May 7, 2009 at 9:07 a.m.
A couple of other factors to consider this weekend will be light and wind. If we wake up to bright sunshine and little or no wind Saturday morning, that will definitely call for a different initial game plan than a cloudy day with a good walleye chop. If I were fishing on a clear day with little or no wind, I might look a bit deeper to begin with. If the day is darker and windy, I'd look to pitch and/or drift jigs in much shallower water. I recall a day in early May on Lake of the Woods when we found highly active walleyes in two feet of water on the windward side of a large bay. We wound up throwing 1/32-ounce skirted crappie jigs tipped with fatheads to take numerous fish.
That particular day on LOW was a perfect case in point regarding a lake's wavy surface dictating light penetration, which is another critical factor. Crystal clear water that is a mere six feet deep can become quite dark under a wavy surface that refracts light. Walleyes are low-light feeders, but will readily cruise shallow shorelines and sunken points on bright sunshine days if waves are present. Waves act to pile up invertebrates at one end of a body of water, which in turn attract minnows and small baitfish. Waves also churn up bottom sediment, reducing water clarity along the windward side of a lake that disorients the small fish that gather there to gorge on tiny invertebrates. Sitting at the top of the aquatic food chain are the walleyes and other predatory fish that naturally take full advantage of this opportunity and aggressively ambush their forage base during this prime condition.
If the air temperature is higher than the water temperature, which will most likely be the case for the upcoming opener, the windward side of a lake is warmed even further. An ideal situation would be that the wind remains consistent for at least a couple of days to allow the lake to set up a simple food-chain scenario that results from these conditions.
Above all else, don't forget that walleye - like any fish - is a relatively stupid creature. They have little teeny-tiny brains and depend almost entirely on innate behavior to get them through the day. A typical day for a walleye might shake out to something like this: Swim, eat, poop, eat some more, poop, swim, eat, swim, and eat. I know nobody likes to hear that, but it's true. If you cover the usual early May walleye haunts and keep your lively baits within two feet of the bottom (periodically tapping bottom with your bait to make sure you're deep enough), chances are you're going to catch a fish or two or three this weekend. A couple of sobering and honest sentences like that should help to bolster your confidence.
Keep the slack out of your line and your drift slow. I'll see you on the water this weekend.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.
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