There are many reasons anglers love to fish for walleye. They’re fun and challenging to locate and catch. They’re one of the most delicious fish on the water. And they can be sought throughout the year. Autumn, however, is the popular time of year for walleye anglers, since the species enjoys the cooler temperatures and fall is the best time of the year to catch huge walleye. Keep reading to learn a few tips on how you can enjoy a cooler full of walleye this fall.
Like most fish, walleye are feeding actively during the fall months, in order to prepare their bodies for the winter, especially females. Their primary food source is baitfish, which means larger lures that imitate such prey are the way to go. There are a variety of lures that will work this time of year, and a few that you should pick up if walleye are your quarry this fall include Berkley’s Flicker Shad, XPS Nitro Dancer, and any of Cotton Cordell’s minnow shaped hardbaits. Grubs are also a good choice, too, but are usually three inches at their largest, so keep that in mind.
Minnows are the top all-around bait for walleye during the fall. This is why crankbaits and minnow-imitating hardbaits work so well. Not only do they mimic baitfish perfectly, but they can be worked a few different ways, depending on your needs. Whether you troll them behind the boat or cast them out to the water, the lures consistently produce fish this time of year. The trick, however, is to not work them too quickly. While walleye enjoy colder waters, they’re still cold-blooded and will move a little slower during the fall. Keeping your hardbaits at a slow, steady speed with a wide wobble will appeal to the fish’s opportunistic instinct to chase an “easy” meal. If you’re fortunate enough to possess a fish finder, and can see where the fish are suspending, choose a lure that dives just above that level. When fishing shallow water, try to use a bait that will dive to the bottom and impact with objects, as this erratic action will entice the fish.
Going back to the minnow concept, it’s hard to beat a live minnow on a jig during the fall. Drop-offs and weed edges are popular hangouts for walleye and a live minnow on a ¼ to 3/8 ounce jig will work wonders. If you haven’t located any fish yet, drag this setup along the bottom. If you’ve found the fish, though, position your boat so that you can vertically jig the minnow right above the walleye.
One last thing to keep in mind is to keep your tackle light. Or, rather, as light as you can get away with. Lures tend to maintain a more natural action and better performance on lighter line, and a strong, 8-pound line is usually enough for walleye. When trolling, especially around objects or potential snags, 10 or 12-pound will work.
Avid walleye anglers will have their own secrets and go-to tactics this fall, but for those of you who seek walleye only occasionally, or have never gone after them, the basic tips I’ve covered today will help you get a leg up this fall. Remember to dress warmly and if you get a cooler full of fish, check out some of my walleye recipes when it comes time to cook your haul. By the way, I’m also always available to taste-test any walleye you prepare!