walleyes see better in dim light and are usually found in a river’s dingy, shallower water, which makes them easier to catch. However, the successful river walleye angler must learn a bit about current and where the ’eyes will locate.
Ted suggests that you look for slack water areas near sharp bends/points, and also recommends concentrating on deeper channel edges that the walleyes usually head for when the first cold weather comes, and that has already happened.
There are several patterns you can follow. With falling temperatures and fewer daylight hours, ’eyes travel upstream until they encounter rapids or dams, and our Mohawk River has both. What you are looking for is their resting areas. These include places where the current flushes through neck-down/narrows. Look for river bends above straight stretches, and slack and deep water. Forget the straight, heavy current stretches.
As it gets later into the fall, ’eyes start to go deeper in areas such as below dams (stay behind danger buoys) and deeper holes.
I recently found a spot on the Hudson River where the current was moving around the large, single cement pillar in about 12 to 15 feet of water. I expected to find smallies there, but on my first five casts, I caught three ’eyes between 20 and 24 inches, then a smallie followed by another ’eye. All were taken on a four-inch wacky worm and released. Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly where that pillar is located.
Presentation begins with the proper jig size. It should be one just heavy enough to feel the bottom and allow jig control. Ted uses the Lindy X-Change jig system that allows you to make quick changes of the jig weight and color when needed.
He recommends 10-pound super braid that’s diameter is the size of two-pound monofilament. This line provides maximum feel and less drag against the water and it’s no-stretch feature has a more positive hook set. He also recommends high-visibility line that allows watching the line for strikes, something you should always do.
Because of the schooling minnows in rivers, two- to four-inch minnows are his first choice, followed by night crawler harnesses and jigs rigged with plastic trailers. He recommends trying several colors of jigs/trailers, at the start, then going with the color the fish are biting.
One other important factor that the pros stress is the proper use of an electric trolling motor — not gas, electric. The stealth and speed control of the electric motor is very important to keep the boat in line. Watch your sonar unit, and keep a buoy marker handy. Where there’s one ’eye, there are usually more. And don’t be afraid to anchor over or near the school and fish it out.
I spoke with Dave Allen of Dave’s Bait and Tackle in Mayfield who is an avid walleye angler, and he gave me a few of his fall ’eye fishing areas. Dave primarily trolls with a worm harness. He and a friend recently hooked up with 32 walleyes, six of which were keepers.
His trolling area choices, in the order he would fish them, are the big shoal out from Sport Island Pub in Northville; Lanzi’s on the Lake Restaurant and the Marina in Mayfield; the sandbar out from Northampton Beach State Campground, also in Mayfield; and the waters in front of Cranberry Creek. On the east side of the lake, the shoals around Sand Island in North Broadalbin. The whole area holds good populations of walleye.
The big bass in Saratoga Lake decided to bite recently, as evidenced by the winning weight in the Greenbush Bass open team tournament. It’s been awhile since a five-bass limit that averaged over three pounds came to the scales at Saratoga.
Dan Binsko of Stillwater and Jim Clyne of Clifton Park did it with their winning catch of 15.62 pounds, worth $550. Second, and earning $345, were Joe Ensel of Latham, and Al Klepper of Saratoga Springs with 14.55 pounds. Third place and $250 went to Adam Bielawa of New Lebanon and Jerry Gibson of Averill Park with 14.29 pounds. Adam and Jerry also received an additional $230 for their tournament lunker, a 4.57-pound largemouth.
The GE dredging of the upper Hudson River, begun in Fort Edward in April, is now below Lock 5. I discovered it last Sunday morning when I launched at Schuylerville and saw the barges. However my guests, Anne and Gerry Edwards of Cohoes, and I had no problem with their presence affecting our fishing.
It was chilly early, and fishing was a bit slow, but it didn’t take long for the bass bite to warm up. Surprisingly, we pulled several
smaller bass out of two feet of water beneath scattered weed patches and large rocks.
Anne hooked up with a nice three-pound largemouth in that same area, and also found out what a big northern pike’s teeth can do to braided line. I also hooked up with what I believe was a big pike, with the same result.
But the big bass of the morning honors went to Jerry when his wacky worm was grabbed by a four-plus-pounder. At first, we didn’t think it was that big, but when it bent Gerry’s rod in half on a run under the boat, we knew it was a good one.
Ironically, we caught that bass and several others less than five yards from one of the anchored dredging barges. Don’t worry about the dredging, the fish are still there, and they’re biting.
Big fish of the week
The week’s big fish honors go to Paul Zostant of Colonie, who was fishing with his wife, Holly, near Lock 7 in Niskayuna. They were fishing for smallmouths, and between them caught eight in the three-pound class.
It was around 2 p.m. when the big pike grabbed Paul’s medium sized shiner and the battle began. He was using 10-pound test line with a 30-pound test leader and a No. 2 circle hook.
“It took me about 15 minutes to land the fish, and it never gave up fighting,” Jerry said.
The pike, which he released after his wife took a photo, weighed in at 21.5 pounds and measured 41.5 inches.