Transition time. May and June in the underwater world of the Minnesota walleye screams “transition time!”. It’s that time of the yearly fishing cycle when various schools of walleyes thoughout Minnesota are adapting from their spring locations to their summer locations. And depending on where your next big fishing adventure is scheduled, there can be multiple patterns or strategies to pay attention too in order to be successful. Now don’t get me wrong, not all of the fish swim out of the shallows that they coveted throughout May and instantly dart for deeper water at the same time-- as some believe. In fact, in most bodies of water, some walleyes never leave the shallows (5-10ft) all summer long—and that’s one of the easiest patterns to fish. That’s a later article, for now we are concerned with the basics of May/June walleye location.
May walleyes are basically eating machines and can be found in depths ranging from 4-30 ft. The more productive depth ranges in general seem to be between 6 and 20 ft.—which is either up on the shallow flats (6-12 ft. centered around pods of bait fish and newly growing weeds only inches tall) close to spawning areas and then lingering out to the first break (drop off) and down potentially to the newly growing weed line—12-20 ft. In either location, food / bait fish is the key to finding walleyes—year round for that matter!
Walleyes need food 24/7/365. So get out the Humminbird side imaging sonar and use it as a radar beam to scan the shallows around your boat for pods (blobs) of bait/minnows as you idle around the shallow water flats. Find the food and the walleyes will be close by—within yards of the food source. Long line stick baits like Rapalas or Salmos while you are searching/scanning with the boat—preferably by using your trolling motor for stealth. Rippin’ swim baits like the Northland Live Forage series can also help locate “weed fish” more quickly. Stick to swim baits in the 4” length on a ¼ oz jig.
When multiple pods of bait fish or walleyes are found (or caught) stop the boat and simply work the area more thoroughly by pitching a small jig 1/16-1/8 oz. green, blue, or glow white Northland Tackle jig tipped with a shiner minnow hooked through the lips fished on clear 6 lb. or 8 lb. monofilament line. Line stretch helps the fish inhale the bait easier than a non-stretch line. Drag the jig along the bottom and slowly work the area you think the school is utilizing. Hold your position with the trolling motor. This is where your anchor feature on the Minnkota trolling motor comes in handy. Do not anchor with a rope anchor or a Talon type anchor until you have caught numerous fish in the same area. Disturbing the bottom can spook the fish! Typically in May, small schools of walleyes are roaming and will not hang around long anyway—hence why some movement of your bait via trolling or drifting works well on the flats this time of the year.
Concentrate on shallow feeding flats between spawning areas and deeper water (s)—30ft plus. Your search should stop at the first break leading to deeper water. Make sure to use your Humminbird graph or Vexilar flasher to scan the drop off looking for fish—especially as the month of May is blending into June. One last tip—don’t forget about current areas like in- flowing rivers/creeks for some great evening fishing. The walleyes will filter into the shallows as the sun sinks beneath the horizon making for some great shore fishing/wading opportunities that at times a boat angler cannot capitalize on.
The first thing I think of in June in regards to walleye fishing in Minnesota is “multiple patterns” to choose from. Shallow sand/gravel flats, new shallow weed beds (cabbage/coontail), primary breaks/deep weed lines, mid-range flats (13ft-20 ft), and some mid lake structure options as well. These are only some of the obvious options. To keep it simple—focus on the primary deep weed line that is found on the first break line (drop off) out from shore. The first break could be a few hundred yards out from shore or a mile. The further out and the more it stretches into deep water (30ft plus), the better. Use your LakeMaster or Navionics charts to find these areas and then use your sonar to narrow the search find the depth of the weed line (the depth at which the weeds stop growing and the bottom appears “clean and empty” on your sonar. An average weed line depth in most Minnesota lakes is in between 15-20 ft. deep. Water clarity decides where it will be.
Throughout the month of June, walleyes, as well almost all gamefish, can be found using this newly formed weed line. Cabbage weeds or a mix of cabbage and coontail weeds seem to be the best for holding a good mix of fish. Big loner walleyes, and schools of eaters can be caught though out the day using a variety of live bait presentations. Live bait rigs ( like Lindy rigs) comprised of a 30”-40” leader, ¼-1/2oz slip sinker, and a #2 or #4 hook tipped with an active minnow, medium leech or crawler will catch fish. On the jig side of the world, an 1/8 oz jig tipped with a medium sized minnow or medium leech will cover most weed line depths. If you are having problems keeping bottom contact with your bait –try a slower boat speed. For faster trolling speeds, try a 3/4 ounce bottom bouncer and a JB Lures spinner crawler combination—my personal favorite. Always note the depth and boat speed when a fish is caught.
While there are no hard and fast rules in the sport of walleye fishing, there are basic patterns in fish behavior, location, and activity. This quick summary of just a tiny fraction of May/June walleye fishing in Minnesota conveys some consistent basics and should help bring results to your next Minnesota walleye fishing trip. Lotsa Fish! Lotsa Fun! Captain Josh Hagemeister, Minnesota Fishing Guide Service, 320-291-0708, 320-732-9919, www.minnesotaguideservice.com www.minnesotaicefishhouserental.com www.mycampfish.com