Walleye fishing experts report they expect an outstanding 2011 walleye season. The 2010 season was pretty good across much of the walleye range and our experts say 2011 should only improve upon that especially considering an exceptional 2003 year class of walleyes on many waters will only grow bigger this season.
Walleye tournament angler Denny Lantzy admits the walleye bite has been a little slow so far this spring, but that is due to the cold, wet weather patterns we’ve had. The April Detroit River MWC event actually ended after day one due to high Northerly winds. Before the river turned chocolate, anglers were catching good numbers of five to seven pound walleye despite water temps running much colder than normal.
Lantzy reports that Lake Erie walleye fishing was really starting to fire up well until the succession of high North-easterly winds shut things down. “As soon as we get a stretch of stable weather, the walleye will start biting. I expect to see a lot of 30-plus pound baskets of walleye in the May FLW Lake Erie event,” Lantzy says. “That great 2003 hatch has us catching large numbers of 23 to 27 inch walleye. We were using a balance beam during the April Detroit River event because we caught so many fish the same size in our 32 pound limit.”
Rockford Michigan FLW pro David Kolb says he’s looking forward to a really good walleye fishing season. “Green Bay had a pretty good ’03 year class as well so that 30 pound basket of fish is not going to be hard to come by this summer,” Kolb says. “You’ve got to get a couple 8 or 9 pounders to make a difference. You don’t go through as many fish at Green Bay as you do on Erie, but it’s still a pretty good fishery. You can go to University Bay and catch fish all day long.”
Lantzy likes Green Bay too. “Green Bay has an excellent fishery. Plenty of bait fish. I’m expecting big baskets there. The big fish this summer will come from structure, especially around Chambers and Green Islands.”
Kolb is expecting a good rigging bite on Minnesota’s Leech Lake. “Leech Lake is really two sections – Walker Bay area which is deep clean water, and the main lake. You find 20 feet in the main lake, that’s deep out there,” Kolb says. “Walker Bay you can get 60, 80 feet easy. Walker Bay has the bigger fish because of the access to deep water.”
“The fish grow slower up there, but it’s a phenomenal fishery. You catch a lot of fish. You rig minnows, Redtail Chubs for the bigger fish and for the smaller walleye you use smaller minnows like the Rainbow Dace. You can only keep one over 26 inches per angler. The rest have to be under 18 inches,” says Kolb.
Kolb looks forward to fishing South Dakota’s Lake Oahe too. “Oahe is a little different type fishery. Usually you want to find points to find the fish. That concentrates them. Or you can find some big fish, a lot of guys troll lead for them out in the deeper water. There’s a good mix of fish sizes out there. In Oahe you’ve got smelt, so the fish can grow a little faster.”
Lantzy says Saginaw Bay will be much better this season. “The inner bay isn’t holding as many legal walleye during the summer as it used to, but the outer bay is much improved. The walleye are bigger and healthier, feeding on gobies and shiners. In the Port Austin area, they used to come in for about two weeks. Now, they’re hanging in the area almost two months during July and August!”
Lantzy recommends anglers look for stained water to find walleye on shallower structure. “If the water is too clear, outer bay walleye are moving out into 50 to 70 feet where we catch them mixed in with Steelhead,” says Lantzy.
River anglers are getting in on the action too. Stream fishing expert Brandon Conner recently caught and released a 17.80 pound, 34.38 inch long monster walleye. Conner was fishing Michigan’s Grand River for Steelhead below the Grand Rapid’s Sixth Street Dam when the walleye hit his bait.
“I was drifting spawn when my bobber went under,” says Conner. “I knew it wasn’t a Steelhead because the fish was just bulldogging on the bottom.” Michigan’s walleye season was closed so the exceptional fish won’t be certified as a new state record.
There are so many good walleye fisheries right now, it’s not easy to pin down one real hot bite with one exception. “Well, Lake Erie is always Mecca. That’s it,” Kolb says. “That ’03 year class, you’re going to catch a lot of good-sized fish and that’s a lot of fun.”
If you’re a walleye angler, 2011 should be an outstanding season across much of the walleye fishing range whether you fish the Great Lakes or one of the many lakes and rivers that hold walleye. Make it to one of the mentioned fisheries, or choose any walleye fishery near you – the experts report that you are likely to enjoy a successful walleye fishing trip.