By Mike Frisch
Walleye fishing season is finally here! Many have been waiting for this day since putting the boat away last fall. Now that the season is here, having a good game plan for opening day and the rest of the early season can mean the difference between spring fishing success and frustration.
Choosing the right lake is often key to opening day success, with water temperature being a top consideration. For that reason, I usually like to start on a small, shallow lake that warms quickly. However, this year’s early ice out could mean that some bigger lakes have warmer-than-usual water and produce fish during early season as well.
Finding lakes with warm water is a key, and so is considering recent fishing history. I like to pick a lake that has produced good walleye catches recently. For example, the lakes where I caught good numbers of walleyes from last fall and again last winter are lakes where I will probably fish opening day.
Regardless the lake chosen, I often start my early season search along the lake’s first drop-off where the shoreline flat dumps into deeper water. Specifically, I look for differences along that edge, maybe small turns or points on the drop-off, areas where harder bottom is present, or small areas of emerging weeds as these spots often congregate baitfish drawing in walleyes.
I like to cruise along the drop-off in “search mode” keeping an eye on quality sonar for irregularities along the drop-off and up on the flat, the presence of baitfish, and of course walleyes. I use the CHIRP DownVision and SideVision features on my Raymarine sonar units in conjunction to help me find irregularities, baitfish, and fish holding on the drop-off edge and on the flat.
Regardless whether the fish are on the edge or up on the flat, pitching or slowly trolling or drifting the classic jig and minnow combination is a great way to catch them. Spot-tail shiner minnows are the bait of choice on lakes with good populations of those minnows, while fathead works just as well on lots of small, shallow lakes.
Regardless which minnow is chosen, I prefer a “stand up” style jig head for pitching or slowly trolling/drifting. This style jig allows the bait to “stand up” on bottom on the pause which often attracts fish.
A 1/-8-ounce Stand-Up Fire-Ball is my jig-of-choice for this fishing. My favorite color patterns are parrot and parakeet, though it pays to experiment to find the color the fish are attracted to.
Attracting fish, walleyes in particular, is the goal of many anglers now that opening day is finally here. The tips just offered are designed to do just that. Good luck on the opener and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the Fishing the Midwest TV series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” information!