Great Lakes Walleye 101

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Singing Bridge
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Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:19 am

Dan wrote: You should do a step by step post about how your finding and catching all these walleye!


Per Dan’s request, here goes… This post is regarding a portion of my technique used to catch Great Lakes walleye. Most of my effort has been in Lake Huron and a much smaller portion of it has been in eastern Lake Erie. My post is not intended to imply that I know what would work best in your Great Lake walleye fishing area and I am not a walleye pro (although I often outfish them :mrgreen: ). Rather, I am an average beast who hopes that perhaps you can plug a tip or two into the equation you use to be successful in your area. Who knows, maybe it will even help in a walleye area outside of the great lakes- at least that is my hope. I have spent countless hours walleye fishing on inland lakes, rivers and reservoirs as well.

One aspect of Great Lake walleye fishing that I believe is critical is the development of a walleye fishing network. You don’t hear much about this, but the “top guns”, pro or otherwise, have networks of walleye fishermen to provide critical information for any upcoming trip. I have a series of fisherman on my cell phone that I have placed into a group so that I can text them all with the same message at any time. A typical text message to my network of walleye fishermen may read, “launching out of Gambils tomorrow, what’s the latest?” I will usually get a few responses that provide me with critical information.

However, when I go fishing on my own I automatically provide my network of guys with critical information that may influence their next walleye trip- whether it is tomorrow or in a few days. They do the same for me. At the end of the day I use my smartphone to take a pic of the fish in my livewell and attach it to a text message that I forward to my network EVERY TIME I FISH. I include such information as where I launched, gps coordinates for where I found the walleye, fow (feet of water), setback distance of lures (spinners, spoons or crankbaits, etc.), trolling speed in tenths of a mile per hour (1.5 mph, for example as a couple of tenths of miles per hour can make a critical difference) and colors that were most productive that day. It may surprise you to know that color is far from what I consider to be most important.

If you and your friends spend a lot of time walleye fishing a certain area this networking technique can place you far ahead of others. It doesn’t matter if you spend most of your time fishing an inland lake, Great Lake, river or reservoir… the information acquired from this networking will keep you in the game. Never is this networking more important than the ice fishing season. Even with perfect conditions for a snowmobile or quadrunner, your ability to find fish is severely lessened in comparison to summer boating. A network of friends getting you in the best spot for ice fishing makes all the difference- from just a fish or two with little info all the way up to limit catches with good information.

Other resources are fishing forums online- but that requires filtering out the truth. Find some posters that give free information that you find to be true when you fish yourself and observe their posts and forget about the rest. There are also charter captains that post about their success and technique and they don’t exaggerate much… most of the time. I won’t get into the information sources that most of us have used for years, such as bait shops, guys at the launch / locals and such.

Okay, so you have obtained decent information from your network and are out on the incredible vastness of one of the Great Lakes. You arrive at your intended destination and… “where’s the fish?” They’ve moved and we all know how nomadic Great Lakes walleye are. In a couple of days they can move a fair distance. So what do we do now? Well, if you have modern electronics it’s time to put them to work. Hopefully the big school hasn’t moved too far away. Learn how to manually adjust your electronics as this can aid you greatly. I find the control for my ping speed… that’s how fast the sound waves are shot out from your transducer and influences how quickly they return to your graph- showing you fish. When set on auto, you really can’t move very fast and still be able to see walleyes on your screen. I take it off of “auto” and manually adjust it to its highest speed. This allows me to see walleyes while running at 25 mph and I can cover a lot of ground in a hurry in my search for their location. When running like this there will be clutter on the screen but I can still see the walleyes… it won’t be the perfect “upside down U” we see but rather a noticeable blob. When I see a bunch of walleyes on the screen I slow down and take a closer look.

What do you do when you don’t have electronics as advanced as this? I like to run a half mile, slow down to trolling speed and take a look, followed by running another half mile and stopping again, over and over until I find fish. What do you do with very simple electronics, say on a small inland lake? Set up upwind of a point or other underwater structure and let the wind blow you across it while you watch the screen like a hawk. Your engine should be OFF as it scares fish. If you have an electric motor on your boat use it to speed your observation up across the structure. I have found and caught countless fish this way when I was a kid with my 14 foot aluminum boat with a 10 HP Johnson outboard on the back.

On the Great Lakes, I am a huge proponent of a very powerful, bow mount electric motor. 24 volt and 36 volt systems are commonplace now. On my little boat I have a 24 volt electric motor with two deep cycle batteries for trolling and a cranking battery for the engine. Bigger boats have 36 volt systems with three trolling batteries to go along with the cranking battery. I and they have multiple bank chargers installed on our boats. This allows us to use one (1) extension cord to plug into our onboard charger and it charges all the batteries on the boat to maximum overnight. When finished a green light comes on the charger and I know all batteries are good to go.
Over the last decade-plus, electric motor trolling has really caught on… but why? Well, when the fish are shallower than 30 feet and you are using your main engine- I’m going to outfish you! Not everyone believes this, but you don’t want to fish by me whether you are a charter captain or not- I’m going to make you look bad! Don’t get me wrong, when you are in an area that is loaded with fish, it isn’t going to matter a whole lot as the boards used to get your lines away from the boat will keep you in the game. But in addition to those lines, the electric allows me the ability to keep from spooking a lot of the fish under the boat even when the water is clear. I am able to run lines right off the boat (longlines) and catch walleye. Why is this important? It allows me to be more efficient. I can real in a walleye, net it and get the lure back out quicker. This holds true even when a boat is using the big boards with a mast and a quick line attachment. The electric trolling allows me the ability to do this. There weren’t any charter captains that limited in 15 minutes like I did the other day… they have a lot more guys on their boat, but they didn’t hook fish as quickly as I did. They have to do what is practical for them and I do the same. The electric trolling system really shines with a tough bite and few fish. With the quiet electric I spook a lot less walleye which ups my odds for success over the guys running their main engine.

