Spring walleyes are the first focus of fisherman as winter turns to spring. In order to be successful it is necessary to understand some of the basic patterns of Walleyes at that time of year. Up here in the north, the walleyes can spawn any time from the end of April to the middle of May. This timetable is affected by how early we have warm weather in the spring. My experience has shown me that walleyes do not spawn at the same time. Some walleyes will spawn very early, while most others will spawn during the ideal conditions and others very late. The males arrive on the spawning beds first with the females following when the water conditions are ideal.
So what are ideal spawning conditions? Conditions that ignite the spawning activity are water temperature and rock or rubble shorelines. Water temperatures are a known factor for starting the spawning activity and water temperature is also very important for maximum reproduction. Spawning temperatures of forty degrees will start the spawning action and fifty-two degrees is pretty much the top end of spawning temperature. Rock and rubble shorelines are important structure for a successful hatch. The eggs must have something uneven to fall into to be protected from small predator fish, which will feed on the eggs. To provide ideal spawning conditions the water should warm slowly and constantly with no severe temperature swings or wave action during the gestation and hatching period. On any lake if the north and east shorelines have suitable habitat these areas will see the first schools of walleyes looking to spawn because it is these areas that the sun will be able to warm up the fastest.
When the spawning ritual is complete, these battered and exhausted fish move to the deepest structure of the lake to rest for approximately four to ten days. After the rest period, the walleyes are ravishingly hungry and that's when they move back to their spawning areas and the early spring action is at its best.
We have discussed the spring spawning patterns of walleyes, so now fisherman must use their knowledge and skill to boat some fish. Keep in mind that you must have an exact knowledge of the spring weather patterns so when you arrive at the lake you want to fish, you know what stage the spring spawn pattern is at. If we happen to hit a late spring and the fish are still spawning or in the resting stage, you can still catch some fish, but you will work harder for fewer fish.
The best method to catch spring walleyes also depends on the stage of the spawn period you are fishing. If the fish are between the spawn and the resting period I will load up my reels with 4lb Berkley Vanish line and use a 1/16 oz. Jig tipped with a shiner or a Fathead Chub. If the rest period is over and the fish are back on there spawning areas feeding, I will go up to 6lb. Berkley XL with the old jig and minnow and fish as lite a jig as I can and still occasionally maintain contact with the bottom. In either case, my line of choice is Berkley; I know from experience that Berkley line has low visibility and low memory in cold weather. Start out with a very, very slow retrieve or drift technique as the water is still very cold and the metabolism of the fish is low and sometimes they will not attack a fast moving jig. Start slow and increase your speed, if the walleyes like what you are doing they will let you know. If you have the misfortune to hit a cold front (as little as five degrees lower than the day before) you will find that the walleye action will be noticeably slower.
I hope these tips and patterns will help you this spring and make your outing a memorable day on the water. As always be safe and please practice catch and release.
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2019 Fishing RegulationsMN DNR Fishing Regulation Handbook for 2019
Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
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