Walleye

  • By Kent Erickson 

    walleye13-2.jpg (15280 bytes)

    Utah’s walleye sport fishery has increased dramatically in recent years and currently includes a half dozen reservoirs that contain an abundance of the marble-eyed predators.

    So many fish, so much structure … so little time!

    If you want to increase your walleye fishing time to almost year-round trolling and learn the structure in your favorite lakes, then bottom bouncing is the answer. Bottom bouncing reduces the time it takes to find these nomads of the deep, improves your fishing, and increases your knowledge of walleye’s habits. This highly effective trolling method makes it possible to cover large areas of water in a minimum amount of time to locate actively feeding walleye and to trigger reactions from neutral or inactive fish. Once you locate fish, you can concentrate your time at the depth or contour that the fish are occupying.

    As the name implies, bottom bouncing keeps the bait on or near the bottom, in the walleye’s strike zone. At the same time it also keeps your lure or bait out of the snags, which maximizes your time in the water.

    Basic Equipment

    walleyelure2.jpg (4552 bytes)The equipment needed to go bottom-bouncing is simple. While your equipment does not need to be expensive it should be durable and in good condition. The best rod and reel combination I can suggest is a 7 foot medium heavy bait casting rod that has plenty of backbone for handling snags and up to four ounces of weight, and a fast tip for finesse hook sets and for fighting large fish. A medium sized bait casting reel that will hold at least 100 yards of 12 pound test line and that has with a flippin’ switch works best. The flippin’ switch allows you to let out line using only one hand, which aids immensely in reacting to increases in depth while trying to follow the bottom with your weight.

    Two items of equipment that, while relatively expensive, are becoming more and more popular on fishing boats are a sonar and an electric trolling motor. I learned how to bottom bounce without these luxuries, but only because I fished from a 12 foot aluminum boat with a 9.5 hp gas motor. Once I picked up a 48 pound thrust electric motor and a sonar, my bottom bouncing world changed dramatically. A sonar (either LCD or flasher) allows you to watch the changes in bottom depth so you can react in time to keep your bottom bouncer from snagging a boulder or weed bed. It also allows you to "see" the bottom so you can keep your boat and fishing line at the proper depth contour. This will keep you in the strike zone. The electric motor gives you more exact speed control, which can be critical at times when walleye require a slow presentation to get them to bite. As an added bonus, the electric trolling motor is much quieter and reduces the "spook factor," especially when trolling in shallow, 2 to 10 foot water.

    The Bottom Bouncer and Rig 

    Walleyelure1.jpg (4788 bytes)Very simple in design, a bottom-bouncer is made of stiff wire shaped like a "7" with a weight formed onto the vertical   leg about halfway up. The leg is normally 12 inches long, which keeps a trolled rig 6 to 12 inches off the bottom. The weight can be one half ounce or less up to four ounces, but for most situations in Utah a two ounce bottom bouncer is just the ticket. You can fish the rig from two to 20 feet deep and keep in contact with bottom while trolling .5 to 3 miles per hour. The leader for the rig or lure attaches to a swivel at the tip of the "7." The rig or lure may be a spinner rig, a live bait rig with no spinner, a soft plastic imitation, or a crankbait. The main line attaches to the bottom bouncer at the angle of the wire.

    The quality of the line, swivels, and hooks you use and the condition you keep them in are important factors when rigging bottom bouncers. New, tough, 10 to 12 pound test line on your reel is a good choice for rigging walleye, especially for fishing in the rocks. Good quality #7 swivels will handle the snags and heavy weights beautifully. Perhaps the most overlooked tackle item is the hook. When you consider that the success of the entire endeavor involves getting the hook to set and hold, a sharp, high quality hook is a must. Use proven, quality hooks and check them often. Sharpening or replacing them when necessary will pay off in more fish. As for hook size, #6,#4, and #2 octopus style hooks are great for spinner rigs, with #4 best for all around use.

    A spinner rig consists of a strong leader (10 to 16 pound test) that has one, two, or three hooks connected. Above the hooks are five or six brightly colored beads or a brightly colored float topped off with a clevis which holds the spinner blade. When trolled, the spinner blade creates vibration, noise, and flash in front of the bait to attract the walleye.

    A size 2 to 4 blade is commonly used, but blades up to a size 7 or 8 can come in handy sometimes. Colorado blades catch more water and work better for slower speeds, and Indiana blades work better when moving faster. Orange, chartreuse and combinations of the two are the workhorse colors, but silver, brass and other colors can work well at times.

    Although minnows, leaches, and plastics can be used on the hooks, a nightcrawler is typically used for bait, which gives rise to yet another name for a spinner rig—a worm harness. Unless a dead minnow is used (using live minnows for bait is illegal in Utah), you will want two or three hooks to harness the crawler. Run the front hook through the tip of the head of the crawler. Then "stretch" the nightcrawler before the second and third hook is inserted so it will troll straight with no loops or sags.

    How to Troll Bottom Bouncers

    Now for the meat of the matter—technique. Although bottom bouncing can be refined to an art form in terms of technique and various presentations, the basics of trolling bottom bouncers are simple, easily learned, and almost instantly rewarding.

    Typically, walleye feed at a particular depth on particular structure. It is critical to maintain that depth when walleye are found, and equally critical to stay on the structure without unnecessary snagging or dragging. It all boils down to boat control and rod control.

    Bottom bouncing is a hands-on endeavor. Many walleye anglers fail to have success when bottom bouncing because their rig is either too high up off the bottom (at least they don’t snag) or laying on its side, constantly dragging across the bottom (*@!!# snags). When you first let out line and touch bottom, your line goes slack, then tightens up. You need to let out a little more line, tap-tap with the rod to find bottom, a little more, tap-tap with the rod, and repeat until you can feel the bottom on each tap, but not the constant drag of the weight across the bottom. A bottom bouncer’s effectiveness and snag resistance depends on correctly tapping, or "bouncing," the sinker along the bottom. When just the wire below the weight comes in contact with bottom the lure or bait trolls just above the bottom and the weight resists hanging up in rocks and other snags. Now you are set until the bottom drops off or rises a few feet or more. By watching the sonar you can anticipate these changes and reel in or let out line or raise or lower your rod tip to compensate.

    The next problem will be when you feel your rig snag. This is normal. Don’t feel defeated. Simply point your rod towards the snag and jerk straight up. Do not jerk the pole toward the front of the boat . You will be doomed to turn back to get it out—a waste of time.

