Old Marble Eye has a lot going for it as one of America’s top sport fish. It’s the only fish I know which I can clean in our kitchen sink and not get static from my wife. No smell, it’s that fresh! Plus, the delightful flavor, no matter which recipe, is deemed tops among piscatorial pundits.
Although not rated as a battler or leaper, its other fine qualities made it so esteemed that its once limited northern range has been extended over the Midwest and South. It now delights devotees across southern Canada, over all of the Great Lakes area, throughout the Mississippi River drainage system, and over southeastern coastal states.
While the average size is two to four pounds, there has been a great comeback in Lake Erie’s once depleted walleye population and strings averaging over four to six pounds are commonplace. Monster walleyes upwards of 10 pounds are being caught in Washington’s Columbia River, Michigan’s Saginaw River and Bay, and the St. Lawrence River boundary waters. But, Greers Ferry Lake, in Arkansas, with a 22-pound, 11- ounce, world record registered on 10-pound line, probably will top the existing all-tackle record of 25 pounds taken from Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee.
When you think walleyes, think deep. This is where they spend 90 percent of their lives, for both spawning and feeding, smackdab on the bottom. So, choose lures which will nudge rocky habitat and the proper tackle for presenting them.
Spinning, spincasting, or baitcasting rods six to seven feet long with medium-light actions are ideal to meet the needs of casting or trolling. Reels should be filled with 10-pound test monofilament or cofilament such as Prime Plus. While wire leaders are not necessary, it is wise to frequently check your line for any nicks or fraying.
Lure selection is important and here are the favorites in my arsenal of more than a half century of refinement: leadhead jigs with soft plastic or hair bodies, both with and without spinners; deep-diving, slim-minnow lures in natural and metallic finishes; lipless vibrators; in-line spinners; and slab spoons. Surface lures rarely take walleyes.
Seek out rocky shores and points in lakes and deep holes below dams or riffles in streams, where water depths reach ten feet and beyond. And as you think deep, also think s-l-o-w. Bigger walleyes will not chase fast-moving lures, so retrieve them barely fast enough to animate them, and maintain a constant contact with bottom cover.
Make no more than 10 casts with any lure, then change so walleyes can tell you which lure they want. This keeps you from staying with one lure overly long. Move from spot to spot. If you have not contacted walleyes after a couple hours of probing shoreward spots, then you can assume the walleyes are on the move. Do likewise; begin trolling.