The recent Minnesota walleye opener saw a couple buddies and I fishing a large lake in central Minnesota known for producing good walleye catches. This lake is one of my favorites and one I have spent more time chasing walleyes on than any other.
Conditions in this particular lake, however, have changed as zebra mussels were discovered several years ago and the water is much clearer than it once was.
My buddies and I hit the water opening morning and headed to a popular early-season spot. Several other boats were working the area too. We baited our slip-sinker “lindy rigs” with spot-tail shiners and slowly started working the edge of a flat that drops into deeper water. Noting the very clear water, we opted for light weights on our rigs and I advised my partners to let out quite a bit of line.
The reasoning behind the light weights and longline approach was because I sensed the walleyes holding in the 12-16 foot depth we targeted would be spooked by the passing of the boat overhead. However, the longline method would give the fish time to regroup, and hopefully be in a biting mood by time our baits were near them.
It wasn’t long and we had a fish, followed by several more. By mid-day, we had filled our daily limits with a nice livewell full of eater-size walleyes. The key to our success was using light weights and our longline approach.
Several other boats were fishing similar rigs, but most appeared to be using heavier weights and fishing more vertically, and not coincidentally only catching an occasional fish.
We did, however, observe two other boats that were catching fish at a good rate as well. Both happened to be anchored along the drop-off edge and were making long casts with jigs baited with shiners. More than likely, their successes had a good deal to do with their approach too. The long casts the anglers were making allowed them to present baits to the clear water walleyes without spooking them.
That day and the two successful fishing approaches serve as good lessons for all anglers as many lakes across the Midwest are now clearer than ever and require modified approaches. Longlining and casting methods work well for walleyes, but other fish species may require similar methods to coax them into biting too.
For example, largemouth bass on the weedlines used to be suckers for 4 to 7 inch plastic worms fished “jigworm” style. Now, however, in-the-know bassheads often use smaller worms, now called “Ned rigs,” and fish braided lines which allow them to make long casts to spooky clear water largemouth. As a guide, I find myself using this fishing method more and more every year to put clients on a good mid-summer bass bite when the walleyes get tougher.
Walleyes and bass can be caught in good numbers using casting approaches and summer crappies are susceptible to this fishing method as well. The past two years, clients and I have targeted crappies holding on weedlines and along fallen timber by casting small plastic baits on light line and retrieving them slowly. The Mr. Crappie Shadpole and Slabalicious plastic baits threaded on 1/16-ounce jigs and fished this way have produced outstanding summer crappie catches, even when fishing very clear waters.
Clear water caused by zebra mussels has certainly changed the fishing game a good bit. Using some of the methods just discussed can help anglers compensate for this change and still find good fishing successes this season.
As always good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” information.