Lake Erie Walleye Big and Plentiful: Trolling Is Most Common Walleye Method

Walleye anglers fishing in most parts of Ontario spend a lot of years on the water to see a fish topping the four-pound mark. But, on Erie, such fish are commonplace. Abundant food and water warmer than that in much of the rest of Ontario fuel walleye growth.

Erie walleye numbers have had ups and downs, based on spawning success. Present numbers are based on the successful 2017 year-class of fish, which was the most successful spawn in more than a decade.

Shoal-spawning walleye in the western end of the lake provide the angling opportunities for fish from Long Point all the way to the western end of the lake. Much of the fishing in the eastern basin is based on spawners from the Grand River.

Trolling is Key to Erie Walleye

Trolling is the most common method to catch Lake Erie walleye. With water depths varying from 20 feet to 70 feet, and the fish often being near the bottom, getting the bait in front of the fish is the trick.

A variety of tactics are used, dependent on the depth, but the main ways of getting the bait deep are downriggers, Dipsy divers and other such diving planers, sinkers, deep-diving lures and leadcore line. Lake Erie charter boat captains use a mix of these tactics to catch fish. Some days one works and the next, another catches all the fish.

Fishing for Erie walleye with downriggers isn’t a lot different than going after other species in this manner. Rods can be lighter though than those used for muskie or salmon. Using fluorocarbon leaders is a common practice for wary walleye.

Dipsy divers require a heavier rod as the rod is the shock absorber taking the pull of the planer keeping the lure down deep. Most Erie anglers use braided line, as less line is needed to get the Dipsy diver deep as compared to monofilament. Braided line also stretches less, enabling the release to work better.

From the Dipsy back to the lure, fluorocarbon is used for its strength and invisibility in the water. About 10 to 15 feet of line is ideal. Any longer and it becomes tricky to land fish.

Leadcore is Effective for Walleye

Leadcore line is one technique some anglers ignore, as it requires over 500 feet of line when fishing in depths of much more than 40 feet. It is effective though. The heavy line snakes through the water, changing depth on turns of the boat.

When nothing else works, the leadcore seems to catch fish. It does require pulling in 500 feet of line sometimes, though.

When setting up a rod for leadcore, let out the necessary amount of line to reach the desired depth, then set the drag so it just holds the line from going out. Any weight from a fish that latches on the lure will then start pulling out the line. Ensure you have the clicker on the reel so you notice the line going out.

Planer Boards a Natural for Walleye

With walleye being a wary fish, planer boards are a great way to get the bait out away from the boat to pick up any fish that moved from under the boat when it went overhead. While diving lures can be used alone with planer boards in shallower water, Jet Divers, sinkers or even leadcore can be used to get the lure down to the necessary depth.

If you don’t have full-size planer boards, try the smaller in-line planer boards that clip on your line. A couple of different manufacturers offer these products, which are available in most angling stores.

Lure Color and Selection for Walleye

A wide variety of lures are favored by Erie walleye anglers. Some of the favorites are: Ripplin’ Redfins, Luhr Jensen Hot Lips, spoons and worm harnesses.

Port Bruce-based charter boat captain Geoff Hoover follows a few basic rules when picking colors for walleye lures. These are:

  • Use green lures in pea green water
  • Purples, violets, blacks, golds, pink, dark blue and fluorescent colors work well in low light
  • Oranges, light blues, reds, silver and other brighter colors work well in brighter light and bright days
  • Never run reds deeper than 20 feet
  • Never run orange deeper than 40 feet
  • Run light greens and blues to 60 feet.

If you are fishing Lake Erie for walleye for the first time, it’s best to go with a charter boat to learn the techniques they use. An Internet search will find dozens. And for Americans, the fishing is just as good on the other side of Lake Erie.

Donald S. Cochran

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