June Walleye Fishing


The spring walleye pattern of a jig and minnow fished along the deep weed edge or on a patch of shallow, windswept rocks begins to fall apart in late May in most lakes. Water temperatures have increased by the time June arrives and summer fishing patterns begin to take over the lakes.


Once the shiners and other baitfish have finished spawning in the shallows, they move away from the shoreline and head towards deeper water. Walleyes that have been feeding on the concentrations of spawning minnows find themselves in need of a new food source.


The next big thing happening in the lakes is the major insect hatches in the mud basin. This leads a good portion of the walleye population to leave the shallows and head for deeper water. The insects hatches of midges, mayflies, dragonflies and many other aquatic insects usually begin in late May to early June, depending on the water temperatures.


Where are they headed?


Lakes with several different types of habitat and several different feeding opportunities often mean there will be portions of the walleye population heading in different directions when they leave the shallows. Walleyes in some lakes may stay in the weeds much of the summer, while walleyes in other lakes will seek out mid-lake structures surrounded by the mud basin.


Anglers good at reading lake maps can see logical pathways in the lakes the walleyes are likely to use as they move to their summer locations. Mid-lake structures close to shore or those that are a part of a group of structures will usually be populated with walleyes earlier than the more remote locations further from the spawning sites.


Shiners and other baitfish seek out cooler water during the summer and will often be located over basin areas close to mid-lake structures. Small perch are a staple food source for walleyes in many lakes and the perch often move deep in early summer to feed on the insect hatches.


Walleyes like to be located along edges of structures surrounded by mud. That way, they can take advantage of the insect hatches and all of the other food choices located between the structures and the mud. Walleyes can eat the insects directly, or take advantage of the other feeding opportunities located there.


More to munch


Walleyes like a varied diet and want to be located in areas that offer them many different options for food. Perch and shiners are a big part of many walleyes diet, but they also want other things to eat: crayfish or other, less-plentiful minnow species.


Anglers can take advantage of walleyes’ desire to eat different things by using live-bait rigs, which is a perfect way to present many different types of live bait to walleyes in the most natural way. A long-shank Fireball Jig works all summer for fishing larger minnows or plastics.


Walleyes eat a steady diet of perch, crayfish and bug larvae in early June. Anglers want to offer them something that would be considered more of a treat. Options could include a perfect-sized red tail or creek chub, or maybe a big, fat, jumbo leech or a big blown-up nightcrawler that gives walleyes a tasty morsel instead of trying to give them more of the main course when they might already be full.


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Setup of choice


Anglers can make their own live-bait rigs out of components. Most rigs are just a sinker, swivel, line and hook. I use either 6 or 8-pound-test Sunline fluorocarbon leaders in most situations. The standard-length leader is about 6 feet. That’s about as long as most clients can handle.


I use a #6 or #8 live-bait hook for leeches and a #4 hook for nightcrawlers. When I use minnows, I use a #4 or #2 live-bait hook, depending on the size of the minnow.


There are many different colors and styles of hooks for walleyes. Red, orange, pink and green are the colors of hooks I use most often. I often use different-color hooks on client lines to see if the walleyes prefer one color over the others.


Sometimes I like to use a single, colored bead in front of the hook and also between the knot above the swivel and the sinker to help protect the knot. I like to use a longer rod for live-bait rigs. That gives me a longer sweep when I set the hook. Most live-bait rods are 6-foot, 10-inch to 7.5-foot.


Wind can be a big factor when the bites are light. It is amazing how much pressure wind can put on a longer rod. Sometimes I downsize to a 5.75-foot rod for live-bait rigs when fishing in heavy winds.


Take a pic, put ‘em back


I use a net that is easy on the fish and doesn’t have knots in the netting that remove slime from the fish. Anglers who intend to release a slot or trophy walleye should do so as quickly as possible after netting them to reduce mortality from summer heat.


If you want to get a picture of your catch, have your camera or cellphone ready for the photo before you hoist your netted walleye into the boat.


Side imaging for spooky fish


With the number of walleye lakes infested with zebra mussels increasing, anglers are having to change the way they fish. Walleyes are much more spooky in lakes with super-clear water than they are in stained or turbid lakes. Anglers fishing clear lakes during the day may not be able to drive over the fish even once without spooking the fish.


This means side imaging is critical to my guiding success. I can see fish out to the side of the boat without driving over the top of them. I mark the fish on GPS and use the “spot lock” feature to hold my boat in good casting position upwind from the fish. I also use my two 15 foot Talons to accomplish the same thing in shallower water.


I like to use a live-bait rig with about a 2-foot leader to carefully cast leeches or chubs to the walleyes. That way, I can let my bait sit in the middle of the fish. I will slowly move the rig a couple feet at a time and then let it sit again. This is a super-finesse presentation that can help anglers catch more fish under difficult conditions with spooky fish.