Few fish match the walleye for the combination of recreational angling enjoyment and table fare. Available in fair numbers virtually statewide, walleye can be found in the Great Lakes and connecting waters as well as inland rivers, lakes and reservoirs, though many of the inland fisheries are dependent upon stocking programs to maintain fishable populations. Walleyes can be caught in numerous ways. Early in the season, fishing bottom with lead-head jigs tipped with minnows or with plastic grub bodies is the top technique, but as the season progresses, trolling with plugs (such as Rapalas and Wiggle Warts) or spoons or with spinners and crawler harnesses becomes the preferred method. Slow trolling baits at a variety of depths is important as, although walleyes are usually associated with the bottom, the most active fish are sometimes suspended in the water column. But walleyes can readily be taken on live bait; nightcrawlers drifted along the bottom, leeches suspended under a slip bobber or minnows fished on a tight line will all produce. In fall, jigging with spoons in deep water is a popular technique.
Walleyes can be photosensitive. Fishing is often best early and late in shallow water, though that is less critical in deep water. But walleyes often move shallow to feed at night and casting with artificial lures or drifting with live bait will all produce walleyes after dark.
Walleyes are popular quarry for ice fishermen who jig with artificial baits such as Jigging Rapalas or spoons, often tipped with minnows; on slip-bobber rigs or with tip-ups baited with live minnows. Walleye fishing through the ice usually begins and ends in shallow water areas with deep water more productive during the heart of the winter.
Many of the state’s Great Lakes waters have become world famous for walleye. The Lake Erie-Detroit River-Lake St. Clair-St. Clair River system is outstanding, drawing anglers from across the country in spring and early summer, though Saginaw Bay, Little Bay de Noc and the Portage Lake system off of Lake Superior are not far behind. Inland, the Tittabawassee and Muskegon Rivers are especially good early in the season and again just before winter as fish migrate in following baitfish from the big lakes. Among inland lakes, Gogebic, Indian, Leelanau, Burt and Houghton lakes shine, though there are numerous smaller lakes with fair to good populations of walleye.
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