The first day of autumn typically falls on September 22 or 23, but to walleye fishermen, Labor Day marks the start of fall. This is due to the fact that fish are vacating their summer hangouts and moving on.
When trolling structure or fishing shallow weed lines produce fewer walleye, you think where did they all go?
This is known as the start of the fall transition period and it can begin as early as mid-August.
So now in order to find the walleye you so desperately seek, you will have to do a little detective work. Dying weeds are your first clue that the transition has come. Weeds begin dying from colder overnight temperatures and what most people don’t understand is baitfish will only stay in the weeds as long as they are very green. When the weeds start dying, walleye leave the shallow-water weed areas.
The good news is, not all lakes are affected at once. Shallow, dark water lakes experience the transition first and deep, clear water lakes are not affected until later in the fall. The transition can be frustrating if you don’t know where to locate walleye. The thing to remember is, fish migrate to predictable areas and gather in big schools according to size. Locate the big ones and it’s like you found gold.
Your second clue that the transition has come is fish are not spread all over the lake anymore. Walleye tend to be in key spots in the deepest part of the lake. Now you might be asking yourself, what are the key spots?
The best place to locate walleye is sandy areas. These include sand flats, sand points and sand humps. Typically in September you will find walleye in spots 15 feet deep and less. Later in the fall they travel to deeper water.
In spots 15 feet deep and less, a good quality sonar fishfinder can be your best friend. Walleye tend to hug the bottom so they may be difficult to see, but not impossible. Using bottom tracking and the zoom feature on your fishfinder will often pick up on walleye that hug the bottom. The rule for checking shallows is simple. Keep your boat in deeper water, cast to the top of the structure and work your way back down.
When water temperatures drop to 62 degrees F, walleye tend to migrate deeper. During this time they tend to be in places like sharper breaks or mid-lake humps of about 20 feet rather than 15 feet. Because walleye are more selective about where they stay, there is a trick to finding them. For example, if they are on a mid-lake hump with scattered boulders, they will be on the boulders. If it’s all rock, look for the sand and that is where they will be. If it is all sand, look for a rock pile. I know it sounds strange, but it works.
Precision with regard to location is very important. If you get it right, you will hit the walleye jackpot. Keep in mind as water continues to turn colder, walleye will be on structure that leads to the deepest part of the lake. Deep boulders become “fish magnets” because walleye find places where mud and hard bottom meet the deepest part of the lake.
This is due to the fact that deep water is warmer and holds food for them at this time of year. Shallow dark- water lakes that have a perch forage base, find walleye digging up Lake Manitoba fishflies and mayflies from the deep mud at the bottom of the Lake Manitoba Narrows.
If you are fishing in deeper, clear water lakes, walleye may be at 70 feet looking for minnows, whitefish and other aquatic life. Fish are constantly moving as the seasons change.
Keep this in mind as well as the other helpful hints mentioned above, and you will no longer be desperately seeking walleye in the autumn, you will have found them in abundance.