Into the Outdoors - Walleye Fishing

Next Saturday, May 2nd, is a big day for a lot of Keystone State anglers. Walleye season opens on that very day. This week, let’s take a look at walleye fishing, as the Allegheny River contains some of the best in the state. Pymatuning, which is not all that far away, can be great, too. Before continuing, I must admit that fishing articles carry a bit of baggage this year due to the lockdown. That said, if nothing else, maybe this will fuel some pleasant fantasies. The walleye is the largest member of the freshwater perch family. It gets its name from its large eyes. They are just about the most delicious fish you can find anywhere. In fact, I know some people who don’t really care all that much for fish who find walleye delicious. Walleye fishing isn’t really all that complicated once you find the fish. Remember, these are schooling fish, so if you catch one, there are probably more around. If you catch a couple of little ones, though, you might as well move on to somewhere else, as that’s all you’ll probably get from that area. Tackle requirements for the walleye angler are pretty simple. A good, medium weight spinning or casting outfit will do just fine. If the rod’s too light, you won’t be able to fish the sometimes rather heavy baits required for walleyes. Also, you’ll have trouble setting the hook. If the rod’s too heavy, you won’t have much fun, as walleyes are, in fact, pretty poor fighters. My personal preference is a casting outfit, with 8 or 10 pound test line. Both baitcasting and push-button spincasting reels will work equally well. Actually, it’s all a matter of personal preference, as lots of walleyes are caught on spinning tackle, too. There are several live baits which will do a good job of putting walleyes in your boat. Shiners are hard to beat. I’ve always had my best luck with the medium-sized ones, although I’ve caught walleyes on both large and small ones as well. Nightcrawlers are really deadly baits. Leeches will produce quite well, but they’re rather expensive, and less than fun to handle. My brother-in-law from Minnesota uses them more than any other bait, and he catches lots of walleyes. Often, a weight-forward spinner, like the Erie Dearie, tipped with a crawler or leech will give the fish that extra encouragement to hit that they sometimes need. When it comes to artificials, many of the minnow imitations, such as those manufactured by Storm and Rebel, will do a great job, especially when trolling. Spoons and spinners will work, but I think the minnow imitators are a bit better. A lot of anglers are highly successful fishing with jigs for walleyes. I, however, am not. For some reason, I’ve just never mastered the art of jig fishing. Although I have my good days once in a long while, I almost always have trouble setting the hook quickly enough, and that causes me to miss a lot of fish. Whether you use bait or lures, you must keep in mind that walleyes are extremely sensitive to light. During periods of bright sunlight, they will almost always head for the deep water, or for some type of cover to protect them from the sun. For this reason, in the daytime, you usually have to fish deep for them. Trolling is especially effective here. Night fishing is another story. Now, the sun is no longer a factor, so the fish move into the shallows to feed on the minnows, crayfish and other food found there. This is when they are really the most vulnerable to the angler’s efforts. At night, you can fish shoreline areas and achieve much success. In fact, over the course of a season, a night angler will usually catch more walleyes than one who fishes in the daytime. Once you catch a mess of walleyes, you are in for a taste treat. Skinless, boneless walleye filets are hard to beat. There are lots of ways to cook them, and the results are all good.

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