Minnesota walleye and pike fishing

Minnesota walleye and pike fishing

The subject of this article is Minnesota walleye and pike fishing. Walleye are arguably the most popular freshwater fish in our northern states, and Minnesota is no exception.

walleye fishing tips

Minnesota may offer anglers the best walleye fishing in the country. Lakes and river systems with prime walleye habitat abound. Anglers target, and catch, walleye all year long, including through the ice in winter. Multiple techniques are used by anglers to catch walleye. While walleye put up a decent tussle, they are prized for their value on a dinner plate. Walleye have white, flaky fillets that are fabulous eating!

Minnesota walleye and pike fishing expert Brenda

Brenda Chesshir is our Fishing Ladies Minnesota walleye fishing expert. She grew up in St Paul, MN and her outdoor background stems from her parents passion with fishing since she was knee high.

“I was fortunate enough to have a family cabin for 35 years in McGregor, MN on lake Minnewawa. This was a multi-species lake so bass, pike and eyes were my target. I became addicted to walleyes and the challenge of learning different techniques based on the time of year, learning locations, best structure; Minnewawa was a weed walleye lake – shallow, weedy, and full of cabbage. Over the years I have been fortunate to fish alongside some professional fisherman and be mentored by some old-timers.

walleye fishing for beginners

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As I became more addicted to walleyes, I started to upgrade from my small 16.5 foot Northwood’s with 25 horse to a 17.5 foot Lund Pro V with 115 horse and of course at that point, I added a Humminbird Helix 7 and a MinnKota Terrova trolling motor; Spot Lock is a life saver for me, as I am able to mark and get on fish…goodbye anchor!! I get out on the water as often as possible and is highly skilled at catching walleye.”

Minnesota walleye fishing techniques

Walleye can be taken by several different methods. Anglers can cast, drift, troll, and even fish through the ice. Live bait and artificial lures are both very productive. Leeches, minnows, and nightcrawlers are the top live baits. Jigs, spoons, soft plastic baits, and crank baits are the top producing artificial lures. Walleye are generally found near the bottom. However, they will rise up in the water column to feed on overcast days, dusk, dawn, and at night.

trolling for walleye

Minnesota walleye fishing with live bait

Brenda suggests to novice anglers that are just getting into walleye fishing to drift or slow troll with live bait. A live crawler, leech, or minnow on a Lindy Rig or other bottom bouncing rig is the best way for a novice angler to catch walleye. Walleye feed on the bottom, baits need to be in that zone in order to draw a strike.

This system consists of a special sinker that “walks” along the bottom. The line runs through the sinker. A swivel stops the weight. Then, a 6 pound test flourocarbon leader of 3′ to 6′ is then tied on the swivel. A #4 to #8 Gamakatsu hook completes the rig. The baits are hooked in the front so that they swim naturally.

Minnesota walleye and pike fishing

Drifting and slow trolling is effective on walleye

Anglers then drift or very slowly troll over likely areas. Ledges, rock piles, points, and wrecks will all hold walleye. On days with a little breeze, drifting will work quite well. On calm days, anglers will need to provide the movement by trolling very slowly. If a drift or troll does not produce fish, anglers should try another spot. Once fish are located, that area should be worked slowly and thoroughly.

“I find that slow death rigs with Mack’s Smile Blades are very effective. Simply thread a night crawler on the hook and pinch off, it spins slowly along. As summer heats up the fish go deep into32-36 feet of water. This is where trolling with lead-core comes into action and the “Precision Trolling, The Trollers Bible” book comes into play. Though relativity new at this technique, I plan to master it this coming summer. I see a lead core trolling “clinic” in my future. I mostly use leeches on Mille Lacs.”

Minnesota walleye fishing tackle

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Trolling with lures for Minnesota walleye

Artificial lures can be extremely effective when trolled as well. The main advantage is that lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Anglers trolling plugs of different sizes and colors can quickly find a productive pattern that produces fish. Plugs are generally trolled at faster speeds than live bait.

walleye lures

Brenda’s favorite lures for casting and trolling for walleyes are as follows;

“One of my methods for catching walleye is trolling crankbaits. I prefer to use shad style crankbaits as they provide a subtle wobbling action. I mainly use size 5 and size 7 baits. Trolling is a very productive technique that keeps me in good contact with fish that are active.

