Complete Guide to the Best Times for Walleye Fishing (Seasonal Breakdown)


Was there ever a fish more aptly named than the walleye? Looking like a cross between a perch and a pike, this fish species is a ferocious predator with huge eyes, perfect for hunting in low light conditions.

This should give you a clue as to the best time to fish for walleye, but if you are in doubt, I’m going to give you a really clear picture. Then, you’ll be able to get out there and bag yourself a monster.

Let’s get to work.

In general, the best time to fish for walleye is any low-light period. Walleye have better eyesight than smaller species, so they can use these conditions to their advantage and sneak up on their prey. Very early morning and late evening often give the best opportunities.

For more specific advice regarding conditions and season, read on to find out more…

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What is the Best Time of Year to Catch Walleye?

Spring

After a long, cold winter, walleye are pretty hungry. Luckily for them, spring brings the first hatches of small fish and fry, not to mention that other species will be up and about getting ready to spawn too.

As with all fish species, things may be a little slower in cold water, so make sure you are fishing lures at a relatively sedate pace if you are using this method.

While spring is good for walleye fishing, the water still isn’t the warmest, so you will want to coincide your visit with optimal feeding times.

Want a quick and easy rule of thumb?

Generally, any time after midday should be good. The light levels still aren’t high enough to push walleye into particularly deep water. You’ll find the best spots to be shallows leading to drop-offs where walleye can wait as smaller fish take advantage of the more rapidly heating shelves.

walleye being pulled to a fishing boat after being hooked

Summer

Without a shadow of a doubt, summer is one of the best times to catch walleye. By now, spawning is complete, and the eggs have hatched into thousands of little fish (which just so happens to be #1 on a walleye’s menu).

Baitfish aren’t stupid, so during brighter midday conditions, they will hide away as best they can until it gets a little darker. They tend to do this in deep water and heavy cover such as weed beds.

Meaning?

If you do want to try to catch a walleye at midday, these are the areas you should be targeting.

However, to make life easy, the best time of day to catch walleye in summer is towards sunset, particularly the last hour of daylight.

While impending nightfall will make baitfish feel safe and secure, it is still broad daylight to a walleye’s eyes, meaning this is their most active feeding period.

You can also try the first hour of daylight in the morning as a close second. This can be a ‘golden hour’, especially during the hotter months when the water temperature may be too high in the evening and has had a chance to cool down overnight.

Night fishing for walleye can also be super productive in the summer. Try and time your visit with the arrival of a full moon for the greatest chance of night fishing success.

Fall

While you might be worried about a fall in water temperature, you needn’t be. Walleye still feed ferociously in the fall, and you’ll find that they’ll have weaned themselves onto a diet of larger fish as well as small fry.

Having spent the summer gorging themselves, fall can be the ideal time to bag yourself a real rod bender.

You might still be able to catch at night time during the fall. But, I’d suggest the best time of day to catch walleye is in the evening approaching sunset.

The beautiful thing about fall fishing for walleye is that those low light conditions start a little earlier, giving you plenty of scope to blast some lures over the shallows where the fish will be feeding.

Winter

When in the depths of winter, you aren’t going to get much action close in or around the shallows. These areas are the first to turn cold.

So, what’s the answer?

Instead of hunting for walleye, hunt for where the water will be warmest, as the two actually go hand in hand.

My advice?

Go deep, or go home.

Paired with this, you want to fish when the water will ‘peak’ temperature-wise. In winter I’d suggest that it is from midday until about an hour before sunset.

On the plus side, you will have relatively low light conditions all day, which, as I explained above, is exactly what walleye like.

If you are ice fishing, you can expect to catch walleye at all times of the day. Under the ice, it gets pretty murky and gloomy, offering the ideal conditions for walleye to gobble up small baitfish. If you want to know what ice fishing lures they like, you need to see this.

the huge walleye and tackle for fishing on the ice

What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Walleye?

Generally, the evening is always a great time to try and catch a walleye. As a close second, very early in the morning, just before dawn, can also be a great time too.

Regardless of the season, as long as you stick to the general principle that low light provides the optimum conditions for walleye to hunt their prey, you won’t go far wrong.

Obviously, light levels change for a given time during a given season, so this is the primary reason why you’ll want to change your tactics over the year.

Is it Better to Fish for Walleye in The Morning or Evening?

All of the above said, between the two, the evening is the best time to catch walleye.

For the following reasons:

  • Even if the water temperature is a little too warm, it will cool significantly as the night goes on. This means that regardless of how hot it has been during the day if you arrive in the evening and are patient, at some point, the water will cool down to what you need it to be.
  • You’ll often find that you have the lake to yourself in the evening, giving you the pick of the best spots.
  • If you are fishing in a venue where the walleye are active at night, they will be less inclined to feed in the morning. It is better to try and catch them at the start of their activity instead of the end.

What is the Best Month for Walleye Fishing?

The summer months of June and July tend to be the best for walleye. By this time, the spawning season is over, and most fishing venues will have a glut of small baitfish and shads, all of which walleye love to eat.

And there’s more.

The water temperature will be pretty perfect, too, ensuring maximum movement. In the later months of summer, the water can get a little too warm, leading to slow and sluggish behavior, both from walleye and the tiny fish that they pursue.

What is the Best Weather for Walleye Fishing?

This depends on the venue. Clear skies and relatively bright days are the best on water with significant color.

For night fishing, you ideally want a clear and moonlit night to produce the best results when walleye fishing.

You might want to consider going on days with high cloud cover for really clear lakes.

The good news?

All of these conditions are associated with high-pressure weather. Which is already a great time to fish. If you haven’t yet read my guide on the best barometric pressure for fishing, perhaps it’s time you took a quick look?

large Walleye in fisherman's hand

Best time to Catch Walleye – FAQ

What season are Walleye most active at night?

When night fishing, the late summer months represent the optimum time for walleye fishing at night.

Why?

As I said above, the later summer months can mean that the water during the day tends to be a little on the warm side. However, those walleye still have to eat at some point, and that point is at night when the water cools!

If you plan a night fishing walleye trip, June, July, and August is the time to do it!

What’s the worst time to catch Walleye?

The worst time to catch a walleye is the period around midday, especially in spring, summer, and fall.

Generally, if you miss the morning wave, you will have to wait until late afternoon for another realistic chance to catch walleye.

Walleye will tend to follow the food. And, the food being small shads and minnows, who retreat to deeper water further out during the day, will lead the walleye away from the bank.

What is the best bait for Walleye?

The best bait for walleye is almost definitely minnows. Dead baits are good. Live baits are phenomenal! Can’t get your hands on minnows?

Don’t worry too much!

I’ve got a great article here showing you some amazing lures that will work just as well (and sometimes better), especially if you want to catch a predatory species like walleye.

Conclusion

Walleye fishing is about as exciting as it gets. They are really ruthless! Once you know how they behave and the best time to fish for walleye, you can use this intelligence to your advantage.

Go for lower light conditions and even consider fishing into the night for the best success.

Regardless of the species, I’ve got gear and information to help. Why not swing by my other guides for the best on the market right now!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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