It’s mid October in the Pacific Northwest. The run of migratory salmon have all but moved into area rivers. It’s a bit early for steelhead and the lakes have yet to fully turn over for larger cutthroat trout to move shallow into Lake Washington.
The report is that the walleye fishing in the Potholes Reservoir is on fire! We load up the car and kayak trailer with tackle, camping gear and enough food to last us three days. An early 6am departure gets us ahead of Seattle rush hour traffic and on the water at 9am.
Walleye are predatory fish that will move into shallower waters to feed in the fall before they spawn. They can be found hiding in rocky shoals and drop offs where it’s easy to ambush their prey. Trolling in a kayak can be an effective way to cover a large area. This type of fishing is ideal using a “hands free” Hobie Mirage Drive. A walleye’s bite can be soft, yet quick; sometimes resulting in missing the fish if you have to set down your paddle to grab your rod from a rod holder.
The key is keeping your presentation on the bottom and trolling at a slow speed. A one to two ounce bottom walker weight with a worm harness spinner set up provided us with the best results. You’ll want your leader to be about 24 inches of 10 to 12lb monofilament. Walleye spinner rigs are available in tackle shops pre-tied or you can tie your own. Mack’s 1.5” chartreuse sparkle smile blades and glow beads help your presentation to stand out in the murky water. A size 6 Mustad “Slow Death” Hook with a piece of night crawler worm threaded up the hook shank allows the hook to spin with the presentation.
The weather is damp and cold. Thick fog hugs the surface of the water allowing for visibility only twenty feet in front of us. My fishing partner and I paddle parallel along the long stretch of the rocky dam. I work the rocky shallows of 7 to 10 feet of water, while he paddles ahead dragging the 15 to 20 foot ledge. I lose sight of my fishing buddy. I can hear the hoots and hollers in the distance of other boaters landing their fish but I still can’t see them. My fish finder displayed the rather chunky bottom of boulders. The bottom walker weight slowly dragged just enough to keep my leader from getting snagged.
It’s not long before I feel a quick tap… tap … tap and a jerk of the rod. Not the walleye I was looking for but a fat yellow perch measuring 12 inches. Ten minutes later a strong bite and bend to the rod. My bass spinning rod is bent under the side of the kayak. I could see spiny rays flared as I fought the walleye to the surface. The scoop of the net and I’ve landed a beautiful 20 inch walleye. This would continue throughout the day. My buddy and I were tossing back the minimum sized 15 inch “keepers” with the goal of catching a few larger fish. The odd smallmouth bass that grabbed our spinners caught us off guard. A few drag pulling runs at the surface and acrobatic jumps. Our two largest smallmouth bass landed were 22 and 23 inches with adequate girth.
We fished until dark. Each of us returning with a stringer full of fish to be cleaned. Nearly all of the fish were males. We had one 19 inch female in the bunch. Females tend to be on the larger size. We talked to a tournament walleye fisherman at the cleaning station, he showed us a couple of photos of 30 inch females that he had caught and released that evening. Many of his fish came trolling B3 Blade Baits and Rapala Shad Raps along the sandy bottom drop offs and away from the rocky bottom. Yet, another way to target walleye.
We returned to our rustic cabin along the water – exhausted from a full day of fishing. We’d sacrifice few walleye fillets that night for dinner. The rest to be vacuum sealed, dated and stored in the freezer to be enjoyed at a later date.
Plan Your Trip
Where to stay:
8198 Washington 262
Othello, WA 99344
*Off season cabins with two beds, heater, microwave and spigot water. Shower and bathroom facilities on site. $110/2 nights. You bring your own bedding and cooking stove. Picnic Table and Grill also available. Mardon also has RV hook-ups and fancier lodging. Their store has a plethora of tackle, worms and snack foods.
6762 Hwy 262
Othello, WA 99344
*Off season cabins with single and bunk beds, heater and outdoor spigot water. Shower and bathroom facilities on site. $54/night.