Fall Walleyes from shore
There are only two times of year that offer anglers in Colorado a good opportunity to catch numbers of walleyes from shore (or boat near shore), with a decent shot at catching trophy sized fish over 10 lbs. The first opportunity is in the early spring around spawning time. The second time is right now, in the fall, as the water temperature plummets towards freezing. Walleyes will be in the shallows near riprap dams to feed heavily on Gizzard Shad and other baitfish before the hard winter ahead, primarily during the night, early mornings, and late evenings. The shad move to these shallow, rocky areas this time of year because that is where the water is the warmest, prolonging their life.
Casting crankbaits after dark will be the most productive technique for these fish. Lipless cranks like the Rat- L-Trap, Rattlin’ Rapala, and the Berkley Frenzy Rattler are my first choice for riprap walleyes after dark. The sound and vibration that these lures emit seems to make the walleyes react ferociously. Color of the bait doesn’t seem to matter much at night but the fish will see dark colors like black or brown easiest. The technique here is very simple, cast parallel to the shoreline and burn the bait back in. Even though the water is cold, a fast retrieve usually works best. It is also necessary to burn the bait back in to prevent snagging in the rocks. You will probably lose a few lures, but it’s well worth it to me for the chance at a trophy walleye. The key is to keep moving until you start catching fish. I like to start at one end of a dam, make at least 10 casts parallel to shore in each direction, then move about 50 feet and do it all over again. Sometimes you will find a particular spot that produces numerous fish, other times you may only get a fish here and there with no dominant spot.
Rattling suspending jerkbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk, X-Rap, Berkley Frenzy Firestick, and Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue also shine this time of year. They work best with a stop and go retrieve. Jerk the bait several feet and then let it pause for up to a minute before jerking again. When you jerk the bait it rattles, attracting walleyes to the area. Most bites come after the long pause, as soon as you jerk the bait again but sometimes they’ll smash it while it’s just sitting there. With these baits color doesn’t matter a lot at night either, just use a color you have confidence in, confidence can make a huge difference in your success.
Large live minnows fished near the bottom under a lighted slip float can also be very productive right now. Large shiners are the most popular but live 4-8” creek chubs or suckers are a better option because they are a little bigger and stay alive longer. A Gamakatsu Octopus hook in size 1/0 will do the job with these bigger baits. Be sure to give the walleye a few extra seconds to fully engulf the bait before setting the hook.
My best times have always been close to the full moon or right before or during major cold fronts. Cold fronts are definitely not the most comfortable conditions to fish in, especially when rain or snow is involved, but with the right clothing it can be much more comfortable than one would think. I recommend layering appropriately under a good quality, breathable rain suit like the Gander Mountain Guide Series TecH20. It does a great job of keeping you dry and comfortable, which allows you to fish much more effectively.
So get out and fish for walleyes on the dam at your favorite walleye lake this fall, you may just catch the biggest walleye of your life! I’ll see you out there.