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Dock Talk: Fall's walleye love crank bait

Tyler and Spencer Lindow caught this nice fall walleye on Belle Taine in the late afternoon this past week. Walleyes are active through the fall as water temperatures gradually decline. Photo by Jason Durham / For the Enterprise

With cooling water temperatures and windy days, the fall walleye bite is in full swing.

Surface temperatures are now in the mid-to-high 60's, which is quite a contrast compared to the mid 80-degree water our lakes experienced during July.

Though walleye were available in somewhat shallow water throughout the summer, 12-15 feet, their presence in those depths when the water heats up is somewhat uncharacteristic of traditional walleye behavior.

One of the main reasons good numbers of fish were situated in shallow water, specifically areas with vegetation, was because of the availability of forage.

For walleyes to chase schools of minnows in deep water, they have to expend a lot of energy. In weedy areas, they can literally wait, camouflaged by coontail, grass, cabbage weeds and milfoil, until a school of minnows swims near. Then there's a lightning-fast ambush from the waiting predator.

One theory of why the walleyes predominately remained shallow this summer is simply Mother Nature's way of protecting our resources. Had the walleyes moved deep to continually chase schools of minnows with such elevated water temperatures, the fish could have experienced poor health. This would be similar to humans over-exerting themselves in the heat.

As the water temperature drops in September, October and toward the beginning of the ice fishing season, expect walleyes to remain somewhat shallow and relative to the weeds in some lakes, but the species will undoubtedly inhabit deep water regions in certain bodies of water.

Time of day will also influence walleye location through the fall. Walleyes will move into shallow water to feed during low-light periods and after dark, presenting anglers one of the best times for trolling crankbaits of the entire year, especially if there's a full moon.

Anglers will sometimes find the walleyes a bit deep during daylight hours on bluebird days, but not always.

Fall is a time when walleyes can be caught all day long, even in somewhat shallow water. However, vegetation remains to be one of the key factors that dictates their location.

Of course there are always exceptions. Big Sand Lake is one of those. With so many sandy areas, plenty of classic walleye structure, a well-established deep-water forage base, but extremely clear water, walleyes are usually found in deep water, 25-45 feet during the fall.

Yet landing fish from the deeper end of that range can cause mortality because the walleyes can't compensate for the rapid change in pressure when rapidly retrieved to the surface. Catch and release becomes a very limited option.

The exception is twilight, when walleyes can be found chasing minnows in depths less than 12 feet. Again, that presents the perfect opportunity to use an aggressive approach, trolling crankbaits that flash, wobble, vibrate and ultimately trigger a reaction from the fish. And Big Sand isn't the only area lake where trolling crankbaits after dark is effective. Potato, Long Lake, Fish Hook, the entire Mantrap Chain (except Mantrap itself), the Crow Wing Lakes and Leech Lake are all exceptional choices.