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Few things are more fun than being on Lake Erie. Lake Erie is home to some of the best Walleye fishing anywhere on Earth. All of the Great Lakes are generally stacked with great catches.
Erie is different because it is the shallowest of the Great Lakes. Because it is so shallow, it is also the most violent. Water conditions are much more dangerous when out on a boat.
It can even be hazardous to bank anglers. These violent waves and currents will create a harder fishing day. Fishermen are encouraged to use heavy anchors or drift socks, noisy fishing lures, and lead core lines. The process of how to catch Walleye in Lake Erie involves a few steps and techniques you can use to hook up with some good fish. We will go over how many Erie guides fish for and catch them.
Use Appropriate Tackle For The Job
If you are thinking about going out on the water with your bass rod, think again. It won’t work for you on this trip. Old faithful will have to sit this one out.
It does not matter what size of Walleye you want to catch. You need tackle that is heavy enough to stand up to them. They come in a ton of size ranges. Catching eater sizes all day long doesn’t mean a trophy won’t bite. They certainly will come.
When they do, you better be ready. They don’t mess around either. You may find it harder to catch them even with the right setup. Your rod needs to be a heavy Walleye, Pike, or saltwater variety. It needs to be able to generate 15 pounds of drag at the minimum. Make it a baitcaster and leave the spinning rod at home. Pair it with a quality baitcasting reel with a line counter if preferred.
Your rod should balance well with the reel. A lot of backbone is always needed. A soft and flexible tip is nice to have too. Spool your baitcasting reel with a lead core or braided line. Tie a solid steel wire leader to the end before putting on your lure or rig to stop them from biting through the line with their teeth.
How To Locate Fish – Observing The Conditions
There are many great places in the lake that house an abundant population of good fish. Areas around Sandusky and the Western basin have some of the best. Anglers have also reported great fishing around points in Presque Isle, Pennsylvania. Anglers from Cleveland are also in luck. Cleveland has some good fishing too. They are actually spread out through the whole water body.
Pretty much everywhere has them. What you need to look for are the conditions. The conditions will make them move around. The key is to find them first. Warmer water conditions will make them go deeper. In cooler water, you may find them more shallow and even near the surface. You can cast and retrieve to see where fish are but this is inefficient.
Casting and retrieving can be effective for smaller catches but covering the most water is important to get bigger ones. The most effective means of covering a ton of water quickly is to use a trolling motor. When you are on your boat, the trolling motor will allow your fishing lures or rigs to swim constantly. Also, be sure to be conservative with your electronics. The water is usually dirty in places.
You will not find it easy to locate them on a graph. The fishfinder is helpful but not required. Look for steep dropoffs, structure, rock pilings, and baitfish schools instead of the actual fish. These are a lot easier to see on the fishfinder. Always remember to adjust your depth when they are tucked in closer to the bottom and use rigs or lures that will actually go into the strike zone. They will likely be chasing baitfish so present the rig at the same depth the bait is naturally swimming at.
Best Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Techniques
You can often find out a lot of useful information just by asking the locals. An owner from a local tackle store can be a very valuable asset to getting the right information. Local people are usually the ones who are the most educated about the topics in their area. Just by asking what people like to do to catch the fish in the area, you can catch some by copying them.
Many techniques may change your success in certain places. Different lures or rigs may work better or worse for different reasons. Start asking around and see what you can find out from people. Many fishing charter guides on the lake have a few approaches that allow them to make a business out of their success. This is only possible because they work well. Make sure to try them out.
Using Live Bait Rigs – They Are Universal Everywhere
If using artificial baits is not your thing, you are in luck. You can be very successful if you rig some live bait up correctly. There are three bait options you should stick with. Those are leeches, Nightcrawlers, and the ever tasty minnow. You should use different ones based on the season of the year.
There is a very basic template you need to follow to ensure you have the best choice:
Summer: Nightcrawler and Leech
Spring: Fathead minnow and smaller Red-Tailed Chub
Fall: Sucker and large Red-Tailed Chub
Winter: Emerald Shiner, Sucker, Red-Tailed Chub
There are many different rigs you can use but one of the most common is the spinner worm rig. All it takes is a rotating blade, a clevis for it, a couple of plastic beads, two hooks, and a worm. The worm can be real Nightcrawler or it can just be any old plastic worm from the Largemouth Bass section.
To set up a basic spinning worm rig, run the end of the clevis through the blade, and thread it onto the fishing line. The rounded end should be facing the outside. After that, thread the beads on one at a time until they form a line. However many are up to you. After this, tie the hook on the end with a Palomar knot and leave a very long tag end. Then, tie another hook to the tag end with another Palomar knot.
Clip the tag. You now have a rig that will work well with any worm, minnow, leech, or other live bait. You can troll this rig for the most effective approach. You can also cast it as well if your patient. Use live bait rigs in absolutely any season of the year in any water body. Use them to appeal to the most enormous specimens too. If you are a trophy hunter going for that big catch, don’t worry. Live bait is not cheating. It is exactly why so many charters and guides decide on this route.
Minnows will produce pretty much every single time of year. If you can keep minnows alive, they will do wonders for you. Minnows like Fatheads and smaller Red-Tailed Chubs work best in the months of Spring. In the Fall of the year, they venture more towards bigger Red-tails and Suckers. Finally, when the winter rolls around and food is much more scarce, they will attack most minnows. Ones like Red-tails, Suckers, Fatheads, and Emerald Shiners all work well in colder water or weather.
