There’s something about walleye fishing that gets in your blood and stays there, forming a powerful addiction that will drive you to rise before dawn and hit the water on days so nasty no sane angler wants to take to their boats.
But the adrenaline rush of pulling big wallies into your net is well worth it!
And whether you troll, jig, or hit rivers in spring and fall, knowing the right times to fish can really snake a huge difference.
So if you want to understand the best times to fish for walleye, keep reading!
We’ll explain when - and why - your luck will be better in low light and nasty weather.
Sander vitreus doesn’t elicit the same kind of heart pounding as the simple name “walleye.” A cool water predator native to the northern US and Canada, the walleye is a prized sport fish and a passion of legions of anglers in places like Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, North Dakota, and Ohio.
Olive-green with gold highlights, these sleek, hydrodynamic fish are built for speed and maneuverability, armed with long, sharp teeth, and enabled by remarkably large eyes for which the species is named among anglers.
As is typical among most species of fish, females grow larger than males. These voracious predators are dominantly piscivorous, but they’ll attack and eat anything they think they can handle.
Most walleye will be under 30 inches and 20 pounds, but the tackle record was set by Mabry Harper when he landed a 25-pound monster.
One look at a walleye illustrates how it won its common name: its outward-facing eyes are huge for its size. Biologists and anglers alike will confirm that they’re well-adapted to low-light conditions and murky or turbid water.
While their prey is more or less blind, walleye hunt at night under the moon, at dusk and dawn, and on cloudy, windy days that create choppy, nasty conditions known affectionately as “walleye chop.”
The combination of low light and dappled reflections allows walleye to hunt actively, which they prefer over ambush predation.
We’ve written a lot about walleye, and if you want to know more, check out these articles:
Walleye Fishing Tips: How to Fish for and Catch Walleye In All Seasons
River Walleye Fishing: How To Catch 'Eyes in the Spring & Fall
Jigging For Walleye - Tips Guaranteed To Help You Land More Walleyes
Best Walleye Lures, Baits and Jigs - A How-To Guide for Monster Walleye
The Best Times to Fish for Walleye
What does all this mean for you?
Walleye will be particularly active before the sun rises and after it sets, using the darkness to their advantage. Hit the water early, hours before dawn - and plan to stay late, hours past sunset.
And as we mentioned above, cloudy, nasty, stormy days are ideal for targeting walleye as they love the reduced light created by these conditions. In foul weather, they may continue feeding all day, allowing you to catch, and catch, and catch.
And finally, night fishing for walleye can be fantastic, especially at moonrise, moonset, and when a bright, full moon is in the sky. Surrender the day entirely in these conditions, as the walleye will be inactive while the sun is up.