    Now the good part, the hook set. When you feel a walleye hit your line, don’t haul off and put your back in the hook set like you would for a trout. It’s a hard habit to break but after you miss a few you will settle down and practice the dip and sweep. When you feel the fish, feed it to him (dip the rod back), then firmly sweep you pole forward and the battle is joined.

    Boat control is the number one most important factor when bottom bouncing for walleye. As mentioned before, walleye concentrations are found on particular structure at a particular depth. That means if you can’t keep the boat on the structure, (such as the top of a hump, the edge of a ledge or a shoreline contour), and at the proper depth, then you won’t succeed in catching walleye while bottom bouncing. By using the sonar, by watching the shoreline to help imagine what the bottom looks like, by paying attention to the wind and waves, and by watching where your rig is in relation to the boat, you can properly concentrate your fishing effort where the fish are. You must also realize that turns create speed changes on the outside lines (increase) and inside lines (decrease), which puts those lines deeper or shallower. Pay attention to these changes and control your boat properly and your fishing success will increase proportionately.

    How good of a method is bottom-bouncing for catching lots of walleyes, including the big ones, in Utah’s walleye waters? The 1998 Utah Walleye Circuit tournament results answers that question best. Local bottom-bouncer teams won all four tournament events as well as three out of the four big fish competitions! Average weights went as high as 3.7 pounds per fish and the monsters stuck on rigs weighed between 6.02 pounds and 9.86 pounds! Not too shabby. The results are a great example of just how effective that the ol’ B-bouncin’ riggin’ can be.

    No matter what level of expertise you have, bottom bouncing is a proven, effective fish finder and a big catch producer. If you just stick to the basics, anyone from six to sixty can do it and come home with a big smile, a sore arm, and a load of big fish stories.

  • By Ray Schelble

    "Something really weird's going on here, Doc!" I alerted my partner. It was the first weekend of May. Doc and I had spent the first day of a two-day walleye tournament beating our lures against the rocks on the Willard Bay dike with absolutely nothing to show for it. The air was cold, the water was cold and the fishing was really cold.

    Now it was the second day. We decided we had nothing to lose and spinner-rigged our way into open water seeking anything that looked like a fish. Now we were seeing them but not catching them. In late morning, working our rigs along a slight drop-off far offshore, the graph mysteriously showed we were in only five or six feet of water even though an instant earlier the bottom was deeper than 25 feet. "Yeah, I see it," Doc replied, watching the event unfold on the graph in the back of the boat. We were on top of a dense school of gizzard shad. Almost immediately we hooked two nice walleye. And it wasn't over. We caught more that day, enough to end up taking home a nice check for the tournament.

    Finding and catching walleye in Utah waters can be a challenge in the spring, when anglers become anxious to get out and cast off the winter cobwebs. On Utah reservoirs the time from late February to early June is a time of transitions and heavy stress for walleye, and in the still-cold water the fish's metabolism is so slow that they don't feed as much or as often as they do during warmer seasons. This means that even when you do find them you may not know it because they will be reluctant to bite. But there's good news. As spring wears on and water temperatures rise, walleye fishing gets easier.

    Fish behavior is largely governed by biological urges, which are controlled by climate and conditions around them. These can be categorized into time periods called calendar periods. The spring to early summer months include the calendar periods of prespawn, spawn, post-spawn and pre-summer. Having an idea of what calendar period walleye are in can be a huge help in determining where to find them and how to fine-tune your lures and presentation.

    Prespawn and spawn locations
    During prespawn, walleye begin preparing to perpetuate their species. "In prespawn, walleye typically start migrating toward the areas that they'll be spawning in," says biologist Tom Pettengill, sport fisheries coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and a dedicated, long-time walleye angler. "They are feeding at that point, probably up until close to spawn, but because of the cold water temperatures they don't have to eat as much as they do later on in the late spring and early summer."

    To improve your chances of finding prespawn fish, pay attention to history. "If you know where the fish have spawned in the past in the water you are going to fish, start looking in those areas as it gets closer to spawning time," Pettengill points out. "I've caught fish at Yuba in February in early morning and late evening in 10 to 12 feet of water, right up against the brush line, like where you might find them later in the year. During the middle part of the day the fish are out in 30 to 40 feet of water."

    Spawning begins as water temperatures approach 50 degrees F. Walleye move to shallow areas where there is rock or gravel. Spawning areas may be near an inlet, along a shoreline or out in the lake on the edge of an island or bar. Many walleye spawning areas in Utah waters are well-known, particularly at Utah Lake and Willard Bay. To find out specific locations ask other anglers or at tackle shops.

    "Once the spawn starts, the males move into the spawning area and stay there," Pettengill said. "There may be some movement shallower during the night than they are during the day but they stay real close to the spawning area. The females only come in when they are ready to spawn."

    Traditionally, when many Utahns think of "prime time" for walleye fishing they think of these several weeks in spring when walleye spawn. Experienced walleye anglers such as Pettengill do not share this opinion. "I think the spawn is one of the worst times to fish for walleye," he says. "Occasionally there is a time when fishermen will really get into some fish during the spawn. People catch limits at Willard during the spawn, but I think post-spawn and pre-summer, when the water temperature is 60 to 70 degrees, is a lot better time to fish for walleye."

    During the spawn, walleye can be more accessible to shore anglers than during other times of the year. Also, big walleye can be caught during the spawn, but more big walleye are probably available to anglers during the fall. Because spawning walleye are vulnerable to illegal and unsportsman-like methods such as snagging, certain areas are closed to fishing during this time. Check your fishing proclamation.

    Post-spawn and pre-summer locations
    The post-spawn period immediately after the spawn can be the toughest time of the year to find walleye. After spawning, females move away from spawning areas, but spawning areas may still produce. "The males may still stay close, but typically the females pull back out into deeper water," Pettengill says.

    Kevin Lund, a seasoned walleye tournament circuit veteran and member of Rocky Mountain Anglers, has some advice to help find these deeper, post-spawn walleye: "Move away from the spawning beds and get out on flats or a shelf off the spawning areas. The walleye move off to rest in some spot they can feel pretty safe, a ledge or around a sunken island."

