Warm temperatures deliver anglers two walleye bites: shallow and deep

MADISON — Fall walleye fishing is typically some of the most productive for ole marble eyes, and this year, anglers are getting a bonus bite thanks to a warm fall thus far, state fish biologists say.

“There are two bites going on right now,” says Steve Gilbert, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Woodruff. “Good walleye fishing can be found in both shallow and deep transitional areas.”

Fall is a good time to fish for walleye, as Alex Bentz shows with 30-inch walleye caught last week on the Wisconsin River.
Fall is a good time to fish for walleye, as Alex Bentz shows with 30-inch walleye caught last week on the Wisconsin River.
Photo Credit: DNR

Fish are in shallow water hanging out by the last green weeds, feeding on little perch and bluegill, he says. “Many of the shallower lakes have turned over and the lager deep lakes are close. This will start to get walleye going to deeper water over harder bottoms.

“Our creel surveys show lakes get a bump in walleye fishing success in October. With the warm weather this fall the bite should continue into early November.”

Gilbert’s own fishing was good over the weekend and advises anglers to find a walleye lake with a good population, use a quarter-ounce jig and minnow on the bottom or use stick type crank baits in perch patterns for the shallow water bite. Be ready to move and switch up baits and tactics.

“Once you locate fish on a spot they will be schooled up this time of year. “With walleye fishing, it can change in a minute.”

Zach Lawson, a DNR fisheries biologist stationed in Mercer, says anglers “are taking advantage of prime time for trophy specimens, with walleyes in the upper 20-inch range being reported.”

“The prolonged warm weather in much of Wisconsin delayed the turnover process on many lakes through mid-October, keeping gamefish tight to vegetation and setting up an awesome shallow water bite for walleyes in many of the lakes in our area,” he says.

While many anglers were wondering when the transition to the deep water fishing was going to happen, recent weather patterns have now “flipped” many lakes, creating conditions where anglers may want to turn attention to deeper rock structure, hard bottom areas, and steep breaking shorelines, especially in lakes with a cisco forage base, Lawson says.

In southern Wisconsin, anglers are catching some nice walleye in shallow water, reports David Rowe, fisheries supervisor in Fitchburg.

“It’s a good time of the year for big fish. Walleye and musky are putting on the feedbag,” he says. “Recently one of our technicians caught a 30-inch walleye on Lake Wisconsin”

This time of fall shore anglers can have as good a chance as boat anglers at catching large fish; Rowe recommends fishing shallow water where rivers enter lakes with a slip bobber and a large minnow fished near the bottom. Trolling crankbaits on the outside edge of the weed lines can also be productive for those larger trophies in fall.

Wisconsin represents the heart of the national distribution of walleye; they are found naturally in larger lakes and rivers and excellent walleye angling opportunities exist in the Mississippi River; the Wisconsin River and its impoundments; Lake Winnebago; the Wolf and Fox River systems; and larger lakes all over Wisconsin, especially in northern Wisconsin.

Anglers looking for new waters to fish for walleye can consult DNR’s “quality walleye fishing waters list” or the walleye forecast in the 2017 Wisconsin Fishing Report.

Fall electrofishing underway

While anglers are busy fishing this fall, state fisheries crews are busy “electrofishing,” using specialized boats to conduct night-time surveys statewide to assess how well young walleye hatched earlier this year have survived until fall.

Fall electrofishing efforts in Iron and Ashland County consistently documented a walleye year class (hatched this spring, currently 4 to 8 inches), but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our naturally reproducing waters.
Fall electrofishing efforts in Iron and Ashland County consistently documented a walleye year class (hatched this spring, currently 4 to 8 inches), but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our naturally reproducing waters.
Photo Credit: DNR

Watch these videos taken last week on Lake Mendota in Dane County to see how fisheries staff use boom shocking boats to deliver an electric current to water that briefly stun the fish so they can be netted and measured. Biologists use information from the fall electrofishing to estimate the amount of recruitment or how many young fish are coming into a population. (all links exit to DNR YouTube Channel)

Why Electrofishing? https://youtu.be/VTEqenSTCkI

Live from the boat: https://youtu.be/dxTNykGp7ok

Data Recording: https://youtu.be/ODnM9DhQX7Q

Lawson says that electrofishing in Iron and Ashland county consistently documented a walleye-year class but also turned up impressive numbers of yearlings in our natural reproduction systems.

“These fish are not quite up to a harvestable size, but anglers are catching good numbers of them now, and this bodes very well for the future of these fisheries,” Lawson says.