The walleyes were concentrated into specific areas on the opener, but after the first week or so of the season the fish started to spread out more into other parts of the lakes.
Walleyes are hungry in the spring and will constantly be searching for food. When walleyes are on shoreline structure, they move with the baitfish, so they may not be in the same areas day after day unless the baitfish also stay in the same area.
Walleyes are doing at least two things in the spring. They are migrating between their spawning sites and the area they plan to spend the summer and they are also searching for food.
It’s kind of like being on vacation. The walleyes keep moving in a general direction, but they stop along the way based on what they see that interests them. If they run across some easy pickings for food, they are likely to stay in the area for a while before they move along.
Replenishment is also a factor. Big food shelves or inlets and outlets will continue to draw in new fish as long as there are still fish moving through the area on their migration paths.
Chains of lakes often have walleyes moving through the smaller lakes as they head back to their home lake, which is usually the largest lake in the chain.
There will be resident fish that stop off in each lake along the way, but most of the walleyes eventually want to be in the largest, deepest lake that has the most structure and the most food for the summer.
Spottail shiners and perch are two main food sources for walleyes in many of the local lakes. When spottail shiners move shallow to spawn in huge numbers, most of the walleyes in the lakes will be keying on shiners as their main forage.
There will be perch in the shallows all summer long for walleyes to feed on, so perch become a more popular forage later in the season.
Walleyes are looking for the easy button when they feed. They want large concentrations of baitfish, so they don’t have to work so hard to get a belly full of minnows.
Spottail shiners spend most of the summer in deep water because they are very sensitive to water temperatures. Shiners feed on zooplankton, so they can suspend over deep water during the summer and find plenty to eat.
When shiners are spawning in shallow water, they are much more vulnerable to predation than they are during the summer, when they are suspended over deep water.
Perch are fine for walleyes to eat, but shiners are better because they have more calories and a higher fat content than perch, which are lean and bony in comparison.
Each lake is different. Devils lake has tons of white bass, and the young bass often are the target of walleyes in the spring. Lake of the Woods has emerald shiners and the Great Lakes have other types of shiners, smelt and other forage species that are also high in calories and fat content.
Tullibees spawn in the fall, so young-of-the-year tullibees are the perfect size in the spring for big walleyes. They are also a forage that is high in calories and fat content, so walleyes get more nourishment from them than many other forage species.
Some lakes don’t have good shiner populations, so walleyes key on other minnows in the spring. Anglers may be able to do just as well for walleyes using fatheads or rainbow chubs on their jigs in those lakes.
Some shiners anglers buy in the bait stores can be too big for threading on a long shank jig. Anglers can use pliers to open up the hook hook gap a little further, to help get a better hook set when using larger minnows.
Anglers can also use a live bait rig with the larger shiners and use the smaller shiners on a jig, to increase their hooking percentage on short hitting walleyes.