If the fish are 70 feet down, it won’t make a huge difference spooking fish but I have better success for another reason… the ability to precisely control my trolling speed. I believe the number one factor that makes the average joe struggle on the Great Lakes when it comes to catching walleye is their INABILITY TO SLOW THEIR BOAT DOWN ENOUGH to troll effectively. With the exception of very rough water with waves over 3 feet (not my idea of a good time anyway) I can precisely control my boat’s trolling speed down to incredibly slow speeds. While I’m cranking in fish one after another at 0.8 mph and you are wondering why- there’s quite a difference between my speed and 2.2 mph… sometimes all the difference.

But wait, there’s more (are you getting the idea I like electric trolling?)! My electric not only allows me precise trolling speeds, the autopilot makes me hands-free for fishing. I set the speed and direction with the controller (just like a video game) and it maintains them hands-free! I do not have to have my hands on the main engine steering wheel whatsoever- no one on the boat is committed to this task. Now we are really talking efficient. My brother also has the “lock in place” button on his controller for his electric. He is able to motor over a school of Great Lakes perch and hit this button which commands his electric to hold his boat in place (within 4 feet). It points the boat into the wind and holds the position. He does not need to anchor at all and is completely hands-free to fish… he lowers his perch lines over the side of the boat and reels them in… talk about efficient!

Alright, back to Great Lakes trolling for walleye. Once you have found fishable numbers of walleye and are ready to attack them, there are still multiple considerations that may increase your catch. Trolling speed, setback of lures, the depth you want the lures trolled… your lure of choice, color… all of these things you need to figure out on your own. Hopefully your network got you pointed in the right direction- if not, get to work! If you keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing since you left the dock and you aren’t catching walleye, don’t fall for the trap of “I’m waiting for the bite to turn on”. Overall you are going to have a poor day of fishing. When you get to the point where you are taking large numbers of walleye at high noon with bright sun and crystal clear water… you know you’ve dialed in the fish. My brother and I like these conditions and we use them to challenge ourselves- this is how you expand your horizons and become a better fishermen. Let me give you an example- when I fished the port of Au Gres on Lake Huron the day before yesterday, several times I grabbed a long line out of the rod holder and held it to the side of the boat. I “speed” reeled it in for five (5) feet and stopped… most of the time I did this nothing happened, but I also caught three (3) walleye by doing this- they slammed the lure as soon as I stopped reeling and I set the hook. Sure beats watching a dead line…

Once you have the fish dialed in milk it for everything its worth… then when the fishing slows again, make rapid and calculated adjustment until you dial them in again. Speed, direction, set back behind the boat, lure profile (notice I haven’t mentioned lure color yet?). I’m not going to get too deep on lures, colors and the like but would be glad to answer any questions. Please add any tips of your own, I’m here to learn as well!

This is but a portion of what I do, but I hope fellow beasts fishing the Great Lakes found something of value in it. Scott
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If trolling is the name of your game, crawler harnesses are tough to beat for first timers to the area (spinners). They work in all open water seasons rather well. Blade size is usually pretty large on the Great Lakes, I like size # 5 and sometimes larger. You will need a weighting system to get your spinner down to the fish, I like in line weights called "fish weights." they are molded and painted to look like fish and weigh anywhere from a half ounce up to several ounces. I put them about five feet in front of the blades. Bottom bouncers work great on the big water as well, and yes you can use them for suspended fish too- they will hit it just fine. About 3 or 4 feet ahead of the harness will work best as when you fish near the bottom anything much longer will often start to drag. Snap on weights can be put on any length you wish ahead of the spinner. Always try to pick off the highest marks of walleye on your graph as these fish are the most active. If you are marking good numbers of fish on your graph at mid-depth and on the bottom, assume their are walleyes in the top ten feet of the water column even if its high noon and sunny. On the inner Saginaw Bay I'd say close to 90 percent of my fish come from the top ten feet of water over 20 - 25 feet. Away from these nursery areas when the fish move deeper for cooler water and larger forage, target the bottom five (5) feet of the water column. The day may start with fish ten feet off the bottom but by midmorning you will typically see your marks drop down.

Crankbaits and spoons, find what the locals like and go for it! Casting jigs and bladebaits will require a variety of sizes. For example jigs would have me bringing 1/16 ounce all the way up to 3/4 of an ounce. I target a variety of structure such as giant, cement based bouys all the way to weedlines off the coast in 12 - 16 feet of water. For some reason most people ignore the weeds all summer and they are loaded with fish- and good sized walleye to boot. Even during the dog days, these weeds hold fish. Slip bobbers work well on calm days near the outside edge of the weeds as well as in pockets, just like on inland lakes. I have an acquaintence that fishes the weeds all summer and he is always the only boat there... he kills the walleye / bass / pike.
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Trolling after dark, especially with an electric, is one of the best techniques there is for Toad Walleye. A lot of guides and Pro's have made names for themselves doing just that. Here in Michigan, Mark Martin guided this way decades ago, and inherited the technique from his father and grandfather- a multi generational method of taking big walleyes in one family.

This reminds me to bring up one of the most unique, intriguing types of walleye fishing I have ever done. You can do it with buddies too, but to take in the ultimate experience I recommend trying it yourself on the Great Lakes. It will be an experience you always remember...

