In the last month I have attended three sports shows in Helena, Missoula and Bozeman. These shows were attended by thousand of sportsman and woman who enjoy the great outdoors and fishing. I had the chance to visit with a few of them during the shows and most all of them have one thing in common, they are ready for spring weather to arrive. Don’t get me wrong, I love Montana winters for fun activities like skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling but this year it just seems to me that this is the winter that just won’t come to an end and make way for spring. Anglers get excited when spring arrives because it enables them to get on their favorite river or lake and to enjoy fishing on the water. Trout fishing in Montana is certainly popular as are bass and northern pike fishing, but the one fish species that I get more questions on from anglers young and old alike is walleye.
How do I catch them? Answer: When fish for walleye most of the time you will have to be fishing on the bottom of the lake or river. Walleyes hang on the bottom in low light conditions and the best way to catch them is to get the bait in front of them.
What do I use? Answer: Walleye tackle consist of basically three different types: jigs, bottom bouncer with a spinner night crawler/leach harness or a floating jig/hook that is attached to the bottom bouncer with a 24-36 inch leader, and finally a crank bait like a Storm thunderstick or a Rapala shad rap. Jigs can be cast or trolled slow and tipped with live or artificial bait. Jig fishing as a general rule is better in the spring and early summer when the water is cooler. Bottom bouncers should be trolled up to 1 mile per hour or slower, just make sure it is touching the bottom and the spinners or floating jigs can be tipped with live or artificial bait. Bottom bouncers seem to work better in late spring and summer when the water begins to warm up. Crank baits should be trolled 1.7-2.2 miles per hour along wind-swept shore lines.
What is the best time of the year to fish for walleye? Answer: If you were going to pick a month June would be the month I would fish for walleye. However the success of catching active walleyes also depends a lot on the weather. Look for consecutive days of high pressure systems to make the fish more active. The later part of May and the first part of July can also be very good.
What lakes are the best to fish? Answer: The sound end of Canyon Ferry can be excellent; however you can also have days when you might think there are not any walleyes left in the lake because they are just not biting. The fish tend to be smaller but when the bite is on you will catch a lot of them. Tiber, Nelson, and Fort Peck Reservoir are very good lakes to fish.
One last piece of advice if you are unsure of how to fish a lake I would recommend hiring a fishing guide for a day. You will learn what to use and where to fish so you can go out on your own and have a better chance of catching some fish. As always if you have any questions feel free to send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Written by the Captain)