One of the most sought after fish in the Minocqua area is the walleye.
Obviously, the walleye gets its name from the marble-sized eyes that sit atop its head. These eyes are designed to take in as much light as possible, giving it an advantage over the prey it seeks when the waters are dark and dirty. Typically anglers will find the best fishing for walleyes in the morning and in the evenings when these predators are feeding on bait fish.
Great table fare, anglers seek out this deep-water fish throughout the surrounding lakes and chains. Walleyes can grow as large 31-inches when conditions are right, typically the bigger walleyes in our area are between 21 and 24 inches – which is the perfect eating size fish. The bag limits vary on a lake by lake basis – make sure you know the regulations on your lake before keeping fish.
Traditionally walleye fishermen jig their baits at the lake’s bottom when attempting to catch these fish. Weighted jig heads topped with a minnow work well, as do plastic baits. Cast out the jig before letting it settle to the bottom; on the retrieve simply lift the jig off the bottom an inch or two while reeling a very short distance, and then let the jig settle back to the bottom. The walleye will be caught on the subsequent pick-up; you’ll feel it on the next lift, when you feel the weight stop the retrieve and lower the end of the rod, giving the fish the chance to take the bait. Set the hook and hold on.
Not all waters in the Minocqua area are the typical hard-bottom lakes usually associated with walleyes. Many lakes have weedy bottoms of coon-tail and other plants; make sure you have an assortment of weedless jig heads in order to keep your options open. When jigging through weeds anglers will have to differentiate between the heavy weight of the weeds and the quick tick-tick-tick of a walleye bite.
Walleyes tend to reside in the deeper parts of any lake in which they’re found, most notably along steep ledges and large drop offs. The water doesn’t necessarily have to be 20 to 30 feet deep for a walleye to hold up, but if it drops off from eight to 16 feet over a short distance that’s more than enough for walleyes to set up on. There are many, many lakes in the Minocqua area that match these conditions. Currently, the Minocqua Chain is catch and release only but contact local bait shops for recommendations and topography maps that will aid anglers in finding other deep waters.
Walleyes tend to move into shallow water to spawn in the spring, before moving into the deeper parts of the lake during the heat of summer. When autumn arrives they’ll move back into shallow water. If you aren’t finding walleyes in the deeper waters, try throwing crank baits back in the shallows, it might just work.
Walleyes don’t necessarily lie at the bottom of the lake, instead, they usually stay suspended a few feet higher, this is because oxygen content at the bottom isn’t always enough to sustain the fish. They’ll use their eyesight and sensitive lateral fins to find food at the bottom.
Most anglers tend to net the walleyes they hook, the reasoning is two-fold – one, netting a hooked walleye increases the chance of getting the fish in the boat; it just works better – and two, walleyes have incredibly sharp dorsal fins that can poke and stab a misplaced hand attempting to land a big walleye.