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Spring time!  Oh spring time.  A time of renewed life; when nature comes alive with new births and gigantic walleyes looking to spawn and produce the next generation of lake predators.  If you are a true trophy hunter and your goal is to land a walleye that is ten plus pounds, now is the time.  As soon as the ice leaves the lakes you should have a rod in hand and a stick bait hitting the water at dark.  Walleyes are staging for spawn and they are prowling at night for an easy meal.  Thousands of walleyes in natural lakes are moving into river systems and preparing to spawn.  Reservoir walleyes are setting up on damns and rip rap looking for the best area.  In systems such as Pueblo Reservoir the west half of the lake moving closer to the inlet of the Arkansas River is full of fish.  Big fish!

I am not going to act like I am a prolific early spring walleye master.  I actually think if there is one part of my fishing arsenal that needs improvement; it would be early spring success.  I grew up casting stick baits such as #11 Rapala’s from shore and every spring I would get two or three walleyes weighing five pounds or bigger.  Some nights we casted into the dark abyss that is night fishing and not one walleye would be convinced we presented the easy meal.  This time of year is always tricky because the water temps are still cold and the fish are more focused on spawning then eating.

Like most of you I have read countless magazines and books written by professional Midwest walleye anglers and they talk in depth about where to find and how to catch early spring walleyes.  The only problem is we don’t live in the Midwest and our walleyes act completely different.  Water temperatures in the Midwest are slow to rise on large bodies of water and their lakes have under lying currents and consistent patterns year after year.  Western Reservoirs vary widely depending on water levels, spring runoff and the size of the impoundment.  Water levels contribute to things such as temperature fluctuations, bait fish year classes, structure in the water and the general location and mood of walleyes.  Time of year for spawn remains relatively the same, but how those fish act immediately after and before the spawn can be a mystery fit for Scooby and the gang.

I have trolled.  I have jigged live bait tipped grubs.  I have lindy rigged.  I have fished shallow.  I have fished suspended over deep structure.  I have fished in the backs of coves looking for warmer water and around inlet areas trying to pick off stragglers.  I have found one consistent rule of thumb for spring reservoir walleyes.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  The common thought is Walleyes spawn and slowly move towards the main lake and take some time to recuperate and do some opportunistic feeding.  I don’t think that is entirely true in a reservoir system.  I believe walleye are on the move and feeding aggressively and primarily at night.  They don’t school up and hold on structure such as humps or rocky points like they do in early summer.  It is my personal opinion that most big walleyes cruse and search for easy forage.  This makes the trophy fish easier to catch at dusk and well into the night on stick baits.  I believe the smaller males will remain in the immediate spawn area longer and feed at different times throughout the day.


I wish I could tell you exactly what to do and how too consistently catch post spawn walleyes.  But the truth is, early spring is a challenging time of year.  Throughout my life early spring has typically been a time of year when my success is day to day and I almost never produce fish the exact same way and in the same area as I did the year before or even the day before.  The only consistent way I know to catch walleyes in early spring and have a legitimate chance at landing a fish of a life time is by casting stick baits to rock structure or parallel with rock structure and patiently waiting for the big strike from below.  Alternate your retrieves from steady slow retrieves to faster retrieves with short pauses.  I prefer original floating Rapala’s, Smitwick Rogues and Storm Jr. Thunder Sticks.  This is the time of year I don’t mind fishing from shore and have had very productive nights casting rocky shorelines.  I commonly take a small box with a hand full of stick baits, a plastic baggie of medium sized split shots, a head lamp and a pair of pliers and I walk the shore and cast till I collapse.  I also suggest carrying a cloth measuring tape just in case you do come across that trophy fish.  Get all the measurements you need so you can release that fish back into the lake to allow her to finish spawning.  Take several good pictures with your phone and measure the fish’s girth at its widest point, length and the base of her tail.  This type of information will allow you to have an amazing replica made of your trophy fish.

On a good night when there is a full moon casting stick baits from shore can produce big small mouth, wiper and several big walleye.  Don’t be afraid to constantly be moving.  The fish you seek are moving and looking for that easy meal and you should be moving as well.  Fishing from a boat can be a different animal all together and using different baits trolled behind plainer boards ran a few feet from shore can produce good numbers of fish.  I will cover early spring night fishing from a boat in a different article.  If you focus on the things discussed and put some time into it, I guarantee you greatly increase your chances of catching early spring fish and possibly the trophy of a lifetime.

photo-may-13-10-45-48-am By:  Josh Sheldon