Early Season Walleye Tomorrow
Inside the Outdoors, May 2
, 2014

No sooner is opening day trout season a thing of the past do we come upon walleye season beginning tomorrow, May 3, throughout the Commonwealth all the way to the end of 2014, and then from Jan. 1 to March 14, 2015. So, all in all, no one can say the Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission isn’t giving one enough time to catch these very popular-eating fish.

No matter where one goes, somewhere amidst the conversation of catching trout will someone bring up the subject of walleye and before long, sportsmen are exchanging stories about these toothy aquatic species that are found in many of the area waters.

The only walleye I caught that was large enough to keep was out of the Loyalhanna Creek. That statement right there ought to provide a heads-up for those who think they have to travel a great distance to pull this fish from water basins within the state.

And that stands to reason for walleye, sauger and saugeye fishing has improved over the years along the Conemaugh River and particularly where the Loyalhanna Creek and the Conemaugh River merge.

First, when scouting where these fish may be found, look for gravel and sandy bottoms. This is where walleye like to nest and in all probability will stay in and around this area. When one has been found, it is a sure bet that others will be nearby, for this is a schooling species.

One need not worry about complex techniques during early season walleye. Using nightcrawlers, for example, a proven bait, have deceived many a fish into thinking dinner was nearby particularly after sunset at the outflow of the Loyalhanna or along the Conemaugh.

When I caught my walleye on the Loyalhanna, I was using a black and silver 7S Rapala. It had grabbed my lure initially. As always, I opened the bail letting it run. That is a good habit to get into no matter where one fishes. If one can tire the fish, then there is a greater possibility the fish will be his. On the other hand, it’s not always a sure bet. When the fish took one look at me upon eyeing me on shore it decided to do a 180 and snapped my line. When it did that a second time, I reopened the bail, letting it run until it ran out of gas. It became my protein selection for dinner that night!

It seems all top walleye anglers like to use jig and minnow combinations for early season walleye. However, if fish are on a feeding frenzy, it doesn’t matter too much what they are eating, but it helps to toss them food they like to eat.

Fishing from boats does increase one’s statistics of probability that he will do better catching walleyes. Using a fish finder is of asset and a great necessity when one needs to find where the walleye may be hugging the bottoms. If one does have one of these devices, it is imperative that he knows exactly how to use it. That may be the determining factor between finding the fish and overlooking them.

In early season, one is more likely to find walleyes along shoreline breaks than on mid-lake structure. Here again, by watching the fish finder closely, one will see where the land drops off. The fish are usually located in the proximity of 20 feet down.

Jigging is a popular method for catching these fish. Yellow-painted jig heads tipped with a minnow head is a sure bait to catch walleyes. Other lures include the size 4 Swedish Pimple also tipped with a minnow head, a size 5 jigging Rapala and a one-eighth ounce Cicada.

When I read that rainbow trout lures work well for catching walleyes, I had to laugh. The majority of my brown trout I caught last year were on a Leland Crank Lure very similar to the Rapala in form, colored to look identically to a rainbow trout.

For open water trolling, the North American Fishing Club organization recommended blue and silver, red or orange, and green and chartreuse with orange belly crankbaits. When still fishing from a boat, try leeches. One may have to use a strike indicator on the end of his rod for they are finicky fish. Once leeches are taken, the hook has to be set immediately or goodbye leeches. Take it from one who has lost many!

Remember, walleye and saugeye and their hybrids have to be 15 inches in length to harvest. One is allowed to keep six per day.

Once caught, take them home, find a good recipe and then go to it. There is nothing like fresh walleye for a good meal!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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