A Cool Water (Walleye) Sandwich

Resident fishing expert Dan Donarski gives some advice about how to get your fall (and walleye season) off to a great start.

Fall means the summer doldrums are over on the walleye front. As the water cools the fish once again become very active.

Did you hear, or feel, that big breath of wind on September 7? Most folks with school-aged kids will tell you that wind came from the mothers and fathers of these children as a long-needed sigh of relief that comes with Independence Day, also known as the first day of school!

I was part of that wind, and while some of it certainly had to do with my son Eric heading off for middle school, and my daughter Karen heading off for college, it also came from something else– it came from the start of the fall walleye fishing bonanza. Yup, after more than a month of the walleyes seemingly in lockjaw under a scorching summer sun, the temps have started to cool. And, with that cooler weather the walleyes are once again becoming very active.

Your luck with walleyes will improve as we move into fall.

From Saginaw Bay to the Bays de Noc and lakes like Big Manistique to Muskegon, and big rivers from the St. Joe to the St. Marys, walleyes are starting to put on the feed bag and actively feed. Right now the fish are still pretty much on a crawler bite but as water temperatures start to decline this will change over to a minnow bite.

There’s another switch to look for starting soon, too. As of right now, the best action is coming from those anglers fishing at night, or at least in the low light hours of dawn and dusk. While low light will continue to be productive in the coming weeks, the fish will also start to feed much more during the daylight hours (let’s see…the kids are in school…sounds like a great day to go fishing! And that way you can be home to help with the homework after school.).

Walleye action will heat up as temperatures cool down.

If your walleye water is a river, consider fishing around wing dams, any scour holes on deep bends, or just out of the strongest current. Walleyes will be gathering up here in anticipation of an easy meal. Why is it easy here? Because these current breaks are where the baitfish will gather, too.

On lakes and reservoirs look for a definite contour break or a place where the bottom changes consistency. Anywhere the bottom drops off quickly into 20 or more feet of water is a good contour break. And a change from sand or mud to gravel, or even better, big rocks, will be an area where the walleyes will congregate. Basically if you look for structure first you will more than likely find the fish (structure equals the presence of prey; presence of prey equals the presence of predators).

Dan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.