Timing The Walleye Spawn

By Lance Valentine

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Every spring it happens…anglers get all excited about a quick warming trend, an early thaw, lakes and rivers opening early. But Mother Nature marches to her own rhythm in spring, and while “early” winters can speed up the walleye spawn a little, understanding ALL the factors that trigger the spawn will help you catch more fish each spring.


There are many factors that determine when the walleye spawn will start. The major factors include surface temperature, length of day, the food chain and baitfish, weather (both macro and micro patterns), water color and clarity, and other factors. It takes the RIGHT combination of all these factors to get the walleye spawn kicked off in earnest.

Surface temperature is probably the most often used factor by anglers to determine where walleye are in the spawning process. While it can be an indicator, it is NOT the only reason walleye spawn. In our area walleye will spawn from mid-March until early June, even on the same body of water. Walleye will spawn when surface temps range from 43-54 degrees or even higher, and all the walleye in a body of water do not spawn at the same time.

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Length of day is a major of factor in timing the walleye spawn. Length of day does not change with an early or late spring, so it can be recorded and predicted a lot easier than surface temperature. Walleye are very sensitive, especially around the spawn, to “light” and “dark” cycles.

Factors such as food chain development, bait fish and water color and clarity seem to have little effect on spawn timing, but we are always learning.

In summary, here are a few things to remember about timing the walleye spawn:

1) Photo period (length of day)

2) Temperature induces actual spawning behavior

3) Together they may be the most important proximate factors in controlling spawn timing

4) Not all walleye in the same body of water will spawn at the same time

For a deeper look at factors that control spawning time, watch our seminar “Timing the Walleye Spawn” presented by Ali Shakoor available as a Member or here

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