I was out fishing recently with my good friend Mike Poplawchuk and I made this short article on trolling for walleye in Lake Erie.
Trolling has been used for salmon fishing for many years and this technique was adopted for walleye fishing as well. Although trolling speeds used for summer salmon are commonly 3-4 mph, trolling speeds for walleye are about half of those for salmon (1.5-2 mph). I want to discuss the technique I have been using for many years on trolling for walleye in Lake Erie. Please note that this technique is different from jigging for walleye (used on small lakes up north).
Trolling For Walleye in Lake Erie
We were out in approximately 62-65 feet of water out from Point Abino on a hot summer day in July. There was very little wind and very few waves as you can see in the background of the picture above.
Worm Harnesses and Trolling Speeds
We started fishing mid-morning using purple and black worm harnesses. They are the big blade worm harnesses with 3 hooks. On these harnesses the entire worm is used and is penetrated by all 3 hooks. We were using down-riggers with cannon balls set at depths of 55 feet and 45 feet in 65 feet of water. Worm harnesses were trailing from the cannon balls 50 feet back. (It’s important to use long leads for walleye, as they are typically spooked by the sound of the trolling motor.) We were trolling at a speed of about 1.5-2.0 mph. I find that trolling closer to 1.5 mph I seem to pick up more sheep head, so I like to stay closer to 2.0 mph.
Dipsy Divers Used In Trolling for Walleye in Lake Erie
Dipsy divers are deep diving weights used to take baits down and away from the noisy trolling motor. Walleye are easily spooked so the idea is to keep the bait as far to the left and right as possible.
We used 2 dipsy divers placed on a No.3 setting to take 2 additional lines out and away from the boat during trolling. Worm harness leads were about 5 feet back from the dipsy divers. Initially I let out 75 feet of line to get the dipsy divers running at about 35 feet, but then realized we were too slow and the harnesses were dragging on bottom. I reduced the length of line, so the dipsies were likely running at a depth of about 60 feet. (Dipsy divers are normally used for salmon fishing, so they are designed to run a specific depth at 3 mph. Running the dipsy diver at slower speeds will result in fishing at greater and unknown depths). I have been experimenting with Dipsy Divers while trolling for walleye in Lake Erie and have gotten some serious hits. Using dipsy divers is well worth the effort as they are less cumbersome than the planer board-mast combination. I will continue experimenting to get the right depths using walleye trolling speeds.
Release From the Down Rigger to Trigger a Strike
This is an essential part of trolling for walleye in Lake Erie. Many times, a walleye is simply following the bait to investigate. The walleye is not committed to striking but is simply inspecting it. In this case, a trigger is required for the walleye to strike. By releasing the line from the down-rigger, the bait suddenly starts moving upward and more slowly than trolling due to the slack in the line. This release sometimes triggers a following walleye into biting, as the bait appears to be attempting an escape. Obviously we don’t know when a walleye is following, so I normally release the line from the down-rigger every 15-20 minutes when trolling produces no strikes.
Trolling For Walleye in Lake Erie Bagged This 7 lber
Try these tips on trolling for walleye in Lake Erie and keep going out. The more you go, the better you get so keep on trying and stay safe on Lake Erie.
Here’s to tight lines and great times!
Maddalena Environmental Inc.