When Do Walleye Spawn: Angling Season Calendar

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.

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Walleye spawn in spring, typically between late March and early May, when water temperatures range from 42 to 50°F (5.5 to 10°C). Spawning occurs at night, with lunar phases potentially influencing peak activity. The exact timing depends on local conditions, such as water temperature, habitat, and weather patterns.

I’ve always been fascinated by the life cycle and habits of the fish I pursue. One species that has always piqued my interest is the walleye. Renowned for its delicious taste and elusive nature, the walleye has a unique spawning process that plays a significant role in its life cycle.

In this article, I’ll delve into the captivating world of walleye spawning, exploring the factors determining when and where these fish reproduce and how understanding this can improve your fishing experiences and contribute to the conservation of this remarkable species. So, let’s embark on this fascinating journey and uncover the mysteries of the walleye spawn.

Walleye Fishing Tips

Best Month to Catch Walleye

The best time of year to catch walleye varies depending on location and local conditions, but spring and fall are generally considered the most productive seasons for walleye fishing.

As walleye prepare for and engage in spawning in spring, they migrate to shallower waters, making them more accessible to anglers. Late March to early May is often an excellent time to target walleye, as they are more concentrated near spawning grounds during this period.

In the fall, walleye are more active due to cooling water temperatures and increased prey availability, stimulating their feeding behavior. This increased activity usually occurs from late September to early November, depending on the region. During this time, walleye can be found in deeper waters during the day and move closer to shore to feed during low-light conditions, such as dawn and dusk.

MonthWalleye BehaviorImpact on AnglersLikelihood of Catching Walleye
JanuaryWintering in deeper, colder watersChallenging to locate, but can be targeted with ice fishing⭐⭐
FebruaryWintering in deeper, colder watersChallenging to locate, but can be targeted with ice fishing⭐⭐
MarchBegin pre-spawn migration to shallower watersIncreased opportunities as walleye become more accessible⭐⭐⭐⭐
AprilSpawning season; concentrated near spawning groundsPrime time for targeting walleye in shallower waters⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
MayPost-spawn migration to deeper, colder summer habitatsGood opportunities as walleye recover and begin feeding⭐⭐⭐⭐
JuneSettling in summer habitats; feeding near structuresSteady fishing opportunities near underwater structures⭐⭐⭐
JulyFeeding in deeper waters during the day, near shore at nightBest to target during dawn and dusk or nighttime⭐⭐⭐
AugustFeeding in deeper waters during the day, near shore at nightBest to target during dawn and dusk or nighttime⭐⭐⭐
SeptemberBegin fall migration; increased feeding activityImproved opportunities as walleye become more active⭐⭐⭐⭐
OctoberFeeding heavily in preparation for winterSettling in summer habitats, feeding near structures⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
NovemberPrime time for targeting walleye during the fall feeding frenzyOpportunities decrease as walleye move to deeper waters⭐⭐⭐
DecemberWintering in deeper, colder watersChallenging to locate, but can be targeted with ice fishing⭐⭐

Walleye Migration Patterns

Walleye migration is a complex and fascinating phenomenon that plays a critical role in their life cycle, particularly during the spawning season.

To begin with, it’s essential to note that walleye migration patterns vary depending on the specific body of water and population. However, some general trends can be observed.

Pre-spawn Migration

In preparation for spawning, walleye migrate from their deeper, colder winter habitats to shallower waters with suitable spawning grounds. This pre-spawn migration usually occurs when the water temperatures rise, around late winter to early spring. Walleye move closer to shore, into tributaries, or towards underwater structures such as rocky shoals, gravel beds, or sandbars that provide ideal spawning conditions.

Spawning Migration

As the water temperatures warm, walleye begin their actual spawning migration. Males typically arrive at the spawning grounds first, followed by the larger females. Walleye prefer to spawn at night when there is less predation risk, and they often use the cover of darkness to move closer to their spawning sites. This migration can occur in large groups, or “runs,” making it an exciting time for anglers seeking to catch these elusive fish.

Post-spawn Migration

Once spawning is complete, the walleye gradually return to their deeper, colder summer habitats. Post-spawn migration occurs as water temperatures rise, usually between late spring and early summer. Adult walleye may venture into open water or near underwater structures, such as reefs or drop-offs, in search of food. On the other hand, juvenile walleye may remain in the shallows for some time before moving to deeper waters.

Fall Migration

As fall approaches and water temperatures drop, walleye once again begin their migration. This time, they move towards their wintering grounds, often returning to the same areas year after year. Walleye congregate in deeper waters, near underwater structures, or at the edges of current breaks, where they can easily ambush prey.

Understanding walleye migration patterns can significantly enhance your angling experiences and help you target these fish more effectively. However, it’s essential to remember that various factors can influence these patterns, including water temperature, habitat availability, and local weather conditions. So, staying informed about the specific walleye population you’re targeting is always a good idea to improve your chances of success.

Water Temperature Triggers

Water temperature is a primary factor determining when walleye begin their spawning process.

Generally, walleye start to spawn when water temperatures range from 42 to 50°F (5.5 to 10°C). This temperature range is optimal for walleye egg development and survival, ensuring the continuation of the species.

How Walleye Sense Temperature Changes

Walleye are equipped with specialized sensory organs called neuromasts, part of the lateral line system. These organs can detect minute changes in water temperature, pressure, and movement, allowing walleye to respond to their environment accordingly. As the water temperature rises in late winter to early spring, walleye sense these changes and initiate their pre-spawn migration towards suitable spawning grounds.

The Role of Temperature in Pre-spawn Migration

Water temperature not only acts as a cue for spawning but also plays a crucial role in the pre-spawn migration of walleye. As the ice begins to recede and water temperatures slowly increase, walleye start moving from their deeper winter habitats to shallower waters. This movement is initiated by the rising temperatures, as walleye seek out ideal conditions for spawning.

Local Variations in Temperature

It’s important to recognize that water temperature patterns may vary across different bodies of water and geographical locations. Factors such as water depth, local climate, and the presence of groundwater springs can influence the temperature in a specific area. As a result, walleye spawning may occur earlier or later in certain locations, depending on local temperature patterns.

walleye fish caught and held up

Lunar Phases Impact on Walleye

While the primary triggers for walleye spawning are water temperature and habitat conditions, evidence suggests that lunar phases can also play a role in determining the timing of their reproductive activities. Walleye typically spawn at night, and the increased light levels during a full moon may encourage them to be more active and spawn more readily.

Conversely, during a new moon, when the night is darker, walleye may be less active and, consequently, spawn less.

The potential influence of lunar phases on walleye spawning can also affect anglers targeting these elusive fish. Some anglers believe that fishing during a full moon can increase their chances of success, as walleye may be more active and more likely to be found in spawning areas.

However, this is not a universal rule, and local conditions, such as water temperature and habitat, remain the most critical factors in determining walleye spawning behavior.


Local conditions play a crucial role in walleye spawning patterns, and staying informed about the specific walleye population you’re targeting can help you make better predictions and enjoy more fruitful fishing adventures.

Make sure you have chosen appropriate walleye reels and fishing rods to improve your fishing success.