Locating and Catching Deep Water Walleye in the Great Lakes

August 9, 2017

Lake Erie Great Lakes Walleye

It’s no secret that locating and catching walleye can be more difficult during the late summer months for some anglers. During the late spring and early summer anglers can typically find walleye on shallow reefs, rock piles and bays. As summer progresses and the water temperatures increase, walleye begin to space out and move to deeper water. While walleye can be unpredictable after a front moves in, here are some tips for locating and catching walleye during late summer months in the Great Lakes.

Find the big boats. Some anglers may not like to hear this, especially if they have big boats or are charter boat captains. However, if you haven’t been out fishing for a while or don’t know where to find the fish, there is a good chance finding a few charter boats in the area will indicate there are fish.

Use a Fish Hawk. This becomes as important as your fish finder during the summer months. When you are fishing deep water walleye, a Fish Hawk is going to give you down speed and temperature, which are crucial. During the summer, strong lake currents can cause your trolling speed to be way more or less than your surface trolling speed. The Fish Hawk will also help you find the thermocline and cold water pockets, which are essential to finding feeding fish.

Vary your lure depth. This is important almost anytime, but varying your depth will put more and bigger fish in the box. While most of the fish will typically school near the thermocline, big walleye are commonly found closer to the bottom in the deep “ice water”. There are also times when walleye will school higher up in the water column to feed on baitfish. This is more common during the first few hours of light and heading into the twilight hours.

Use a bait that rattles or has a wide wobble. Every variable counts when fishing for deep water walleye. Using baits that have a strong rattle, like Bandit’s Deep Walleye Divers, or a strong wobbling action, like Reef Runner’s 800 Series Deep Divers, will draw fish in from a distance which helps when fish are spaced out.

Research the color phases. This is, by far, one of the most important factors to consider when fishing for deep water walleye. You will hear anglers say, “that color was good last year, but not this year.” While there could be some freakish reason for that lure working last year versus this year, a more common reason is the color does not match the depth you are fishing or the current light situation. Understanding the color phases will help you key in on what colors to use at what depths and whether to use bright, flashy colors or dull color patterns.

Find areas that depth changes quickly. When fishing shallow water, breaks and dropoffs are very common. Finding spots where the depth changes quickly will likely hold cold water pockets and will give you a good chance of finding active fish. If you are trolling from deep to shallow water, this will also help you indicate where the fish are feeding in the water column.

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