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How to Catch Walleyes After the Ice Melts with Johnnie Candle

provided by John E. Phillips 

Mossy Oak Pro Johnnie Candle, from Devils Lake, North Dakota, has been a walleye tournament fisherman since 1994. He won the 2010 World Walleye Championship and in a normal year, would fish 6-10 walleye tournaments held all over the country. Candle also guides on Devils Lake as a professional angler. This week he shares information with us on spring fishing for walleyes.  

Johnnie Candle

If I feel like I have to fish the first week after the ice melts, depending on the lake I’m fishing, I start looking for walleyes in 20-30 feet deep water. In some lakes, 15 feet may be considered deep. Knowing these fish are deep and cold, I’ll fish slower than I will for walleyes in the spring. I’ll probably be fishing a lead-headed jig with some type of plastic lure and possibly a live minnow tipping the hook. Or, I may use a more traditional ice-fishing jig, like a jigging spoon, an ice jig, a Heddon Sonar lure, or a Rapala Jigging Rap. These lures are probably the ones you’ve been fishing a week or two ago when you’ve been ice fishing on the lake.  The surface temperature doesn’t really matter, and the water temperature hasn’t changed that much. The only difference is that now you’re not sitting on a bucket or in an icehouse, but instead you’re in a boat.

walleye lureDuring the first week after the ice melts, I’ll be fishing a 10-15 pound test braided line and will have 2 feet of leader line that’s 10-12 pound test fluorocarbon. Depending on the lure I’ll be fishing, my rod will be 6-1/2 to 7 feet long with medium action and a fast tip. I want the rod tip to bend a little just as the fish takes the lure and then transition into the stiffer part of the rod, once I set the hook and begin to reel in the fish. Oftentimes, I use Scheels Outfitters fishing rods.
Right after the ice melts, you won’t catch as many walleyes as you will two weeks after the ice melts. On a good day with two anglers in my boat, we’ll catch about 10 to 12 fish. During the first week after the ice has melted, the number of fish you will catch will be about the same as the number of fish you catch while ice fishing. However, you’ve got a really good chance to catch a wall-hanging walleye during that time of year. You’ll be catching walleye that weigh from 1 to 1-1/2 pounds, which will be male fish. You may catch a 7-8 pound female fish during that time. 

At this time of the year, the walleyes won’t separate themselves like they do in the spring when the water is warm. The females usually will be the first fish to go to the shallow water to spawn, and the males will move in shortly after that. I generally don’t start guiding until the first or second week in May because I know that by then the walleyes will be in shallow water, as all the other fish in the lake, which means that my customers will catch more fish and have more fun. 

To learn the kind of fish Candle is producing, go to his website, or call him at 701-371-9431.

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