Walleye are perhaps one of the best tasting fresh water fish on the planet, but they are little known outside the northern reaches that make up their native territory. While you might not get to catch them unless you make the trip up north, catching them can be a fast paced (by fishing standards) way to spend a few hours, and there is a delicious reward at the end.
You can catch walleye by casting or trolling, but the preferred method for us has always been jigging. Since they are (generally) smaller than the Northern Pike in the same Canadian waters, if you use the same medium tackle on them, you are likely to find them a boring fish, and trolling isn’t exactly interesting for most of us.
Our strategy in Canada is simple. First, we scout for good walleye spots. We look for pinches where a shallow spot has a deep spot in its center, and we test them vigorously. Testing usually starts with a troll back and forth with a Thunderstick or other medium to deep water lure. If we get anything, or if we simply can’t believe the spot doesn’t have walleye, we break out the light tackle and engage in jigging.
The jigging set up we use isn’t complicated. A standard rubber grub or a tube tend to work best for us. We have had our best luck with tubes that are either bright yellow or deep blue/purple/black. We usually start with one of us jigging one while the partner takes the other, and we swap when one begins to show more promise. We’ve tried to correlate it to weather, temperature, etc. but so far we’ve found “guess and check” to be the most appropriate method.
Then we drop to the bottom, and in a slow drift, we give it a couple of 6 inch taps every 4-5 seconds. On the up pull, a tiny tug usually means you have one, and if you are careful enough to set the hook, it is usually a slam dunk. We’ve found that any water as shallow as 8 ft. will suffice for excellent fishing.
Some things to remember: you need to set the hook. This seems obvious, but it is the number one reason fish get away. Also, since you are using single hook jigs, you can usually catch and release cleanly, and I encourage it. Keep only what you plan to eat, and, personally, I never keep a trophy fish. If it is a trophy for me, I take the photo, measure it, and return it as quickly as possible so that it can be a trophy for someone else as well.
On a good day, we can pull in over 50 walleye per hour, once we know where to look. We’ve probably set a record of over 100 walleye in a little over an hour with just the two of us in the boat, but I’m sure real professionals with guides could do even better.
When you are packing for your fishing expedition, be sure to pack your jigging gear. With lighter tackle, patience to find them, and cooperative fish, you are bound to have a great fishing trip and go home with plenty of delicious walleye.