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Early Season Lake Walleye - Where are they?

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Just spent a weekend on the lake in NW Wisconsin trying to find the walleyes. Tried the mid-lake hump that holds them other times of year, but there was nothing there. Tried drifting the depths (about 30 feet), but nothing there. Where are the eyes early in the season when the vegetation is still minimal? Near the bait fish, I'm sure, but where is that??? Would you expect to find them all in the shallower bays? (I actually tried the shallow bays for crappie, but didn't even SEE a fish in there). I'm inexperienced with the early season patterns, and would be interested to hear what others have tried that works.

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Where you will find walleyes early in the year can very from lake to lake. A good place to start is near spawning grounds. If the lake is river fed some fish may go up stream to spawn. In the early season you can find fish near where the river enters the lake. Current from the river may also attract baitfish to the area. If the lake doesn't have an inlet, they can use rock or gravel shores to spawn. You can look for them on rock points or bars near shore. Walleyes are versatile fish and even use flooded vegetation to spawn.

With the water still being fairly cold, they can be found shallow, especially if the water is stained or there is a good wind stirring it up. If the water is clear, low light conditions in the morning and evening will be more productive shallow. What are the conditions of the lake...... How clear is the water, how deep does the lake get, what was the water temp, what does the lake have for shoreline and main-lake structure?

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www.millelacsguideservice.com
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 fishing trips....

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Adam -

Thanks for the reply. I'm not positive on the water temp when we were up, but it was probably close to 50 on the surface. The lake has an inlet and outlet, but both are rather small, so I'm not sure how much they attract baitfish. The inlet/outlet allows the lake to maintain a very steady level; rarely does it vary by more that 4 inches. I doubt that the walleyes go up the creeks for spawning purposes.

The waters are generally quite clear, with visibility to about 7 feet deep. The lake gets to 39 feet deep, but I've never marked fish in the depths - at least during summer - and didn't again this past week. Shoreline structure is mainly areas of lilies at 3-7 feet depth and milfoil to 7-13 feet. Early season, these weeds are not advanced in some areas, but have about 4-5 feet growth in other areas.

There are quite a few bays and one prominent point, which holds some weeds and a dropoff - we tried that area with no luck - using jigs, minnows, etc. There are also some cribs on the lake. We tried those areas as well, and attacted nothing there - including crappies.

There is no gravel bottom - it's all sand - so the lake is a walleye lake by virtue of stocking only. Might this have an impact on how the walleyes act during spawning season? Or where they go? Thanks for your thoughts...

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I would try working the 13' depth in the morning and evening. Walleyes will cruise the weed edge in search of an easy meal. Without much rock, weeds are the main hiding spot for baitfish. Even if the weeds are just beginning to come up, they will still attract baitfish.

Another thing to look for would be where the sand bottom transitions into silt or mud. This will often happen at the bottom of a dropoff or at the beginning of the main basin. In other lakes the sand will gradually get softer as you go deeper.

How deep is the hump that you mentioned in your first post?

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Minnesota, the land of 10,000 fishing trips....

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Adam - Good info. Makes a lot of sense to me. The midlake hump is about 9-10 feet deep, so I thought they might be in that area. However, there weren't nearly as many weeds out there is I would have expected - at least in mid-May. They should hold more baitfish (and walleye) by mid-June. I caught a nice walleye early last June in about 8 feet water out from shore...where the weeds were growing earlier. So I'm thinking you're on the right track. Perhaps search the edges of the weed growth along the shore line earlier in the year, at least until there is more mid-lake weed growth in June.

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