Cold Fronts Affect a Walleye’s Competitive Advantage

May 1, 2013 11:59 am0 commentsViews: 337

Cold Fronts Affect Walleye Location

It’s May 1st and a cold front is passing through Minneapolis. How cold? 6-8 inches of snow cold according to predictions. Ugh! It’s been a slow cold Spring, and although metro lakes are mostly ice free due to a short 70+ degree warm up – water temps are still a lot lower than one would normally expect by way of the calendar.

Cold Front Walleye's Change Location

Cold Front Walleye’s Change Location

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Cold fronts are notorious for dampening fish activity, especially for the most sought after Minnesota target, the walleye.

This appears to be most true in clear lakes, more so than lakes with darker water, and even less true in rivers. This suggests that what may be happening may be as much a factor of fish seeking a different location in the lake based on their competitive advantage.

For walleyes, the competitive advantage is their ability to see (and catch) their prey easier in low light situations, that when the bait fish are less able to see them back.

After a cold front, bait fish see better – More sunlight penetrates the water once the haze is washed away from the rain that may have preceded the cold front.  More sunlight penetrates the water now that the cloudless clear blue sky’s that follow a cold front take hold.

This is less true in murkier waters and in river systems, which explains why the post cold front fall off is less pronounced in such waters.

Now if you are on your preplanned annual vacation, you can’t readily avoid cold fronts. So what do you do?

One solution is to fish alternate waters or rivers, but if that is not easy, you may want to try to fish deeper. Say 5-10 feet deeper where the walleye’s competitive advantage may reassert itself.

Or try the weeds. If the eyesight advantage is not working, the hungry walleye may well seek alternate strategies to find prey.  And the weeds are where they are likely to look.

Early and late hours are generally going to help reassert the walleye’s vision advantage as sunlight is dimmer, so if you are intent on fishing walleye in the post cold front period, these hours are probably your best bet, but then that is pretty much true most of the time anyway.

The one exception to that rule may be in the early season when walleye activity may actually peak late afternoon during the warmest part of the day.

Other advice frequently offered seems to be to use live bait, and to fish slow.  The post cold front walleye is even more likely to be on the bottom than normal, and your best tactic may be to put the bait down in front of his nose on a slip bobber and weight, with a short leader to keep the bait close to the bottom as well.

Many pro’s will also switch to a lighter line, say 4 pounds as well in post cold front situations.

The fishing will be tougher. And the key thing to understand is that the fish will be in a different place than they were before the cold front. So be prepared to abandon the hot spot that was working, and search for the new spot that may be.

Think in terms of the walleye’s competitive advantage, and know that they will be where they can get an easy meal if they are hungry at all.  The effects of a cold front seem to last about three days, and then things begin to return to the seasonal norm. So if all else fails, you can try to wait them out.

If you have any hints, suggestions, disagreements or other insights on how to fish for Walleye or any other fish in the post cold front situation, be sure to leave a comment.

I can’t promise to respond to all comments, but I do read them and appreciate them.


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