Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish for Walleye

If you want to fish for walleye, it helps to familiarize yourself with their behaviors. We take a look at the best time to fish for walleye all year round.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish for Walleye

If you want to fish for walleye, it helps to familiarize yourself with their behaviors. We take a look at the best time to fish for walleye all year round.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Buying the best rod and reel won't guarantee you a catch when walleye fishing. Being prepared and knowing when and where to fish will help you succeed, as well!  

You can find walleye all across the states, but walleyes can be temperamental, and they won't always bite. We’ll give you a ton of tips, as well as some of the top fishing destinations, so that you can be as prepared as possible!

Understanding Walleye Behavior

If you want to fish for walleye, it will help to familiarize yourself with their habits and behaviors. Walleye fish can be found in lakes and medium to large rivers. Sometimes they’re in shallow locations as low as 2 feet, and they can migrate into 20-30 feet in hot weather.

This diverse species changes with the season, time of day, water temperature, and baitfish availability in the area. From South Carolina to Canada and all across the Great Lakes, walleye fish are found in many areas and throughout the year.

When Is The Best To Fish For Walleye

Factors To Consider When Fishing For Walleye

Water Temperature

The temperature of the water is a huge fact to consider when targeting walleye species. In the springtime, when water (surface) temperatures are lower, you’ll have better luck catching walleyes in shallow waterways.

Once the temperature rises, they begin moving in deeper bodies of water and are most comfortable when the surface temperatures are 70 degrees. By recording the water temperature, you can track the fishes' movements and work your way offshore as the season progresses.

Spawning Behavior

Spawning occurs in a narrow window when the water temperature rises to the mid-40-degree range. You can expect walleye spawns to take place as early as February in the South, May in the Midwest, and June up North.

This means male walleyes move into spawning areas at this time to begin the mating. The larger females arrive later. These spawning areas are around rocks and debris in shallow bodies of water (between 1-6 feet). Currents clear away fine sediments from the area, which in return cleanses and aerates the eggs. 

Feeding & Mating Time

The best time to fish for walleye has to do with their feeding and mating patterns. As we mentioned, mating typically begins in early spring and shallow waterways. As walleyes like prolonged low light conditions, they stay in and around the outskirts of large lakes in spring and navigate offshore for the summer months. This is when you’ll need to fish from a boat or enjoy a day of kayak fishing to find walleye.

As for feeding, walleye are actively eating on rainy, windy, or cloudy days before sunset and sunrise. They like to feel safe by the cover of clouds or the ripples of water. Walleyes can feed throughout the night, as well, thanks to the dark sky. This is a great walleye fishing tip for shore anglers as they push towards shallow, cooler bodies of water looking for newly accessible feeding grounds.


Best Fishing Time For Walleye

Best Time Of Day

The best time to walleye fish is the hour before sunrise and sunset. These hours are known as the ‘golden hours’ by many anglers as it’s also the best time to fish a ton of game fish, including striped bass. When fishing at sunset, they tend to bite 30 minutes before the sun goes down. It’s worth mentioning that the time of day will differ depending on the latitude where you live. Simply check which time the sun rises and sets in your area, and plan your trip accordingly.

By Season

Even though spring is the best season for walleye fish, you’ll be happy to hear that walleye fishing can still take place throughout the year. You'll need to go into deep waterways during the day in spring and summer, but they tend to go into shallow waters before sunrise and sunset.

Night fishing works best in the summer months as they begin to move to shallow waters and feed all night long. In winter, your best bet is fishing through the ice. Ice fishing for walleye is becoming more popular in the late afternoons, evenings, and into the night. 

Walleyes are most active when feeding during this time in winter, and as time passes, they begin to slow down until the water temperature rises again. For anglers who prefer fishing in autumn, setting up mid-day and targeting walleye during sunset and sunrise gives you the best chances.

Walleyes ramp up their fat stores in preparation for the leaner winter, so they’re still incredibly active almost all day long.