    Walleye will not feed for a while after the spawn, but this soon changes. From Pettengill's experience, the females start feeding before the males. He observes, "At Willard last year from late March to the middle of May all I caught was females. I didn't catch a male until the middle of May. I was fishing deep water. I think the people who were pounding the dikes were probably catching males because they hang on there longer."

    The transition from post-spawn to pre-summer is gradual and not well defined. Simply put, as fish start feeding and water temperatures rise, walleye fishing starts to get better. "It depends on the weather a lot of times," Lund says. "If you get a few warm days the water starts warming up and they get a little more active." Spring storms and cold snaps can really put a damper on walleye fishing. The deep-water bite Doc and I experienced were females most likely in this transition time between post-spawn and pre-summer.

    "Above 50 degrees (water temperature) you can get into a decent bite on any given day," says Pettengill, "But it's not going to be consistent fishing for walleye until you get up to 60 to 70 degree water temperature. At that point their metabolism really speeds up and they have to feed a lot just to maintain their body condition."

    Time to catch 'em
    After you've located them, what do you need to do to catch these fish? During the prespawn Lund takes it easy. "You have to slow everything way down," he advises. "When they're slow and sluggish you've got to be just barely moving your rig. You almost have to go to a standstill. If you're jigging you just barely move it. None of that dragging and hopping stuff." He also recommends downsizing lures during the prespawn. He usually uses a 1/8 ounce jig head with a 1 1/2 inch or two inch grub and, "If I do spinner rig I use a little, teeny blade, size two or three. Just the little stuff."

    During the spawn he casts jigs and small Rapalas, Shad Raps and Wally Divers on likely spawning grounds and retrieves them slowly. Post-spawn he likes spinner rigging around features in deeper areas of the reservoir. "Sometimes I put on a great big blade, a real thumper that makes a lot of noise and gets their attention," he says.

    The fun begins as post-spawn transitions into pre-summer. Troll spinner rigs and crankbaits, or cast and retrieve jigs. Trolling is a good way to locate walleye or catch scattered fish, and jigging is a good way to fish them when they are localized in a smaller area. Lund says, "I like to rig until I get a bite. I throw a marker out and go back. If I catch two then I'll stop and drop jigs on them." Don't be afraid to troll fast, try different depths and experiment with colors.

    When its time to cast off the winter cobwebs hunting walleye, finding out what the walleye are doing will give you a better idea of where to go and how to fish.

    General fish location and behavior varies seasonally according the biological needs of the fish, and can be categorized into general time periods called calendar periods. Developed by In-Fisherman, calendar periods do not cover a specific time of year, but rather they identify predictable periods of fish behavior patterns that occur throughout the year.

    Associated with each calendar period are unique fish behaviors and locations. Prespawn, spawn, post-spawn and pre-summer are the calendar periods of spring.

    Calendar periods can be affected to some extent by weather patterns and water temperature, which may determine their length and their exact timing from year-to-year. Also, the timing of calendar periods for different lakes varies depending on the lake's location and elevation. "In Utah Lake and Willard Bay, typically the fish are spawning by St. Patricks's Day," Tom Pettengill explains. "Lake Powell spawning is late February to the first part of March; Yuba is probably next after Utah Lake and Willard, usually the first part of April; Deer Creek is probably the last part of April; and then Starvation is right on the heels of Deer Creek, probably during the last part of April."

    The timing of calendar periods varies for different fish species. For example, the spawn period for walleye will occur earlier in the spring than for perch or largemouth bass.

    Finally, all walleye in a water will not necessarily be in the same calendar period at the same time. Where the spawn lasts for several weeks, some walleye will spawn early and be in post-spawn while others are actively spawning and others are still in prespawn.

  • Pat Milburn (from the old Anglers' Inn stores) offered these walleye tips:

    JIGS

    Jig fishing for walleye is one of the most productive methods all year long. It is especially effective in the spring when the walleye are concentrated for the spawn. Feather jigs, hair jigs, tubes, Foxee jigs and curl tail grubs in pearl, chartreuse, glow, white, orange and two-tone colors are all effective walleye lures.

    Generally these jigs are either tied on or threaded onto a lead head hook. The lead head hooks vary in weight depending on the presentation and the depth of water theangler is planning on fishing. For super slow presentations and/or very shallow water use 1/32 to 1/16 ounce lead heads. For deeper water and/or faster presentations use larger sizes, from 1/8, 1/4 to 3/8 ounce.

    Lead head colors vary from plain lead to glow, pearl, chartreuse, orange, green, etc. These colors either match or contrast with the jig body. Picking the right combination of colors will help stimulate strikes and various color combinations should be experimented with until the angler finds which combinations work best.

    CRANKBAITS

    Countdown Rapalas number 5, 7 and 9 in silver, chartreuse, firetiger; Shad Rap Rapalas in the same colors and Model "A" Bombers are effective walleye baits all year long. When the walleye are up in the shallows in the spring and again in the late fall, use the shallow running or floating forms of these baits. In the summer and winter, when the walleye are deep, use the deep runners and the rapid sinking forms.

    Other varieties that are effective include the Rattlin' Rapala and the Blue Fox Vibrax Minnow Spin. The Rattlin' Rapala gives the added dimension of a rattling noise as the lure moves through the water. The Minnow Spin combines the flash and attraction of a tuned spinner with the action and look of a sinking balsa body.

    The size, shape and angle of the lip on these lures, in conjunction with the speed they are pulled through the water, determines the amount of action the lure has and the way it performs. How fast or slow the lure dives or sinks is largely a function of the lure design (floating, sinking, deep running) and the speed of the retrieve or the trolling speed. Choose the lure shape and design that will get down to the fish and then stay there.

    SPINNER RIGS AND WORM HARNESS RIGS

    Generally used in conjunction with slip sinkers or Bottom Walker/Rock Runner trolling sinkers, worm harness rigs and spinner rigs are deadly for walleye. Walleye love worms, small minnows and leeches and these rigs make it easy to present the walleye's favorite foods right in their feeding lanes.

    Troll one of these rigs behind a bottom walking sinker and the odds of catching a big walleye will be dramatically improved. These rigs are best during walleye pre and post spawn and then through the summer and fall. Walleye don't eat much during the actual spawn so success will fall off then.

    Remember that it is against the law to fish with live minnows in Utah and game fish minnows are generally not allowed as bait, dead or alive. At Willard Bay it is against the law to possess gizzard shad, dead or alive. At Deer Creek Reservoir, yellow perch are off limits, dead or alive. However, they may be used as bait (dead) at Gunnison, Yuba and Willard Bay reservoirs and dead white bass may be used as bait at Utah Lake. Most of the tackle shops sell frozen minnows and fish meat so it shouldn't be hard to get some meat to tip your rig with.

