Lake Erie Walleye
Fall 2004 Issue
Walleyes Under the Bridge
There are good solid walleye patterns that set up late in the open water season and one of the best is close at hand. As close as it is, unfortunately for many anglers, the best of the last is often overlooked. It could be that they simply donít know what theyíre missing. If they did you might have to share a spot occasionally with someone else but that isnít the case, at least not yet.
The hot late season pattern in question is a unique one that includes a bridge and at least some current. Bridges that have extended embankments can create necked down areas whereby current is concentrated and funneled through smaller, easily defined channels.
Current can be a real magnet for attracting foraging walleyes as they instinctively know that a good flow can deliver scads of baitfish right to their doorstep. To get fed they simply have to wait for the next ďmeals without wheelsĒ delivery which conserves energy and provides an efficient manner for putting on the layers of fat necessary to get through the upcoming hard water period.
Reservoirs that have bridges spanning creek arms and bays can really heat up by late season as there is almost always some current flowing beneath them. The fall draw down drops existing water levels and creates current with or without an incoming and flowing creek or river. Natural lakes that connect via a small channel or a bridge with an extended embankment can also provide the same opportunities as long as there is current present. Without an incoming creek or river you may or may not have enough current to attract foraging walleyes depending on the existing conditions. In that case the key would be the presence of strong winds that push current through necked down areas and pile up water on one side or the other. Even after winds have settled down there can still be sufficient current present as water returns and stabilizes to normal levels.
Smaller bridges can make the process of finding and catching walleyes easier as there are only so many areas that can hold active fish. Look for walleyes to stack up at the base of the break where the embankment meets the bottom of the channel, although they can still be caught further up the break into shallower water.
Pitching jigs, vertical jigging, and live bait rigging are three of the top presentations for extracting bridge bound walleyes. Pitching lighter jigs in the 1/16oz range tipped with smaller minnows can be just the ticket for nailing shallower running fish while vertical jigging and rigging may be better suited for working the deeper channel. Vertical jigging with a heavy jig tipped with a chub minnow can be extremely deadly, especially if youíre after big fish. To keep a big minnow down it takes some extra weight and means jigs in the 3/8oz range or more. A live bait rig with a slip sinker and three foot snell and plain hook can be tossed out and allowed to sit while waiting for tell tale tap in the rod tip or the line starting to move off. A Coleman lantern and high vis line can make a real difference in the detection of the lightest of bites.
Excellent fall minnows includes the chub family, like red tails and creek chubs. The problem is that they are often hard to find and can be expensive but are worth the money and the drive if you can get your hands on them. A good option that may be more readily available is sucker minnows which seem to get more active in the cooler water temperatures of late fall and are hit just as hard as the chubs.
While there can be plenty of below the bridge action timing is critical, and you better be prepared to burn the midnight oil to get in on your share of the fun. The last half hour at dusk and the first half hour after dark can produce the hottest action of the night, but you never know for sure and may have to wait till midnight or later to find out if old marble eyes is making use of the area. Typically you get a good run at dusk and then spurts of activity as active schools of fish move in and out all night long.
Getting to a hot spot and back to the ramp can be made much easier and safer with the aid of a Global Positioning System that has a chart plotter like that of the Raymarine C120. Itís easy to get confused after dark as things really donít look the same and you can get into trouble fast. A GPS that shows you exactly where youíve been and how to get back to where you started can be a big help. Another helpful tool is the use of a highly accurate and detailed Navionics map that can be displayed on the Ray marine C120. The Navionics map displayed on the C120 can show where you are and where youíve been, all in relation to shorelines, contour lines, and even bridges.
Big eye poppin walleyes is what itís all about , as some of my biggest fish have come from under a bridge late in the fall at night. Some of the better lakes are those that are a tough number during the rest of the open water season. One early November thirteen day stretch on a particular reservoir that rarely gives up a summer walleye produced at least one fish over eight pounds every night, and included two of the biggest walleyes Iíve ever caught. The moon phases surrounding the full and dark moons have proven to be the best times to be out and includes the day of and the three days before and after these two periods.
Making the decision to give late night bridges a go can be a good one. The peace and solitude of a quiet night can be extremely rewarding, and thereís a good chance youíll have it all to yourself. The combinationof all that ambience and a shot at a real hawg is worth losing a little sleep over.