Walleyes in the Weeds

February 23, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

 

Its easier to fish walleyes in the spring when weed growth is minimal. In the summer the fish are still there, but require precision to get them out.

It's easier to fish walleyes in the spring when weed growth is minimal. In the summer the fish are still there, but require precision to get them out.

The lake that I fish the most is not what you would classify as a “traditional” walleye lake. The lake does not contain any mud flats or rocky points. It is a weedy lake, and the walleyes are weed walleyes. I have found that cabbage flats that are ten to fourteen feet can produce highly productive fishing all year long. Walleyes, largemouth bass and pike all feed in cabbage because certain types of minnows take refuge within them. When fishing for walleyes on these weedy lakes, a good place to start is a cabbage flat on your lake you consistently catch pike on. A wise fisherman once taught me that wherever there are pike, walleyes are just a step behind.

The DNR often stocks walleyes on these weedy lakes to help grow their populations. These weedy lakes do not contain the rocky and sandy shallows that are required for excellent walleye production. Therefore they stock walleyes in these weedy lakes to keep their populations up and fisherman happy.

These stocked walleyes develop different habits than naturally raised fish. For starters, they learn that in order to survive they have to seek the shelter of weeds for protection. As the stocked walleyes grow, they learn that in these same weeds they can hunt baitfish.

On the lake I fish the ratio is very low, walleyes to bass, because the bass have good natural reproduction. To the surprise of many, largemouth bass have the most drastic effect on a walleye population of any species in a typical Midwest lake. They are known to forage on young walleyes. Typically I catch roughly twenty largemouths for every walleye I boat. I know that there are walleyes in the lake and it is the challenge that keeps me in pursuit of them. While fishing for walleyes, I have no complaints about catching largemouth bass on a consistent basis. Too often people assume that you have to throw spinner baits or worms in the shallows to catch bass.

The waves created by wind that help increase fish catches on traditional lakes could also help anglers on weedy lakes. These waves are what most fishermen refer to as the “walleye chop”. The waves help to break down the light caused by the sun and that allows game fish to seek prey in the shallows. Fishing for weed walleyes in shallow cabbage flats under these conditions are the best, but they can still lurk in shadows on windless days when overhead cover is present.

Find the areas where the weeds transition into hard bottom and chances are the fish will be there at times during the day.

Find the areas where the weeds transition into hard bottom and chances are the fish will be there at times during the day.

Using slip bobbers is the easiest way I have found to reach weed walleyes without spending your whole day taking weeds off of other traditional methods. When slip bobbering in the weeds, placing the sinker closer to the hook will help reduce hang-ups. I prefer to use leeches for bait while fishing with slip bobbers for walleyes. Minnows can work well too, but I feel that pike often reach the minnow before walleyes and bass. The same goes for crawlers with small bluegills at times. Typically I place the leech anywhere from a foot to four feet from the bottom depending on the depth. The deeper the water the farther from the bottom you can present the bait. Weed walleyes have no problem coming up to get the leech and are often suspended off the bottom. When fishing with multiple people, I start by having everyone fish a different depth till we find the depth the fish are at.

Bobber fishing is my personal favorite way to fish. It involves finesse and you never know what is on the other end of the line when your bobber goes down. For me fishing is something I do to relax and starring at a bobber in the lake is very relaxing. It is also easy for children and inexperienced fisherman to use bobbers. Introducing people to the outdoors could be the most valuable way of keeping the outdoor activities we enjoy so much around for generations to come.

Slip bobber fishing is not the only way to fish for the walleyes that feed in the weeds. At night, when walleye fishing is traditionally the best, I like to cast shallow diving crank baits just over the top of the cabbage. This technique is best early in the year before water levels lower and weeds grow tall. There are seldom distractions from other boaters at night, making the outings quite peaceful.

Even on weedy lakes there are water depths that never get sunlight and therefore do not contain weeds. The magic number seems to be about 25 feet in most lakes I fish. In late July and early August I like to drag leeches with live bait rigs in these deep holes, right where the weeds stop and the bottom transitions. Cabbage flats, making it convenient for walleyes to catch a snack when needed, usually will indicate the best holes.

The fall is the best time for speed trolling for walleyes on any lake. I have had the most success doing this with perch colored Shad raps due to the main forage present. Trolling weed lines in the mornings and evenings can be very productive because the fish are preparing for the winter by feeding heavily. If nothing else you should have enough action with pike while trolling to keep the entertainment level in the boat high.

The most important thing about fishing for walleyes on weedy lakes is thinking outside the box. Do not be afraid to try things that you would normally not do to catch walleyes. For example, I have seen walleyes on my lake boated on both spoons and spinner baits when the weather and seasonal conditions are perfect to turn on aggression. Be persistent and patient and you will have success.


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