Walleye Fishing Getting Into Gear Right Now
March Fishing Madness
Art Lander Jr.
March, with water temperatures in the upper 40s, walleye can be
found in river headwaters and in the tailwaters of reservoirs below
This seasonal fishing opportunity is arguably one of the best times of the year to catch walleye. "In Lake Cumberland, walleye make spawning runs in February and March to the Cumberland River above the mouth of the Laurel River, and the Big South Fork arm of the lake above Alum Ford," said John Williams, southeastern fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "Up there, anglers fish jigs tipped with minnows. As they drift downstream, the jig is fished vertically and bounced off the bottom."
Williams said later in the spring in April, May and into June, walleye in the lake move up into the creeks. "It's amazing how shallow they can be, especially if the water is stained," he said.
It's not unusual for walleye to be in 4 to 5 feet of water around small sycamore trees and flooded brush growing right at the water's edge. A productive lure choice for this type of fishing is to drift a live nightcrawler on a spinner rig and bottom bouncer.
At nearby Laurel River Lake, the pattern is similar, with walleye in the lake moving deeper as the weather warms up. "Walleye move up shallow in coves in the spring and stay there until water temperatures climb in the 70s," said Williams. "In April and May walleye are in water that's less than 15 feet deep."
Walleye spend a lot of time around flooded timber, which is difficult to fish. Williams recommends fishing nightcrawlers on spinner rigs at the mouths of timbered coves late in the afternoons, when walleye move out into more open water.
Native to Kentucky, the walleye (Sander vitreus) is present today in six lakes, with fishable populations established through decades of stockings and intensive management.
other Kentucky lakes that have populations of walleye are Carr Fork
Lake, Nolin River Lake, Paintsville Lake, and Green River Lake.
Additionally, there are walleye in the tailwaters of these lakes and
in the Ohio River.
majority of the walleye in the Green River Lake tailwaters are fish
from the lake," said Eric Cummins, fishery biologist in the
southwestern district, for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "There are no
screens on the discharge outlet pipes of the dam, so walleye of all
sizes come through the dam into the tailwaters."
Jigs and curlytail grubs are top lure choices when fishing in the tailwaters, Cummins said.
lake when we are electrofishing in mid-to-late winter, we sometimes
find pre-spawn walleye that have moved up into stained water on
flats," said Cummins. "By mid-March there are usually walleye on
rocky banks and around islands."
Sauger, which closely resemble walleye, are darker, with distinctive brown saddlelike markings across their back and sides.
In the 1960s, the early years of walleye restoration in Kentucky, fisheries personnel stocked the Lake Erie strain of walleye, which is more suitable to lake environments.
Restoration efforts intensified in the 1970s with the opening of the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery. At the cool-water hatchery near Morehead, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists and technicians began producing walleye fingerlings spawned from broodstock collected in-state.
The walleye's geographic range extends from the Tennessee River basin northward, on both sides of the Appalachians, to Quebec and northwestern Canada.
Get out this spring and catch some walleye, one Kentucky's overlooked fishing opportunities.
Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors since the 1970s.
He is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine.