Some the most consistent fishing for walleye over eight to ten pounds occurs on The Great Lakes. There’s a powerhouse list of top-end water within Ontario, including Lake Erie, Lake Huron/Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. In some cases, big rivers feed, drain or connect these fisheries, and their ability to grow giant walleye is just as good. Famous, flowing tributaries such as the Detroit and Niagra Rivers to the south have challenged and broken records. To the north, the Moon, Magnetewan and St. Mary’s attract staggering numbers of fish, and offer walleye fishermen some of the prettiest surroundings on earth. The province really does house some of the finest ‘big fish’ walleye opportunities anywhere. And they exist in a wide range of geographical settings. The sheer volume of big fish so close to southern, urban centers and the US border continues to be remarkable. Further north, fishermen work giant, complex structures in solitude, often facing harsh weather.
The Great Lakes cocktail is a special one. Big-fish genetic pools are bolstered by several factors. Walleye have lots of room to operate within these huge, inland seas. Spawning and feeding opportunities exist in abundance. There’s lots of places for big walleye to make little walleye, and vast amounts of high-end food allows young fish to grow. Huge sections of open water and diverse structures both provide sanctuary. Despite changes in water clarity, water levels and the arrival of numerous exotic species, The Great Lakes continue to grow and maintain huge stocks of larger than average fish. They really are a very unique.
With so many options at their disposal, walleyes constantly move. Given the size of the playing field and the mobile nature of these fish, a lot of successful fishermen work within cyclical, seasonally-based migration patterns. In classic Great Lakes fashion, walleye make reasonably predictable migrations at various times during the year. Fall, winter and spring are periods of great change for these fish, and can make for some of the year’s heaviest catches. Fishermen intercept waves of fish that move en masse in response to their feeding, wintering or spawning impulses. Complex food and structure/cover relationships mean big walleye can be in different places at different times doing very different things. These fisheries are so big and complex that there’s several distinct, often overlapping, populations of fish that live very different lives.
Presentations can range from vertically jigging in heavy current to downrigging for suspended fish to pier casting in the middle of the night. So many of the productive techniques we use as walleye fishermen were born on the Great Lakes, and for good reason. These highly adaptable fish operate in such a diverse environment, there are dozens of viable ways to attack them. Refinements in gear, depths, speeds, structures and even lure colour are a natural result of the big-water scene. Whether you’re jumping planer boards through the freezing waves in December on The Bay of Quinte or dunking light jigs for shoal spawners on Lake Erie, Ontario definitely has the market cornered on Great Lakes walleye opportunities.