Anglers may need to be flexible to find walleyePublished 5:26am Thursday, June 6, 2013
I take the Brooks family fishing every August. Chuck, Claudia, Greg and Lesley call every year and reserve two half-days for the last week of August.
A couple of years ago I met them on Sunday morning for the first of two outings — it’s partially a fun trip and partially a scouting trip so they can figure out bits of fishing information like lure color, depth, and bait type.
I began our outing in 30 feet. It was a depth I’d been using for a week or so and the walleye were still there. The Brooks had nice walleyes coming in right away. The rest of the morning followed suit. We boated lots of walleyes, kept a very nice bunch, and released many more. It was a solid pattern.
Chuck and Claudia and the kids left with big smiles and big hopes about the weeks fishing. They ran to the bait store and bought the same color spinners and got a bunch of night crawlers.
I was to see them at the end of the week for our second outing together — it’s always a fun trip — a nice send-off and a perfect way to end their stay.
In the meanwhile, I had more guiding to do with other parties before I saw the Brooks again.
I picked up my next party the next morning. I ran out wondering if the walleye were still going to be in the same pattern — I’m always preparing myself for pattern changes. We started in 30 feet of water, trolled for nearly an hour at three or four different areas and didn’t boat a single keeper. Eventually, I tried deeper and started to catch walleye the second I hit 36 or 37 feet of water — it wasn’t a huge depth change, but it seemed like the most of the walleye population were in sync and had grouped at 36 feet of water, and they had amazingly done it over night.
I was relieved that the change was only a subtle depth change, the same spinner colors and a night crawler were still working.
For the rest of the week the walleye were packed into 36 feet of water, no more, no less — it was competition-driven feeding at its best.
Friday had finally arrived and it was time to get Chuck and Claudia back on board for their second and final outing of their stay.
On the way out I asked how their fishing had been throughout the week and expected a positive answer.
To my surprise, they said had only caught a few all week. They didn’t sound upset or discouraged. I couldn’t believe it. They like to joke around so I asked them again, and Chuck kind of laughed and said, “The walleye quit biting right?”
I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t catch walleye. Suddenly I remembered the fish shifted deeper early in the week.
So I asked them how deep they’d been fishing. Chuck laughed and said, “30 feet, just like when we fished with you.”
They went on and explained to me that our fishing was so good on Sunday that they couldn’t believe the fish would make a change — they never thought the walleye would move.
They simply continued to fish 30 feet of water — a mere 6 feet from the hot zone.
Hot bites and strong patterns are great but be very careful as they can be misleading. It’s very difficult to change tactics and techniques when we get back on the water or ice when fish have suddenly “stopped.”
It’s tricky to determine if the fish have actually quit biting or if they are simply no longer at the spot.
I recommend to first assume they have changed a pattern variable rather then quit feeding.
Throughout an entire fishing season I am able to identify true-blue shut-offs only a half dozen times a season.
Chuck’s group made the assumption the walleye had quit biting so they stayed in the same zone/depth waiting for them to start feeding again. They change, and if you don’t change with them you might be in for a long week of waiting.
Ross Hagemeister, Meister Guide Service, www.meisterguideservice.com