Find a stretch of Great Lakes shoreline that is rocky, perhaps a big point that juts out into the lake... figure out a way to access the shoreline legally, whether from a launch / park / someone you know, or whatever. Show up around midnight and don a pair of waders. Grab your walleye rod with a tied on floating #13 Rapala and wade out waist deep... begin casting as you slowly and carefully work your way down the shoreline.

The lights of the homes and cottages along the shoreline... the sound of the waves in the dark striking the beach... the glow of the nighttime sky over the water... the lights of a Great Lakes freighter on the distant horizon... will leave you with a nearly surreal experience of fishing... a memory that I don't forget.

Just like bucky mentioned, there are very large walleyes to be had in the shallows at night. What most Great Lakes fisherman do not realize is that Beast walleyes, 7 - 10 pounds, cruise into the shallows in the middle of the night to feed. They come in much shallower than even the tiniest boat can acesss, I'm talking knee deep water.

Casting into the darkness in this amazing setting will really become interesting when a 28" walleye grabs your Rapala right in front of your waders! They are fresh water sharks on the feed, searching for minnows, crayfish and other small fish...

Don't live anywhere near one of the Great Lakes? Find and access an inland lake shoreline that is rocky and use the same technique... been there, done that!

I can't recommend enough that you try this at least once in your lifetime- you won't forget it!
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If it gets the job done, that's all that really matters! I'd try to save up and get one that shows the fish, for the simple fact that there are a lot of overlooked walleye on inland lake and reservoirs that suspend and can turn your fishing from slow to dynamite. It goes without saying that Great Lakes walleye suspend and you need to know how high to be efficient. You can figure it out on any given day without knowing, but it takes a lot of trial and error. Let me give you a real life example, back when in-line planer boards first started showing up in the midwest. I was invited to a resort in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Gogebic. The fishing for walleye and perch had been slow, as the locals and all the guests up and down the lake used traditional, bottom oriented tactics to pound humps, points and the bottom in general. I had just mail ordered and brought with me the "new" inline planer boards. I ran the Lake to a few different spots and watched my graph while shut down like a hawk. Hmmmm, tons of fish 12 feet down over 32 feet of water. Could they be walleye? I tied on Hot-N-Tots and let out enough line to get them 10 - 11 feet down. With modest sunshine and clear water, I trolled with my main engine and used the inline boards to kick the lures out away from the boat. I immediately had triple and quadruple headers (4 walleyes on at once). I had an absolute blast, as did my buddies on my boat, and we cleaned 30 walleyes after lunch. Neighbors from nearby resorts as well as locals came over and asked a lot of questions. Unknown to me, this stunned the walleye fisherman in the area and word quickly spread. The next morning I walked out of our cabin and began hauling gear to my boat. Doors to lodges and cabins quickly opened up and down the shoreline and guys stood by their boats. Hmmm, I thought, that's kind of strange... I finished hauling my gear and looked up and down the shoreline again, and all these guys were pretending not to watch me... but they weren't going anywhere. My buddies and I fired up my boat's engine and began idling out onto the lake. Amazingly, the other fishermen all jumped into their boats and slowly motored out after I was a short distance away. Very strange. I looked behind me and an entire flotilla of boats was pointed in my direction and keeping their distance. It finally dawned on me that these guys figured it was my location that had made all the difference while fishing the prior day- they didn't get that it was technique. It's kinda like the guys that think if they hunt where Dan Infalt hunts they will kill big bucks all the time... when in reality they don't stand much of a chance and he can go to where they hunt and kill big bucks. Anywho, I decided to have a little fun. Lake Gogebic is very long North and South and I raced Up and down the lake with all these boats following me!! After a while they realized they'd been had. I went back to trolling and slaying the fish, a lot of them trolled nearby but never figured it out.

My point? this was a traditional "pound the bottom for walleye lake" and no one was thinking outside the box. Being able to see the suspension level of the walleyes allowed me pound them. btw, my other buddy had a boat and Hot-N-Tots too, but no in-line boards. He Had to fish right behind his boat with lures and NEVER CAUGHT A SINGLE WALLEYE WHILE TROLLING. It became very apparent that our boats were spooking the fish IN A BIG WAY. Without those boards to get the lures out away from the boat, I would have struggled mightily. We didn't have electric motors on either boat.
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Some great posts and additions, especially for the budget minded angler- appreciate you putting them up, guys. Here's a couple of more tips:

Regarding how much line you let out and not having a line counter reel- you can also use the traveler that goes back and forth on your trolling or casting reel to measure distance. With a reasonably full spool and the traveler at the edge of your reel, pull line out until the traveler crosses the face of the reel one time. Then measure the amount of line that came out during the pass. For example, if one pass = 7 feet, you can place your lure in the water and let the traveler cross the face of the reel 10 times which will equal 70 feet of line out. Remember that's one pass across the reel... not across the reel and back.

C & T already covered measuring the line against the boat. Measure from your square stearn forward along one side of the boat to the ten foot mark or so... put a piece of electric tape or other marker there, say at the ten foot mark. Then put your lure in the water while standing on the opposite side of the boat. Tap your rod tip down on the back corner of the stearn of rear of the boat on the same side as the tape... slowly let line out while swinging the rod tip forward to the tape and when you get there stop... while preventing any more line from coming out with your thumb, slowly swing the rod tip back to the stearn corner once again. You have let ten feet of line out and can repeat the process as many times as needed.

Snap weights were mentioned to clip onto your line in various weights at whatever lead ahead of your harness or lure that you choose... a very inexpensive alternative is to use rubbercore sinkers, the ones shaped like an egg. You can get them in 1 ounce but also in a wide variety of weights. You can twist them onto your line wherever you want ahead of the harness or lure and they are dirt cheap. I have caught countless limits of walleyes while using them years ago.