Fishing For Walleye In Different Locations

  • Detroit River
    The Detroit River provides 95% of the water into Lake Erie. As walleyes are programmed to swim up currents to spawn in spring, it’s no surprise it’s filled with walleye fish by late March. In April and May, the number of walleye fish goes through the roof as they flood into Lake Erie. The chances of catching 10lbs+ trophy walleyes are incredibly high during these spring months. It’s important to note; vertical jigging is a better technique than trolling in the Detroit River.
  • Canada
    The best time to walleye fish in Canada is during Fall and the first ice period of winter. Trolling large cranks into deep waterways in Fall works well, or using live baits during ice fishing season works just as well. Of course, you can fish for walleye in spring, but we recommend staying in shallow waters during these months. Lac Seul, Lake Nipissing, and the Rainy Lake are good spots for spring and fall walleye fishing. For the best ice fishing destination, we recommend the Lake of the Prairies. 
  • Minnesota
    If you want the best chances of catching a walleye in the summer months, then you’ll want to get to Minnesota. Fishing success tends to be highest in May and June when walleye are most frequently in shallow or semi-shallow locations. They then move to deeper locations as water temperatures rise throughout summer. In spring, walleye concentrate in near-shore areas, especially around big sand flats. This is where they feed on schools of minnows and other prey. Fall is a good time to troll with hard plastic baits in and around weeds, debris, or gravel bars.
  • Colorado
    In Colorado, you’ll find one of the best places to fish for walleyes in the state - the Cherry Creek Reservoir. May and June are the best months to jig for walleyes on this reservoir. You also have the Jackson Lake as there are a ton of protective presentations that walleyes like to keep cover under and hide. Walleye often swim close to Jackson Lake’s shores, so casting a crankbait directly from the shore is a great option when the water temperature is neither too high nor low. To successfully catch walleye in this lake, try fishing from October through to May.
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People also Ask (FAQs)

What is the best bait for walleye?

Walleyes are predatory game fish that eat a range of aquatic organisms, like fish and insects. Minnows are the most popular live bait for walleye fishes. They enjoy nightcrawlers and leeches, too.

What color lures do walleye like?

When you’re fishing during sunny and clear days, it’s best to focus on bright purple and green lures to get a walleye’s attention. For cloudy days, stick with deep and dark emerald greens and plum purples. These are the most productive colors for targeting walleye.

What is the best depth to fish for walleye?

Walleyes feed in waterways that are less than 10 feet in fertile lakes as the level of dissolved oxygen runs out past that. However, you can catch walleye fish in various depths, starting as shallow as 2 feet around weeds and in debris. They can also be caught as deep as 20-feet in some regions of lakes and rivers. Using a fish finder can help you locate schools of walleye to help you on your hunt.

Are walleye bottom feeders?

Technically speaking, yes, walleyes are bottom feeders, particularly in large lakes. Yet, they also feed along sandbars, reefs, or at points of access from larger bodies of water. You can also find walleyes feeding along weed lines and in shallow waters in shallow waterways.

How do you catch walleye?

There are many different ways to get a good yellow pike catch. Some of the most popular techniques include casting a jig-and-minnow, trolling live bait, using hard plastic lures, or using a bobber. No matter the technique, make sure you’ve got the best rod and reel suitable for walleye fishing.

What is considered a trophy walleye?

This depends on where you are fishing and the average size of fish in that area. Some areas have many 20"-30" walleyes, so it’s not considered a trophy catch if they’re all in the same range of size. A good rule of thumb is if it weighs over 10 lbs, longer than 25” in length, and if it was a tough catch, then it’s considered a trophy walleye. 


Conclusion

Choosing the best time to fish for walleye could be the difference between a fun or failed fishing adventure. Don’t let all of your research and reading go to waste, and plan according to the location you're in.

Always consider the seasons and water temperatures as these finicky fish are sensitive to these factors. If you take our advice and plan out your trip right, you could come home with a trophy walleye before you know it.

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