Check the mud for walleye

Knowing that another long winter lies ahead, I have been spending a lot of time in my boat over the past few weeks, enjoying the nice fall weather we’ve been getting. I received a pair of messages from friends this week asking me about the walleye fishing. The typical humps they had been catching fish on since earlier in the summer were mostly barren, other than the odd fish or two. I have been bass fishing mostly but I’ve also noticed that there are less walleyes on the structure – humps and points – than there was only a couple of weeks back. Where did they go?

The electronics on my boat are my eyes underwater. Most days I rely heavily on them to find fish. Being patient while you look for fish with your electronics instead of just pulling up to a hump and dropping a line is always more effective by the end of the day. There is often going to be a section or edge of a point or hump that walleye and other fish relate to. Watching your electronics for fish under the boat while you slowly idle over these spots is a great method for finding schools of fish.

As you learn to trust your electronics and what they are telling you, you can also see when your favourite spots don’t have any fish on them. Fish can move in the blink of an eye so when I can, I let my electronics tell me if they are on a spot or not. If I don’t see any fish, I’ll move on to the next spot. There are times when you only see a fish or two on your screen but when you actually drop a bait down, many more appear.

Going back to the original question, “where did the walleyes go”, recently I have been seeing schools of fish off the sides of the humps and points in deeper water. If you watch your sonar, I’m finding the walleyes just off the edge of the rocks, where the bottom flattens out. In some basins this might be 20 feet, in others it could be 40. Just remember that if you get fishing too deep, it can be tough to release fish so just catch a few if you intend to eat them and try to find shallower fish.

Crappies and perch often show up in similar locations in the fall in the areas where they can be found. They are always full of small crayfish and invertebrates that live in the soft bottom. I think the walleyes just gorge themselves in these areas this time of year. The walleyes that I’ve been catching this week on these soft bottom flats are all chunky and healthy, like they’ve been eating well.

When you find walleyes, they seem to be quite active and eager to bite. The old standby jig and minnow will work great but you can use artificial baits and catch plenty of fish as well. I’ve been having the best luck with a Ned rig, which is a small plastic worm on a jig head. It’s one of my top bass baits and walleye like too, so I usually just use that. A Smeltinator jig with a soft-bodied minnow like a small Z-Man Jerks ShadZ on it works great as well.

It looks like we’re going to continue to have some nice weather for fishing for at least a little longer so if you get the chance to get back out in the boat, I hope you go for it. If you’re having a tough time finding walleyes don’t be afraid to slide off the hump and into the mud.

Jeff Gustafson with a nice walleye he caught recently. Fall is a great time to get out in the boat to catch some fish.