C & T also mentioned a formula that is reasonably well known for getting your lure to the fish at a precise depth without having to buy the "Precision Trolling Guide." Yet it isn't known by guys just getting into walleye fishing...

If you troll at one mile per hour and have a one ounce weight on your line, however deep you want your lure to run let out twice that amount of line behind the boat- and it will troll at that depth. Here's an example:

Lets say it is very early in the morning and you are marking fish up off the bottom a ways, lets say they are consistently marking at twenty (20) feet below the surface. I want to troll just slightly above that, as walleyes look and feed upward... not downward, the vast majority of the time. So, I want my crawler harness trolling at eighteen (18) feet below the surface. Trolling at one mile per hour, with a one ounce weight ahead of my crawler harness, I want to let out 36 feet of line. That will place my harness right at the eighteen foot level below the surface.
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Dose that work with any line type or weigh? Also, what about when your at a different speed such as .8 mph or 1.5 mph? How much dose that affect the depth? What about blade size. It seems like an inaccurate system from the charts I have seen. Is there a good accurate guide/reference chart that can help with this?


That formula puts you in the ballpark with most monofilament weights used for trolling, say 8 or 10 pound test. Superlines and 30 lb mono aren't being represented there. Trolling speed is critical to being in the ballpark with your presentation- trolling at .8 mph might not change your depth of presentation a whole bunch but 1.5 sure will when compared to trolling at 1.0 mph.

The guide / reference chart you are hoping for is put on a few lure boxes these days, but if you don't want to have to go to work and experiment a bit you should shell out the money for the Precision Trolling Guide. You will need to use the pound test and "type" of line represented there, but it is worth the expense if you quickly want your presentation "in the zone."

I want to touch on something regarding the "1 ounce at 1 mph plus twice the depth of the fish in let back" formula plus any other type of presentation used for walleye- EVEN IF YOU ALREADY OWN THE PRECISION TROLLING GUIDE- if you are not willing to work for your fish you are going to have many days that you struggle. You can own the fanciest lures and guides, have twenty grand in electronics and a walleye boat that costs as much as a small home.... if you're just trolling along hoping for the best the guys that are working their presentation in the little bathtub with a motor are going to make you look bad. Guides and formulas are nothing more than a starting point. Get to work changing the boat speed, distance of line set back and away from the boat, the profile of the presentation, the direction of the presentation when compared to waves / wind / current, changing the scent on your lure or bait, changing the color of the presentation, changing the size of the presentation, finding the water temperature that triggers fish and moving to that area of your lake... on and on. In other words, stop worrying about formulas and GET TO WORK!! What you need to do is "dial in the fish" and that requires effort. You will likely have to dial them in more than once and maybe several times or more while you are on the water.

I'm sure many of us have heard that 10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish... trolling for walleye is no finer example of this. The next time you are on the lake just look at the guys in all the boats you come across. Most of them are satisfied to have all of their lines clean and in the water (no weeds on them). They just sit there, maybe drink a bevarage and troll around and around, talk about deer hunting and such... and most of the day very little happens. Maybe they catch a fish or three... but then here comes that one guy that you've heard a lot of people talk about. Man, that guy and his buddies in his boat catch fish- we'd better start paying attention where we see his boat and start following him around, right? But instead of making the mistake that he is the only one that knows where the fish are, look at the guys in his boat. Most of the time one of two things will be going on... for one, they troll by you and talking among themselves about what Jerry did on this lake last week and what worked for him... they are realing in lines that don't have fish or weeds on them (hmmmm, wonder why?). Basically, THERE IS ACTIVITY ON THEIR BOAT ALL THE TIME. They are in the process of dialing in the fish. The second way you find yourself trolling by them has them reeling in fish! Consistently! "Man, I'd better follow them around...".

No- what you need to do is dial in the fish.
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Continuing with economical tips for walleye fishing, I thought I'd touch base on the line I'm using. If you can afford to fill you reels with fluorocarbon, have at it!! It is nearly invisible and can really help keep you from scaring fish. But I didn't want to shell out that much money, and I use fluoro leaders instead.

When trolling for walleye, I use GREEN, 10 Pound Test Trilene XT for a lot of reasons.

The green color- makes a huge difference on spooking fish versus clear Trilene. My best real life example of this is when I spend time slaying Chinook Salmon at dawn in the fall in 10 feet of water (even in early August!). I had put clear Trilene on one of my reels, and MAN WAS IT VISIBLE in the shallow water. I never did get a hit from the wily kings on that reel. At the same time, I could hardly make out the green mono- it was barely visible. It allowed me to slay the kings in the shallows and had charter captains really hoping they could get closer to me with their clients as they dodged in and out with their boats. Same thing with walleyes.

Green Trilene XT- the xt stands for "extra tough", and boy, is it! It will last many, many years on your trolling reel and will be money very well spent and a great economic decision.

The green trilene xt, 10 pound test, is also one of the lines represented in the dive curves of the Precision Trolling Guide.


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More technique on Great Lakes Walleye-

In this example we have you trolling for walleye on one of the Great Lakes- you manage to hook a fish... what now???

We certainly do not want to fight a walleye like a mature salmon- no "pump and reel" here, in other words. Steady, even pressure on the fish is the name of the game. Keep a bend in the rod, and do not move the rod in a way that will give the fish slack.

Steady and even presssure with a bend in the rod- along with no slack at any time- will lead to a much higher percentage of fish in the boat from the time of hookup.