I also use a variety of stick-style baits. If the fish are holding in deeper water, I will troll similar baits on a line-counter, lead-core rig or use planer boards. This will ensure that the baits get down far enough to entice the fish. I typically troll at speeds from .7 to 1.2 MPH, depending on weather and bite conditions. I adjust my speed accordingly based on the reaction of fish to the bait.

Casting for Minnesota walleye

Casting for walleye is another one of my productive methods. Fishing the shorelines, shallow weed lines, and mid-lake humps while pitching various crankbaits is a blast! I’ll still cast shad and stick style baits, as well as rattling baits such as the Rattlin’ Rapala. You may even find me throwing an occasional spinnerbait for weed-walleyes!

Minnesota walleye fishing

If I want to target deeper water and cast, I will throw a lead jig paired with a leech, crawler, shiner, or plastic paddle tail. I will cover the structure with my bow mount trolling motor and pitching the jig and letting it sink to the depths and actively jig it back to the boat.

All baits used will depend on water quality and feeding patterns. Essentially, you are wanting to match the hatch and mimic the available forage. This could be crayfish, minnows, leeches, or small fish such as yellow perch. The color I use will depend on water clarity and cloud cover. When it is more on the cloudy side, I like to use brighter colors like neon orange, chartreuse, pink, and purple. On sunny days I use gold and silver metallic chrome colored baits. My favorite color patterns are clown and perch.

Catching Minnesota walleye without a boat

While anglers Minnesota walleye fishing from boats have an advantage, shore-bound fishing can produce as well. This is particularly true along river banks. Tailwaters below dams can be extremely effective spots to catch walleye and other species. Live baits can be drifted in the current. Casting lures will also produce fish.

Minnesota ice fishing

Ice fishing is an extremely effective walleye technique. Obviously, it does not require a boat! However, it does require some special gear such as an ice auger, perhaps a shanty, and other equipment. Also, safety is of the utmost importance! This subject was covered HERE in another Fishing Ladies piece.

Brenda really enjoys ice fishing for Minnesota walleye! The ice fishing generally starts in December and goes until first part of March, but this can vary year to year.  Brenda prefers to use rods to fish for walleye, though tip-ups and rattle reels are also very effective.

Minnesota walleye fishing through the ice

Brenda’s favorite method to use when targeting walleye through the ice is Rattle Reels, jigging rod, and bobber-style rods.

“I tend to run 18-24 inches off the bottom using large golden shiners or lite sucker minnows. I jig with a Lindy Frostee Spoon, Northland Forage Minnow or Buckshot spoon with a pinched-off minnow head. A lot of times the action of the jigging calls in the fish, and then the fish will come in and grab the bobber or rattle reel lines.

“I find on Mille Lacs that keeping it simple with a plain hook and a 3 foot leader on the rattle reels is most effective. I use 4 to 6 pound test line and I prefer green Berkley Trilene. Right now I am finding fish for the evening/morning bite in 7-10 feet of water, however I am hearing good reports on North-end in 32-36 feet.

ice fishing for walleye

“With my home in close proximity to the lake, I am fortunate to get out more than most. This year I went from a 6×8 foot skid house to a 14 foot Ice Castle – so no more roughing it, and am not able to spend many comfortable nights out on the ice. There is nothing better than hearing the rattle reel go off in the middle of the night”.

Minnesota walleye season migrations

Walleye follow distinct seasonal migrations. Like most species, they are found in shallow water in the cooler months during spring and fall. Conversely, they seek out deeper water in summer and winter.

Walleye are often found in waters 10 feet deep or shallower early in the season and and fall. During the summer months, many of these areas experience vegetation growths. That, along with rising water temperatures will push the fish out deeper. By early June, most walleye have moved out to deeper water. They will return again in early November.

Minnesota walleye and pike fishing

Walleye will spend their summers offshore, usually relating to some type of structure. Depth changes such as drop-offs on flats or humps, channel edges, submerged rock piles, and edges of weed beds in water between 8 feet deep and 20 feet deep are the best spots to try. Walleye feed best early and late in the day and at night. This is particularly true in the summer time.

