Targeting Early Season Walleyes

Targeting Early Season Walleyes

The official Minnesota opener is less than 3 months away, even with all of the snow we’ve been getting it will be here sooner than you think.   In my opinion there are 3 main keys to targeting and catching early season walleyes, these 3 items work together to help point you in the direction of catching fish.

  1.  Location
  2.  Bait
  3.  Water Temperature


Early season walleyes are typically in pre-spawn, spawning, or post-spawn when the Minnesota opener rolls around in early May.  If you’re like me and like to fish the same lakes on opener you should have a good idea where to start, but if not here are a few key factors in determining that location.

You’ll want to look for shallow shoreline structure that has access to deep water very near by.  When walleyes spawn they do so in shallow rocks, sand or any other type of bottom variance where their eggs can be somewhat protected.  Here is a great location that I will target on opener, notice the access to deep water near by:



Choosing which type of bait you want to use whether it be live bait or artificial really comes down to what not to use during this time period.  For instance, I would not be using night crawlers in the spring only because leeches, shiners or fatheads will out perform almost every time.  In the middle of summer when the water is much warmer, then night crawlers would be my go to for live bait.

A fathead minnow is usually what I’ll start with, leeches are next and then shiners.  Artificial plastics are a great alternative as well, Mister-Twister is a brand name that has been around forever and for good reason.  A few of my favorite are:  (Links are to

Mister-Twister 3″ Meenie Chartreuse/Silver Flake

Mister-Twister 3″ Meenie Pumpkin

Mister-Twister 2.5″ Sassy-Shad

Another great way to search for early season walleyes is running a shallow crank bait during the low light hours, if you do happen to catch one trolling stop and go back to that area and you’ll likely catch more.  Here is where I would start fan-casting the area with a jig and one of the baits mentioned above, even a lighted bobber is a great way to target walleyes once you’ve located them.

Water Temperature

Finally water temperature will tell you a whole lot about what stage the of the spawn the fish are in.  If the ice just went out and the water temp is hovering around 45 degrees, the fish are probably staging and getting ready to spawn.  50-60 degrees is my sweet spot and typically you’ll hit the males in the shallow areas at this point.  The females will typically drop their eggs around that 45-50 degree mark.  After that when the water warms up some more the females will come back to the shallows to feed, they are hungry after all of the energy spent during the spawn. 

Note that the large deep lakes typically lag behind the shallow lakes only because they take longer to warm up.  This time difference could be up to a month later in the spring, depending on the weather of course.

Lake turnover is another component you need to consider, some lakes don’t experience a true turnover because their too shallow, deeper lakes will have a turnover in the spring and fall but that’s a topic for another post.


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