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Walleyes Pre & Post Spawn Gary Howey

 A couple of weeks ago, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member Larry Myhre and I spent some with guide Kent Hutcheson time probing the waters of Lake Sharpe for walleyes.

  We were hoping to hit the Pre-spawn or tail end of the spawn, which usually occurs when water temperatures hit forty degrees and ends when temperatures warm up past forty-five degrees.

  Because of the strange weather we’ve had this spring, the walleyes had a tough time finding ideal spawning temperatures and the pre-spawn and spawn occurred differently than it had in past years.

  In preparation of the spawn, walleyes should be stacked up in areas adjacent to rocky points, areas with a lot of wave action as the waves oxygenates the eggs and prevents silt from covering the eggs.

   During the pre-spawn the spawn, we looked for the fish to be located in the deeper water along rip-rap areas or areas with fist size rocks. They were there, but the major part of the spawn had already occurred, with those fish using the area the smaller males, still hanging around hoping to find a female that hadn’t dropped her eggs. [Read more…]

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We pursue post-spawn walleyes on Lake Sharpe By Larry Myhre

 

PIERRE, S.D. | If there is one thing you can count on about Lake Sharpe this time of year, it is that it will kick out walleyes. Early spring means “eaters,” those 15- to 18-inch males that take up residence on the rocky flats where the big females move in to spawn.

If you hit it right, the fishing can be phenomenal. Be a few days early or a few days late, and it is another story.

Oh, you’ll catch fish. And you shouldn’t have any trouble catching a limit of four walleyes over 15 inches. But you will have to work for them.

That’s what happened to us late last week. Gary Howey of Hartington, Nebraska, and I fished with longtime friend and fishing guide Kent “Hutch” Hutcheson, who has been guiding in the Pierre area for over 30 years.

When Hutch picked us up at the Ramkota Hotel, our headquarters for the next few days, he told us the walleyes were at the end of their spawn and finding fish might be tough. He had fished the Cheyenne River on massive Lake Oahe the previous day and reported the fish were there but finding them was not easy.

After some conversation we decided our best bet might be the West Bend area of Lake Sharpe, the 80-mile-long reservoir to the south that stretches from Big Bend Dam just above Chamberlain to the Oahe dam just a few miles north of Pierre.

When Gary and I crossed the bridge spanning across the river from Fort Pierre to Pierre, we noticed a lot of boats working the sandbars just downstream. I took a quick count and came up with 26 boats.

“Doesn’t anybody work anymore?” Gary said. We used to see this kind of pressure on the weekend, but this was during the week.

It was the same at the West Bend boat ramp. Over 20 rigs were parked in the parking lot and three more boats were ready to launch.

As we eased out of the small bay that protects the ramp, I counted 15 boats working the big, long sunken reef or island that lays out across the bend. But Hutch wasn’t heading there. He abhors fishing with a bunch of boats and pointed the bow downstream to one of his hot spots a few miles away.

When we got there, three boats were working one hump and another was awfully close to where Hutch wanted to fish.

“I used to have this spot all to myself for years,” he said. “But things have changed.”

[Read more…]

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Early walleye fishing success is about timing By Larry Myhre

For those chomping at the bit to go walleye fishing, your best bet is fishing along the Missouri River.

Pre-spawn walleyes will be staging below the dams all up and down the river. And anglers will be there in big numbers to take advantage of the bite.

For natural lakes, it is still a bit early. Iowa’s best walleye lakes, West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Big Spirit, are closed to walleye fishing at this time. The season doesn’t open until May 2.

In lakes like Storm Lake anglers are working the shallow gravel and sand points and flats looking for the male walleyes that move into those areas in a pre-spawn run.

While you can be effective fishing from a boat on a lake like Storm, or many of the northeast glacial lakes of South Dakota, wading fishermen often have an edge. That’s especially true of the locals who know their lakes like the back of their hand. Generally small jigs from 1/16th to 1/8th work best at this time. Try fishing a plain leadhead tipped with a small fathead minnow. You might be surprised.

But what about opening day on the Okobojis?

Chances are the fishing will be tough. I used to open the season there every year for a number of years, fishing in the Fort Dodge Messenger’s Walleye Tournament. Headed up by my late friend Bob Brown, the Messenger’s sports editor, the tournament was more of a social gathering than anything else.

The only decent walleyes caught were taken by anglers fishing Big Spirit Lake from the midnight opener into the early morning hours. I have never cared much for night fishing, so I spent opening day on East Lake, Minnewasta and Upper Gar. [Read more…]

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Late Season Ice Fishing Tips Punching holes and Slowing Down By gary Howey

It’s late season, the slow time of the year when it comes to ice fishing. In order to locate the fish, you may have to punch a bunch of holes in the ice and use every trick in your tackle bag to get the fish to bite.