Walleye fishing is good in the fall

Again, like most other species, walleye feed heavily in the fall as they fatten up for winter. Successful anglers will find the schools of forage fish, understanding that while I and other game fish will be nearby. Many of the same deep water structure spots that produced in summer will also be good spots to try in the fall.

While I will slow down and be less active in the winter. As weed beds die off, finding the submerged beds will be important. The edges of weed beds and 10 to 15 feet of water that drop off into deeper water are great spots to target winter walleye for both open water boaters and ice fishermen.

Northern pike fishing tips

This article with our ladies shares northern pike fishing tips. Northern pike are a very popular game fish. They are found in the northern United States and Canada, as well as other parts of the world.

Minnesota walleys and pike fishing

Northern Pike are apex predators. They are aggressive and feed mostly on fish. However, they will devour nice, ducks, frogs, and just about anything they can get their teeth into. For this reason, most anglers targeting northern pike use lures that are on the large size. The old axiom, “big bait equal big fish” applies to pike.

Pike are often associated with weed beds in relatively shallow water. They lie in wait and ambush prey as it comes into range. This is another reason why most pike are taken by anglers using artificial baits. Lures are easier to use in these weedy environments. Northern pike are also caught in rivers, particularly where they dump into lakes. Ledges and humps will also hold fish.

Most anglers use medium spinning or bait casting tackle when fishing for pike. Large baits and lures and big fish in heavy cover require fairly stout tackle. 7′ medium/heavy rods with matching reels and 40 pound braided line work well. Most anglers use a short steel leader, but some omit that, especially when fishing in very clear water.

Northern pike fishing tips, lures

Daredevle

The Eppinger Original Dardevle spoon is an old-school lure that has been catching pike for decades. It still produces to this day. The most popular size id the “0” which weighs one ounce. Daredevle spoons can be cast a long way and have an enticing, wobbling action.

pike fishing in Minnesota

The two most popular colors are the red and white and “Five of Diamonds”. Other colors, including chrome, are certainly productive. While not weedless, they can be worked over and through grass beds. The best retrieve is a steady one with some pauses and twitches. A swivel is required to reduce line twist.

Zara spook

The Heddon Zara Spook is a topwater plug that has been around a long time. Iw was invented 75 years ago and has been catching fish ever since. It floats on the surface and is retrieved back using a technique called “walking the dog”. The rod tip is held low and twitched as the lure is retrieved steadily. This causes the lure to swing back and forth. Pike and other game fish find this difficult to resist!

The Zara Spook comes on one size. It is 4 1/2” long and weighs around an ounce. It cast well. Colors matter less on topwater plugs, but Bone, Chrome, and Frog are popular color patterns.

Mepps spinners

Mepps is another company that has been producing lures for a long time. The #5 Mepps Aglia Spinner is a very effective lure for catching northern pike. The thick bucktail dressing helps to reduce getting snagged on the weeds. It weighs ½ ounce and casts well. Most anglers use a steady retrieve, but vary the speed until a productive pace for that day emerges.

Anglers seeking a trophy northern pike will use the Mepps Giant Killer. This is a large lure that produces trophy pike and musky. It is heavy and can be used to effectively work deeper points and ledges.

Rat-L-Trap

The Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap is a terrific artificial lure that catches many different species. It is very effective on northern pike. One once is the most popular size and chrome with a blue back and chrome with a chartreuse back are two excellent patterns. The lure casts well and puts out a tremendous vibration when retrieved.

The Rat-L-Trap is fairly weedless, despite have open, exposed treble hooks. A steady retrieve works well, though anglers can “rip” it through the weeds. This is deadly on pike as the lure is pulled sharply when it hangs on the grass. Pike assault it as it pulls free of the weeds.

Booyah spinnerbait

The Booyah Pikie Spinnerbait is a terrific lure for pike as well as large bass and musky. It is relavively heavy with a large, stout hook. Spinnerbaits are fairly weedless and do through weeds pretty well. It has tandem blades. The single hook makes releasing fish much easier.

