Although rivers get a ton of attention in the early part of the walleye fishing season, there is an army of anglers that concentrate their efforts fishing natural lakes and mid-sized reservoirs this time of year. The challenge for these dedicated souls is that finding walleyes right now can be tough. The walleyes are in transition; it’s not really spring, and it’s not yet summer? It’s a time when we say the walleyes are “in the middle of the road”, meaning they are between patterns. They’ve finished their spawning ritual, but haven’t set-up on classic summer habitat. It’s a pattern (or lack of one) that many walleye anglers struggle with every season. You can catch fish during this period … you can even have great catches … but the walleyes tend to be “here today – gone tomorrow”, making consistent success iffy at best. The key to catching these “middle of the road” fish is to concentrate on structural edges.
Other than the rare scenario where you are dealing with ultra-clear water, walleyes won’t be found on deep structure, nor do they tend to be really shallow right now. Look for these transitional walleyes somewhere in between … in that eight to twenty foot range … usually relating to the primary break closest to their spawning areas; the primary break defined as the first major drop off from shore. For instance, if the shore tapers off to say ten feet, then drops into fifteen, that’s the primary break for that area. Now that sounds simple enough, but it’s where they are located on the break that’s the trick. They may be on the bottom edge, the top edge, someplace in between, on the flat adjacent to the top edge or even suspended just off the break.
If the weather has been stable, and conditions prime for the fish to be active and feeding, look for them to be near the top edge of the break. That’s not to say they’ll be right on the edge, but they won’t be far from it. They could be cruising the adjoining flat chasing schools of minnows, but they won’t be far from the edge. A flat with sporadic or newly emerging weed growth makes the situation even better. In fact, weeds on the flat create a different set of edges that attract the fish this time of year. These edges offer travel routes as well as ambush points for feeding fish. On many lakes, you’ll begin noticing better catch rates early and late in the day … probably because the walleyes are sitting tight to the primary break during mid-day, and moving on to the flat to feed during low-light periods.
So what’s the best way to catch these “middle of the road walleyes”? That’s a tough one … the problem being that May can be a time when virtually every tactic in your arsenal will catch fish under the right circumstances. That may make it sound easy, but the key here is “under the right circumstances”. Picking the right presentation for the given situation when you have so many options can play mind-games with the best of anglers.
Let’s look at a couple scenarios to give you some insight into how