Lake Vermilion Spring Walleyes

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Lake Vermilion Spring Walleyes

Lake Vermilion Spring Walleyes
Paul (50 Esox)
Pollock Guide Service

My earliest memories of fishing on Lake Vermilion begin with fishing from the dock at my parents' cabin on Pike Bay. Back in those days, the bay was often closed for a week or so due to late ice out and spawning fish still in the bay. That hasn't been a problem in recent years due to much warmer springs and weather in general.

Well, what do you know, faster than you can say Minnesota, we have a cold winter followed by an April with three snowstorms and weather that has transcended the worst spring conditions I've ever seen. I know fishermen, myself included, are going a little stir crazy waiting for some soft water fishing!

On many areas of Lake Vermilion, early season anglers fishing from shore or docks are on equal footing with boat anglers. With a lot of post- spawn walleyes still in water 4 to 8 feet deep, a simple bobber/live bait combination can be very effective. We started out many years ago with a simple red and white bobber, a splitshot, and a small spinner and hook tipped with a minnow or leech. Over the years, that evolved into a weighted casting bobber which I imported from my Kamloops rainbow tackle box.

Bobber fishing can be very effective in myriad situations. Whether you're fishing from shore, dock, or boat, focus your attention on areas of rock, gravel or sand that project out into shallow bays or the main lake. Rig up either a slip bobber with a stop or a regular snap bobber, a small hook, and a splitshot, and tip it with a minnow. I prefer rainbows, fatheads, and suckers, and set the depth so that the minnow is within a foot of the bottom. This very simple setup that is also very productive on shallow walleyes.

Another tactic for the spring walleye fisherman's arsenal is trolling. I like trolling crankbaits and Rapalas across the flats in shallow bays and along the shorelines of the main lake. Pulling a Shallow Shad, Regular Shad, Floating Rapala, or a Thunderstick in four to twelve feet of water is simply deadly for early walleyes. The fish are usually amenable to color concepts in chartreuse, orange, blue, black, and gold, The common denominator with all lures is that the walleye has to see or feel it. If they can't see it or sense the vibration, they can't hit it. I lean towards the brighter colors in stained water, and the blues and golds in more clear water.

My usual trolling speed is 1.5 to 3 mph, and on any given day the fish can respond better to a different speed. Every bait is going to run at a different depth relative to the amount of line out. Experiment with different baits and line lengths until the bait is running within about a foot of the bottom. I use 8 to 9 foot medium power, moderate action trolling rods with line counter reels. The 'glass rods are tailor made for trolling because they are very forgiving, and allow the baits to work easier through rocks.

If you're heading out for an early outing on Vermilion, give these shallow water tactics a try, and you just may end up with some nice walleyes for the frying pan in addition to the ones you put back to keep our lake going.

All good fishermen share certain attributes, among the most important of which is the ability to think outside the box and change tactics when something isn't working. Over the years, fishermen have propagated the theory that you must fish shallow to catch spring walleyes on Lake Vermilion. Yes, there's plenty of fish in shallow, but there is also a distinct entity of walleyes that are in deep water as well. In the coming paragraphs, I'll detail a bit of that information.

The mid-May sky was charcoal gray and spitting an ice cold rain as we slid my Lund into the water. The air temperature had taken a precipitous drop toward freezing from the mid 60's of the previous day, and what a day the previous one had been.

Warm temperatures, a perfect walleye chop, and super aggressive fish had led to my partner Joe Secola and I boating 54 walleyes in 5 hours. We wound up keeping 8 fish for the frying pan, and had a ball releasing the rest which included some fish which were well over the 17 inch slot. nice. Fast forward a day, and I knew the fishing was going to be a bit more difficult due to the onset of the major cold front.

I decided to work us along a deep shoreline break in much deeper water than we had fished the previous day. We were vertical jigging 1/4 ounce orange jigs and fatheads, and already had a couple nice keepers, when I noticed Joe's rod arched in a nice parabolic bend. The fish stayed deep and pulled hard, and Joe remarked, "This is a good one!" After a nice fight from the feisty 'eye, he slid a nice 24 walleye into the net, and we took time to admire the pretty spring walleye. After a quick photo, he slid him back into the lake, and he returned to the murky depths with a quick kick of his tail.

That fish wound up being the day's biggest, and we managed to boat 27 walleyes by adapting to the cold front and changing up our tactics. We focused on fishing deep and moving slow, and we were still successful under otherwise adverse conditions.

When fishing the deeper waters of Vermilion, the areas that I focus my attention on are point and island shoreline breaks, and in and around deep holes. The reason the walleyes are there is to feed on the propitious amounts of mayfly larvae present in these areas. Like all fish, walleyes are opportunistic feeders, and won't pass up a readily available food source. In the same token, even if the walleyes are feeding on mayfly nymphs, they won't turn down a minnow popped in front of their noses.

My preferred deep water presentation is vertical jigging. I like a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce jig in blue, orange, chartreuse, gold, and black color concepts. I tip them with a rainbow, fathead chub, or sucker minnow. The efficacy of your presentation will be determined to a great degree by staying in contact with bottom and staying vertical. The more your line is dragging back behind the boat, the less effective the presentation.

Staying vertical means moving slow, and this is accomplished with an electric trolling motor or kicker motor. High winds often necessitate the use of a drift sock in conjunction with the electric trolling motor to slow the boat's drift when moving back with the wind. The key component in the equation is keeping the jig/minnow combination in close proximity to the bottom, as most walleyes will be hugging the bottom pretty tight.

I use a light popping motion with the rod, and I throw in the occasional hard, vertical rip. This can often be the catalyst to induce a strike. Strikes can run the gamut from very hard and aggressive to just holding on to the point where you feel weight. If you think it's a fish, set it!

Pay close attention to your electronics, as you can often see the mayfly larvae near the bottom. I also look for transition areas which go from hard to soft bottom as these areas can often be stacked with walleyes. Rock, sand, or gravel to mud transition areas are what to look for.

If you're heading out on Vermilion this spring, remain flexible with your tactics. Don't be afraid to throw the walleyes a changeup if conditions warrant it, and give some of these presentations a try. And remember to keep a few walleyes for the frying pan, and let a bunch go. Let's keep Vermilion thriving!

Paul Pollock lives in Tower, Mn. He guides for muskies, walleyes, and northern pike on Lake Vermilion. He also guides for winter lake trout on Trout Lake, Burntside, and Snowbank Lakes. He is a contributing writer for The Next Bite/Esox Angler Magazine.

Paul's website is at, and can also be accessed at

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