Tip # 33 – Finding and Catching Open Water Walleye (Pickeral)
Walleye, the fish that you hear everyone speak of when they talk about shore lunch, fresh dinner at the trailer, and even at the local seafood markets. These fish are probably one of the tastiest fish, and they can also be one of the hardest to catch. This species has a few different names that all relate to the same fish. Yellow Pike, Walleye, Walleyed Pike, and Pickeral, which actually has two different spellings and may be spelled this way: pickerel. The problems in catching them are mainly that they don’t feed much throughout the day, but prefer the hour or two both before dawn and after dusk.
If you plan to head out, with walleye being your prey, you best be prepared to head out when it is dark. These fish are nocturnal feeders. Their eyes are built to see in the dark, and are very sensitive to sunlight. They don’t attack baits as aggressively as other fish do, and a slow, steady approach is always a good start when working lures. Cast out and retrieve very slowly, starting close to bottom and trying to retrieve at a slightly higher depth with each subsequent cast until you hook up.
One of the best methods I’ve found when fishing open water for walleye is as follows.
Set up your rig with a drop shot fishing rig. If you are not sure what that is, check out the drop shot rig tip for directions on how to set it up. Simply put, tie on a hook, leave about a 24 inche tag end of line. To that 24 inches of line, attach at the end an 1/8 ounce bell sinker. Bait the hook with whatever bait you choose. For good walleye bait, I’ve had luck with crayfish, minnows (dead or alive), worms, etc.
Cast out your setup, preferably as far as you can, and let it sink to the bottom. Once it hits bottom, begin to retrieve your bait at an absolute crawl. Very very slow retrieve is the key here. You want to be able to feel the weight gently dragging on the bottom. If you feel something that seems anything like a bite, no matter how light it is, stop the retrieve. If the bite continues, slowly raise your rod and finally set the hook.
This method I’ve found to be one of the best methods for catching walleye during the open water season.