Lake Erie Walleye
Summer 2004 Issue
Working Over Summer Walleyes
They’re getting deeper and deeper and there’s nothing you can do about it, except maybe go with them. If you don’t you’re going to be out of luck, especially if you’re trying to put together a decent catch of mid summer walleyes. The thing is things do change, and can happen rather quickly when the July heat switch is turned up on high.
Early season hot spots that had been so productive just a couple of weeks ago may be completely void of old marble eyes now, and it might take some serious moves to get back on the fish. In many cases that next move is a deeper one, followed by a deeper one, and so on and so on. In fact you can almost plot the next move by looking at where they’ve been and searching for the next logical jump. Unfortunately walleyes don’t always operate in a logical matter (at least as it might seem to us), and the only thing you can really do is make an educated guess and then take a look for your self.
There’s good news for anglers chasing summer ‘eyes according to Team Crestliner Member Scott Fairbairn; “The patterns that set up by mid summer are the most consistent of the entire season. Instead of being here today and gone tomorrow walleyes will load up in specific areas where they can be counted on to be found week after week. Another thing that happens is fish that were spread out earlier in the season start to stack up in major schools. Instead of catching a few here and a few over there they tend to come from smaller more specific spots. That can be good or bad, depending on whether or not you’re able to unlock the secrets to their whereabouts.”
Where you look will depend on where the walleyes were last heard from and may include shallower structure like rock and gravel bars and even sand and weed flats. From there you can start to look deeper like to a main lake hump, or underwater point, or the deep edge of a weed flat.
A good contour map and competent electronics can be invaluable when trying to locate the next hot spot and could dramatically shorten up the amount of time you have to spend in the search mode. Even better and faster would be a highly accurate Global Positioning System that could display that same type of map and show exactly where you are in relationship to the contours. Fortunately for us such a system exists and comes in the form of a G.P.S. and fish finder, like the Garmin 178C .
The 178C is a color graph and G.P.S. combination that has the ability to accept and display a series of highly accurate MapSource contour maps. The high definition graph utilizes See-Thru Technology making it possible to see fish holding tight to the bottom, which is a common occurrence whenever walleyes are relating to structure.
If deeper structure is in the picture you’re in luck as fish holding in said areas are easily marked with good electronics. Precious angling time can be saved by investigating likely looking areas thoroughly with your electronics before ever wetting a line. By using electronics that you have confidence in you can look over potential hangouts and be relatively certain whether or not anybody’s home.
If you’re marking fish you can try working through them with a live bait rig tipped with a crawler, leech, or even minnow. Another option is to pick up the pace a little and drag a bouncer and spinner thorough the area.
Team Crestliner Member Rick Olson of Mina, South Dakota will often use a bouncer and a plain hook when targeting walleyes holding tight to structure; “A bouncer helps to get the bait off the bottom and will allow you to drag the bait through rocks, gravel, and even some weeds without constantly hanging up. To give you an example; We were fishing a tournament on Lake St. Claire near Detroit some years back and found big schools of walleyes buried deep in the weeds. We used heavier two and three ounce bouncers to plow a path through the cabbage for the spinner to follow and caught plenty of tournament “keepers” right out if the middle of the big mess.”
Finding walleyes holding on the deep edge of a weed line can be tough, especially if they’re holding up inside the weeds. According to Scott; “You can still find walleyes with your electronics even when they’re buried in the weeds and is where a color graph really helps. By turning down the gain you can actually separate the fish from the weeds and see where they’re holed up.”
Scott will often troll the edge with a live bait rig and crawler if he can get away with it, but if the panfish are causing too much trouble he’ll switch to a leech which can take a beating and still be effective. “Another option is using plastic baits like the Berkley Power Worm, which can be extremely effective and will often out produce the real thing.” He’ll also go back and strain an area with a jig if he feels there might be more fish present. “I’ll use a weedless jig like the Norhtland Tackle Weed-Weasel in a 1/8 or 1/4 oz size, depending on how deep it is, and tip it with a leech or piece of crawler. With the Weed-Weasel you can actually pitch the jig well into the weeds and slowly work it out to the edge without constantly hanging up.”
There’s another pattern that deserves some attention and includes suspended walleyes in basin areas. Fairbairn has spent countless hours chasing down suspended fish and states that walleyes will suspend earlier and later in the season, but it’s the mid summer period that sees the heaviest concentrations. He’s also developed highly efficient methods for finding and catching basin runners, and includes the proper use of electronics.
When he’s looking for fish in unfamiliar waters he’ll cruise back and forth over basin areas while barely running on plane and watch for blobs on his fish finder that are holding anywhere from top to bottom. “When you’re on plane you won’t see the nice arcs and detail like you would when running slow, but the graph will still show the return of fish, or even schools of bait. If and when you do see something, get off plane and scan the area nice and slow and give it a real good look. If you’re marking bait you’re probably in the right neighborhood and should keep looking until you start to see some heavier arcs and make note of how deep most of the fish are holding. From there you can set up a trolling run using crank baits or spinners and try to target a bait to run just over the tops of the bigger marks.”
Deep, deeper, or even suspended, there are definitely some solid opportunities in store for mid summer anglers. Yes it’s going to take a little investigative work to get the job done but somebody has to do it, and it might as well be you, Scott, Rick or me. See you on the water.