Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Thoughts On Walleye Fishing

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Walleyes may be the favorite game fish of most state anglers because they are plentiful in countless lakes and streams in both peninsulas, offer superb eating and are fun to catch. Sometimes, the hardest thing about catching walleyes is finding them.

My travels over many years of rooting out outdoor stories has taken me into almost every nook and cranny of Michigan, and it’s surprising just how many of these spots hold walleyes. Just think of it this way: walleyes are found in big and small lakes, the Great Lakes, and in numerous rivers and no one, regardless of where you live, is very far from good walleye habitat.

One question frequently asked is where anglers should go to find the best walleye hot spots. The answer can be frustratingly complex or very simple, depending on your point of view.

These fish are found in many locations around the state and in both peninsulas. The more difficult answer is to pick a few key spots. I put this question to some expert walleye fishermen, and everyone had a ready answer that outlined their favorite walleye hole.

“Saginaw Bay from Bay City to the Charity Islands and from Port Austin to Standish offer some of the greatest walleye action in the country,” said tournament angler Gary Bowman of Westland. “Saginaw Bay is capable of producing big fish during all four seasons, and a variety of fishing techniques will produce good catches.”

He prefers to troll crankbaits although pulling spinners (nightcrawler harnesses) near bottom also work. A trick he uses is to fish with jigs and bounce them along bottom along drop-offs and in deep holes. Rocky areas can produce quality fish and great action with walleyes of several year classes.

Ron Levitan of Milford said Lake Erie is the finest walleye hole in North America, and that fishing should be good again this year. He considers this lake superb for large, medium and small but legal walleyes.

“Planer boards with Hot-n-Tots are the hot combination during the summer months,” Levitan said. “Everyone thinks it’s necessary to fish Ohio or Ontario waters during the summer months, but that isn’t true. Exploring in Michigan waters can lead to a heavy catch. The trick is to find the fish and get them to turn on. Spoons like the Silver Streak work well off planer boards.”

Mark Martin of Twin Lake fishes in walleye tournaments for a living but when he has free time, he fishes Muskegon Lake at Muskegon. The after-dark hours offer prime fishing opportunities during the summer months.

“My technique is to troll a Rapala along rip-rap or drop-offs once the sun goes down,” Martin said. “I like this lure and will troll it close to rocks or drop-offs with just enough speed to bring out the action. Walleyes often go on the prowl after sundown, and this is when some of the truly large fish are caught. Ten-pound walleyes are not caught every night but some fish of this size are caught every summer.”

Dave Scroppo of Traverse City favors inland lakes. The fishing pressure is less than on downstate waters, and many lakes have a sizable number of fish ranging from lunkers to barely-legal size.

“Two of my favorites are Long Lake near Traverse City and Lake Leelanau near Leland,” Scoppo said. “Both have clear water, and anglers must use small lures and light line to be successful. Jigs hopped slowly along bottom near drop-offs, ledges and weed-bed edges work well. Most of the walleyes from both lakes are eating size that measure 15-18 inches but both lakes also produce some larger fish.”

Tawas Bay is a hot spot for Bill Olar of Whittemore. He said this Lake Huron area has great potential for producing trophy fish and limit catches.

“I prefer trolling,” Olar said. “Any minnow-imitating lure will work although silver or orange colors seem to produce the best results. I try to troll the edges of points or rockpiles from Tawas Point south to AuGres. This area offers a superb spring and early summer fishery, and don’t hesitate to try trolling after dark.”

Todd Barrows of Iron Mountain rates Little Bay de Noc as the best spot for trophy fish and heavy catches, although many smaller lakes in the area also produce great sport.

“Michigamme Reservoir is a hot spot for jig fishing or trolling, and Winslow Lake in Iron County has some of the finest walleyes in the Upper Peninsula. The Winslow Lake walleye possession limit is zero but these fish are some of the loveliest in the state. My preference is to cast crankbaits or fish jigs along bottom, and every fish landed is a bonus because the scenery is so beautiful. These fish are very darkly colored, and are lovely to look at as they are released into the lake.

Dave Johnson of Martin likes the lower Kalamazoo River during the summer. The twisting and winding river with its deep holes and runs near the river banks provide great walleye habitat.

“I fish the deep holes with a jig-and-minnow rig or troll with shallow-running plugs,” Johnson said. “The water is clear, and some big fish can be found. Three- and four-pounders are quite common in the lower holes just before the river meets the lake. It’s almost an untapped fishery down here.”

There you have it. Some new hot spots to try this year if the price of gas goes down. Sadly, that’s not how it works, is it?

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/14 at 02:59 PM
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