On the Water Decisions for Summer Walleyes

Category: article

 Jul 31st, 2021 by Keith Worrall 

Modified Jul 31st, 2021 at 8:52 PM

On the Water Decisions for Summer Walleyes

It’s July. Surface water temps in areas on Lake of the Woods have reached 80 degrees. The mayfly hatch has taken place. Spinners and crawlers are the go to method. Some anglers are adding downriggers to their boats. Crankbaits are picking up steam. It happens every year, the walleyes are kicking into summer mode. There is a lot of life taking place below the water surface. To capitalize as an angler, it is important to make good on the water decisions for summer walleyes.

Lake of the Woods summer walleyes are being caught many ways, in many spots and in many depths. A recent day on the water was a great illustration of how to make decisions that lead to more summer walleyes.

Different schools of walleyes doing different things. Some are in the shallows being opportunistic with that part of the ecosystem. Others walleyes are hanging out in deep water basins or adjacent to deep water structure. Some are living in that 15′ of water in Little Traverse Bay which is the area north of Garden Island. Others are taking advantage of that deep water aquarium full of forage called Big Traverse Bay which is the big open water south of Garden Island.

There are many forms of forage in the lake to feed on, one of the reasons Lake of the Woods is so healthy. Walleyes are feasting on mayfly larvae, perch minnows, perch, young of the year walleyes, tulibees, crayfish, blood worms, etc. This variety of forage is also why one group of anglers will fill a cooler in less than 10 feet of water and others will be targeting fish in that 30 – 34′ range and also filling their cooler.

Adapting while on the water is an important skill for anglers. For example, this week we fished a reef that very recently some friends fished with great success. Upon arriving, we noticed the amount of bug hatches on top of the water. For a long ways, you would see mayfly carcasses. In some areas, the small black flys were around (bug spray on legs and ankles took care of the issue quickly).

In looking at the sonar, there was a ton of bait and summer walleyes suspended about 15 – 20 down in about 30′ of water. When I say the screen was loaded, it was loaded. Not a good sign typically on Lake of the Woods. From experience, it is hard to get these suspended fish to eat. We believe they had one thing on their minds, mayfly larvae. We still fished that area hard with just a couple of fish.

Rather than beating ourselves up, we switched spots to another reef we knew there were big fish hanging around. Some of these fish were on the bottom. They show up as big arches or “hooks” on the sonar on or adjacent to the bottom. Just what we wanted to see. Again, these fish were uncooperative. We pulled spinners and crawlers through a number of fish with no success. We switched over to crankbaits, again no success.

Rather that beating a dead horse, there is so much water, so many spots to fish that we moved on. In this case, we decided to do a “milk run”. Let’s quickly and efficiently work a number of spots until we can get something rolling, and we did.

We stopped on the edge of a deep underwater point. We worked it from 26′ down to 6′. A couple of saugers. After a short time, we pulled the plug and hit another spot.

This spot was the right spot but small. It had a couple of charter boats on it who were doing well. Rather than crowding them, we decided to move away from them and at about 5mph, watch our sonar. In a different area we started seeing signs of life. After the screen looked healthy, even though we didn’t plan on fishing this exact area, we decided to give these fish a try. Why? We trusted our electronics.

After about five minutes, we had a nice 16 inch walleye in the boat. Soon another and another. Summer walleyes in this spot cooperated nicely. With no boats around, we were on active fish. After catching all the fish we needed and the live well healthy, we decided to go looking for big fish (just for fun).

We pulled a deep water spot and fished it for 30. We could see some sleds but no takers. Other boats were not swinging nets. Time to move on.

Fishing memories, there was a shallow water spot were were basically going right by to get to a big fish deep water spot. I talked my partner into giving the shallow water 20 minutes. “Either they are there or they are not,” I said as I was very curious about the spot as I had good memories there.

After about 10 minutes and in 7′ of water, we hooked into a 24 incher. We went on to catch eaters, some larger walleyes, nothing huge but a few fish between 22-24″. A good move. A fun and healthy spot.

We continued on to on last deep water spot that I know for big summer walleyes. Lots of hooks. Lots of suspended hooks, some on the bottom. Worth a pull. Right away, a 25 incher decided to commit. A nice fat fish. We thought this was going to be good. I missed a fish shortly after. We fished this spot for an hour making circles around the spot we had action right away. Nothing. No bites, no fish. Crazy, but that is fishing.

Overall, a wonderful and memorable day of fishing. If we wouldn’t have done a milk run, I anticipate we would have caught a few fish. By looking for the right scenario with summer walleyes willing to eat our offerings, our day turned into one that makes Lake of the Woods famous. What a fishery!


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