Fishing Walleye in the Weeds

By: Tracy Breen

When anglers head to the weeds to catch fish, they usually pursue bass or pan fish. Bass anglers enjoy hanging out around the edge of weed beds casting for large bass. This holds true for guys who enjoy fishing for pan fish. Bluegills love hanging out in the weeds because the weeds protect them from larger fish. One of the last places most walleye anglers go to catch fish is the weeds. However, according to Ernie Miller of Last Cast Charters in Muskegon, weeds are the perfect place to prowl if anglers want to catch a few walleyes.

“Walleyes like to hang out in the weeds like other fish. There are always large numbers of bait fish in the weeds, which can provide walleyes with an easy meal,” Miller said. According to Miller, fishing in and around weed beds can provide anglers with good walleye fishing opportunities, regardless of the time of day. However, Miller changes his techniques as the day progresses.

Early in the morning, Miller enjoys fishing the edge of the weeds on a flat or drop off, near a large weed bed. Just before and after the sun rises, many walleyes will be a few feet from the bottom, patrolling the edge of the weeds looking for a meal. Miller uses crank baits and fishes off the bottom early in the morning. During the early hours of morning, walleyes are still aggressively feeding and Miller typically covers lots of water if he doesn’t start catching fish in a short period of time. If fish are on a weed bed edge feeding, Miller says it shouldn’t take long to begin catching fish.

Once the sun rises, the tactics change slightly. “As the sun rays begin to penetrate the water during the mid-morning, I use a crawler harness on the bottom of a flat or drop off near a weed bed. I fish on the bottom because often the walleyes near the weed edge sit on the bottom outside the weeds to avoid the sun,” Miller added. These walleyes often sit on the bottom for hours and in order to put one in the boat, Miller says the harness must be on the bottom. “At this point, many of these walleyes are shutting down and not feeding as heavily. They will still feed, but it needs to be an easy meal which is why I put the bait right in front of them,” Miller said.

In the mid-morning and early afternoon, Miller likes to head to the shallows to fish for walleye in the weeds. “I like to find a weed bed in the shallows where the weeds come all the way up to the surface and troll over these areas with planer boards. Very few fishermen use this tactic for walleyes because fishing in the weeds can be a pain, but I have found that walleyes are often suspended in the weed beds a few feet from the bottom looking for bait fish swimming above them,” Miller explained. Walleyes hang out in the weeds during early afternoon to get out of the sun, feed, and to obtain cover and protection. When trolling with planer boards along the tops of weed beds, Miller prefers using crawler harnesses and trolls at about one mile an hour. After a few passes over one weed bed without a hit, he heads to a different weed bed.

During the afternoon, walleyes don’t move far from the structures and weed beds they feed in during the night. Miller likes to check out weed beds that are extremely close to deep water or other structures. “At night, walleyes like to use the weeds and other structures as an ambush point. They patrol the edge of the weeds in the deep water or the structures that are near the weeds looking for bait fish. Many of them won’t travel far from these areas during the day,” Miller explained. When fishing the structures and deep water near weed beds in the afternoon, Miller likes using spoons and a Jason Mitchell Rod. Jason Mitchell Rods are relatively new to the fishing industry. Many of the rods are designed for specific fishing applications. “The Jason Mitchell Rods are extremely fast, so I can get good momentum and a lift of a spoon with a quick snap of the wrist. They are extremely sensitive,” Miller commented.

During the day, another tactic Miller uses is casting a jig equipped with a slip bobber into holes in the weeds. “I often find holes in the thick weeds and go from hole to hole casting a jig. Walleyes will congregate near these holes because they can see into the open pocket of water and ambush bait fish that swim into the opening.” A new bobber that Miller likes for this style of fishing is called the EZ bobber. It is made in Michigan and simply snaps onto your line. Water can be added to the body of the bobber to increase the weight of the bobber, which helps if you need to cast great distances. Miller does this when fishing holes in the weeds. “When fishing in the open areas in the weeds, it is important to stay as far away from the opening as you possibly can so you don’t spook fish that are sitting on the edge of the hole,” Miller said.

Walleyes can be lethargic during the day. Many anglers will tell you their favorite time to fish walleyes is at night. After the sun goes down, walleyes become aggressive feeders. Many of the walleye that hang out in the deep water during the day will head to the weeds during the night and feed for hours on the abundant bait fish that can be found there. “Trolling the edge of weed beds at night can produce a lot of fish for anglers. I suggest anglers who are learning how to troll for walleyes at night troll near a weed bed they are familiar with. As I mentioned earlier, weeds hold some walleyes all day long. Many walleyes will migrate to the weeds at night so anglers trolling the edge of the weeds at night will have an opportunity to catch the migrating fish and walleyes that spend their time there in the daylight hours,” Miller noted. Walleyes are always hanging out near structures including wood pilings and weeds. If someone is just learning how to fish for walleyes, they should start in the weeds because they will learn how to fish structures without losing as many lures as they would if they were fishing other structures like wood pilings. Fishing weeds can be frustrating because anglers are always pulling weeds off their line and lures, but at least they still have them.

Most anglers who enjoy fishing take a fishing trip or two each summer. Sometimes we head to a lake that we know as well as we know an old friend. Other times we explore new waters. When exploring a new lake, Miller always heads to the weeds. “If I am fishing a lake that I have never been to, I ask the guy at the bait store where the weeds are on the lake. Most of the time, bait shop owners or other anglers will tell me where the weed beds are. Once I have an idea of where they are, I head to the woods as soon as I am on the water. Regardless if it is first thing in the morning or after dark, I know that walleyes will be in or near the weeds. Weeds are a great place to start. It doesn’t mean I will stay there all day. Often I put a few fish in the boat right away because I stopped to troll the edge of a weed bed,” Miller explained.

Miller believes fishing the weeds for walleyes is a great way to catch fish and is a strategy many walleye anglers overlook. Fishing open water and near large structures is often the preferred method of most walleye anglers. However, Miller believes the weeds are a great place to fish because they consistently produce fish. “I have found that walleyes of all sizes tend to hang out in or near the weeds at some point during their daily routine. Hanging out near the weeds has allowed me to put more walleyes in the freezer which makes my clients and I happy,” Miller said.

As you head to the water this summer in search of walleyes, don’t forget to head to the weeds. You may be cleaning your line off more than you’re used to, but you might also be cleaning more fish.

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