Before we get into specific walleye fishing techniques, it’s important to understand their seasonal movements. By the time Ontario’s walleye fishing season opens in May, most of the provinces walleye are either spawning or have recently spawned. Walleye spawn over clean gravel bottoms in shallow water and near areas where there is current, which keeps their eggs oxygenated.
Anglers can find walleye in and around those areas early in the season, generally in water less than 10 feet deep. As the water temperature rises and lake vegetation begins to grow, walleye migrate away from their spawning grounds and into areas where they will spend the summer.
Summertime walleye hotspots include drop-offs, structure edges like sunken islands, and vegetation beds like cabbage weed. When the sun is out, walleye will stay near the bottom or tucked in tight among the weeds. They become more active on cloudy days and after the sun sets, moving up in the water column and towards the shallow tops of sunken islands, where they pursue forage such as minnows and perch.
Walleye feed heavily in the fall as they prepare for the winter. While forage is important all year, walleye are especially focused on it in the fall and move a lot as they search for it. Deep water near structure is an excellent place to find hungry fall walleye.
Walleye are less active in the winter, but they will feed on the tops and edges of structure as well as around vegetation that remains green throughout the winter.
Walleye Catching Techniques
Some anglers come across walleye while pursuing other fish species, but those who plan ahead of time have a better chance of success. Walleye are most active during low-light periods, which means they are best caught in the early morning and late evening. Cloudy days and windy days, when the waves on the surface of the water reduce light penetration, are exceptions. Walleye may bite all day in these conditions.
Getting them doesn’t have to be difficult, and anglers can get by with just a few lures and baits. A live-bait rig, which allows anglers to troll a leech, minnow, or nightcrawler slowly along the bottom, is one of the best. These rigs consist of a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce sinker (just enough weight to keep contact with the bottom), a swivel, a 3- to 6-foot leader of 6-pound test fishing line, and a No. 4 or No. 6 hook, in that order.
Slowly move the rig around potential areas. If you catch a couple of walleyes, it’s time to slow down and thoroughly fish the area. A jig with live bait attached is an excellent choice for this. Cast the jig to the area and retrieve it along the bottom, or hover over the fish and drop the jig directly in front of their faces. If you’re fishing after dark or on a windy day, a minnow-imitating crankbait is a good option. Drag the lure through likely areas.
Of course, trolling isn’t an option in the winter, but jigs and live bait, or spoons, work well when dropped down a hole and jigged near the bottom.
With countless lakes and rivers teeming with these elusive fish, Ontario has some of the best walleye fishing in the world. Here are some of the top walleye fishing lakes in Ontario:
- Lake of the Woods – This massive lake is famous for its excellent walleye fishing, with fish weighing up to 14 pounds caught on a regular basis.
- Eagle Lake – With plenty of walleye to be found in its clear, deep waters, Eagle Lake is a popular destination for anglers.
- Lac Seul – Lac Seul is a large, rugged lake that is home to some of Ontario’s largest walleye.
- Lake Nipissing is a shallow, weedy lake with a healthy population of walleye as well as other game fish such as muskie and pike.
- Wabigoon Lake – Wabigoon Lake is a deep, clear lake known for trophy-sized walleye.
- Lake Temagami is home to a variety of fish, including walleye, which can be caught using a variety of techniques.
- The French River is a popular walleye fishing destination, with plenty of fish to be found in its many bays and channels.
- Lake Abitibi – Lake Abitibi is a shallow, weedy lake with a thriving walleye population as well as other game fish such as pike and bass.
- Lake Huron – One of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron is known for its excellent walleye fishing as well as a variety of other game fish species.