With the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocking walleye in desert lakes like Saguaro, Canyon and Apache as well as in high country lakes, the species has been made available to many Arizona anglers. The problem is that most of the state's anglers don't know how to fish for walleye.
The key is understanding the species. Once you've accomplished that, catching walleye is just a matter of persistence.
When fishing from a boat, it pays to have a good sonar unit like a Lowrance X51. Walleye spend our hot summer months in deep water, where they stay tightly schooled. If you know what a school of fish looks like on your sonar screen, you can find walleye.
Walleye like to relate to structure that breaks through the top of the thermocline. Find a deep drop-off, a roadbed, a deep rock pile or a deep channel cut at that level and that is where you will find walleye.
Most walleye anglers use some type of live bait. A Carolina rig with a minnow or nightcrawler on the hook makes a good live-bait rig. With live bait, you can downsize your hook. Add a little attraction by slipping a few colored beads on the line and tie on a colored floater hook, which is just a hook with a little ball of foam or cork below the hook eye. This keeps your bait floating up off the bottom.
Maneuver your boat slowly through the school of fish and concentrate on feeling a light tap. When fishing bass on a Carolina rig, you set the hook immediately when you feel the bite. With walleye, when you feel a bite, feed them a little line, then set the hook.
The best times to fish for walleye are early in the morning or from dusk until dark. However, the night bite can be outstanding as well. Many times, the walleye will move shallow when the sun is completely below the horizon.
A good technique is to cast or troll long, thin crankbaits that suspend like the Rapala Husky Jerk. Use a slow retrieve over the tops of the middepth structure to catch those fish as they move shallow to feed. At times, walleye will congregate on shallow reefs or rockpiles. Casting a 3- or 4-inch grub on a one-quarter ounce leadhead jig can produce excellent results.
One of the beauties of fishing for walleye in Arizona is that they aren't exposed to much fishing pressure. Walleye congregate in habitat that is not common to more sought-after species such as bass or crappie, so they seldom see a well-presented bait or lure. These fish are going to be easily fooled by what you set before them. It's a good recipe for walleye success.
GILBERT TEAM WINS
The Gilbert team of Ty Cobb and Reggie Frieswyk weighed a total of 20.98 pounds to win the BestBet Aluminum Boat Fishing Tournaments Championship on Sept. 5-6, at Bartlett Lake. They received the keys to a new Tracker bass boat rigged with a Mercury outboard and Lowrance electronics valued at $11,495 plus cash option money of $1,550 for a grand total of $13,045.
The team weighed six-fish limits of 11.43 and 9.55 during the two-day team bass fishing event. They fished one-half ounce white spinnerbaits and top-water poppers in cuts and on points in the river above the no-wake buoys.
The 2003-04 BestBet Aluminum Boat team bass fishing tournament season starts Oct. 11, on Roosevelt Lake. For more information, call (480) 894-2775 or visit the Arizona Hunter & Angler magazine Web site at www.azha.com and click on the BestBet logo.
The Arizona Flycasters Club will hold their monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Sunnyslope Community Center, 602 Vogel St. in Phoenix. The featured speakers will be Dario Travaini and Dr. Jack Miller with a presentation on fishing for red fish on the Lower Laguna Madre of South Texas. The program will begin with a large screen demonstration of tying the "killer" top-water fly — the VIP Popper. For more information, call (480) 497-9008.