WV Wildlife: Walleye Fishing

The cooler months are a great time to fish for walleye. You typically want something on your line that mimics a smaller fish--like a paddle tail swimbait--and allow it to sink towards the bottom. (WCHS/WVAH) 

They are big, powerful and beautiful fish.

And they call some of our rivers--right here in West Virginia--home.

Walleyes may make you think of the Great Lakes, but our region has its own native strain--which has been around for millions of years!

Recently, we tagged along with WVDNR fisheries biologist--and lifelong walleye angler--Mark Scott, to see some of these cool-water fish close up in their native habitat. Scott knows Walleye!

On an unseasonably warm and sunny November Day, we ventured out on to the mighty New River--near Sandstone--to try to find a few with our fishing poles.

After fishing for smaller fish—mostly brook trout—I thought it was time to go after some fish with more size, and Walleye definitely fall into that category!

And this time of the year is a good time for it!

"Winter, all through early spring, is a key time if you want to walleye fish”, explained Scott. “It's a valid fishery. We have people that actually come and target walleye on the Greenbrier, the New and the Kanawha--Kanawha falls is an excellent spot".

Scott, and other WVDNR fisheries biologists, have been stocking native walleye fingerlings into our waters also--to make sure that they can continue to call it home here.

It’s also important to make sure there’s a healthy amount of minnows and shad in our waters, too—the walleye’s main food source.

"Walleye are piscivorous, which means they eat fish”, said Scott.

This fact also makes it known what the best lure, or bait, is to try to reel one in.

“So, whatever you're throwing, you want something that's going to imitate a fish, or shad or something of that effect", said Scott.

We decided to use paddle tail swimbaits--and slowly reel them in after allowing them to sink down towards the bottom a good bit.

Scott, who grew up walleye fishing with his dad in this area, says that these fish--due to their larger eyes--tend to become more active on overcast days. Thankfully for us, the clouds started to roll in out ahead of a front!

And that's when our luck started to change.

In a short amount of time, we brought in about 4 walleye—a few of which were over 20 inches!

It was my first time ever catching one—and it was a lot of fun!

"It's a unique strain--it's just found here in West Virginia, Virginia and possibly some of Kentucky”, said Scott.

If you catch a walleye, just use some caution around their mouth—they have some sharp teeth!

And don’t forget about those special rules and regulations, either.

"If you're going to fish for walleye in West Virginia--make sure you read your regs. If you don't understand them, call your local DNR office. Most instances it's a slot limit, 20-30 inches, but there are some variations in spots. Here at Sandstone, it's catch and release for walleye", said Scott.

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