Now that Pennsylvania’s walleye season is in full swing, let’s take a look at the walleye, which is probably the best tasting of all freshwater fish. The walleye is the largest member of the freshwater perch family. It gets its name from its large eyes. Many areas of the Allegheny , as well as lakes like Pymatuning, have good populations of these fine fish. Of course, as this is being written, the Allegheny is high and swift, and the color of chocolate milk.
Walleye tackle isn’t really all that complicated. 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 walleye fishing. If it’s too heavy, you won’t have much fun, as walleyes are, in fact, rather poor fighters.
There are several live baits which will do a good job of putting walleyes in your boat. Medium sized minnows have probably proven to be the best for me. Nightcrawlers, though, are also deadly. Leeches, although disgusting to handle, will produce, but are rather expensive to buy. 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 work very well, especially when trolling. The Heddon Sonar is great, as it can be fished like a spoon or a jig. The old faithful Red and White Dardevle spoon has done a good job for me, too.
A lot of anglers are highly successful fishing with jigs for walleyes. I, however, am not. For some reason, I’ve never been a really good jig fisherman. Oh, I have my days, but I usually miss a lot of strikes. I have, however, seen guys fishing two rods at the same time, one in each hand, and catching lots of fish.
Whether you use bait or lures, you must keep in mind that walleyes are extremely light sensitive. During periods of bright sunlight, they will almost always head for the depths, 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. Night fishing, however, 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 daylight.
There’s one type of walleye fishing we haven’t examined, and that’s charter fishing. This is really fun. Dozens of charter captains operate walleye trips on Lake Erie. You can find them at about any town along the lake. Personally, I prefer the Port Clinton/Marblehead area of Ohio. The fishing is great, and I never get tired of seeing the old Marblehead Lighthouse. It’s the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Once you catch some walleyes, you’re in for a taste treat. I like to filet mine, then skin the filets. You need a pretty good knife, as the skin and scales are rather tough. A quality blade, like the Rapala, will just need touched up every now and then. In the future, we’ll look at some fish recipes.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention walleye cheeks and wings. These were shown to me by a charter captain. The wings are of particular interest. They are the meat right by the pelvic fins. The fins act like a little handle when you are eating the wings. Just google walleye wings, and you will find a lot of videos on how to harvest them.