When the heat of summer sets in across the Midwest, walleyes can be found a lot of places. Some fish will move into weeds, others will roam shallow flats (especially during low light periods), and others will be found in deeper water relating to “classic” walleye structure like sunken humps, underwater islands, and big points that extend into the main lake.
These deep structure fish are some of my favorites to pursue as a fishing guide because they are usually not too difficult to locate, and they often are cooperative during daylight hours when lots of guide trip fishing occurs.
Finding fish on deep structure has often been done using a fish locator and GPS unit used in combination. Anglers slowly “cruise” over structure looking for the tell-tale fish arches on the sonar screen and then save a GPS waypoint to a spot when fish are located.
While I still use this approach to search structure, my searching has gotten even more efficient with the recent innovations to the sonar/GPS units now available. For example, the Raymarine multifunction display units I use allow me to see a lake map view on my GPS screen, along with two or even three different sonar screens. For me, that means I can combine a CHIRP sonar view in one screen, a CHIRP DownVision view in another and a CHIRP SideVision view in another.
What does all that mean? It means more information and a better understanding of truly what is below and off to my boat’s sides. For example, the sonar view is great for showing me the traditional fish arches I am used to seeing, DownVision shows picture-like images of weeds and other structure, and SideVision allows me to find structure and fish holding off to both boat sides. With this information, I can quickly make a pass or two over a sunken hump and have a good idea if any fish are present.
While finding fish on structure is obviously important, another key that is overlooked by some anglers is the present of baitfish holding on structure along with walleyes. Often, a location with schools of bait along with fish “marks” is the proverbial “spot on the spot” that means actively feeding walleyes.
When fishing deep structure walleyes, I rarely fish a spot unless I mark fish I believe to be walleyes along with some bait fish. If “nobody is home” on a sunken hump, I simply use the lake map on my unit to find and head to the next underwater hump.
Humps or other structure that do hold fish and baitfish result in lines going down, and hopefully biting fish coming up. To target these fish, I like to use a plain snell of about 40-48-inches in length baited with a nightcrawler or leech and fished behind a heavy bottom bouncer to quickly move through deep walleyes trying to pick off the active biters.
This simple approach is great for triggering bites from deep walleyes and allows me to fish fairly quickly, targeting the active fish.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!