Sand Lake walleye are the most aggressively sought after game fish in the lake for two reasons: their rapid growth and good size structure. Nature made the walleye an aggressive and successful predator. In fact, they continue to grow throughout their entire lifetime. A walleye works constantly to stay out of the sunlight, inhabit water in the 70 to 75 degree range and EAT! Sand Lake is a great walleye fishery for many reasons. Its natural vegetation provides cover for the walleye (and the plentiful supply of bait fish required by walleye) and its underwater structure and sand-gravel bottom offer ideal conditions for habitation and spawning.
Once a walleye reaches a length of about 10 inches it feeds on minnows, night crawlers or leeches. Since these are all part of the natural offering of the lake and walleye are accustomed to feeding on them they make for the best baits.
I prefer to fish for walleye using a 1/8 to 1/4 ounce multi-colored jig tipped with a shiner or a chub. The jig achieves two objectives. First, its shape and coloration garner attention and enhance the bait’s natural attractiveness to walleye. Secondly, the weight of the jig holds the bait at the desired depth yet allows the bait to move naturally. Choosing the appropriate weight of jig is important and can often be confusing. However, there are a few general rules to follow when deciding on the jig to use. In water less than 10 feet deep a 1/8 ounce jig works fine. If weather conditions are windy or if you are having trouble maintaining contact with the bottom use a ¼ ounce jig. Use a 1/4 ounce jig in water 10 to 25 feet and upgrade to a 1/2 ounce jig for water over 25 feet deep.
Maintaining contact with the bottom is the key to catching walleye! Experiment with different lifts and bait drags to improve your catch potential. The best jigging presentation in deep water is to lower the jig about two to three feet at a time until you hit bottom. Once you’ve found the bottom begin jigging by raising the tip of your pole using a “popping” motion. As you pop the jig upwards raise your pole tip to take the slack out of your line. Most of the time walleye will grab your bait on the fall. If you allow slack in the line you will not feel the initial tug and may jerk your bait out of the walleye’s mouth as you pop the jig again. Let the jig rest on the bottom for about three seconds before jigging again.
When using the jigging method hook the minnow through the top of the mouth, taking care to hook the lip or upper mouth, avoiding the actual head. This allows the minnow to swim freely. Walleye often will mouth the bait, turning it and playing with it before swallowing it. Watch closely for light taps on your rod or float and be prepared to set the hook when you feel them. However, practice patience until there is a definite tug.
In my opinion, the jig and minnow is tough to beat for great walleye fishing from opener thru October. However, another good method for catching walleye is a leech or night crawler on a spinner rig. Spinner rigs are effective because they attract walleye through sight, sound and smell. The flash of a spinner whirling in the water and the dirt and sediment kicked up by the walking sinker will always grab a fish’s attention. The resulting vibration and sound are attractive to walleye and the night crawler or leech is your ace in the hole.
When setting up a spinner rig attach the sucker end of a leech or one end of a crawler on the first hook. Attach the other end of the bait to the second hook. Test your rig in the water before dropping it down to fish. The spinner rig should run straight and your leech should not roll up into a ball. After you have your trolling speed set add your split shot about 18” to 24” in front of your hook. This should keep your bait about 6 inches off of the bottom. It seems to me that on bright, sunny days with clear water a silver spinner works best. In darker water or on cloudy days a gold or fluorescent spinner seems to work best. As far as the beads go just mix colors until you find a mix that works well for you.
The great thing about Sand Lake is that you can catch just as many fish between 9am and 5pm as you can early or late. However, if you are fishing early morning you should be able to find walleye between weed beds where they’ve been feeding all night and deeper water. By shortly after sun-up they’ll be in deeper water, which is closer to their preferred water temperature.
If finding walleye in the weeds is tough, move to a rock-pile or ledge in 10 to 15 feet of water. I suggest you troll or, depending on weather conditions, drift so you can cover more area than still fishing. If you hit a fish, be sure to go back through the same area again. Walleye are a schooling fish so chances are if you hit one you will hit another. Walleye will usually be around structure and in the shade. This will hold true throughout the day and into evening until just before dusk.
If you are evening fishing don’t pack it in too soon. Fish for walleye on the edge of large weed beds, where they will be coming to feed at dark. Just as they were leaving the weed beds in the morning they will be returning at night. If possible fish until absolute dark. Walleye will usually start to feed at dusk in clear water and will continue to do so until full dark when the action will stop. Walleye’s eyes take up to an hour or more to become accustomed to the dark. This change usually occurs at the last light of day or full dark – at which point they will be able to see again and will start night feeding. Many anglers stop fishing after the initial evening feeding action slows or stops and by doing so miss out on a lot of good fishing.