When I first hit a body of water to ice fish, I will punch numerous holes in several directions; with the ice, where we will be fishing, the ice will resemble Swiss cheese.
As I pull my auger from the hole and head for the next spot: my fishing partner drops the Vexilar transducer in the hole and calls out the depth. We repeat this until we have an idea as to where the bottom configuration changes, if there is any structure below us and of course if there are any fish.

Fish like to relate to something, it could be a change in bottom depth, what is lying on the bottom or the edge of vegetation that is still standing, something making one area different from others. That is what you are looking for when you start punching your holes in the ice, the change.

When the water gets cold, fish will be looking for comfortable water temperatures, but that does not mean they will spend all of their time in that area, they will still move around checking out their environment and be looking for what little food they now need.

It always seems that the first bite comes right after we drop our bait down the first time. Some believe it is because what froze in the ice broke loose and now drifts to the bottom attracting the fish.
If the first bite comes quickly, then the bite dies, we do not spend much time there as we are looking for large concentrations of fish as fish in schools are competitive and will try to beat the other fish to the bait.

How you fish a lake or pond depends on what species were after. If we are in a lake with walleyes and perch, our first bait going down will be a larger spoon tipped with a minnow head or a whole minnow. If the fish follows, but refuse to bite, it is a good indicator your lure is too large for what’s swimming around down there. If that happens, we will quickly go to our back up rod with smaller lure tipped with wax worms.

Perch unlike their cousin, the walleye have a smaller mouth and many times will peck at a larger bait but not be able to pull the larger bait into their mouth. [Read more…]

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Rivers offer best walleye fishing right now By Larry Myhre

  Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal
 

When the month of March rolls around, walleye fishermen’s thoughts turn to rivers.
While that is particularly true throughout Siouxland, the river-fishing angler exodus is experienced across the country in early spring.
And there is a good reason for that. Walleyes are moving upstream toward their spawning areas. On many rivers, including the Missouri River, their migrations will be halted by dams. There, walleyes will gather by the thousands awaiting the warming waters which will trigger the spawn.
 

Gavins Point Dam at Yankton, S.D., has long been a magnet for late-winter walleye fishermen. So too have the other dams in South Dakota. Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown, Big Bend Dam at Chamberlain, and Lake Oahe Dam at Pierre, S.D., will all be focal points of walleye fishermen for the next month and a half.
  It’s a sure bet that the majority of anglers, by far, will be armed with leadhead jigs tipped with fathead minnows. This has proven to be a very productive presentation for cold-water walleyes over the years.

  Let’s look at how anglers can use the jig and minnow proficiently at this time.

  The waters below these Missouri River dams will be crystal clear so it is important to use light line. While I don’t necessarily think the line spooks walleyes, I generally side on “why take a chance.
Lines in the 4- to 6-pound test, clear category get my nod. So too, does fluorocarbon. The light line aspect probably comes into play more about how your jig and minnow presentation reacts in the water. Light lines may present a more natural presentation to the fish.
Unquestionably most anglers will be using a technique known as vertical jigging. This means holding your boat in place, bow pointed upstream, in areas of reduced current and dropping your jig straight down beneath the boat. As the jig nudges the bottom, the boat “slips” back with the current so you are offering the jig to the fish below, all of which will be facing upstream and are used to obtaining their food in this manner. [Read more…]

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Do the Change Up When fishing is slow! By Gary Howey

I know there isn’t much open water left to fish; this is the time of the year when we should be plenty of time to read and think about things that occurred on the open water, this column mentions one of those times!

What I’m writing about happened to me numerous times over the years and I am sure it will happen again, where I have spent a lot of time running from one old hot spot to another looking for fish.

When I was beginning to think that there was not a walleye in the lake and about to stop for the day, I finally located some active fish with my locator.

My eyes were glued to my locator and I was working my way back and forth over this one particular area several times when suddenly, I spotted fish in 15 foot of water, those big lazy arcs indicating the presence of fish and by the size of the marks on the locator, these were good ones!

Since they were located right on or just a foot or so off the bottom, I guessed they were active walleyes and immediately marked the spot.

Grabbing a couple rods set up with live bait rigs, I probed the 15’ along the drop off where my locator indicated the fish were holding.

It did not take long for me to realize that these fish were in a negative mood and were not interested in what I was offering.

