Fishing Shallow Water Walleyes
Many fishermen avoid walleyes in shallow water. Why?
Most fishermen have been led to believe walleyes are found in the depths of cool water, out on the break and mostly out of the sunlight.
Here are some constants anglers need to remember: Fish swim, fish eat and fish are opportunistic feeders. Unless the fish is dead, fish swim in water, warm, cool or cold, fish eat in water, warm, cool or cold and just so you’re getting the message.
In this case, it is important that you understand there is more to shallow water than depth.
Walleyes are found in shallow water throughout the year. There is or are many details in a walleyes life that brings them into shallow water. We will try and develop some of those conditions.
In the winter, walleyes will be visiting ice / snow-covered shorelines, chasing bait or visiting potential spawning grounds. The ice and snow can give them cover as they cruise their shallow water surroundings. Many ice anglers catch walleyes in three feet of water but usually in early dawn hours or in the low light of evening. The ice and snow becomes an overhead canopy and also a barrier for escaping bait.
In spring, the shallow water is first to feel the warmth of the sun. This is where life begins in a lake. The sun will start the plant growth, which draws invertebrates and young of the year fry. This in turn draws the minnows and the larger predators. The warm water increases the walleye’s metabolism and walleye have to eat. They will stay in the shallows until the food source is depleted or other conditions move them off the shallows. Wind and waves also draw walleye shallow. The wind and wave disturbs the shoreline, disorientate bait, provide cover and allow predators like walleye another opportunity to eat.
In summer, we find the walleye back in the same shallow water. What has brought them back? The water is much warmer and the sun remains high for much of the day. If we look at some very basic situations, we find that there is coon tail and cabbage growing. The emerging vegetation is providing more oxygenated water and different food sources. The umbrella of plant growth helps shade the bottom reducing the water temperature and light penetration. There are tadpoles, crayfish and minnows skittering here and there. Guess who is coming to dinner? As the summer extends, there will be periods of time where the walleye will be less active in this area. However, if you watch the weather, you can increase your chances of locating walleye in the same shallow water through the dog days of summer, especially if there are wind and waves.
Wind is key to keeping walleye shallow throughout the open water months. In the warm summer months, any breeze will push cooler main lake water into these shallow water areas. With the wind comes a surface current, cooler water, plankton, baitfish, minnows and yes, walleye.
As fall approaches, the walleye will be back in the shallows. The vegetation is dying off and the water is cooling. The baitfish will soon be exposed as their hiding places are quickly vanishing. And the cycle continues. Fish swim, fish eat and fish never exert themselves when coming to dinner.
Keen anglers watch the shallow water environment all the time and become accustomed to changes that will improve their fishing. Shallow water is a valid fishing option any time of the year and should be exploited more often than not.
Sep 20, 2006