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Spring is a great time to catch walleye

Big eyes, sharp teeth and white, flakey flesh make walleye one of the most unique and best tasting fish in Utah.

Walleye
Joshua Root displays a walleye's sharp dorsal fin. The fish's large and unique light-reflecting eye can be seen in the photo too.

Photo by Scott Root

And the month of May might be the best time of the year to catch them.

Walleye spawn in May. During the spawn, walleye typically gather near tributaries (waters that flow into or out of a body of water) and in spawning areas within the main body of water itself. Gathering in these areas makes it easier for anglers to find them.

Six waters—Utah Lake, Lake Powell and Willard Bay, Deer Creek, Yuba and Starvation reservoirs—are the best places in Utah to catch walleye.

You can learn which of those waters is producing the best fishing by reading the Division of Wildlife Resources' weekly fishing report. The report is available at wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots.

Action can happen day or night

If you're willing to sacrifice some sleep, casting or trolling minnow-imitating lures during the dark of night is one of the best ways to catch walleye.

Just like a cat, walleye have eyes that reflect light. Their specialized eyes (from which the fish gets its name) allow walleye to see in low-light conditions and in turbid water. Feeding actively at night gives walleye an advantage over their prey. And it can also give you an advantage if you learn how to fool walleye by using lures that imitate minnows.

If you don't want to sacrifice your sleep, you can also catch walleye during the day. Walleye are very territorial during their spring spawning period. They'll often defend their spawning area by striking at lures that anglers cast in front of them.

Once you've hooked a walleye, don't think the fight is over.

Walleye have long, sharp teeth that make it difficult to hold them by the mouth. They also have spines along their dorsal fin that are as sharp as needles. And walleye are slippery and difficult to hold. Getting one into your creel isn't easy.

So if it isn't easy to catch or handle a walleye, why would anyone want to fish for them? The answer is simple—just like halibut or cod, walleye have a white flesh that is mild and extremely delicious to eat. And they're a unique and fun fish to catch!

Best lures and baits

Casting a lure that imitates a minnow, and then retrieving (or trolling) your lure very slowly along the bottom of the water you're fishing, is the most effective way to catch walleye.

Be aware, though—unlike most fish, walleye often strike lures very lightly. When a walleye strikes your lure, you might think the lure has simply snagged some vegetation. In reality, you might have a walleye on the end of your line!

Casting dead minnows or worms, and then letting them sink to and remain on the bottom of the water you're fishing, can also be an effective way to catch walleye. Just watch the tip of your fishing rod carefully so you'll know if a walleye is taking your bait.

Two items

  • Before you fish for walleye, please read the special walleye fishing regulations in the 2011 Utah Fishing Guidebook.

    The free guidebook is available at wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks. You can also get a copy at fishing and hunting license agent locations and DWR offices across Utah.
  • Since most of Utah's best walleye waters are located within various Utah state parks, many anglers can save money by buying a Utah State Park entrance pass. The annual pass is $75 for a family and $35 for those 62 years of age or older.

You can learn more about the passes at stateparks.utah.gov.

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