Of The Outdoors

Columnist Gary Howey is pictured with a nine-pound walleye taken during the heat of the summer, from a shallow water weedbed.

It’s hard to believe that July 4 has come and gone, and that summer is going by so quickly.

Temperatures are on the rise, both outside with the water temperatures on the river, lakes, ponds and reservoirs also going up.

Once summer begins, many anglers feel that they need to head deep as that’s where the cooler more comfortable water temps are located and where the walleye are during the summer months.

Part of this is true, but, depending on the body of water you’re fishing, they could be almost anywhere.

Walleye like all fish have to follow their food source around, there are several factors bringing them out of deeper water into the shallows to feed.

The baitfish-prey fish, minnows and the young of the year prey fish also feed on zooplankton and they too have to follow their food source, which can be deep or very shallow.

The wind can be a huge factor indicating where the walleyes might be as the bait-prey fish as well as the smaller predator fish feed on the suspended zooplankton in the water.

If the wind is blowing hard from the west, much of the zooplankton the prey fish feed on is carried to the opposite shore line or point, because of this, the prey fish will be on the move, following the zooplankton being carried by the wave action of the wind.

Those of us who fish the larger lakes and reservoirs know that when the wind picks up, with the waves crashing into the opposite shoreline, that soil and debris is picked up by the waves, and then carried back out into the shoreline creating a mud line.

This allows the light sensitive walleyes the opportunity to move shallow underneath the mud line to feed on the bait-prey fish that followed the zooplankton.

When your locator shows a suspended cloud of baitfish, the majority of the time, you will have the larger prey fish arcs below them and when they get hungry, they simply move up and pick off a few baitfish for lunch.

When water temperature begins to rise, the baitfish will be in search of cooler water temperatures in areas where they can find the zooplankton.

Submerged trees in deeper water are just the place they are looking for, as in, on and around the deeper submerged trees, the baitfish will find a lot of zooplankton along with cooler water.

The walleyes are in search of cooler water, which the submerged trees provide, but they also produce a smorgasbord for the walleyes suspended in the deeper water near or in the trees.

The bait-prey fish tend to hang in the upper reaches or just above the submerged trees, where they don’t have to move far to find something to eat.

As mentioned earlier, the walleyes and other fish look for cooler more oxygenated water in the heat of the summer but it isn’t always found deep during this time of the year.

Weed growth in both shallow and deeper water is another area where fish will find comfortable cooler temperatures, as the weeds provide shade and give off oxygen, creating a cooler location for the fish.

The walleyes and other prey fish have followed the bait-prey fish during the cooler part of the day, early morning and late evening as they moved into the vegetation to feed.

Once the sun gets higher, the shallows will begin to warm with the walleyes moving deeper, generally of the first break where it goes into deeper water.

The panfish and northerns will tough it out longer than the light sensitive walleyes as they have cover to hide in and the baitfish to feed on.

When fishing shallow walleyes, a jig worked along the edge of the weeds or through the mud line works very well as do slip bobber rigs cast up to the edge of the weeds or into the mud line.

By positioning your boat out away from these and casting up towards them, you will be far enough out so not to spook the fish, yet close enough that you can make an easy cast into them.

Those anglers that will pound out the deeper water, the suspended trees, will have marked concentrations of baitfish and walleyes, and be presenting their baits above the trees, allowing the prey fish to locate and come up after them.

Some anglers will spend the better part of the day, trolling crankbaits on Off Shore Planer Boards, or using downriggers to get down, just above where the walleyes are located in the deeper water.

Others using their kicker or trolling motor will position their boat above the trees and having used their locators will know the depth the top of the submerged trees, will use slip bobber rigs to drift their baits over and alongside the submerged trees.

No matter how and where you fish summertime walleyes, your best fishing is going to be early morning or late afternoon, on cloudy overcast days and when there is a walleye chop on the surface of the water.

Don’t think that all of the walleyes will be deep as you will be missing some of the best fishing going on in the shallow water.

Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award winning writer, producer, and broadcaster, inducted into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017. He is the Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio.

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