Natural baits for northern pike fishing

northern pike fishing Minnesota

Ann White catches plenty of northern pike. She likes frozen smelt and suckers.

“My go to pike baits are frozen smelt or 8-10 inch frozen suckers. Either of which work great in early spring shortly after ice off. Pike will cruise large shallow flats in search of schools of bait fish, so often shore fishing is more productive than fishing from a boat. The large shallows warm up quicker than deeper areas which attracts the bait fish to feed on early insect hatches.

A simple rig of a 3-4 oz. no roll bait, sinker stopper, and swivel, followed by a 12 inch, 50 lb test leader of mono, with a baited circle hook has proven effective for shore fishing. When ice fishing, we switch to a pike rig that is created with a 8 inch loop of wire leader containing two treble hooks. Each hook goes into the bait fish, one at the front, one at the back.

Minnesota walleye and pike fishing

When a pike then takes the bait, the two hooks slide together and will have a better chance of hooking up. Steel leader will prevent breaking line on sharp teeth.  This rig is particularly effective when using automatic fishermen, jaw jackers, or other self setting tip-ups.”

live baits for pike fishing

Most anglers northern pike fishing with live bait use some type of fish. Minnows such as chubs work well for smaller to average sized pike. Those targeting larger fish will opt for a larger bait such as a perch or sucker. The same rig used for frozen bait, minus the sinker, fished under a float works well. Nightcrawlers and frogs can also be used.

Northern pike fishing through the ice

Many northern pike are taken through the ice as well. Anglers fishing the “hard water” do well using both lures and lives baits, often combining the two. A jig and minnow is a top producer. Special plugs that are worked vertically like a jig are also effective. Live minnows and suckers will catch fish, too. The same spots that produce in the fall will also do well for anglers ice fishing. Submerged weed beds, points, ledges, and structure in 8′ to 20′ of water are good spots to try.

Northern pike fishing tips

This article with our ladies shares northern pike fishing tips. Northern pike are a very popular game fish. They are found in the northern United States and Canada, as well as other parts of the world.

Northern Pike are apex predators. They are aggressive and feed mostly on fish. However, they will devour nice, ducks, frogs, and just about anything they can get their teeth into. For this reason, most anglers targeting northern pike use lures that are on the large size. The old axiom, “big bait equal big fish” applies to pike.

Northern pike love weeds!

Pike are often associated with weed beds in relatively shallow water. They lie in wait and ambush prey as it comes into range. This is another reason why most pike are taken by anglers using artificial baits. Lures are easier to use in these weedy environments. Northern pike are also caught in rivers, particularly where they dump into lakes. Ledges and humps will also hold fish.

Most anglers use medium spinning or bait casting tackle when fishing for pike. Large baits and lures and big fish in heavy cover require fairly stout tackle. 7′ medium/heavy rods with matching reels and 40 pound braided line work well. Most anglers use a short steel leader, but some omit that, especially when fishing in very clear water.

Northern pike fishing tips, lures

Daredevle

The Eppinger Original Dardevle spoon is an old-school lure that has been catching pike for decades. It still produces to this day. The most popular size id the “0” which weighs one ounce. Daredevle spoons can be cast a long way and have an enticing, wobbling action.

The two most popular colors are the red and white and “Five of Diamonds”. Other colors, including chrome, are certainly productive. While not weedless, they can be worked over and through grass beds. The best retrieve is a steady one with some pauses and twitches. A swivel is required to reduce line twist.

Zara spook

The Heddon Zara Spook is a topwater plug that has been around a long time. Iw was invented 75 years ago and has been catching fish ever since. It floats on the surface and is retrieved back using a technique called “walking the dog”. The rod tip is held low and twitched as the lure is retrieved steadily. This causes the lure to swing back and forth. Pike and other game fish find this difficult to resist!

The Zara Spook comes on one size. It is 4 1/2” long and weighs around an ounce. It cast well. Colors matter less on topwater plugs, but Bone, Chrome, and Frog are popular color patterns.