Jigging – For When The Fish Are Slowing Down
While trolling can be very good, jigging can produce equally well in the coldest of seasons. Every now and then, it is good to just slow down. When they just don’t feel like giving chase or reacting, a well-jigged nightcrawler or imitator can be the key. Jigging is a simple technique. It is one where you jig the bait or lure. Successful jigging consists of a jig head or jigging lure, patience, and a good sense of feel.
You drop the jig down to the bottom until it makes contact. Once it does, you slowly start to jig it all the way to the boat. You go very slowly and pick up the slack with your reel. It is usually the most effective from a vertical angle when you can just let it fall straight down. It can be tricky to master. Sometimes, they will hammer or pound on it. Other times, they will just sort of suck it in.
You have to know the right time to set the hook too. You can use live Nightcrawlers, leeches, leopard frogs, minnows, or soft plastics. Jigging can also be done with lures like jigging spoons or slabs. Being effective in cold water is why many ice fishermen prefer it when they have to drill holes in the ice. It is not recommended to ice fish on Erie. Still, this is why it is so effective.
Slip Bobbers – If They Are Suspended At A Depth
The use of the slip bobber can be a very effective technique. A slip bobber provides all of the benefits of a bobber rig are in a package that you can cast very easily. In concept, the three components of a slip bobber rig include a stop, a bead, a slip float, and a split shot. The bead and float are below the stop on the line. You put the stop at the depth you want to be at.
The bead will float up to the stop and quit moving. The float will float up to the bead and stop moving. Now your rig is at the same depth can you put the stop at. You now have a bobber right on the top. This can be used to get fish that are suspended at a certain depth.
For instance, if they are lurking ten feet below the surface and you have a seven-foot rod, you pull the fishing line out until it reaches three more feet longer than your rod. This is where you put your stop. The bead and float will travel up to it once you put it in the water. This keeps it off the bottom as well as help prevent snagging.
Slip Sinker Rigs – For The Very Wary Biters
Fishing a slip sinker rig is helpful when you have a very spooky, shy, or irritated population. Individuals that have become wary of hooks and terminal tackle will drop all food when they feel resistance. The slip sinker eliminates this problem. As the bait is picked up, the fishing line can travel freely. They will pick up the bait and run off with it. This will allow you to get a very good hook set.
The angler fishes the slip sinker rig in free spool mode. In this mode, the fishing line can come off the reel freely. You typically create a slip sinker rig by using a hook, choosing a sliding lead or sinker, and some sort of stop. When you make a cast, put the rod in a rod holder and leave it there. Wait until the fishing line starts to come off of the baitcasting reel and wait for it to scream.
Once it does, re-engage it and start reeling. If the rod loads up and bends, the hook has found its proper placement and you can proceed to fight it like normal. If it doesn’t do this when you reengage it, give it a firm hookset. If you miss both, wind it back and cast again. They likely won’t come back for it again.
Trolling – Why You Should be Doing It Too
If many people including a lot of the guides and charters recommend trolling, why not try it? Trolling at a very slow speed is the best way to cover a lot of water. As the boat is moving forward slowly, the lures or rigs create action. Trolling is especially helpful if you are using erratic reaction baits like a jerkbait or crankbait which are some of the best Walleye lures. You can also troll live bait rigs for more action.
Since spinning blade rigs are used so much, trolling them will prove effective. Many anglers like to use items like planer boards and dipsy divers to keep their lines running straight or to get the rig down to where they want it to be. Many individuals love to troll deep diving plugs, spinning nightcrawler rigs, and spoons. You can up your trolling game by simply paying attention.
When you begin to troll, you are not looking for much out of the ordinary. You are not looking for a tug, a pull, or anything else. When it is time to pull in that biter, the fishing rod will bend profusely and remain that way until you pull it out of the rod holder. This means that it has hooked itself. This means you don’t set it at all. You are ready for the fight once this happens. Be sure to look for it.
Using A Lure With Live Bait
Another method to use on lake Erie albeit one that is not as popular is to mix your lure with your live bait. While the bait used is the actual bite detector, certain lures will help it be found from far away. Casting spoons in a chrome pattern can be added in the middle of bait rigs to make them shine.
Also, choosing a lure like a spoon can be modified with a whole Nightcrawler, leech, minnow, or plastic grub on the hook to give it more appeal. Adding Nightcrawlers or minnows to your jigs can create a very enticing setup. With that, it is also very easy to get carried away and overdo it if you’re not careful. Try to stick with one worm, minnow, or leech for each fishing lure.
Don’t go and add and four worms, a minnow, and three leeches per jig. You may actually end up doing more harm than good to your success. Even so, I have yet to see a time where adding a single minnow in cold water hurt my success if I throw it on my jig hook. You will have to let them tell you what they want that day.
Catching Lake Erie Walleye Is Simple
All Lake Erie fish are fun to catch but the Walleye fishing here is the best in the world. You can find success if you follow the advice of the anglers who catch this fish for a living. After you have set up the right tackle and found the fish, you can catch them by using live bait or artificial ones. The main thing is that you experiment to see what works.
Sometimes, crankbaits will work better. Sometimes, worms work better. It is up to you to observe the conditions you are in and consider which one would best fit the situation. Maybe it is trolling plugs. Maybe it is using a slip sinker or slip bobber rig. Maybe it is jigging a bait all the way back to the boat. Regardless of which one you decide to choose, remember that you can catch fish if you actually try hard enough. Put forth your effort and never lose hope.
What is your method for reeling in these great creatures? Don’t forget to leave a comment below in a reply so we can hear what you have to say!
David loves to catch fish. He also enjoys boating and making fishing tackle. He has caught every major game fish in North America and he hopes to share his knowledge with the rest of the world so they can catch fish too.