Summer Walleyes in the Heat of Summer, NO PROBLEM!

Inland Lake walleyes in the mid-west are easy hot-summer fun if you’re fishing guide, Les Jarman.  Read how.  Brent Frazee Photo

By Brent Frazee

Think about the very worst conditions for walleye fishing.

High noon.  A hot sun beating down. Temperatures in the low 90s.  A blue sky, with hardly a cloud in sight.

That about covers it, doesn’t it?

So why was Les Jarman, a longtime guide, so optimistic that he and his friend, Ken White, would soon be catching walleyes in those conditions as they trolled on Stockton Lake in southwest Missouri?

“We’ve caught walleyes in the middle of the day on days that were hotter than this,” Jarman said, as he zig-zagged his boat on a flat near the river channel.  “These walleyes will get out here on these flats in the summer and they’ll suspend.

“If the baitfish are here, the walleyes will be too.  If you put a crankbait in front of them, they’ll hit.”

Staring at his electronics, Jarman saw the perfect scenario setting up.  As he trolled in 20 feet of water not far from the river channel, he watched the screen of his depth finder light up with specks of baitfish.  The occasional mark of a gamefish also showed up.

“The walleyes are scattered right now,” said Jarman, 65, who lives in the town of Stockton and operates the Specialized Guide Service.  “They’re just out here chasing shad.

“That’s why I like to troll.  Instead of sitting on one point, I can cover a lot of water this way.”

Approaching an area where a long point extended into the flat, Jarman felt something jolt the Bandit crankbait he was trolling through the Bic Sac arm of the Ozark reservoir.

When the fish stayed down, Jarman knew he had a walleye.  Moments later, he tossed that keeper into a live well already splashing with fish.

Hot weather, hot fishing.  That’s Jarman’s formula for success.  Though he fishes for walleyes year-around at Stockton, he knows the fishing doesn’t necessarily come to a halt when the heat arrives.

From early June to mid-October, he trolls for walleyes far off shore, and he and his guides clients routinely catch limits.  Jarman himself has caught fish up to 6 pounds trolling.

There is a science to his approach.  He doesn’t merely pull into open water and start trolling. He tries to keep his crankbaits cutting through the water over main-lake structure.

“I’m looking anything where there is a change in the bottom,” he said.  “Main-lake or secondary points, drop-offs, humps – that’s what walleyes will relate to in the summer.”

Jarman likes to troll with 60 to 70 feet of line out.  He uses 10-pound test and trolls at two miles per hour.  He wants to keep his crankbaits 10 to 12 feet down in water that is at least twice that deep.

“Walleyes will always come up to hit a bait,” Jarman said.  “If you troll too deep, you’re not going to catch them.  You have to be in the right zone.”

During the hottest part of summer, Jarman prefers to troll early in the day and in the evening hours.  But he knows that the fish will hit in the middle of the day, too.

He proved it on a recent sultry day in the Ozarks.  He, White and I caught enough walleyes to make a meal.  And there was a bonus.  We also caught about 20 white bass, several big crappies and a couple of keeper largemouth bass.

But such results aren’t unusual.  Jarman and his clients have been catching limits (four walleyes 15 inches or longer) of walleyes regularly in the June heat.

For Jarman, that’s just one more trick in his trade.  After guiding on Stockton since shortly after it opened in 1969, he knows where to find the sharp-toothed gamefish.

He also knows that he is fishing on the right reservoir. Stockton has long been recognized as one of Missouri’s top walleye spots, thanks to regular stockings by the Department of Conservation.

Jarman’s favorite method is to use suspending stickbaits in the early spring. He caught a 10-pound, 4-ounch walleye in March several years ago.

But he doesn’t stop fishing when the weather turns hot and humid.  He knows he can tie on a small crankbait such as a Bandit and stay on the move.

WHERE TO FIND MISSOURI JACK SALMON

  • Secrets to Finding and Catching Jack Salmon
  • Hot Lures can be Simple Lures When They Work
  • Missouri Fishing With a Special Friend   

By Larry Whiteley

Daron Whiteley and keeper Jack Salmon.