    FLOATING JIG HEADS

    If you are going to fish in an extremely rocky, brushy or mossy area, where touching the bottom with your lure means a sure snag, rig up a floating jig head. The floating jig head can be fished with a curl tail grub, tube, other soft plastic lure, worm, leech or minnow. These lures are especially effective when used in combination with a walking slip sinker similar to those pictured at the bottom left of this page. The slip sinker will bounce through the rocks and keep the rig down in the productive zone but the floating head will keep the hook up and out of the snags. These rigs can be effectively cast and retreived or trolled.

    Again , because these rigs are generally tipped with live bait, they are most effective during the pre spawn and from the post spawn through the summer and fall.

    JIGGING SPOONS

    One of the most over-looked methods of taking walleye is vertical jigging with a jigging spoon tipped with a worm or minnow. This technique is most effective during warm weather when the walleye move deep, as deep as 60 to 70 feet at Deer Creek, Starvation and Lake Powell. Use Crippled Herring, Swedish Pimple or a Kastmaster. Vary your jigging motion from short swift strokes to long, slow strokes until you find out which stroke is most effective. Use a fairly stiff rod and a non stretch line for best results.

    The new "superlines" are ideal when jigging deep. These lines have zero stretch, are extremely thin for their strength, have less drag than monofilament, have no memory and are extremely sensifive. The one drawback is that they are EXPENSIVE.

    When vertical jigging for walleye, the fish tend to pick up the lure on the down stroke, when the lure is falling. This makes it extremely difficult to determine when the fish actually has the lure in its mouth and requires split second timing. If your rod is too limber or your line stretches too much, you won't catch many fish and you'll quickly learn all about frustration.

    SCENTS

    Scents are a big plus when walleye fishing. Dabbing some on your lure or bait can definitely improve your fishing success and the scents will mask any human odors, like after shave, hand lotion, gasoline, cigarettes, sweat, etc) that you might have on your hands while you are rigging up your favorite lure.

    Berkley Powerbait Walleye Attractant Natural Scent and Flavor works well, as does Smelly Jelly Crawfish Sticky Liquid. Just apply the scent frequently to your lure, bait or scent holding device. Some people will even smear the stuff all over their hands before handling a lure. We don't recommend you do this while eating a sandwich or just before lunch. The odor that comes off the liquid scents is pretty powerful.

    FLIES

    Fly fishermen can get in on the walleye action by casting big streamers right up into the rocks during the early spring and again in the late summer. In the spring the walleye will be in the shallows spawning and a streamer on a floating line is just the ticket. Generally short strips and a slow retrieve will work better than a fast retrieve with long strips. In the late summer when the forage fish fry get big enough for the walleye to eat, streamers fished in the shallows can be very effective.

    Bright colored streamers (minnow imitations, wooly buggers, zonkers, etc) on a nine foot leader will attract the walleye.

    Generally the best fishing will be in the late evening, as the sun is setting or again in the early morning. The secret is to keep casting and moving until you determine where an active school of fish is feeding.

    If you are going to fish for walleye, you have to remember that these fish get big, as big as 12 to 15 pounds and catching a four or five pound fish is quite common. Use a stiff enough rod and strong enough leader to get the job done. Hooking a six pounder on your three weight probably wouldn't be a good idea.

    UTAH'S BEST WALLEYE WATERS

    1. Willard Bay. After the introduction of gizzard shad into Willard, the walleye population went nuts. Willard has a large population, including good numbers of big fish.

    2. Starvation Reservoir. Starvation has declined some since its glory days in the late 1980's but there is still a tremendous population of walleye to be had there. The average fish size will be 12 to 14 inches but there is always the chance to pick up a monster, up to almost 15 pounds.

    3. Utah Lake. The walleye population has never lived up to expectations in this big water due to forage fish problems. However, there is a healthy and apparently stable population of fish in the water that range up to about 12 pounds. Most fish will be in the 12 to 14 inch range.

    4. Deer Creek Reservoir. There is a stable population of walleye here and some of them get big. In fact, this reservoir, and the river above, have produced one record walleye after another.

    5. Other walleye waters. Lake Powell (the walleye population is on the rebound here and fishing can be very good during the spring), Yuba (the walleye population crashes here and so fishing is up and down), DMAD, Sevier River below Yuba, Gunnison Bend, and Cutler.

  • By Dave Miller

    If you really want to be assured of bringing home a limit of walleye, take along a couple M1A1 Army grenades, pull the pin and throw them into the lake. If, however, you feel you must side with the majority and be honest, because it's the right thing to do — or because it's the law — then one of the following rigs should do the trick. But rest assured, nothing is guaranteed.

    In most cases you will want to keep your lure just off the bottom. A good way is to attach an Okie drifter. I used them a lot when I lived in Missouri. Made in various sizes, they are a big help when conditions dictate. A size #3 will float you three to four feet off the bottom and a size #1 will keep you up six to 12 inches. Other good devices to keep you off the bottom are the floating jig heads in size #4, Mr. Twister floating jig heads in sizes #2 through #8, Glo Go in a #4, and Phillips Floaters size #2.

    You'll need bobber slip stops (or you can tie your own), and night bobbers with extra batteries. Take along a supply of #4, #6 and #8 bait hooks for those early season walleye that love night crawlers. Trail the crawler behind a spinner or a bait walker sinker, or both, either plain or painted. Leeches don't work well in the early spring because the water is too cold and the leeches tend to ball up.

    After the water warms, always take along a supply of leeches with you. I'd rate the leech one of the best, if not the best, bait for walleye that you can use here in Utah, since you can't use live minnows.

    Regular jig heads from 1/8 to 5/8 ounce sizes, painted or unpainted, are fine, depending on where you are fishing. I like them painted in bright colors for Utah Lake. Buy rubber grubs or worms in three-inch lengths. (Take some longer ones if bass are in the area, like at Lake Powell.) Bring an assortment of colors such as black, purple, chartreuse, white, yellow and yellow/green. Also bring along a good supply of marabou jigs with soft rubber bodies in assorted colors.