Even though it is more efficient to have the fishermen in my boat reel the fish in to the back of the boat, on the anglers side and out of the prop wash, I ask everyone to reel the fish in on the side of the boat instead. I have them keep the rod low to the water to keep the fish "in the water." When you start breaking the surface with the fish or dragging him across it... you are asking to lose the fish by it becoming unhooked. The reason I have them bring the fish in to the side of the boat is because most guys forget about the first part of this post and put too much pressure on. If I don't have them bring the fish in on the side and they bring the fish up off the stern instead... too much pressure results in flying hooks into the boat and me ducking them (or worse) when the fish gets off. Having the fish brought up to the side of my boat eliminates this problem.

A discussion of "netting" Great Lakes walleye is yet to come!
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When we were discussing walleye fishing with the budget minded angler in mind, I also failed to express the impact of motor types. For example, 4 stroke engines get excellent fuel economy and are very quiet-important considerations if you are considering the purchase of a new or used walleye boat. My 4 stroke engine and fuel tank will last me about 4 Great Lakes trips on a tank of gas. I can't hardly stand to be under a half tank so I never let it get that low... but my setup is very economical. Remember, with my autopilot electric trolling motor being used almost the entire time I fish, I save a ton of money on fuel. If I ran my main gas engine all day long I'd have to spend a lot more money, even with the 4 stroke engine. I only use the gas engine to get from one destination point to another. The combination of the powerful electric and the 4stroke main engine have saved me many, many thousands of dollars over the years. The only thing my electric motor really costs me is the effort it takes to plug in the extension cord to the triple bank charger when I get home. It uses so little electricity I see no impact on my utility bill.

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Extra Addition- many anglers are using inline boards to fish for Great Lakes Walleye. They often make necessary a pretty tight drag to keep more line from going out while in the rod holder. When fighting a fish and after taking the inline board off, loosen your drag a touch. After landing countless thousands of walleyes over the years while trolling, I have watched most walleye spook because of the boat during that last 10 - 15 feet of retrieval. If its a toad (huge walleye) and your drag is set too tight... bad things can happen. So, loosen that drag a bit, so that a brute has the ability to pull a little line out. This can prevent broken leaders, bent hooks and the opportunity for the fish to fight against an unyielding force... which gives them additional leverage to throw the hook.


NETTING Great Lakes Walleye

It is often best if the most experienced angler in the boat does the netting which will keep fewer fish from being lost. In fact, most fish are lost at the net. Here are some pointers aimed at helping you lose fewer fish:

** Take two nets in your boat. If you get into a big school of Great Lakes walley it isn't all that uncommon to hook three or more fish at once. I have no trouble landing a couple in the same net if they aren't overly large, but if one of them's big or you already have two in the net with a third on the way, that second net comes in very handy. Outside of that, 2 fish on and two nets in the boat = efficiency in getting the walleye in the cooler.

** I try not to lay the net down flat in the boat with a fish in it if possible- when you do the fish goes crazy and starts flopping around- getting all the different hooks caught up and twisted in the net, creating a mess and a lot of extra time to get it cleared. An experienced walleye handler can get the hooks out without the mess by using needle nose pliers, etc. If you aren't experienced, put the net down and deal with it. No need to get hooks in your hide.

** Get the fish close to the boat before trying to net it. Reaching way out to net them creates problems for the average Joe on the Great Lakes and you will lose fish for a variety of reasons. When you see Pro's on "THE NEXT BITE" or elsewhere reaching way out, they have the experience to make it worthwhile. No need to showboat, get the fish close and net it.

** I often let others in my boat reel in all the fish and I net them. Why? They have all the fun which is what I want ( I have landed countless thousands already) and with me on the net, a very high percentage of the fish hooked will end up in the boat. Out of the hundreds of walleye I have landed over the past couple of months I can only recall one that I FLAT OUT SCREWED UP WITH THE NET. Efficiency once again...

** If others will be netting, it is probably best to give a tutorial on technique prior to setting lines. Demonstrate how the rod should be held along with technique while bringing in a walleye (rod angle and location, for example). Follow this up with a quick netting demonstration. Most amateurs are going to club the walleye over the head with the net, pushing the fish off or getting the hooks caught on the outside of the net, etc. I always instruct the anglers to "net underneath the fish" with their netting motion. They can then lift up and we have what we are after! Otherwise they get caught up in the excitement and "net AT the fish" with the result being a likely disaster. I also demonstrate that the net should be kept out of the water until the ACTUAL NETTING MOTION is underway. Otherwise the net touches the water and gets ahead of the rim, with the netting motion getting the outside of the net caught on the hooks... which means your fish is caught on the outside of the net too!

This is off the top of my head, I'll add more as it comes up.
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so it probably isn't the best idea to use a handheld GPS for speed at such slow speeds? Hmm....



Actually the opposite is true. The speed over ground function of a handheld GPS is much more accurate than the speed wheel on a boat. I have often used one of my handheld GPS units on my boat in a backup position to my unit that is connected to my graph directly from a GPS receiver.

The speed wheel on a boat can be impacted at slow speeds by trolling with / against the wind, surface currents, weeds in the mechanism, etc.

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Good stuff Dewey- I always use these types of retractable flags on my boards when using crawler harnesses, early season or not. They will triple your catch rate over boards that do not function that way.

There are very few, and I mean very few people who can read a board well enough to not miss strikes without them. When they are fine tuned you can actually read a walleye nibbling on your crawler. That gives you an opportunity to grab the rod and force feed him.


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Glad to hear you figured out the interference problem with the electric. That motor can make a big difference in a lot of situations. For example, right now I'm trolling spoons at about 2.5 mph. I do this by starting with my electric... I take the boat up over 1 mph and turn the autopilot on to troll the direction I want to go. With the kicker on the back of the boat, I then take my boat speed (SOG, speed over ground) up to 2.5 mph. I lock the throttle speed and lock the kicker motor from turning when I have reached my target speed.

