Walleye can usually be found in schools of a few to several fish. If you catch one, there are likely others nearby. You can catch walleye on a variety of live bait (minnows, shiners, nightcrawlers and leeches), lures (crankbaits, spoons, jigs, etc.) and/or a combination of the two. The best choices vary, depending upon the season, water and available prey items.
Late winter and early spring
During late winter and early spring months, walleye that inhabit lakes concentrate near or in tributaries and along rocky points and banks in preparation for spawning. Stream fish will congregate in pools near traditional spawning shoals and other rocky structures. During this season, try fishing slow-moving stick baits, shiners or jig or minnow combinations. During the period when fish move into shallow water, especially in clear water lakes and streams, they generally bite better at night than during the day.
Spring and summer
As the weather warms up, walleye move to deeper water and structure. In large reservoirs, you'll often find fish at or near the thermocline (25-35’). Rocky points, shorelines and drop-offs near submerged river channels are prime locations. In streams, deeper pools with submerged logs and boulders are a great place to begin your search. Summer months can provide some of the most consistent fishing patterns and action. It’s during this period that walleye readily bite throughout the day and often best during the mid-day hours.
Late fall and winter
Walleye patterns typically become less distinct during the late fall and winter months. Look for walleye near deep water and structure, concentrations of forage items and any areas that receive significant inflow from streams and tributaries. Cooler water temperatures and the fish’s reduced metabolism mean you need to fish baits and lures more slowly than during the rest of the year.
Trolling and baits
Trolling is probably the most common method used for walleye. Crankbaits that dive to various depths can be attractive to fish positioned along the edge of habitat or along a bare bank. Live bait rigged with a “bottom-bouncer” can be slowly dragged close to the bottom where walleye are usually located. However, there are times, especially when fishing near or in woody or other submerged habitat, a vertical presentation of a minnow, spoon, jig, etc. is the best way to fish and minimize hang-ups.
Check prospects and learn more
Check the Fishing Prospects listed below for next season's outlook, and subscribe to the fishing report for weekly updates from April through September.
To learn more about walleye fishing, consider joining the Missouri angling group, Mid-South Walleyes.