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Johnnie Candle on How to Catch Winter Walleyes in November and December

provided by John E. Phillips 

Mossy Oak Pro Johnnie Candle of Devils Lake, North Dakota, has been a tournament walleye fisherman for many years. When not tournament fishing, he guides on Devils Lake in North Dakota and several other lakes. To learn more, check out his website and his Facebook page.

walleye fishing in snow

Besides all the fun stuff that’s happened in North Dakota this year – COVID-19, forest fires and other disasters – winter came extremely early in 2020. During the last week in October, the smaller ponds around Devils Lake froze solid, and you even could walk on them. Devils Lake should be totally iced over by the first part of November. 

Winter has shown its ugly face much earlier than usual in this section of the country. We’re having well below-normal temperatures in October as well as high winds. Future forecasts are for fall fishing for walleyes to end soon in November, although fall fishing is generally my favorite time of year to fish for walleyes. However, there are still great opportunities for catching fall walleye all across the country in the Walleye Belt for the next two months of November and December. 

If you can sneak a walleye trip in before the ice shows up, this time can be the most productive time of the year to fish for walleyes. The weeds are starting to die off, so many of the walleyes that have lived most of the summer in the weeds have left the weeds and headed to the nearest drop-offs with hard bottoms, which usually mean rocks. From the middle of October to mid-December, instead of the few walleyes you’ve been catching off your favorite rock piles, those rock piles will be loaded with walleyes. This time of the year is when the walleyes become easy pickings for anglers. 

Johnnie Candle walleyeWhat makes walleye fishing simpler than ever is all the new features that have been added to our electronics. I’m fishing with the new Humminbird Helix 12 units. These Helix 12s have big screens and provide side imaging, down imaging and forward imaging. I’ll scan the deepest underwater breaks with the most rocks on them. Depending on the lake, those drop-offs may be from 12-18 feet deep. On other parts of those lakes or on other lakes, those drop-offs may be 35-40 feet deep. The key to remember at this time of the year is that walleyes like steep and deep. If you’re fishing a shallow lake where the bottom only may be 20 feet, a steep drop may be from 18-20 feet. In other, deeper lakes, a steep drop-off may be in 50 feet of water.  

Late fall is also a great time to catch a really big walleye. However, late fall fishing can test an angler’s mental fishing capacity. You must dress for the weather, and you have to exercise extreme safety on the water while fishing for walleyes. Water temperatures will be very cold, and you don’t want to take any risks that result in your being in the water. If there are high winds on a lake or heavy waves, stay at home. 

At this time of year, the walleyes are feeding heavily as winter approaches. The female walleyes are starting to produce eggs to get ready for the spring spawn, and they’re hungry. The walleyes don’t have the weeds in which to hide and must be on the steep, rocky bottom breaks. With the new innovations in sonar, they’re easier to find and catch.  

Johnnie Candle’s Favorite Deep Fried Walleye Recipe: 

You just can’t beat deep-fried walleye fillets for a delicious dish. Whatever your favorite store-bought batter is, here are some tips to help make the fish taste even better. Remove the lateral line from the fillet. (This small row of bones takes a lot of fun out of eating fish, keeping them from being so delicious). Keep the amount of breading very light. No one wants a loaf of bread around their fish fillet. Keep the oil hot and at a constant temperature – 350 degrees minimum and 375 degrees is even better. Shake moist fillets in a Ziploc bag of your breading, shake off the excess, and fry until golden brown. For a change of pace, try crushing up a bag of your favorite potato chips to use as a coating. You may need an egg wash to get the chips to stick better. My personal favorite is salt and vinegar chips.

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