Southern Highland Reservoir Walleye

There is a good reason the In Fisherman pros mentioned July, August and September in their Southern Walleye piece below, last. They avoided the dog days of summer because they are as clueless as everyone else during this time of year.

Highland lakes in Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma are deep, crystal clear and tough to fish. Most of the year you can avoid getting skunked by fishing at night, but not when it is hot enough to fry bacon on the shoreline rocks. Because the fish, especially the walleye, all but disappear.

My guess is they go deep. And by deep, I mean all the way to the thermocline. Which can be one hundred foot down in some of these two hundred foot lakes. Have you ever tried to sink a jig over seventy foot?

At this time of year if you do manage to get your bait to the bottom at forty plus feet, about all you will catch is sun perch and an occasional Kentucky Bass. You won’t catch anything any shallower.

Another possibility is that they start suspending under balls of bait fish out in the middle of the lake — 30 or 40 foot down. Northern fishermen with their down riggers and Dippsy Divers might have a chance at them, but most people in the South wouldn’t know what to do with this stuff if they had it.

Even with all of that Northern walleye knowledge, I seriously doubt that anyone can catch these fish.

Maybe one day Al will come down here and prove me wrong.


(In Fisherman) Anglers accustomed to fishing prime northern or plains states waters in which walleyes are the dominant predator encounter culture shock when they hit the highlands. Walleyes here tend to be fewer in number then in traditional walleye waters, and they typically share habitat with much greater numbers of largemouths, smallmouths, spotted bass, panfish, and sometimes striped bass. The mostly clear water tends to enhance walleye’s feeding during nighttime hours, when most anglers don’t fish. The comparatively small number of walleyes feeding on roaming, suspended shad creates a challenging situation, especially because once you locate and catch a fish or two, you tend to spook the rest of them in clear water. Quite a difference from sitting on top of a big school of North Country ‘eyes and catching your limit from a single spot.

On a positive note, walleyes are present in catchable numbers in many mid-South waters, where they create a challenging but often mysterious fishery for local anglers, as well as an opportunity for vacationing walleye veterans to test new waters while their home lakes are locked in ice. With a little background, we can greatly reduce highland impoundments’ mysteries and enhance your chances of catching walleyes on them. With luck, you may even stick one of those real hawgs—fish in the teens, pushing up toward 20 pounds.

Primary Patterns After Spawning

Late spring and early summer (May-June) finds walleyes dispersing downstream into main lake habitat, and many areas have the potential to attract fish. Walleyes hold in a variety of spots; what they all have in common is that most of them aren’t too deep—often 10 feet or less. Shoreline structures and cover like flooded bushes, rooted weedgrowth, and standing timber hold walleyes on cloudy days and at night. On sunny, bright days, walleyes may drop down to 10 to 20 feet.

Walleyes feed surprisingly shallow at this time of year, generally on schools of shad that occasionally penetrate the shallows. Extended flats with cover and inside river and creek bends with flooded brush are prime fish attractors. Pay particular note to extended flats with cover, visible points, and areas where river channels sweep up against flats.

During May and June, night-fishing is the most overlooked producer of highland reservoir walleyes. Mid-sections of feeder creeks and main lake points usually produce the most walleyes. Trolling can produce fish, but casting crankbaits at night in the shallows is far more effective than any other method at this time. Once again, wood- and weedcover tend to concentrate fish.

Most anglers expect walleye fishing to be toughest during the heat of summer (July-September). Yet this may be the best time of year for consistent fishing. The summer thermocline creates a comfort zone for baitfish just above it, and that is where you’ll find most of the walleyes—just below the baitfish or slightly into the top of the thermocline layer, typically somewhere between 25 and 35 feet deep. Once you have found a productive depth, expect it to remain so on other structures throughout the reservoir…  Read Story

About BC

"That's baseball, and it's my game. Y' know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave 'em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. It's good for your lungs, gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops. Pretty girls, lots of 'em."
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One Response to Southern Highland Reservoir Walleye

  1. Rick Lakehomer says:

    Liking these outdoor articles, BC.  Nice change o’ pace. walleyes are one of my favorites though I do not get much chance to fish for them anymore. It is about Steelhead for me and big brown’s and Smallmouth. Heck, I like fishing for anything!

    Keep it up.

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