Trolling, trolling, trolling… Walleye!

Trolling, for those unfamiliar, is a type of fishing you do without casting. Drop the lure or bait over the side or back of the boat, let out line, and drive the boat, which then pulls the lures creating the look of baitfish. Though perhaps not the most exciting method of fishing, trolling works well when trying to locate fish on a large body of water. And Lake Erie is enormous. Considered by many to be the “Walleye Capital,” I have been watching Erie tackle stores like Poor Richard’s, post amazing catches on Facebook all summer. Besides walleye, trolling here may produce hits from white bass, drum, and the occasional steelhead too.

Recently, Mike Weigle, Outdoor Columnist for The Clarion News newspaper and Field Staff for Wired Outdoors, and three of his lucky friends chartered a fishing trip with Minnie Charters on a 27’ sportfishing boat. Hired for a half-day charter, Mike said after a 50-minute boat ride to about 90 feet depth, they “absolutely hammered the walleye,” catching their limit of six fish each.

Trolling may sound simple but it can take some trial and error to learn how to get the lure to the right depth and at the right speed. To gain some experience, consider going with a charter service. Charter boats not only have the experience to locate fish but can accomplish this with multiple fishing rods. They use a system of planer boards (a board attached to fishing line that pulls a direction on its side like a water kite to maintain a distance between lines), outriggers (long, high poles mounted to the boat to help spread lines apart), reels with line distance counters, and rubber bands.

Kind of like mowing. For miles. Along an interstate highway. Are you going to use a single push mower, or are you going to spread out a series of wide brush hogs?

On this day, the walleye were hitting both nightcrawlers and minnow shaped plugs, while trolling about 5 miles per hour. “A fish would hit and the first mate would pop the rubber band, walk the pole over everything to the back of the boat. Not one tangle.” However, when they really got into the fish, they could not keep all the poles in the water.

“Not much of a fight until near the boat,” Mike said, “but there was weight.” The smaller fish were at least 5 pounds; the larger, perhaps 10 pounds. “For one fish, I had to reel in 700 feet of line.” For comparison, a long cast may only be 150 feet.

As soon as I’m on (or near) water, I want to start casting. And there are times of the year and locations when I chase walleye from shore. However, when in Rome… or at least the Walleye Capital and you want to hook up with many large walleye, and return with a cooler of fillets on ice… I recommend hitting the water by boat and trolling the lake.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.