Walleye in Dirty Water…
by: Captain Lance Valentine
If you have ever tried to catch walleye in dirty water you know what a challenge it can be. In cold water periods, dirty water can be warmer and loaded with fish that will fill the sonar screen, but we still can’t get bit, no matter what we try.
Remember, walleye are primarily sight feeders and need to “see” their prey before they will strike, which makes walleye in dirty water a tough challenge. Sometimes dirty water is all we can find, and as anglers we need to find ways to maximize the fish we catch under dirty conditions. Here are some things that have helped me catch fish in dirty water over the years.
- Pay attention to SOUND: Walleye have a very acute lateral line that can pick up low frequency vibrations from a good distance. While low frequency sound will attract walleye in all conditions, my experience shows it is crucial to dirty water success. When trolling, add crankbaits to your spread with low frequency sound, made by a bait containing a small number of large bearings in the body cavity. The low “thud-thud” made by a single large bearing travels a long distance through the water, and can help walleye zero in on your bait from afar and get close enough to find your lures in dirty water. When jigging large jigs, up to 1.5 ounces, can be the key, even in shallow water. The constant “thump, thump” of a heavy jig on the bottom will send out vibrations to help walleye find your bait, even in dirty water. If you are trolling spinners, be sure to upsize your blades and use more Colorado styles than anything else to get maximum vibration from your blades.
- Pay attention to COLOR: Walleye have eyes that see better in the yellow/orange/green spectrum and studies show that they can see fluorescent shades better than non-fluorescent ones. In dirty water, I pay attention to color and contrast on my lures. Fluorescent orange, yellow and reds are some of my favorites. I have also had great success on dark purple and blackbodied baits, especially those with contrasting spots or stripes of fluorescent colors. Another of my favorites is a copper colored lure with orange, purple, or chartreuse belly and accents. Remember, bright colors and contrast are important in dirty water.
- Pay attention to SPEED: I have caught walleye in cold, dirty water going zero and trolling up to 2.5 mph. If they are hungry, you can’t go too fast for walleye to catch your bait. But, in dirty water pay attention to keeping a CONSTANT speed. In dirty water, baits are hard to see and catch, and changes in speed make it even harder for walleye to find your bait. Find the best speed for the day, and keep in constant for better results. I also eliminate turns from my trolling when the water is dirty.
- Pay attention to LURE DEPTH: While walleye will often come 10-
15’ to crush a lure in clear water, in dirty water your presentation needs to be much more precise. When you find a productive depth for your lures, keep them there! Sometimes a difference of only 1-3’ of running depth can mean a good catch or nothing! If the water is dirty and the sun is out, don’t be afraid to run your baits in the top 4-6’ of the water, even over deep water. You may be surprised how many walleyes are using the effect of the sun to see their prey better!
Dirty water walleye can be challenging……try some of these tricks next time you are faced with dirty water, and your fishing success should increase!