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Hooks And Antlers: “Three Techniques for River Walleyes”

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Walleyes may well rank as the most popular species among local anglers who rely on three basic techniques for making their catches. Those techniques are trolling minnow plugs, dragging crawler harnesses, and casting jigs.

Certainly, the most successful anglers have developed their walleye-catching methodology to something of an art, but here is a look at the basics of each technique.

Trolling Minnow Plugs

Trolling minnow plugs offers the advantages of covering a lot of water and of familiarizing oneself with an area in relatively short time. Whereas wind conditions can hamper other techniques, trolling remains a viable option regardless of wind direction or velocity.

Since river walleyes typically hold on or near bottom, a trolling key is to get the lure within a few feet of bottom. Today’s assortment of diving plugs, in-line weights, diving devices, and downriggers make it easy to reach 35-foot depths and beyond. A second trolling key is to make sure there is good lure action. An easy way to check lure action is to visually inspect the lure while running it at boat side at trolling speed.

For the best results, anglers should troll along structural edges rather than in open water. Also, trolling up current or cross current will usually out produce downstream trolling in river stretches of strong current. Since walleyes move shallower in low-light conditions, anglers should do likewise.

Dragging Crawler Harnesses

Like trolling, drifting crawler harnesses allows an angler to cover a lot of water in a short period of time, and since summer walleyes generally spread throughout a water system, covering water is important in locating fish. By using heavier-weighted bottom bouncers, anglers can work deep water, a favorite haunt of summer walleyes.

A key to successful drifting is boat speed. If the drift is too slow, blades will not turn, and the rig will settle on bottom.

For St. Lawrence River anglers, this means only one thing: gobies will gobble up the bait. When the drift speed is too fast, the rig often lifts too far off bottom to entice strikes. Under ideal conditions, the current and/or wind will move the boat at a speed that allows for proper presentation, but more often than not, the angler will have to use an electric motor to speed the drift or a drift sock to slow the drift.

Casting Jigs

Casting bucktail-hair jigs or plastic-tipped jigs doesn’t allow an angler to cover as much water as trolling plugs or dragging harnesses does so the technique is better utilized when walleyes are somewhat concentrated in a given area.

Although casting jigs will take fish during the summer months, the technique takes more fish in early and late season when walleyes are concentrated in post-spawn or pre-winter schools not far from spawning grounds.

Jigs offer the flexibility of fishing a variety of depths, and they can be worked slowly or aggressively to match water temperature and fish mood. Casting jigs works best in areas with no current or mild current or when controlling boat speed via wind, electric motor, or drift sock.

The basic technique calls for casting the jig and letting it fall to bottom. Then the angler uses a lift-drop technique as he or she works the lure near bottom and back to the boat. Ninety percent of the strikes typically occur on the jig’s fall, and the angler will feel only a “tick” as the walleye inhales the dropping jig. If the “tick” goes undetected, the angler will feel the weight of the fish when lifting the jig.

Skillful jiggers visualize what the jig is doing at line’s end. These anglers also have a feel for what the jig is doing, and they watch their line to detect any slack that indicates the jig has hit bottom or a walleye has inhaled it. Tipping the jig with a piece of crawler or adding a stinger hook typically increases the number of hook-ups.

Outdoors Calendar

June 23: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

June 25: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m.(869-6051).

June 26: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

June 28: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Chaumont Bay (www.nnybassmasters.com).

June 28-29: Free Fishing Days in NYS.

June 30: Trap and Skeet Shoot at Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club on Pray Rd. at 5:30 p.m.

July 2: Trap Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 7 p.m. (869-6051).

July 3: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Association at 1 p.m. (323-5585).

July 5: Spider’s Free Fishing Programs at Wellesley Island State Park (482-2479).

July 12: Northern New York Bassmasters Tournament at Black Lake (www.nnybasmasters.com).

July 20: Youth Fishing Derby at Colton (262-2225).

July 26: 14th Annual Raquette Lake Bass Tournament (www.mylonglake.com).

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