Many years ago during a beautiful spring in the Missouri Ozarks, a good friend of mine, Bob Nelson, invited me to go fishing with him for a fish he called “Jack Salmon”.  I had never heard of such a fish so I went along mainly out of curiosity.

He took me north to Stockton Lake and a creek called Turnback.  We walked up creek and found this fish with the funny name as they headed upstream to spawn.  Casting spinner rigs and spoons the fight was a whole lot of fun in the swift water.  We caught our limit and the fish weren’t the only thing hooked that day.

Just when I thought this special day was over and it couldn’t get any better, it did. Bob fileted the fish, started a campfire on a gravel bar, pulled a cast iron skillet from his truck, added some lard, cut up some potatoes and onions, opened a can of beans, covered the filets with cornmeal and cooked up a meal I still remember over 40 years later.

A plate of delicious Jack Salmon.

Unless you are as old I am, if you tell someone you are going fishing for Jack Salmon they will probably look at you kind of funny.  Today most of us know them as the delicious, fun-to-catch walleye.

When you talk about walleye most fishermen think of the legendary fishing in the Dakota’s, Minnesota, Wisconsin and several of our northeastern states.  They might also think of the fabulous walleye fishing on Greer’s Ferry Lake in Arkansas or Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee.

And I, like many of you, have made several trips to fish legendary Canadian lakes for walleye.  The next time I go, I’m going to ask them if they have ever heard of a Jack Salmon.

Sometimes I wonder why I ever go out of state after walleye.  We have some really good walleye fishing right here at home.  In fact, the Missouri state record is 21.1 pounds, caught in 1988 at Bull Shoals Lake by Gerry Partlow.  That’s bigger than 90% of the famous walleye states I just mentioned.

Walleye are native to some areas of Missouri and in some waters they naturally reproduce.  However, in most of our large and small lakes, and reservoirs as well, as some streams and rivers they have to be stocked to keep up with fishing pressure.  The Missouri Department of Conservation started stocking walleyes in the 1970s and now stock 1.2 million a year all over the state.

Lakes that receive walleye stockings include Bilby, Bull Shoals, Jacomo, Lake of the Ozarks, Longview, Long Branch, Mozingo, Norfork, Pomme de Terre, Smithville, Stockton, Table Rock, and Truman.  The Mississippi, Black and Current Rivers are also known for good walleye fishing.

During the spring, walleyes will run up rivers and streams that flow into or out of a lake to spawn.  Just like they were doing the day Bob Nelson took me fishing for Jack Salmon.  They can also be found in areas of lakes with gravel or rip rap where they will also spawn.

Wherever you go walleye fishing in Missouri, make sure you check the season, length and possession limits of the water you are fishing because they can vary.

If you are new to walleye fishing, just realize it won’t be easy.  If you’re willing to go without a little sleep, that’s good.  Walleye feed actively at night.  If you don’t mind bad weather, that’s good too.  Walleye will sometimes bite the best when the weather isn’t best.

There are other times you can catch walleye.  Early morning, low-light conditions from a half hour before to a few hours after sunrise are also good.  I have better luck though, fishing a couple of hours before sunset to right up until dark sets in.

A dark, cloudy day is usually always good because the fish will sometimes feed all day.  If it is a bright sunny day they will be at 20 feet or more trying to get away from the sunlight that penetrates the water.

Spoons, crankbaits and plain jigs, or jigs tipped with a minnow or nightcrawler, are good most of the time.  Nightcrawlers and leeches work well on slip-sinker rigs. Trolling at 1 to 1.5 mph can also be effective.

Anna Whiteley with a Stockton Lake Jack Salmon a little under the size limit, the fish was released without harm.

Last year on Stockton Lake, my grandson Hunter, granddaughter Anna and I, did exceptionally well catching walleye.  We used 1/8 ounce Roadrunners with gray shad bodies and hammered willow leaf silver blades.  My son, Daron, caught his walleye with a crappie spinnerbait.

Walleye are usually not going to hit your bait hard.  When they take it, you might just feel a hesitation or a little bump and think your bait just ran into something.  That hesitation or bump just might be a Missouri Jack Salmon and you better set the hook.

To learn more about Jack Salmon, I mean walleye fishing, in Missouri, go to the Missouri Department of Conservation web site and search for walleye.