There’s a lot of different ways to catch walleye – trolling cranks, pulling bottom bouncers with harnesses, vertical jigging and lindy rigging – just to name a few. They all have their time and place that depend on many factors. But what about when walleye go shallow? I’m talking about 5-feet of water and less.
There are a few different things that can happen to make walleye relate to shallow water. One is when they spawn, whether it’s in current areas or on main lake structure, they’re going to be in shallow water. Another is during bug hatches. Walleye gorge on bugs like mayfly nymphs well ahead of the actual hatch. This happens in shallow water and on the lakes I fish in northwestern Ontario, this is happening right now.
As the sun warms the water in shallow areas with soft bottoms, mayfly nymphs poke up out of the muck on the bottom and walleye are there to feed. At this time of year I routinely clean fish that have bellies literally full of mayfly nymphs.
Catching walleye in such shallow water is a lot of fun. The two best ways I know of to get the job done are slip-bobbers and pitching jigs.
I use small minnows on a 1/8 or 1/16 oz jig under the slip bobber with about 2- to- 4 feet of line under the bobber stop. It’s simple, fun and very effective. Using this technique in shallow water works best when anchored.
Pitching jigs is another great way to catch shallow water walleye. It works even better than slip bobbers when walleye are really tight to the bank. Every year I see the pitch bite happen and big walleye get caught in skinny water; 1- to- 3 feet deep. I usually pitch 1/8 oz jigs tipped with minnows or twister tails. For this technique I like to slowly creep along shorelines by backtrolling or with a trolling motor.
When conditions are right, walleye actively feed in really shallow water. Watch for warm and sunny afternoons around this time of year. The heat makes the bugs come out of the mud in shallow soft bottom bays and walleye are sure to be around.
By Ben Beattie
Ben Beattie is an outdoor writer and full-time fishing guide based in Sioux Lookout, ON. For more information, visit Ben’s website at www.benbeattieoutdoors.com