    Minnows are also very effective bait for walleye. Minnows and crawlers are even more effective when fished with a stinger. A stinger is a small treble hook tied by short stiff line (15-pound test) to a jig hook. Hook a minnow or worm to the jig hook, and then stick the stinger into the rear end of the bait. Short striking fish will hit the stinger and be hooked.

    Here in Utah you have to use frozen minnows because live minnows are illegal. I keep stressing this live bait law because its darn hard to break old habits if you've moved here from a state where its perfectly okay and you have done it all your life.

    Light leader is a must in 4, 6 and 8 pound test for these finicky fish.

    No matter how you are fishing, either from a boat or float tube, you will need a little marker buoy. You can buy them for $3.69 at your local tackle store. Once you locate that school of fish you don't want to lose it. Throw out a buoy and stay in that area until you aren't getting any more hits.

    Other items that you may want to have include egg sinkers, bait walkers, split shot and an assortment of swivels. Remember, when fishing with weights, you will need 1/8 ounce of weight for every 10 feet you want to get down. So at 30 feet you would need 3/8 of an ounce — and a little more on windy days.

    If you are float tubing you will want to have a small anchor. My personal choice is a four pound, plastic coated type. The plastic isn't as abrasive as lead on the side of the float tube when not in use. With a couple of snaps attached to your anchor line you can hook it to the Nan rings already on your float tube. Works great and you can store the extra line in one of your storage compartments.

    If you want to save some money then melt your lead and make your own anchor, and paint or dip it in liquid plastic that you can buy at your local hardware store.

    I have given you a lot of tackle to take along, especially if you are fishing from a float tube. If you are, just take along the minimum. If you run out of something you can always go back to your car and get it — although that is a pain, especially if you are catching fish. One thing to consider is that you can buy a float tube a lot cheaper than you can buy a boat. And, surprisingly enough, you can cover a lot of territory in one. If you can't afford a boat, a tube is a great alternative, and you don't have to pay for a boat license either.

    Whether you are fishing from a tube or a boat, a good fish finder will really help.

  • A few sunny days make a world of difference at Lake Powell. With the onset of spring the stripers, large and smallmouth bass and walleye in Powell start thinking about spawning. But the water has to warm a bit before the fish break out of their winter lethargy and start prowling. That often happens around the first week of April. From that point forward success gets better and better until hot weather arrives in June and the crowds descend on the popular playground.

    April and May–along with September and October–are prime months at Lake Powell. Great fishing... pleasant temperatures... and fewer people. Now that's an ideal combination.

    Stripers

    Striper fishing is expected to be very good at the big lake during the coming years and biologists are encouraging people to catch and eat a bunch of them. The stripers are fat and healthy, thanks to a strong shad population. But the stripers are still overpopulated and harvest is needed to keep them from literally eating themselves out of house and home.

    The stripers congregate in Wahweap in the spring because the water is warmer there than on the upper end where snowmelt runoff is coming in. They normally stage for spawning right at Glen Canyon Dam and at the intake to the power plant. So, those are often easy places to find fish.

    "We get a whole bunch of fish stacked up in those pre-spawning congregation areas. Glen Canyon Dam is often the best spot in April," said Wayne Gustaveson, DWR Lake Powell project leader.

    Most of the stripers will be down 20 to 40 feet, with a few deeper. Anchovies are the most popular bait, but white feathered jigs are also very good. Just locate a school on your fish finder and drop your bait down into them. Cut the anchovies into chunks large enough to cover your hooks and drop them down to the fish.

    If you don't have a graph, there are usually other boats out there and they crowd around the schools.

    The striper spawn usually begins about April 25, and peaks around May 10th. It is usually over by the first of June.

    During the spawn fish sometimes leave the dam and go out onto the flats. If you move with them you can have exciting action casting lures. Get out right at dusk–from about 7 until 9 p.m. Anything that imitates a shad works well. White jigs are also good at that time.

    When the spawn is over the stripers move toward the midsections of the lake. So areas like Bullfrog and Good Hope actually get better after the spawn. Just follow the fish around.

    Walleye Fishing

    Walleye fishing was great at Powell before the stripers were introduced. As the striper population exploded walleye fishing dwindled, because the two species compete for food. Now, with more forage in the lake, walleye numbers could be on the upswing.

    "To catch walleye you definitely have to use something that stays in contact with the bottom," Wayne said. "Try a plastic worm, double-tailed jig, grub–something you can fish down on the bottom and jig it off and let it go back down. Night crawlers and dead minnows also work, but they aren't used very much. The key to catching walleye is to fish early in the morning or evening or at night, or in cloudy water. Fish the first hour of light in the morning, just before the sun hits the water."

    Look for walleye in the slick rock canyons on the lower part of the lake, down 15 to 25 feet. You can often find them right in the middle of the canyon. "I throw my lures out into the back of the canyon and work right down the middle, very slowly," Wayne said.

    "Once the light's on the water they will go back into hiding. Then you have to move to places like mud lines–you can often find the wind blowing across a point, and washing mud into the water. The walleye will move in there. A lot of times tour boats moving up and down the lake throw a tremendous wake upon the shore and wash mud into the water. The walleye will often move in there."

    Submerged islands and shelves down 15 to 25 feet often attract walleye. "You can just barely see the rocks down there and the water's kind of yellow, and then it falls off to deep blue. So there is deep water on the sides of it," Wayne said.

    The walleye spawn in Powell peaks about the first week in April, and they don't bite well at that time. "We don't usually find walleye hitting much until after the spawn. So, by April 15 the action is usually good. Actually, May is the best month for walleye," Wayne said.

    There are still a few big walleye in the lake–a 10 pounder was caught a few years ago. "That's the biggest that's been caught hook and line that I'm aware of," Wayne said. "I don't expect a state record out of the lake."

    Walleye fishing stays pretty good through June. Then the shad hatch in the backs of the canyons, so forage is more available and the walleye are harder to catch. In the summer you do best fishing for them at night.

    Largemouth and Smallmouth

    During the spring largemouth and smallmouth bass will be in the backs of the canyons, preparing to spawn. Many years there are tumbleweeds along the lake’s shoreline and they become primary structure for bass. Tumbleweed mats attract good numbers of fish.

    "Usually in the spring I tell people to fish in the backs of the canyons where turbid water meets clear water. The water looks green there and it's usually the most productive spot for largemouth and smallmouth," Wayne said.

    In slickrock canyons, if you find a pile of rocks you can also expect to find fish around it.

