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LITTLE ROCK – When winter begins to wane, some Arkansas fishermen get ready. They know that walleye time is near.
You’ll get some arguments, of course, but many Arkansans regard walleye as the finest table fare of any fish found in the state. Walleye are found in many locations but not nearly to the extent of black bass, crappie, bream and catfish.
Some of the walleye waters include Greers Ferry Lake, Lake Ouachita, Lake Norfork, Bull Shoals Lake, Lake Hamilton, Lake Catherine, Spring River, Current River, Eleven Point River, Ouachita River and Saline River – the one in central Arkansas in the Benton area. Beaver Lake is coming on as a walleye fishery too.
Carl Perrin of Conway has retired as a fisheries biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and he worked three and a half decades with walleye, mostly on Greers Ferry Lake. Perrin often said the magic number for walleye is 47. That's the Fahrenheit temperature of the water that spurs walleyes into spawning activities.
Perrin and other AGFC fisheries biologists had annual projects to capture walleye during their spawning seasons and take the roe (eggs) to hatcheries along with milt (sperm) from males and produce young walleye for stocking in the wild to supplement reproduction in the wild in Arkansas waters.
That temperature of 47 degrees is an indicator for walleye fishermen, not something carved in stone. When waters begin to warm a little, walleye start to move up streams to get ready to spawn. Male walleyes begin this travel before the females, according to fisheries biologists.
Fishermen go after walleye with a variety of baits and lures, but most resemble minnows, a favorite food of walleye. Shallow-running stick baits are popular in either the one-piece or jointed models. Live minnows are used. Jig-heads combined with live minnows are worked by some successful walleye anglers. Bottom bouncers and worm harnesses are also effective.
Because walleye in late winter and early spring move into feeder streams, they are usually shallow. This means deep-running lures won't be as efficient as shallow working ones.
There is a caution needed when fishing for walleye. If you are used to catching bass and "lipping" them to bring them into the boat, don't try this with walleye. The walleye is a fish with a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth.
Arkansas holds the world record for walleye, a 22-pound, 11-ounce fish caught on Greers Ferry Lake in 1982 by Al Nelson of Quitman.
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