I started going through my tackle bag, switching from one walleye bait to another, going with my old standards, a spinner with a crawler, leech and even a minnow, a Northland Roach live bait rig with a crawler, throwing a jig and leech and finally a crawler on a plain hook with just a split shot, all to no avail.

These fish were not in the mood, no matter what I was shoving in front of them they just laid tight on the bottom refusing to move.

Once again, I started digging into my tackle box, looking for something different the walleyes may not have seen before, looking at baits used for some other species, something, which might get the fish’s attention, and to pull them out of their negative mood. [Read more…]

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Late Season Walleye By Gary Howey

Late season, just before freeze up is the time you should be on the water fishing for walleyes as they have started making their way upstream in preparation of next spring’s spawn. In the Missouri River System, this migration is halted by the Missouri River dam systems.

Because the fish are stacked up below the dams, you will find them in the same general area you found them in early fall, perhaps a little deeper as they are in that transition period where they will soon be moving into their wintering areas.

Since water temperatures have dropped, so has the fish’s metabolism, so a slow presentation is what is needed to catch them. Many of the fish will have worked into the deeper water, just off the drop offs, moving very little.

The preferred bait during the late season would be jigs worked vertically, just verily raising the jig off the bottom, holding it there for a second and then following it back to the bottom. Live-bait rigs such as Northland Roach rigs also produce well during cold weather and fished in the same manner as a jig.

Since water temperatures are cooling, you might have to play with the fish a bit. [Read more…]

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Spinner jigs popular choice for walleyes By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

If you combine two top lures for walleye fishing, you should have created that magic, never-miss lure.

Right?

Well, not exactly. But you will have a pretty good lure that will catch a lot of fish.

Combining a jig with a spinner isn’t exactly new, but such lures have been getting a lot of favorable press lately.

To my knowledge the first lure to be manufactured which combined the jig and spinner theory was Blakemore’s Road Runner. It was in 1959 when this lure came on the market. It was manufactured in Branson, Mo., which is in the heart of crappie and bass country. It initially was created as a crappie lure but anglers soon learned that it would catch anything that fed on minnows.

Bass Buster lures came out with the Beetle Spin at about the same time. This was a jig attached to a “safety pin” type wire and spinner blade. It was another dynamite lure, but not really in the family of lures we are talking about.

In the late 1960s, I remember reading an article in a now, long-defunct tabloid newspaper which focused on fishing the Missouri River in South and North Dakota.

It featured an angler from Yankton, S.D., who was catching a lot of saugers and walleyes below the Gavin’s Point Dam. His secret was trolling a jig with a Hildebrandt Flicker Spinner attached to the hook. If you are not familiar with this old favorite, I’ll try to describe it. [Read more…]

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Fall offers the best fishing of the year By Larry Myhre

If you are thinking about winterizing your boat and putting away your fishing tackle for the season, don’t do it.

From now to ice-up is the finest time of the year to catch fish, particularly big fish.

As waters begin to cool, fish instinctively know to feed up big, storing fat and energy to take them through the lean days of winter and, for the females, maintain the developing eggs within them.

To be successful, however, you need to change tactics. What worked in the summertime will not work very well in mid to late fall. Take weedlines, for instance. In the summer that was the place to be. In the fall weeds begin dying and fish leave the area. There are exceptions, however. If you can find green weeds, fish them. Green, healthy weeds in the fall are a magnet for all game fish.

A couple of general rules must be considered.

First, fish tend to move into deeper water in the fall months. Deep rock piles and deep, fast-dropping points are two good areas, particularly for walleyes and bass. Also when you look at a depth map of the lake, seek out areas where those contour lines come close together. These are fast-dropping areas where fish are likely to be.

Second, you must slow down your presentations. The later it gets and the colder the water gets, the more this holds true. Fish are cold blooded creatures and their activity level will slow with colder temperatures.

What about presentations? Well, bigger is better in the fall. All of the forage fish have grown in size. Young-of-the-year perch could now be 4 or 5 inches long. Baits such as very large minnows or chubs will be preferred.

This is also the time to haul out those hair jigs. There’s just something about hair jigs in cold water. Walleye and bass like them. Tip with a large minnow and vertical jig them in fish holding spots and you will catch fish.

Spinners and minnows may be the best way to go if you can’t get your hands on some good chubs. I make a copy of Cap Kennedy’s old Killer rig which is dynamite in cold water. It is a spinner on a wire with a long shanked hook covered in deer tail hair. Tip it with a minnow and troll it along a sharp drop off. The photo with this column shows a walleye taken on a Killer Rig. [Read more…]