Walleye are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated and underappreciated game fish species. Known by many names including, pike-perch and walleyed pike the walleye is also famous for its tasty flavor and fabulous fighting ability. Although often forced to play second fiddle to largemouth bass or trout the walleye can provide an excellent opportunity for any angler who takes the time to learn how & where to catch them.
Due to their oversized, bugging eye many anglers assume the walleye is blind, or at least suffers from very poor eyesight. In reality the walleye has very good eyesight; however, it is adapted to the specific habitat the species prefers – deeper, darker reservoirs, lakes and river pools. While walleye may be caught during any weather or at any time of day they do prefer overcast days and nighttime, avoiding bright sunny days when possible.
When searching for bass, perch or many other game fish you start by locating structure and cover. When searching for walleye you look for current. Dam tail waters are a favorite haunt but any area with an increased current volume or speed is likely to hold walleye. The chances are increased dramatically if the area of current is also a deeper, darker section of water than surrounding areas. Next you need to locate an area with a rocky, or gravel strewn bottom which not only allows for easier spawning but also makes it easier for the walleye to spot potential prey.
Speaking of prey, walleye are predators and likely to take any tasty offering that comes their way including both live baits and artificial lures. Jigs, especially those tipped with a night crawler or minnow, are a favorite as well as minnow plugs, twisted tail grubs and crank baits. During the early spring thaw, when walleye are preparing for the spawn, it is commonly believed that bigger is better as they are on the hunt for as much food as possible prior to experiencing the extra stress of spawning.
Unlike other predatory species, such as muskies and pike, the walleye is a social species and are often found in large schools. This means that if you find one there are likely many more to be found in the same general area, at the same depth and looking to eat the same offering. Whether you land a fish or miss a potential strike do not immediately move on looking for another target, continue casting to the same location and hopefully attract another member of the school.
Once you catch your wary prey you may want to consider keeping one or two for a shore side lunch or rustic dinner at home. The walleye has a delicate, flaky flesh which cooks easily with a sweet, pleasant flavor easily complimented by a light salad or simple pasta.
Good luck & good fishing!