The biggest thing the bowmount electric did was make me hands-free for fishing. Even at this higher trolling speed, it keeps the boat going in the direction I need it to go. I can walk around, mess with lines, net fish, change tackle, whatever... being hands-free is invaluable to me.
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BUG HATCH WALLEYE

Every year I see many walleye fisherman struggle during the bug hatch. Whether it is a small inland lake or one of the Great Lakes, when the walleye have gorged on bugs the bite typically slows. Most fishermen continue to do exactly what they did prior to the massive hatches and blame the bugs for their reduced success. It is plainly obvious to them what is happening, as the occasional fish they do catch belches out a tennis ball sized wad of partially digested bugs. They reason that their reduced success is because the fish are bloated and couldn’t eat much more if they had to. This certainly makes sense to any logical fisherman.

Before I get into tactics I should discuss exactly what I mean by the bug hatch. Every year, mayflies and countless other aquatic larvae, nymphs and flies hatch on bodies of water. Walleyes eat the larvae and nymphs with abandon; I have caught many of them at this time of the year with clay surrounding their mouths. The walleye actually root the bugs off of the lake bed bottom with their nose and mouths. I have also watched walleye next to my boat eat huge piles of nymphs on the surface of the lake, with their mouth sticking out of the water which created a “slurping” sound. This reminds me of the monster brown trout I used to fish in Montana, where they would stick their noses out of the water in the back eddies while they gorged on surface hatches. These hatches of bugs occur every year and are something every good walleye fisherman has to deal with.

So what can we do when the walleye are stuffed so full there is little to no room in their bellies? Well, you can lament about your bad timing and luck and do poorly like the masses… or you can think your way through it. Walleye are creatures of habit and good walleye fishermen manipulate this understanding of the fish’s behavior. My favorite tactic is to promote a reaction from the fish, appealing to their natural instinct to strike. I don’t want to give them any time to examine my presentation either, they either strike or the encounter is finished. Enough walleye will strike to make this my preferred tactic during the bug hatches. I accomplish this reaction from the walleye by utilizing high action and / or high speed tactics.

I remember fishing the bug hatch on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Indian Lake. The locals and other visitors were having a really rough time catching fish. They were getting one or two with a full day on the water. After finding suspended walleye over the main basin of the lake I tied on one of my favorite lures for reaction strikes- the Hot – N Tot. This plug has a wildly erratic, side to side searching action when trolled or cast. I bumped the trolling speed of my boat well over 2 MPH and set the lures to literally bounce off the top of the walleye (normally I set it a couple of feet above them). I took limit catches of walleye all week long, but what a mess. Countless thousands of bugs were belched all over the bottom of my boat by the overstuffed walleye.

Another of my favorite tactics is spoon trolling at high speeds. On the Great Lakes I like to find some water that has a bit of an off color, maybe a green area with a good plankton bloom. Remember, I want the walleye to barely have time to make a decision to strike or not. A reaction strike- created by a fast moving lure in water that is not crystal clear. I like to bump up over 3 MPH at times to get a reaction strike and to cover LOTS OF WATER looking for fish that will fall for my tactic. This is the very technique I used to take a boat limit of walleye this morning, with fish so bloated and full of bugs most people wonder how they would ever want to eat anything else.

When the conditions are less than optimal think your way through it. Rather than get depressed, I enjoy the added challenge of bug season as it tests my ability in less than ideal circumstances.
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Bowhunting Brian » Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:00 am

great info!!!
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Stanley » Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:27 am

Great tutorial. Wish I would have had this information 20 + years ago when I fished Eire. Could you maybe touch on the baits used. Guys that travel from out of state need to start with something the first day out. jigs(size), spinners, worms, minnows stuff like this.
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:42 pm

Stanley wrote:Great tutorial. Wish I would have had this information 20 + years ago when I fished Eire. Could you maybe touch on the baits used. Guys that travel from out of state need to start with something the first day out. jigs(size), spinners, worms, minnows stuff like this.


If trolling is the name of your game, crawler harnesses are tough to beat for first timers to the area (spinners). They work in all open water seasons rather well. Blade size is usually pretty large on the Great Lakes, I like size # 5 and sometimes larger. You will need a weighting system to get your spinner down to the fish, I like in line weights called "fish weights." they are molded and painted to look like fish and weigh anywhere from a half ounce up to several ounces. I put them about five feet in front of the blades. Bottom bouncers work great on the big water as well, and yes you can use them for suspended fish too- they will hit it just fine. About 3 or 4 feet ahead of the harness will work best as when you fish near the bottom anything much longer will often start to drag. Snap on weights can be put on any length you wish ahead of the spinner. Always try to pick off the highest marks of walleye on your graph as these fish are the most active. If you are marking good numbers of fish on your graph at mid-depth and on the bottom, assume their are walleyes in the top ten feet of the water column even if its high noon and sunny. On the inner Saginaw Bay I'd say close to 90 percent of my fish come from the top ten feet of water over 20 - 25 feet. Away from these nursery areas when the fish move deeper for cooler water and larger forage, target the bottom five (5) feet of the water column. The day may start with fish ten feet off the bottom but by midmorning you will typically see your marks drop down.