    Largemouth get going a bit sooner than smallmouth–usually during the first weeks of April. Smallmouth action picks up by the end of the month. Both readily take jigs and grubs. Crawdad colors are often good, along with salt and pepper. Shad imitating lures are also productive.

    Catfish

    Catfish usually become active when the surface temperature gets above 70 degrees. That's usually in May or June at Powell.

    "Actually, the hotter the better for the cats. And the closer you get to the inflow areas the better the catfishing is. It can be just fantastic in the Good Hope to Hite area, and upper San Juan. It's been really great the last couple years in July and August. Chicken liver is probably the best bait.

    "We usually pull up into a narrow cove that's protected from the wind. If you have a narrow cove with a sandy bottom that is fairly deep, that's usually the best spot. Catfish tend to come in shallow to feed, so you can almost see the bottom in most area. The thing I look for is a narrow canyon that has a gently sloping bottom and it tends to concentrate the fish, like a funnel, and they can find the bait pretty easily," Wayne said.

    Fish in water 15 to 25 feet for catfish.

  • April at Yuba Reservoir can mean walleye that haven't spawned (pre-spawn), spawning walleye and spawned-out walleye (post-spawn). Whatever the spring activity stage, these fish are going to be in a negative (not feeding) or a neutral to only slightly aggressive mood. Water temperatures will range from the low 40's to near 60 degrees. April still means spring fishing for walleye. With these cold temperatures the fish's metabolism is still slow. They are not actively feeding and because their energy needs are low they don't have to feed very often. After the rigger's of spawning they need a little time to rest and recuperate.

    When and where to find April walleye: During the pre-spawn and spawning periods (early to mid-April) the walleye in Yuba tend to bunch up in two key areas. They are found along a rather long stretch of shoreline from the cliffs southeast of the dam northwest to the sandy bluffs north of the campground. The other main area is in the vicinity of the island at the mouth of the narrows. They bunch up in these two locations mainly because of the rocky substrate they spawn over. There are a few other small rocky areas where some fish may be found.

    Peak activity will occur from sun-down to sun-up. This is when the fish will be most aggressive and anglers will experience the best and fastest fishing success. In the evening the fish will migrate into the shallows for spawning and/or feeding. Fish may be in only inches of water right up against the shore or out in a few feet of water on the brush lines and drop offs. Fish can be caught throughout the day but catch rates (fish/hour) will be low. I have caught a few fish quiet quickly in the morning and then fished almost all day for one or two more fish. During the day the walleye will be deeper. Most of my daytime success has come along the main drop off from about 12 feet to 25 feet. I plan my spring fishing to either arrive before daylight and fish until mid-morning or arrive mid-afternoon and fish until dark.

    Techniques and tricks for catching April walleye at Yuba: Although walleye can be caught from shore at Yuba, shore access is limited and it's best to fish from a boat. Other than casting jigs or maybe still fishing with a night crawler, your fishing options are limited from shore. A boat gives you greater mobility. When fish are 10 feet or deeper you can use a fish finder to help locate them.

    Walleye at Yuba in April can be caught with a variety of techniques. Casting with a perch or light colored jig is probably the best single technique. I usually tip my jigs with 1/2 a night crawler. Try a variety of jig fishing techniques from casting and hopping the jig on the bottom to swimming the jig or just slowly dragging it across the bottom. When the fish are aggressive they will hit the jig on the fall, right after it hits the water and before it can get to the bottom. Watch your line as the jig is falling and you'll see it jerk or pop near where it enters the water. You may even feel a tap. If there are two or three fish together, a fish may hit the jig and take off with it trying to keep its catch from others in pursuit. In this case you may see your line take off sideways or really feel the fish jerk. Vary your jigging techniques until the fish tell you what kind of mood they are in and then continue to fish using the technique that caught the first fish or resulted in a strike. Remember to bend your hooks out slightly and keep them razor sharp. As always when jig fishing, if something doesn't look right or feel right, set the hook immediately.

    If the fish are in 8-10 feet of water or deeper and scattered you can slow troll to locate and catch them. By "slow troll" I'm talking about every thing from barely moving up to about one mph. This type of fishing is best done by either drifting or slowly moving with an electric motor. Remember the water is cold and the fish are sluggish. You can either slow troll a single jig or a pair. Drag one jig on the bottom and have another, on a dropper off your main line, a foot up off the bottom. This allows you to use different colors, different tail types, different baits, as you experiment to find out what the fish want. You can also lose jigs twice as fast. You can also put a sliding sinker in front of a barrel swivel with a 2-4 foot leader behind the swivel and put a crawler on a plain hook or on a floating jig head. Or, you can use a bottom bouncer sinker and fish a spinner rig or a monofilament leader and a crank bait.

    By dragging a crank bait behind a bottom bouncer you can fish a crank bait that would normally run just under the surface and keep it just off the bottom in 20 feet of water. Early in the year you want to fish stick baits (like the original Rapala) or medium action baits like Shad Raps and Berkley's Frenzy. Sometimes early in the year a lure with a rattle in it will out perform one without a rattle.

    Using a bottom bouncing sinker or a heavier jig allows you to move faster, covering more water and presenting your baits to more fish. But the fish may not want a fast moving presentation. If you're seeing fish on your fish finder and not getting any hits then slow down or stop. Change techniques and baits. Slowly work a small area. Sometimes just sitting over a fish and hanging a bait (jig or baited hook) in it's face will get a fish that normally wouldn't bite.

    For jig fishing and slowly moving a jig or baited hook behind a sliding sinker, I prefer to use spinning tackle. Use a 6 to 6-1/2 foot, medium-to-medium-light spinning rod rigged with 6-8 pound line. For dragging bottom bouncing sinkers with spinners or cranks I like a casting outfit. I use 6-1/2 to 7 foot, medium or medium heavy rods and 10 pound test line. A casting reel with a flipping switch is really helpful. With the flipping switch you don't have to engage the reel after letting line out. Set your drag just hard enough to set the hook. Walleye aren't known for their fighting ability but big walleye have a reputation for making short, fast runs when least expected. If the drag is set too tight either the hooks pull free or the line breaks. The walleye in Yuba have been in such good physical shape that they tend to fight harder than walleye from most other waters.

    I have given you a lot of suggestions for ways to catch April walleye in Yuba. Remember, the best times to fish are early or late in the day. Experiment with a variety of these fishing methods and have fun. Mastering a variety of techniques will mean more walleye in the boat no matter what time of year it is.

