May in the underwater world of the Minnesota walleye screams “transition time!” It’s that time of the yearly fishing cycle when various schools of walleyes thoughout Minnesota are adapting from their Spring spawning locations to their late Spring feeding locations. And depending on where your next big fishing adventure is scheduled, there can be multiple patterns or strategies to pay attention to in order to be successful. Now don’t get me wrong, not all of the fish swim out of the shallows that they covet throughout May and instantly dart for deeper water at the same time—as some believe. In fact, in most bodies of water, some walleyes never leave the shallows (5-10 ft.) all summer long—and that’s one of the easiest patterns to fish. That’s a later article, for now we are concerned with the basics of May walleye location.
May walleyes are basically eating machines and can be found in depths ranging from 4-30 ft. The more productive depth ranges in general seem to be between 6 and 20 ft.—which is either up on the shallow flats (6-12 ft. centered around pods of bait fish and newly growing weeds only inches tall) close to spawning areas and then lingering out to the first break (drop off) and down potentially to the newly growing weed line—12-20 ft. In either location, food / baitfish is the key to finding May walleyes—year round for that matter!
Walleyes need food 24/7/365. They eat day or night, cloudy or sunshine. So get out the Humminbird side imaging sonar and use it as a radar beam to scan the shallows around your boat for pods (blobs) of bait/minnows as you idle around the shallow water flats. Find the food and the walleyes will be close by—within yards of the food source. Long line stick baits like Rapalas or Salmos while you are searching/scanning with the boat—preferably by using your trolling motor for stealth. Oh yeah, don’t forget about the long lining or planer boards with small flutter spoons commonly used for trout and salmon fishing on the great lakes. Deadly.
When multiple pods of baitfish or walleyes are found (or caught) stop the boat and simply work the area more thoroughly by pitching a small jig 1/16-1/8 oz. green, blue, or glow white jig tipped with a shiner minnow hooked through the lips fished on clear 6 lb. or 8 lb. monofilament line. Line stretch helps the fish inhale the bait easier than a non-stretch line. Drag the jig along the bottom and slowly work the area you think the school is utilizing. If you are having problems keeping bottom contact with your jig—try a slower boat speed or retrieve speed before using a heavier jig. Another great option are live bait rigs (like Lindy rigs) comprised of a 30-40” leader, 1/4-1/2 oz. slip/egg sinker, and a #2 or #4 hook tipped with an active shiner minnow, medium leech, or a night crawler will also produce fish.
Try casting a gold or silver JB Lures Walleye Weasel spoon tipped with a minnow tail and aggressively working it back to the boat or shore. Use a quick pull and then let the spoon flutter to the bottom, repeat until the fish suck it off the bottom or the retrieve is complete.
Hold your position with the trolling motor. This is where your anchor feature on the Minnkota trolling motor comes in handy. Do not anchor with a rope anchor or a Talon type anchor until you have caught numerous fish in the same area. Disturbing the bottom can spook the fish! Typically in May, small schools of walleyes are roaming and will not hang around long anyway—hence why some movement of your bait via trolling or drifting works well on the flats this time of the year.
Concentrate on the shallow feeding flats between spawning areas and deeper water—30 ft. plus. Your search should stop at the first break leading to deeper water. Make sure to use your Humminbird graph or Vexilar flasher to scan the drop off looking for fish—especially as the month of May is blending into June.
One last tip—don’t forget about current areas like in flowing rivers/creeks for some great evening fishing. The walleyes will filter into the shallows as the sun sinks beneath the horizon making for some great shore fishing/wading opportunities that at times a boat angler cannot capitalize on. Ok, one more tip. The same great shore fishing (or bank pitching from the boat) can be found after a day or two of heavy winds pounding the shore causing turbid water. It’s not uncommon to slam walleyes in 1-2 ft. of water. Yes I said 12-24 inches of water, during the day! Try casting a gold or silver JB Lures Walleye Weasel spoon tipped with a minnow tail and aggressively working it back to the boat or shore. Use a quick pull and then let the spoon flutter to the bottom, repeat until the fish suck it off the bottom or the retrieve is complete.
While there are no hard and fast rules in the sport of walleye fishing, there are basic patterns in fish behavior, location, and activity. This quick summary of just a tiny fraction of May walleye fishing in Minnesota conveys some consistent basics and should help bring results to your next May Minnesota walleye fishing trip.