A fishing partner and I were on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota fishing walleyes recently. We started our morning searching mid-depth structures like sunken islands and humps. Around noon, with no walleyes in the boat yet, we came across what could best be described as a shoreline point with a saddle that extended to a hump. Our sonar unit revealed the presence of several schools of baitfish on the hump, and when we pulled across the saddle, what appeared to be several walleyes came on the screen. Our suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later when my partner caught a chunky 24-incher.
A bunch more walleyes were landed from the saddle in short order that day. The productive saddle we were fishing was like the other areas we had fished, except this was one was loaded with baitfish. Not coincidentally, this structure also had walleyes on it.
I was back home on a favorite western Minnesota lake a few days later scouting for an upcoming guide trip. Once again, I was searching using my electronics. A couple areas I found had what appeared to be walleyes, but I couldn’t get them to bite. In the third area, several “clouds” of bait appeared on the sonar screen and the first walleye came to the boat as well.
These two fishing trips were good reminders to me that finding walleyes is obviously essential to fishing success. Also, however, these trips reinforced the fact that often the presence of bait around those fish increases the chances that they are feeding and will be catchable.
That’s why sonar use is so important when walleye fishing. Using electronics and believing what it reveals increases the odds for success.
Fortunately, today’s combination sonar units and navigation units, “multifunction displays” as they are called, makes finding bait and walleyes easy. Using the GPS navigational screen with a mapping chip that shows lake depth contours makes finding underwater structure simple.
Once at a structure, an angler can quickly cruise over and around it looking for signs of life. On traditional sonar units, bait often shows itself as what looks like clouds or balls on the screen, while walleyes often look like individual lines or small arches.
Recently, my search has been made even more productive using the new Raymarine Axiom units and “splitting” the screen to display four different views: high frequency sonar, DownVision, SideVision, and RealVision 3D. DownVision draws near photo-like images where I can often see individual baitfish, while SideVision searches and shows off to the boat’s sides, and RealVision delivers life-like 3D imagery.
Using these technologies together has really opened my eyes to the underwater world. Most importantly, this technology has quickly helped me find structure, find bait, and locate active walleyes, and, most importantly, put more walleyes in the boat!
If your goal is catching more walleyes yet this season, consider using good sonar and searching potential fish-holding structures for walleyes. However, remember that the presence of baitfish nearby will often be the deciding factor in whether those fish bite.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” stuff.