Written by Andrew Schadegg
All the Midwest and Northern anglers frequently get forgotten when articles and videos come out on spring fishing in the early part of the season. While most of the country is still in full spring fishing mode, in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin you are not legally allowed to target many species until May. This includes smallmouth, largemouth and of course the most sought-after gamefish throughout this part of US and Canada, the walleye.
The good news...it's coming soon!
Studies on the famous Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota show that 50 percent of the annual walleye catch occurs within the first month of the season opener. That means this next month is the time for you to get on the lake and start targeting walleye at your local waters.
Learn the Spawning Areas
Most of the north won’t be catching walleye during the spawn, unless you are really far north or up in Canada. Walleye typically spawn when water temperatures reach the mid-40’s. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t understand the migration patterns of the walleye in your local water. Once the season starts, typically the water temps will be in the low to mid 50’s, but knowing where the walleye just spawned in the few weeks prior will really help you locate them in the postspawn.
Typically, walleye are going to spawn in shallow water less than 6 feet deep on rocky shorelines, gravel bottom areas in feeder creeks and bays. When you learn the spawning spots you can more easily figure out the mid-depth areas between their spawning areas and the deeper summer structure where walleye will eventually end up. Pay close attention to the postspawn spots that have a lot of grass and rock, as they tend to be primary transition areas.
Pick the Right Baits
Once you identify the areas that walleye will spend a lot of the time between spawn and summer, picking the right presentations should be the next priority on the list. The standard jig and minnow is always an effective choice and one that many anglers swear by this time of year. Don’t sleep on artificial lures this time of year though.
This is a fantastic time of year to throw crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits, lipless baits or jigheads paired with grubs or minnows. With swimbaits, think in terms of smaller 3-4 inch paddle tail style. This is perfect when paired with a ball head or jig head. Crankbaits and other hard baits, try matching the hatch with minnow style colors or something similar to the forage in your body of water.
Shake off the dust of the winter and get out to enjoy the season opener in your state! It’s a great time to target lots of species, especially walleye.