Dog Day Walleye

By Lance Valentine

Dog Days of summer, traditionally thought of as a tough time to fish. Old wives tails actually said that fish lost their teeth in the heat of summer, but smart walleye fishermen know better and that the “Dog Days” can be some of the best fishing if you understand what is actually happening under the water.

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The “dog days” of summer are a result of several factors. Consistent hot weather, water temps at a yearly high, an over abundance of bait fish, walleye transitioning to summer patterns, increased daylight, temperature and oxygen straticifaction, and heavy cover. All of these factors add up to tough fishing on most bodies of water.

Stratification, the “separation” of differing water temperatures and/or oxygen levels, is one of the effects of hot, stable summer weather that has a major effect on fishing. Walleye need oxygen, and won’t venture to water that is lacking oxygen, regardless of how much food, comfort or cover is there. The same is true of water temperatures in summer. While walleye prefer cooler water (most biologists agree that temps in the mid to upper 60’s are preferred), walleye will stay in warmer water if the cooler water is low or lacking in oxygen.

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Summer also means baitfish in abundance, both mature and newly hatched. Walleye like an easy meal and obviously chase adult baitfish throught the water column, but as summer hits its hottest, understand that there are a LOT of newly hatched baitfish that are still in the ¾ to 2” size range and walleye often gorge themselves on hundreds of smaller bait fish instead of larger options. To an angler this means that lure SIZE is a critical part of fishing success in the heat of summer. Like walleye, each baitfish species has a preferred food source and water temperature, so understanding the bait in the body of water you are fishing is a great first step to finding hungry walleye!

As walleye get comfortable in their summer patterns expect less major movements. Walleye that set up in cover will stay there as long as the bait stays in that cover and open water nomadic walleye will stay out in open water roaming and moving with schools of open water bait. These groups will hardly ever mix in summer, as each has found their summer “home” and as long as the food stays they will remain until the first signs of fall hit the lake.

Walleye activity during Summer can be anywhere from negative to crazy! At times walleye will be buried deep in cover or laying with belly glued to the bottom. At other times they will be chasing bait at 3-4 mph, slashing and feeding like wild dogs….learning when and where each happens, and how to modify your presentation is key to successful summer fishing.

The “Dog Days” have been characterized by the perception of tough fishing for years. Understand what is actually happening in the water and how fish are reacting, and summer can become some of the best fishing of the season.

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