During the pre-spawn, walleyes will swim up into the shallows near big dropoffs and even run upstream into the bends of rivers and feeder creeks if the opportunity is available to them. This is a great opportunity for bank anglers to get in on some walleye action, though the bite will be extremely light. Don’t wait to set the hook.
They’ll stay there up until the spawn begins — usually around the first week of April but it depends on water temperature — when they’ll move up toward the dams and start staging in middle-depth waters off rocky points in the main lake. Good spawning areas typically have rock or gravel bottoms and good exposure to sunlight. Structure such as riprap are an added bonus when looking for good spawning areas to target. Trolling small, shallow crankbaits or jigs at night can be an effective strategy for walleye during this time. Leeches or minnows on a slip bobber also can be deadly.
As summertime draws near, they’ll start heading down to colder, deeper water during the day and then coming back into shallow water overnight.
During the early spring, the Rocky Ford Fishing Area on the Big Blue River coming off Tuttle Creek in Manhattan can be a good spot to try depending on the outflow. Banner Creek near Holton typically has good-sized walleye, and the Wakarusa River coming off Clinton in Lawrence is another spot I’m hoping to test out this spring. Council Grove Lake’s population has done well in recent years, as well.
For those looking to stay closer to home, Perry Reservoir has a pretty decent walleye population that has been boosted thanks to the introduction of sauger and saugeye. Lake Shawnee has struggled with its walleye population, but there are solid fish to be had, as I found out last fall while cranking in the shallows. However, you’ll also have trout running the shallows at this time, which can complicate things.