  • walleye jiggs 2By Sam Webb

    Mike Hall took me fishing at Willard Bay on March 24th. The wind had been blowing and Hall said this should have mixed the warm, top water with the colder, lower layer producing a more even temperature throughout the water column. We hoped the waves and more even water temperature had stimulated the walleye to feed.

    Hall maneuvered his boat through the wakeless area and out into the bay. I was surprised at the number of boats and jet skis on the water. There were even a few brave (crazy?) people water skiing.

    Once we got away from the crowds Hall brought his bass boat to life and we flew toward the west dike. A number of boats were working the dike. Several were trolling but most were anchored or drifting. More than a hundred anglers lined the dike.

    Hall checked the water temperature — 49.5 degrees — warm enough to get the walleye moving. Next Hall took a long look at the water. The waves had kicked up a lot of silt and given the water a gray-green hue. Bright colored lures were in order, maybe even florescent or phosphorescent. We would have to experiment.

    Hall tied on a chartreuse single-tail grub — I tied on a chartreuse skirt and we got serious about catching a mess of walleye.

    Hall manuvered the boat parallel to the dike and just casting distance off the rocks. He put the trolling motor into low and as he lobbed his grub toward the rocks explained his method. "Cast almost into the rocks at a 90 degree angle to the boat. Begin a slow retrieve. The forward movement of the boat will pull your lure in an arc away from the dike and toward the boat. Reel slowly. Let the boat pull the lure. The combination of the boat speed and your slow retrieve will keep the lure moving."

    "As the lure swings in an arc behind the boat it will change directions and speed. The direction and speed changes will trigger the walleye to bite."

    I followed Hall's instructions and a dozen or so casts later set the hook on a 14 inch walleye. It was a little male. Hall said that the females hadn't moved in to the dike yet and the males were just beginning to school up in preparation for the spawning ritual.

    I was excited! This was my first walleye of the year. A few casts later Hall hooked another small male.

    As we slowly moved along the dike we talked to the fishermen casting from shore. Many of them had a walleye or two but the general consensus was that fishing was slow. I made a mental note of the different lures being cast: lots of single tail grubs (in all shapes, colors and styles), a few double tail grubs, skirts (tubes), rapalas and spinner baits.

    We approached two fishermen putting their gear away and preparing to head for home. Hall asked them how they had done. Both said that they had their limit of 6 walleye and that fishing had been great!

    Of course the next question was, "What have you been using?" They held up three inch, pearl colored, single tail grubs with action tails. We immediately broke off our lures and tied on pearl colored grubs. The results were dramatic. On Hall's first cast with the pearl grub he caught a nice walleye. The action from then on was fantastic.

    Now, some of you long-time walleye anglers may laugh at me when I confess that I missed about three times as many fish as I caught. I was raised on trout fishing and walleye just don't hit a lure the same way trout do. As a matter of fact, if you wait until you get a trout-like hit you will only catch one out of every 20 or 30 (or more) walleye that take your lure.

    When walleye hit a lure they simply take it in their mouth. Generally all you feel, if you feel anything at all, will be a slight tap. More often, the line will move in an unnatural way or your "sixth sense" will tell you to set the hook. When this happens, don't hesitate, set the hook!

    Don't fall asleep either because every once in a while a walleye will surprise you. After several hours of fishing I started holding my rod loosely as I slowly reeled in the grub. No problem right? After all, I just finished discussing how lightly walleye take a lure. Wrong! A walleye suddenly whacked my grub so hard it almost jerked the rod right out of my hands. It was all I could do to recover in time to grab my rod tightly enough to keep it from going over the side.

    Later in the afternoon another walleye smashed my lure just as I was pulling it out of the water, right at the side of the boat. Once a walleye gets it into its head that it wants your lure, hang on because it will darn near jump right into your boat trying to get to it.

    Have I confused you? First I said that walleye hit lures so softly that you will have a difficult time telling when to set the hook and then I spent a couple paragraphs saying that walleye will hit your lure so hard that they will rip your rod right out of your hands.

    Both are true. About 29 out of every thirty walleye will simply tap your lure as they close their mouth on it — but watch out for that last one!

    Although we did pick up a few fish right on the rocks, most of the walleye hit as the lure moved through its arc about half way to the boat.

    Troll-casting is especially effective in the spring when the walleye are schooled up and have moved right in on the rocks. With some modifications this method should produce nice fish through most of the summer. When the water begins to warm the fish will move deeper during the day. To get into the fish it will be necessary to get your lure down to the fish. This may mean casting deep-running rapalas and bait rigs. Make sure the lure is down near the bottom as it begins its arc and you are sure to pick up some nice fish.

    Now it was late afternoon. The water was almost glass-like and the sun was beginning to set behind the dike. Fishermen were arriving by the truckload. They were spaced about 10 feet apart all along the dike. As we moved away from the dike and beyond the reach of the lines being cast from shore, I thought back to the walleye "rules" I learned on the lower Provo River when I was a kid. The fast "rule" was that walleye would not take a lure when they were spawning. Back then most of the the fishermen "in the know" got out their big treble hooks, melted a blob of lead onto the shank and jerked them across the river. They did catch (snag) their share of walleye but I never did think it a very sporting (or legal) method for taking the fish.

    The second "rule" was that the only time to take walleye was in the late evening, night or early morning. Everyone knew that walleye didn't feed during the day.

    Of course both these "rules" are wrong. On this afternoon we not only proved that walleye will take a lure in the mid-afternoon — we proved that they will hit without hesitation — if you present the right lure. As far as walleye not taking a lure during the spawn — what a dumb idea!

    As a kid I didn't worry too much about what the older, wiser fishermen told me. I simply went fishing whenever I could and where ever I could.

    In the early spring I often rode my bike down to the lower Provo River, where the water starts to back up as it prepares to enter the lake. I would thread a garden worm, or if they were small, two, onto a size six hook and then let it bounce around and through the old cars and rip-rap dumped at each bend in the river to "stabilize" the banks.

    The fishing was never fast but usually I rode home in the evening with a couple of walleye tied to the handlebar of my bike. I always did my best to tie the fish out where they were the most noticeable. The fish were always good for a few stares.