Crankbaits and spoons, find what the locals like and go for it! Casting jigs and bladebaits will require a variety of sizes. For example jigs would have me bringing 1/16 ounce all the way up to 3/4 of an ounce. I target a variety of structure such as giant, cement based bouys all the way to weedlines off the coast in 12 - 16 feet of water. For some reason most people ignore the weeds all summer and they are loaded with fish- and good sized walleye to boot. Even during the dog days, these weeds hold fish. Slip bobbers work well on calm days near the outside edge of the weeds as well as in pockets, just like on inland lakes. I have an acquaintence that fishes the weeds all summer and he is always the only boat there... he kills the walleye / bass / pike.
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Jackson Marsh » Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:04 pm

Great post :clap: :clap:
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Bucky » Fri Jul 12, 2013 3:12 pm

Trolling after dark shallow for pig walleyes I agree 100% the bow mount trolling motor is the way 2 go!

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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Uncle Lou » Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:03 pm

good stuff bridge, now that is no cherry pie post
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Stanley » Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:58 pm

Great couple of posts.
You can fool some of the bucks, all of the time, and fool all of the bucks, some of the time, however you certainly can't fool all of the bucks, all of the time.
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby hunter_mike » Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:33 pm

wow :clap: :clap: :clap:
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby DEERSLAYER » Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:42 pm

Good solid information SB! Todays electronics are amazing, but expensive. I haven't fished much for years and I got away from lake fishing about 25 years ago for the most part. I want to get back into it though. Mostly because my dad likes it. He moved back to Michigan because he wants to spend the rest of his days with his kids. So I may have to look into some of those expensive electronics because I want to get him into some fairly consistent and good fishing while he can still do it. Thanks for the article.

Any suggestions on electronics that will gettr done without wasting money on needless features or by paying for a big brand name when it's not necessary?
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby C&T Archery » Sat Jul 13, 2013 3:40 am

That is great info. My Cousin's Husband fishes a lot of the Walleye tournaments in Wisconsin and the Border of the UP. His one chart plotter cost more then my boat in total.

I troll for Walleye on Lake Winnebago and Lower Green bay (on nice days). I don't have the remote control I-pilot (wish I could afford it), but I do have a 24 volt 70 trust transom mount motor, that has the screw down attachment to tighten the shaft from turning, so it can keep you on some what of a track. Once I get everything set I stand in the middle of the boat and if you need to slowly turn, I stand to one side of the boat or the other which ever way I want to go. I have a cheap fish finder that I use for depth only and I have $99.00 handheld GPS I use for speed and to find humps and reefs I have already marked.

Maybe one day I will be able to have nicer stuff, but don't let that stop you from getting out there.

I use my Electric to troll harnesses at low speed. Anywhere from .5 to 1.1 miles per hour and it depends on the day and the under currents. If I decide to troll with stick baits, then I can either stay with the electric or go up the 50 horse motor. Again depending on the day I troll stick baits anywhere from 1.3 to 2.8 miles per hour. All Speeds are from the GPS not the fish finder.

I never noticed a fishing link on here but I will post pictures when I'm able to get out.

I know there are lake chips for GPS, and again I would love to have. But I just went to the DNR maps and got locations of reefs and humps and entered them into my handheld GPS. So technically you don't need all the fancy stuff. A lot will be trail and error and see what you are comfortable with. I started without all the line counters and stuff. I had marked 10 foot sections on the side of my boat and when I used my open faced reels that is how I would gauge the line that I let out. When there is a will there is a way :)
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Sat Jul 13, 2013 4:06 am

Bucky wrote:Trolling after dark shallow for pig walleyes I agree 100% the bow mount trolling motor is the way 2 go!

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Trolling after dark, especially with an electric, is one of the best techniques there is for Toad Walleye. A lot of guides and Pro's have made names for themselves doing just that. Here in Michigan, Mark Martin guided this way decades ago, and inherited the technique from his father and grandfather- a multi generational method of taking big walleyes in one family.

This reminds me to bring up one of the most unique, intriguing types of walleye fishing I have ever done. You can do it with buddies too, but to take in the ultimate experience I recommend trying it yourself on the Great Lakes. It will be an experience you always remember...

Find a stretch of Great Lakes shoreline that is rocky, perhaps a big point that juts out into the lake... figure out a way to access the shoreline legally, whether from a launch / park / someone you know, or whatever. Show up around midnight and don a pair of waders. Grab your walleye rod with a tied on floating #13 Rapala and wade out waist deep... begin casting as you slowly and carefully work your way down the shoreline.

The lights of the homes and cottages along the shoreline... the sound of the waves in the dark striking the beach... the glow of the nighttime sky over the water... the lights of a Great Lakes freighter on the distant horizon... will leave you with a nearly surreal experience of fishing... a memory that I don't forget.

Just like bucky mentioned, there are very large walleyes to be had in the shallows at night. What most Great Lakes fisherman do not realize is that Beast walleyes, 7 - 10 pounds, cruise into the shallows in the middle of the night to feed. They come in much shallower than even the tiniest boat can acesss, I'm talking knee deep water.

Casting into the darkness in this amazing setting will really become interesting when a 28" walleye grabs your Rapala right in front of your waders! They are fresh water sharks on the feed, searching for minnows, crayfish and other small fish...

Don't live anywhere near one of the Great Lakes? Find and access an inland lake shoreline that is rocky and use the same technique... been there, done that! ;)

I can't recommend enough that you try this at least once in your lifetime- you won't forget it!
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Sat Jul 13, 2013 4:35 am

I'm glad to see that we have some questions and comments, I'll get to them for sure. I see a strong focus on walleye fishing on a budget, and I know quite a bit about that and will get in some pointers.

In my last post I commented on Mark Martin and his multi-generational walleye fishing... I Can Smoke That!! :lol:

Here's my great grandfather, grandfather and his brothers on Northern Lake Huron in 1913. We've been fishing the Great Lakes since the 1800's. The ship is the "Effie", hand built by my great grandfather and sons. They lived on Shawl Island in northern Lake Huron (Shawl is my family's last name) and made a living by shipping mail and freight from the lower peninsula to Drummond Island (a giant island), amongst other things.

