Some of the season’s best Walleye fishing in the Hayward area takes place in May and early June. My favorite choices in lakes at this time of year are Flowages. They warm up quicker than the clear water lakes and for this reason offer the best Walleye fishing of the season for numbers of fish caught and action. I can’t think of anything better in May to do that would beat fishing for Walleye on a Northern Wisconsin flowage. Sometimes the fishing can be tough, but that’s what makes it so special when you put together a pattern and find the fish. Of course nothing else compares to enjoying a plate of freshly caught Walleye with family and friends from our clean Lakes.
The following methods have put fish in my boat for 30 years on the Chippewa Flowage and Nelson Lake. They work, but like anything else they require hard work, time on the water and cooperation from Mother Nature, and a little luck also helps.
TACKLE - Jigging and Slip Bobber rods- A 6 to 6&1/2 foot ft Medium light action single pcs rod with a fast tip action and 6 or 8 pound high quality mono. Remember- a good combo should include a high quality sensitive rod. I like graphite, but there are some good fiberglass rods on the market as well. You can skimp on the reel, but make sure you get a good quality rod. That is your tool to feel the light bites and stay in touch with bottom and structure.
Casting rods- Medium slower action , cork handle,6-7 foot 2 pcs with 8 pound mono.
LOCATIONS - Areas that contain some gravel or sand and gravel rubble mix with scattered brush near a creek bottom or old river channel.
Sunken brush or sunken bogs along the old river bottoms and creek beds
Areas of warmer water near the North side of a basin or in shallow flat areas that are near the spawning migration routes.
Little chunks of broken bog washed on a shoreline near river and creek beds.
New weeds on bars and Islands near deeper water
Depths can range from 3 foot to 20 in this period.
Method #1 Jigging A 1/16 to 1/4 round lead head with my favorite size being a 1/8 oz and a 1/0 hook. There are many different style jigs on the market. My favorite spring jig for shallow water flowages is the standard roundhead jig. I like to experiment with colors, Chartreuse, fluorescent orange, pink are some favorites. When the fish are biting, color sometimes doesn’t matter and a plain colored lead head works as well. I use brush jigs in thick cover like sunken bogs, but if I can get by without them I like the plain jig with a wire hook for the best hook setting percentage. But by using a 6 or 8# high quality line a single wire hook will straighten on a snag and can be re used. The size of the jig depends on how deep your fishing and whether your anchored or drifting. A good all round size in the spring is a 1/8 oz. If I’m fishing in less than 8 feet and anchored I will use a 1/16 oz. Drifting or water more than 18 feet I will switch to a _ oz. jig. When jigging I like to start shallow and fish deep with a lead head jig. More aggressive fish will be shallower and easier to catch than fish in deeper water. I like to start in 4 to 8 foot and work my way out to the deeper drop. Approach your spot being sure not to motor over the water you want to fish first. Shallow water Walleye are spooky- Use your trolling motor to slip quietly into position. If you anchor lower it slow and use lots of rope to leave a buffer to sneak in on the fish. On a bluebird day with heavy boat traffic the walleye may be deeper than they normally are especially with heavy pressure like opening weekend- stay away from the groups of boats- its usually to late to get in on the bite! Most of the time a concentration of boats in a small area means the fish are already spooked and if you get a Walleye it’s usually a cigar! Move off and find a spot similar to what the crowd was fishing in the same depth and bottom structure. If it was associated with a creek bed or old river channel that’s easy- move up or downstream and look for shoreline contact like an Island or point If that spot was a sunken bog, go find another bog with the same depth and start looking for fish. If you can’t find fish just keep moving and hunting the fish down. Moving doesn’t have to be a mile, sometimes 50 feet is all you need. A fresh spot is always better than one that has been hammered already. The biggest mistake I see fisherman make is not sneaking up on the spot your moving into. This holds true with any species. Don’t go barreling into a spot and expect to catch fish. It’s true that fish can get used use to boat traffic, but early spring that’s does not hold true. And in shallow water or even deeper water unnecessary noise in the boat will spook fish and make catching them harder than it should be. Keep everything you can on your side so you have the edge. By getting in the habit of some of these basics your success will go up. Remember, it’s the little things you do that separate you from the other guy not catching fish.
When you find fish on the flowage don’t over fish the spot, go in catch a few fish and sneak out. You can fish it later in the day and still catch fish. To much pressure will spoke the fish and they may leave the area.
Method #2 Sliding Bobbers If you get some light bites on a jig or a bite slows down, switch to a slip bobber. I like using slip bobbers in areas that I’m sure hold fish. I sometimes find the fish with a jig and minnow and then switch to a slip bobber when they slow down. They provide a very subtle approach and keep the minnow in the strike zone tantalizing the fish into a bite. My favorite minnow for a still fishing rig on the bottom or sliding bobber is a wild mix minnow caught locally (Trapped Bait) they are more lively on a rig that a fathead. I like a #6 wire hook with just enough weight to get it in the strike zone. A lazer sharp hook will minimize the damage to a minnow and offer the best lively bait in a natural presentation. I do use fatheads on jigs because they present the perfect sized jigging bait, but on a bottom rig or slip bobber locally trapped minnows native to the system are superior bait. If I’m fishing vertical next to the boat I will use a split shot and a fresh lively minnow and just drop it over the side. I like to change bait often, fresh lively bait is critical and cannot be overlooked. A feeding active walleye will take a dead minnow on a jig, but 90% of the time fish are in a neutral mood and a fish in this mode may not, keep the odds in your favor by having the best bait in the water at all times.
Crank Baits - My third technique in the spring is casting floating #11 or #13 Repala. This method produces my biggest Walleyes every year. This method has produced 4 Walleye over 30 inches and up to 11 pounds in the past 3 seasons for me from Hayward Area Lakes and rivers. The average fish on a crank bait is around 16-20 inches. The reason for the larger average is on the flowage, larger Walleye relate to shallow water. There are more
Numbers of fish in the deeper water, but my bigger fish come from less than 12 feet most of the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch a big Walleye in deep water in May, but when the larger Walleye are feeding they are easier to catch shallow than in deep water. Since there is more baitfish in shallow warmer water, it makes sense that the more aggressive Walleye will be shallow when feeding. The method requires time and work to master and doesn’t come on the first try. Look for a shoreline or mouth of a bay and fish from 2-6 foot of water. Low light conditions are a must, dusk or dawn and total darkness are the only times I like to cast. Fish in areas of water that are close to where you have caught Walleye in the daytime areas. I like a nice hard bottom area with rubble and gradual drop in early spring. A few snags or up coming weeds is a must. You need some cover to hold the baitfish, no baitfish means no Walleye.
Some of the methods and locations were passed down to me from my father Tom Leahy. Legendary Guide Tony Bralick also helped me over the years and freely shared info with me. Allot of my knowledge came from hours on the water and my love for Walleye fishing.
Please remember to thank God every time he allows you to go fishing and enjoy his splendor. Enjoy your time on the water whether you catch fish or not.
Jim grew up in the Hayward Area and at age 17 started guiding for the Hayward Guide service, he was mentored in fishing by his father Tom and legendary Guide Tony Bralick. He is a multi species guide specializing in Walleye and also guides bear hunters each fall. He can be reached directly at (715) 634-0429 or on the web at www.haywardguideservice.com.