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Early spring; just after ice out is the perfect time to get out to the lake for a chance to catch your first open water walleye of the year.  The typical water temp is around 40 degrees.  At this time of year, typically March through early April the walleye are in their pre-spawn to spawn pattern.

Most walleye will tend to start heading to the spawning areas during this time and can be located around rocky dams or rocky structures. The males usually arrive first and will go into the shallows looking for active females that will move up from the deeper water to spawn.  I have caught a lot of males during the day hours pitching jigs with twister tail or grub tails and working them back to the bank.  If you are fishing from a boat concentrate on moving your boat up close to the rocks and throw your jigs parallel to the shore as you work the jig back.  If you are casting from shore again you will use the same tactic by casting your jig and working it back parallel to the shore.  You should use a consistent retrieve and twitch your rod tip from time to time as you work the jig back. You don't want to retrieve your jig to slow or you will get hung up on the rocks. You will want to use a 1/8-ounce jig head and a three to four-inch jig body.  This gives your jig enough weight to cast but keeps it from falling to fast into the rocks.   At this time of year, the bites are usually a bit slow but keep at it and you will get your share.

Once the sun goes down it’s a different story. Fishing in the dark is the time that you will have a better chance to get one of those big girls.  The males will be there at all times of the day but you will notice that fishing is usually better during the dark hours.

During the night hours, you will want to change tactics.  You will abandon your jig and move over to throwing stick baits.  You will want to use a stick bait that doesn’t dive very deep as you will be fishing the rocky area and you will be asking for trouble if you use a deep diving bait.  Proven stick bait choices for this tactic is an original Rapala #11, Rapala Flat Rap #10 or a suspending Smithwick Super Rouge Jr or Super Rouge.

You will be fishing the same rocky area and still cast parallel to the shoreline but you will work these stick baits with a two to three pump quick jerks, smooth retrieve and then again two to three pump quick jerks and repeat.  If you are using a suspending stick bait like the rouge you will use the same action as described but after the jerks, you should let the stick bait suspend by pausing for a few seconds before you begin your retrieve.

Night time fishing can be a blast but there are a couple other things that we should cover to improve your chances.  It's dark out so you will need a headlamp.  Wearing a headlamp will give you ample light to maneuver around but you will need to have light discipline.  The fish will be up shallow and shinning your light into the water will only spook away the fish that you are targeting.  When getting to your spot be quite and turn your light off prior to shinning it into the water.  Once you get close to the water you should switch the white light off and use the red light on your headlamp.  This light doesn't seem to spook the fish as much.  When you begin fishing keep your light off.  Light discipline is a must.  If you are changing baits or need to re-tie turn away from the water and then turn on your light.

One thing that I would like to leave you with is that when you catch that big girl do your best to get her back into the water quickly.  A big female produces a lot of eggs and they shouldn’t be harvested.  Take a picture so your catch is not just another fish story and then get her back in the water.  We want to promote a healthy fishery and saving those big girls is key.

This is the first article of eight on what you should be doing now.  At All Eyes on Fishing we want you to become a better fisherman.  This series will focus on Walleye tactics but there will be many future articles and videos to come that will help you catch more fish of all kinds.  Our goal is to take YOU to the next level. Share this with your friends and go out to the lake and wet a line.

fullsizerender By:  Brad Qualley