    The problem was, when I got the fish home, I never knew what to do with them. No one had ever told me about filleting fish. I usually ended up scaling them and then frying them like I would a 10 inch rainbow. They never did taste very good that way. It was years later that I finally began to appreciate how easy it is to properly prepare a walleye for the frying pan and just how good walleye fillets taste.

    I mentioned the fishing technique I had used as a kid to Hall and he said that bouncing a worm along the bottom is still one of the best ways to take walleye. A spinnerbait or other lure with a crawler attached to the hook will take walleye when everything else has failed. Tipping a skirt with a crawler, so the crawler extends out from the "tentacles" can be deadly.

    It was starting to get dark and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Time to head the bass boat back to the marina.

    The walleye will stay schooled up until at least the middle of April and then they will return to their more solitary ways. Fishing will be good for all the month of April and May.

    Once the water warms the fish will move deeper and be more difficult to catch. So by June and July you will have to change tactics to assure yourself of some walleye fillets for dinner.

  • It's time to start thinking about walleye. In just a few weeks the walleye will start their annual spawn, attracting a growing number of anglers from all around the state.

    Walleye have long been a popular sport-fish across the United States. But they are just starting to win the hearts of Utah fishermen — primarily because of the long-standing purist trout tradition which has dominated the fishing climate in Utah for all of recorded history.

    But now the word is getting out: Utah offers some very good walleye fishing.

    Although most walleye caught in Utah range from 2 to 5 pounds, new state record fish have been caught regularly and another may show up this year. It may have your name on it!

    You can catch walleye year-round if you are willing to work at it. But this big member of the perch family attracts the most attention during its early spring spawn, when the fish congregate in the shallows along lake and reservoir shorelines and inlet streams. During the rest of the year they spread out in the reservoirs, making them more difficult to locate.

    An old wive's tale suggests that walleye don't bite during the spawn — that you have to snag them. Actually, it is against the law to intentionally snag game fish in Utah. The only way you can legally take walleye is to dangle a hook in front of their nose.

    It is true that walleye don't feed as actively during the spawn. You have to tease and entice them. They often go on a feeding binge immediately after spawning, at the time most anglers are putting away their boats and rods.

    So when will all this excitement begin this year? You'll have to ask Mother Nature that question. Staging fish typically begin to show up 6 to 10 days after ice is off the lake or reservoir. When late winter temperatures are mild that may happen during the first week of March at Willard Bay and Utah Lake. When early March weather is cold the fish may not spawn actively until the third week of the month.

    The spawn gains momentum when there are consecutive warm days, and slows when the mercury drops. Wind can also stall the spawn, but it will pick up again when calm returns. Water temperature is an effective way to judge walleye activity. Some fish are seen spawning when the surface temperature reaches the low 40's. Activity seems to peak when the surface warms to the high 40's and low 50's. Generally, that's about the first week of April.

    Pat Milburn of Anglers Inn fame is an avid walleye fisherman. Actually, he enjoys almost every type of fishing, and spends about two days a week out on the water. He offers these tips for walleye:

    "More walleye are caught on jigs than anything else," Pat said. "Bright colors seem to work the best: yellows, chartreuse, whites. Sometimes it helps to use a brightly colored lead head which contrasts with the jig. Mixing and matching colors can improve success."

    Jigs are inexpensive and come in an almost overwhelming number of colors, shapes and sizes. Bring plenty and experiment until you find what works. Curly-tail and feathered jigs are good bets, along with gitzits and any grub imitation.

    Lures are also effective for walleye, — particularly minnow or shad imitations. Rapalas, thinfin shad and rebel minnows are good. Most bass plugs also work. "Mepps are often overlooked, but can work very well. The Lusox Mepp fished with bait (nightcrawler or minnow) is a good bet."

    During the spawn, walleye concentrate along the dikes and shorelines, in water which is only 2 to 8 feet deep. Many people troll these shallows. Others anchor and cast. "The primary advantage of a boat is it can get you away from the crowds," Pat said. "But I know lots of people without boats who catch a lot of fish. Waders are helpful. Float tubes are an excellent way to walleye fish. You can be real quiet and get right in among the fish."

    Cast as nearly parallel to the dike or shore as you can, then when you retrieve, your hook will be in the productive zone for the maximum amount of time. When you catch a fish, pay close attention to how deep your jig or lure was when the fish hit. Try to fish at that depth.

    "Probably the most common mistake people make during the spawn is they fish too fast," Pat said. "It's better to fish too slow than too fast." You want to be just off the bottom most of the time, bumping rocks occasionally.

    You may want to use a casting bubble to suspend your hook inches off the bottom. You'll then be able to fish as slowly as you desire, jigging and teasing without fear of snags.

    "That's one of the best rigs for walleye," Pat said. "The trick is to keep slack out of your line. If you let the line go slack, you can't feel the strike."

    Angler's Inn offered a special jig head designed especially for the walleye run. It featured a large hook, but only a 1/16 ounce head. "You can't cast it very far, but it's so light that you can fish it very slowly. It doesn't settle into the rocks."

    As water temperatures warm, walleye become more aggressive and you can fish faster.

    Strikes are very subtle. "Many times your lure simply stops, or quits vibrating. The fish often takes the hook while swimming toward you. Anything which feels different may be a strike, so you should give your rod a twitch."

    Utah Lake and Willard Bay are Utah's most popular early spring Walleye waters. In Utah Lake, Pat said Bird Island, Lincoln Beach, Provo Harbor and dikes near Lindon and Geneva are productive spots. "They really concentrate in these areas — you know right where to find them."

    You need a boat to fish Bird Island. The lake level rises and falls so often, water depths around the island are unpredictable. "You can be out 200 to 300 feet from an exposed part of the island and knock your motor off," Pat said.

    At Willard, the dikes and the west side are best. The water level drops off fast there, so you can't really wade effectively. Use a boat, or stay on the dirt.

    The fish don't concentrate so much in Starvation and Yuba so they are harder to predict. Look for shallow, rocky shorelines.

    "These are tricky reservoirs to fish," Pat said. You've got to spend some time getting to know them."

    Walleye fishing is usually best at night, but many of the fish are also caught during the early morning and late afternoon. The fish seem to be light sensitive, particularly during the spawn.

    The water in Utah Lake is quite murky, and so light doesn't seem to be as big a factor there.

    Pat said he ranks walleye at the top of the list for taste. "They're delicious. You can't beat them fried or broiled. Roll them in seasoned flour or corn meal."