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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:51 am

DEERSLAYER wrote:Good solid information SB! Todays electronics are amazing, but expensive. I haven't fished much for years and I got away from lake fishing about 25 years ago for the most part. I want to get back into it though. Mostly because my dad likes it. He moved back to Michigan because he wants to spend the rest of his days with his kids. So I may have to look into some of those expensive electronics because I want to get him into some fairly consistent and good fishing while he can still do it. Thanks for the article.

Any suggestions on electronics that will gettr done without wasting money on needless features or by paying for a big brand name when it's not necessary?


If its on the market today, it is advanced or it wouldn't survive. There's no need to pay for top name electronics if you don't want to. Craigslist and Ebay are always options too. I have Lowrance electronics and they are pricey.
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Re: Great Lakes Walleye 101

Postby Singing Bridge » Sat Jul 13, 2013 6:28 am

quote=C&T Archery... That is great info. My Cousin's Husband fishes a lot of the Walleye tournaments in Wisconsin and the Border of the UP. His one chart plotter cost more then my boat in total.


Right on... electronics can be off the charts expensive- you can get 10 K in electronics alone on tournament boats, crazy stuff and you'd better get a sponsor!

I troll for Walleye on Lake Winnebago and Lower Green bay (on nice days). I don't have the remote control I-pilot (wish I could afford it), but I do have a 24 volt 70 trust transom mount motor, that has the screw down attachment to tighten the shaft from turning, so it can keep you on some what of a track. Once I get everything set I stand in the middle of the boat and if you need to slowly turn, I stand to one side of the boat or the other which ever way I want to go.


That's awesome! Shifting your weight to steer the boat... get's the job done, doesn't it!

I have a cheap fish finder that I use for depth only and I have $99.00 handheld GPS I use for speed and to find humps and reefs I have already marked.


If it gets the job done, that's all that really matters! I'd try to save up and get one that shows the fish, for the simple fact that there are a lot of overlooked walleye on inland lake and reservoirs that suspend and can turn your fishing from slow to dynamite. It goes without saying that Great Lakes walleye suspend and you need to know how high to be efficient. You can figure it out on any given day without knowing, but it takes a lot of trial and error. Let me give you a real life example, back when in-line planer boards first started showing up in the midwest. I was invited to a resort in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Lake Gogebic. The fishing for walleye and perch had been slow, as the locals and all the guests up and down the lake used traditional, bottom oriented tactics to pound humps, points and the bottom in general. I had just mail ordered and brought with me the "new" inline planer boards. I ran the Lake to a few different spots and watched my graph while shut down like a hawk. Hmmmm, tons of fish 12 feet down over 32 feet of water. Could they be walleye? I tied on Hot-N-Tots and let out enough line to get them 10 - 11 feet down. With modest sunshine and clear water, I trolled with my main engine and used the inline boards to kick the lures out away from the boat. I immediately had triple and quadruple headers (4 walleyes on at once). I had an absolute blast, as did my buddies on my boat, and we cleaned 30 walleyes after lunch. Neighbors from nearby resorts as well as locals came over and asked a lot of questions. Unknown to me, this stunned the walleye fisherman in the area and word quickly spread. The next morning I walked out of our cabin and began hauling gear to my boat. Doors to lodges and cabins quickly opened up and down the shoreline and guys stood by their boats. Hmmm, I thought, that's kind of strange... I finished hauling my gear and looked up and down the shoreline again, and all these guys were pretending not to watch me... but they weren't going anywhere. :think: My buddies and I fired up my boat's engine and began idling out onto the lake. Amazingly, the other fishermen all jumped into their boats and slowly motored out after I was a short distance away. Very strange. I looked behind me and an entire flotilla of boats was pointed in my direction and keeping their distance. It finally dawned on me that these guys figured it was my location that had made all the difference while fishing the prior day- they didn't get that it was technique. It's kinda like the guys that think if they hunt where Dan Infalt hunts they will kill big bucks all the time... when in reality they don't stand much of a chance and he can go to where they hunt and kill big bucks. Anywho, I decided to have a little fun. Lake Gogebic is very long North and South and I raced Up and down the lake with all these boats following me!! :lol: :clap: After a while they realized they'd been had. I went back to trolling and slaying the fish, a lot of them trolled nearby but never figured it out.

My point? this was a traditional "pound the bottom for walleye lake" and no one was thinking outside the box. Being able to see the suspension level of the walleyes allowed me pound them. btw, my other buddy had a boat and Hot-N-Tots too, but no in-line boards. He Had to fish right behind his boat with lures and NEVER CAUGHT A SINGLE WALLEYE WHILE TROLLING. It became very apparent that our boats were spooking the fish IN A BIG WAY. Without those boards to get the lures out away from the boat, I would have struggled mightily. We didn't have electric motors on either boat.

Maybe one day I will be able to have nicer stuff, but don't let that stop you from getting out there.


That really is the bottom line and all that really matters.

I know there are lake chips for GPS, and again I would love to have. But I just went to the DNR maps and got locations of reefs and humps and entered them into my handheld GPS. So technically you don't need all the fancy stuff. A lot will be trail and error and see what you are comfortable with. I started without all the line counters and stuff. I had marked 10 foot sections on the side of my boat and when I used my open faced reels that is how I would gauge the line that I let out. When there is a will there is a way :)


I really appreciate you posting this and reminding us all that where there's a will, there's a way. I am going to put up some "inexpensive" walleye fishing tips as well. 8-)
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