Open water trolling for walleyes on the Great Lakes
Opening my eyes slightly, the digital clock on our bedside showed 3:10 a.m. Anxious to get out on the water, I quickly grabbed something to eat. On the short drive to the access, I remembered the screen shots of my depth sounder. At dusk a couple of evenings before, baitfish and ciscoes, visible on the screen, were suspended down 13’ to 16’ in waters of 98’ to 130’. Light shy ciscoes move close to the surface at dusk and until sunrise, feeding on bugs disappearing to the bottom at sunrise. Walleyes will be found feeding on these baitfish schools at sunset till sunrise.
Walleyes’ main shallow water forage is perch, and in deep water, ciscoes. Walleyes can be shallow or deep depending on the forage they are feeding on. All area lakes have perch. Only lakes with deeper water will have abundant ciscoes.
Open water trolling ippopular in the Great Lakes, but overlooked on the smaller deep inland lakes. The Park Rapids area has a number of lakes that have prime deep water habitat for holding large schools of ciscoes. Crank baits imitating
ciscoes come in multiple shapes, sizes and run at a variety of depths. Then by employing the use of planer boards, to spread the lines out from the boat, with lead core lines, snap weights braided or wire lines will get highly effective crank baits down into the fish zone.
The short boat ride got me into the 90-feet and more water depth. The depth sounder confirmed presence of ciscoes in the top 15’ of water. Attached to my braided line was an 8-foot monofilament leader with a chrome crank bait at the end.
Clearing my line-counting reel, I spooled out 150’ of line. This would put my bait at 13’ just above the schools of bait fish.
Before setting the rod in the rod holder, I attached a planer board to get the bait away from the boat, spooling out 50’ of line. I kept the planer board 50’ away from the boat with bait 150’ behind it. I set the rod in the holder, the clicker on, adjusting the free spool, so the line would play out at the slightest strike on the lure.
Throttling up the motor, keeping my speed at 2.30 mph, it was still too dark to see the planer board, even with navigation lights on. I had to rely on my reels clicker to signal any pre-dawn strikes.
My first plump walleye came within minutes. Action was steady only by adjusting lure depths deeper as the sun slowly rose in the east until 6:07 a.m. With the sun in full view, these schools of ciscoes disappeared and so did the walleyes. We caught enough fish for a meal, releasing the others. It was time to head in for a much needed nap.