From the August 2011 issue

Test Your Walleye IQ

By Ted Takasaki

Testing your fish IQ can be fun, informative and useful when it comes to outsmarting your favorite species. The more you know, the better informed you’ll be when you’re trying to track down a trophy or a meal.
    We’re reminded of Joe Friday on Dragnet, if you’re old enough to remember that early television classic. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Where and when do walleye spawn?
    Regardless of the body of water that walleye inhabit, they spawn in temperatures around 42 to 54 degrees in shallow water on gravel or hard bottom. They need flowing water to provide oxygen to the eggs and to keep silt from smothering them. There is a theory that walleye evolved within river systems. When available, they will return to rivers and creeks to spawn. They will also spawn on rocky, mid-lake humps.

How many eggs does a mature female walleye lay?
    This was a recent question put to us and we had to look up the answer ourselves. Female walleye lay approximately 50,000 to 60,000 eggs per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of body weight. Do the math. A 5-pound fish can lay 300,000 eggs! A 10-pound fish can produce over a half a million.
    Walleye are broadcast spawners. Parents abandon their offspring and provide no protection for the young, which are born into a harsh eat-or-be-eaten world. Of the eggs laid, only about 5 to 20 percent actually hatch. Only one of every 10,000 of those will survive. It’s easy to see why releasing those pre-spawn females is important.

What is the walleye’s preferred temperature range?
    Walleye have a reputation for liking cool water. We suspect that’s based on the spawning temperature. But scientists say walleye like 60 to 70 degrees, and some say they’re most active at 73 degrees. It’s a key bit of information to know since water temperature is the single most important determining factor on where walleye will be.
    Remember this motto from our friend, walleye pro Jason Przekurat: “North, south, outside, in.” This means that walleye are active on the north side of lakes first where water warms first. They then spread to the south around the rim. As water continues to warm, they head towards deeper water and mid-lake structures when available. As fall approaches, the migration is reversed.

So how good are their eyes really?
    Walleye have eyes more light sensitive than humans. This explains why they’re most active in twilight or after dark when they see well but their prey can’t. It also explains why walleye can be found very deep in clear water or in cover, such as weeds, or on the windy side of a lake, or on a reef where waves cut light penetration. Yellow perch, which are closely related to walleye, lack the same eye construction, so they are often a walleye’s preferred meal.
    Walleye also see shades of color, mostly yellow, green and orange. They are rumored to be blind to colors like blue. But remember, water clarity and depth affect the actual color they can see, so what they react to best will vary with conditions from day to day. We’ve seen situations when blue can be the preferred color over everything else.

Do walleye rely only on sight?
    No way. They have extremely well developed lateral lines and sensors which permit them to sense prey many feet away. They can actually single out a baitfish swimming erratically from the rest of the school. They can feed 50 feet down in murky water.

Walleye eat mostly other fish, right?
    The answer to that is yes, and no. Walleye are opportunistic, which means that they will eat what’s available. Walleye start off by eating plankton during their early days, shift to insects, and later to other fish. Even adult fish eat insects when they are handy. Shiners, perch and other small fish can be the primary forage depending on the body of water and the time of year.

Are rainstorms a good thing when it comes to walleye fishing success?
    Again, yes, and no. Cloud cover and wind favor active feeding because of reduced light penetration and low pressure which frees fish of all kinds to be more active. But scientists believe walleye are especially sensitive to lightning and thunder, which can turn them off. Stable weather is often good because walleye will turn to predictable feeding patterns and stay in the same locations for a while.

Does moon phase matter?
    The answer to that question depends on who is asked. We couldn’t find a scientific study on the topic, but when fishermen are asked, they all seem to have an opinion. The conclusion is… Just as many big walleye are caught during each moon phase—new, first quarter, full and last quarter.

What tactics are best to catch walleye?
    Thousands of articles and books are written about this topic. It can be confusing. But there is an easy way to think about this. Ask yourself but one question: what technique will show a lure to the most walleye in the least time? That is the name of the game after all. The more walleye that see your live bait or lure, the higher the odds are that one will take what you are offering. Are the fish stacked on a mid-lake hump in a small area? Then target them with jigs, a Lindy Rig, or a slip bobber. Are they spread over a huge area like you’ll find in spots like Lake Erie’s Western Basin? Then troll lures or spinners. Start at the upper end of the trolling speed right for what bait you are using and slow down if you have to. With crankbaits, your speed should be about 1.5 mph up to 2.8 mph. Spinners work best down from 0.8 mph up to 1.7 mph.
    Did you “ace” the course? A good grade translates to you having a better chance to put walleye in your boat.

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