Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sometimes the best walleye tactic is to do nothing

Check out this chunky walleye Larry Pons caught on a perfectly calm day
Two posts ago we talked about a technique to catch northern pike when the lake is like a mirror. But what about fishing for walleye? Windless days and flat water are considered death for walleye angling too.
I remember asking one fisherman what he had seen on his fishfinder on a calm, sunny day in a spot where the previous breezy day he had caught dozens and dozens of walleye.
"Nothing but tumbleweeds," he replied.
The natural tendency for anglers when things aren't going well is to get even-more aggressive in their search. The usual thing is go deeper and deeper with the idea that sunlight won't be as bright way down there. That does in fact work but it is difficult to fish so far down, and also bringing up a fish from deeper than 30 feet stands the chance of killing it, just from the change in atmospheric pressure.
Some successful flatwater anglers, however, do just the opposite. They get less and less aggressive until finally they come to a standstill. They stop trolling entirely and switch their usual trolling gear for a splitshot and a floating jighead. They pitch this out, let it sink to the bottom, pull out a little more slack line so that it lays on the surface and they wait.
It is a bad idea to lay down your rod against the side of the boat while you are waiting. The reason is movements in the boat can cause the floating jighead and its wriggling worm or leech or minnow to suddenly lurch upwards. You want the whole thing to stay as motionless as possible except for the bait making its distress movements. After awhile, the slack line begins to move and you know you have a fish at the other end and can set the hook.
What are you seeing on the fishfinder while this is going on? Usually nothing at all unless it is tumbleweeds! There can be a couple of reasons for this. One is that the fish are absolutely plastered to the bottom and the graph simply sees them as bottom. But the other thing that can be happening is in silent, flatwater conditions the fish are spooked by your boat. It can be the sight of it but certainly any movements or sounds alert the fish to your presence.
Why are fish so reluctant to bite on a still, sunny day anyway? I have a theory about this.
I think what is going on here is the exact opposite of why fish are especially aggressive and active on cloudy, windy days. Let's look at the second scenario first.
When it is windy the waves send the light beneath dancing in all directions. There also might be dirt stirred up by the waves and when you put it all together, visibility is very much reduced.
Then there is the sound and just all the movement of the waves. It is chaotic.
It is probably impossible for minnows to calculate where a predator might be. They can't see it; they can't feel it coming and they can't hear it. In other words, this is a hunter's dream. And so the predatory fish -- the hunters -- seize the moment and attack.
Now what about the opposite condition. In calm, clear water conditions the baitfish know exactly where the predators are and act accordingly. It is just about impossible for the hunters to get anything, so they don't even try. Why waste your energy?
Now back to the splitshot and floating jighead with a wriggling worm on it. If this outfit is jerking all around as if it was being jigged, it could seem likely to a fish that there is little chance of approaching it before it takes off. If it just continues to sit there as the fish moseys closer, the bait eventually is eaten.
That's my theory.

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joe overman said...

That's when you head for the cabin and the BEER!

Anonymous said...

Great catch, Commadore. You truly are the expert at the Pipestone-Do-Nothing method.
Jason Pons