Mepps spinners

Mepps is another company that has been producing lures for a long time. The #5 Mepps Aglia Spinner is a very effective lure for catching northern pike. The thick bucktail dressing helps to reduce getting snagged on the weeds. It weighs ½ ounce and casts well. Most anglers use a steady retrieve, but vary the speed until a productive pace for that day emerges.

Anglers seeking a trophy northern pike will use the Mepps Giant Killer. This is a large lure that produces trophy pike and musky. It is heavy and can be used to effectively work deeper points and ledges.

Rat-L-Trap

The Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap is a terrific artificial lure that catches many different species. It is very effective on northern pike. One once is the most popular size and chrome with a blue back and chrome with a chartreuse back are two excellent patterns. The lure casts well and puts out a tremendous vibration when retrieved.

The Rat-L-Trap is fairly weedless, despite have open, exposed treble hooks. A steady retrieve works well, though anglers can “rip” it through the weeds. This is deadly on pike as the lure is pulled sharply when it hangs on the grass. Pike assault it as it pulls free of the weeds.

Booyah spinnerbait

The Booyah Pikie Spinnerbait is a terrific lure for pike as well as large bass and musky. It is relavively heavy with a large, stout hook. Spinnerbaits are fairly weedless and do through weeds pretty well. It has tandem blades. The single hook makes releasing fish much easier.

Natural baits for northern pike fishing

Ann White catches plenty of northern pike. She likes frozen smelt and suckers.

“My go to pike baits are frozen smelt or 8-10 inch frozen suckers. Either of which work great in early spring shortly after ice off. Pike will cruise large shallow flats in search of schools of bait fish, so often shore fishing is more productive than fishing from a boat. The large shallows warm up quicker than deeper areas which attracts the bait fish to feed on early insect hatches.

A simple rig of a 3-4 oz. no roll bait, sinker stopper, and swivel, followed by a 12 inch, 50 lb test leader of mono, with a baited circle hook has proven effective for shore fishing. When ice fishing, we switch to a pike rig that is created with a 8 inch loop of wire leader containing two treble hooks. Each hook goes into the bait fish, one at the front, one at the back.

When a pike then takes the bait, the two hooks slide together and will have a better chance of hooking up. Steel leader will prevent breaking line on sharp teeth.  This rig is particularly effective when using automatic fishermen, jaw jackers, or other self setting tip-ups.”

live baits for pike fishing

Most anglers northern pike fishing with live bait use some type of fish. Minnows such as chubs work well for smaller to average sized pike. Those targeting larger fish will opt for a larger bait such as a perch or sucker. The same rig used for frozen bait, minus the sinker, fished under a float works well. Nightcrawlers and frogs can also be used.

Northern pike fishing through the ice

Many northern pike are taken through the ice as well. Anglers fishing the “hard water” do well using both lures and lives baits, often combining the two. A jig and minnow is a top producer. Special plugs that are worked vertically like a jig are also effective. Live minnows and suckers will catch fish, too. The same spots that produce in the fall will also do well for anglers ice fishing. Submerged weed beds, points, ledges, and structure in 8′ to 20′ of water are good spots to try.

Top Minnesota walleye and pike fishing spots

Leech Lake

Leech Lake is a very popular and extremely productive lake for anglers Minnesota walleye fishing. This lake offers walleye anglers both numbers of fish and trophies. Leech Lake is full of upper slot walleyes. Live bait is very effective but anglers using artificial lures should have no trouble experiencing good action as well.

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods is a fantastic walleye fishery in northern Minnesota! It’s 25,000 miles of shoreline in over 14,000 islands provide great habitat for walleye and other species. The fishing may even be surpassed by the incredible scenery. It is a long drive for many anglers, however it is time well spent.

Rainy River and the area around Pine Island and the Gap are well known and productive walleye spots. However, just about every point, Island, and tributary can and will produce walleye. Minnows are the top live bait. Anglers using artificial lures do well with bright colors such as gold and pink. Jigs are great bet in the rocky bottom.

Red Lake

Red Lake is another great fishery for anglers Minnesota walleye fishing. It is a terrific early season lake and is an excellent choice for anglers seeking action. Recent DNR surveys have shown an abundance of fish in the 10 inch to 20 inch range. For that reason, harvesting restrictions have been eased. There are a lot of fish in this lake!

The best bet for targeting early season walleye’s is to work the banks on the north and south sides of the lake and water around 6 feet deep. Minnows work very well on Red Lake. Due to the fact that fish are often shallow, anglers can fish live minnow under a bobber effectively. Don’t be surprised if a large crappie intercepts the minnow.

Lake Winnibigoshish

Lake Winnibigoshish is located just north of Leech Lake and is another terrific walleye fishery. The lake is very much in its natural state, with over 90% of the shoreline being undeveloped. There are a lot of walleye in the 15 inch to 20 inch range in this lake, making it a good option for anglers looking to keep of you for a meal. Anglers working 10 foot depths from Cutfoot Sioux to Williams Narrows should have success.

Otter tail Lake

Otter Tail Lake is in the western part of the state. This lake has a lot of walleye and it. It is the largest lake in the region and has a hatchery right on the lake. Anglers seeking numbers of fish will find this lake hard to beat. Shoreline breaks and cover are the best spots early in the season. Live minnows fished on jig heads or under bobbers is the top producing technique. Otter Tail Lake gets less pressure than some of the other more famous walleye fisheries.

Rainy Lake

Big Rainy Lake lies on the Minnesota and Ontario border. It gets less pressure than its sister Lake, Lake of the Woods. However, it is a terrific option for anglers Minnesota walleye fishing. It offers great fishing and outstanding scenery. River mouths are top spots, especially in the spring. Jigs bounced along the bottom, either with a dressing or tipped with a minnow, produce well. Black Bay is a great place to start.

Mille Lacs

Mille Lacs needs no introduction to many anglers Minnesota walleye fishing. It is one of the best walleye fisheries in the world. Despite recent claims, Mille Lacs still offers anglers excellent walleye fishing. Also, with stricter regulations boat traffic will be reduced. As an added bonus, Mille Lacs offers outstanding fishing for smallmouth bass and crappie along with some jumbo yellow perch.

St Croix River

The St. Croix River is one of the better fisheries’ for anglers closer to the cites. Start in the Stillwater area and work your way south. Fishing by the railroad bridge or any of the pier’s from bridges usually produce with bobbers or jigs.  Trolling early morning can generally pull some nice eyes. Best time is early morning till noon, this is based on the popularity of the river and boat traffic gets a little heavy.

In conclusion, this article on Wisconsin walleye fishing will help anglers catch more of these great fish, both in Wisconsin and all over North America!

Best US lakes for northern pike fishing

Most of the best opportunities for catching trophy northern pike are in Canada. Countless remote shallow, weedy lakes and river systems offer anglers a great chance to hook the fish of a lifetime. However, there are plenty of good northern pike fishing spots in the lower 48.

Thousand Islands

This area of the St Lawrence River borders the United States and Canada and has a healthy northern pike fishery. Most fish are in the 5 pound range, with pike over 10 pounds being caught regularly. This is a great fishery for anglers seeking a ,lot of action. Other species such as bass, musky, and walleye will be caught as well.

Great Lakes

Presque Isle Bay is arguable the best norther pike fishery in Lake Erie. Green Bay offers excellent pike action. Michigan lakes including Muskegon Lake, Portage Lake, Manistee Lake, and Lake St. Clair all offer excellent fishing for pike and other species.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin lakes and river systems are well known as top northern pike waters. The Winnebago system in particular is an outstanding fishery. Winnebago, Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan Lakes, along with the Fox and Wolf rivers provide anglers with the chance to catch pike over 20 pounds.

Minnesota

Minnesota is second to no state when it comes to trophy northern pike waters. Mille Lacs and Lake of the Woods are two large, diverse, and productive fisheries. Rainy Lake is another top producer

Western waters

Not a lot of anglers associate pike with fishing out west, but there are some very good fishing holes. Devils Lake, Mike’s Lake, Silver Lake, and Pelican Lake, North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe, and Fort Peck Lake are top spots. Spinney Mountain, Eleven Mile, and Williams Fork lakes in Colorado are good pike lakes as well.

In closing, this article on northern pike fishing tips  will help anglers

 

 

 

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