Every angler knows that dirty water can create tough fishing, but why?

What is it that happens under the waves to make fishing so tough?

Captain Lance breaks down what happens, how walleye react and why dirty water usually makes for a long day on the water and follows up with short course, 8 Adjustments for Dirty Water


By: Captain Lance Valentine

Spend enough time on the water and you will have to catch fish I dirty water. Dirty water, especially if it is high and/or cold, can be one of the toughest conditions you can be faced with. So, what it is that makes dirty water so challenging? Here are a few details and reasons that catching fish in dirty water is so tough.

1) Dirty Water is harder to see in: Even with the anatomy of walleye eyes, dirty water makes it tough for walleye, and other gamefish, to see well. Walleye have great eyesight and highly developed senses of smell, vibration and hearing but the final trigger for them to feed or bite, is being able to see their prey.

2) Strike Windows are smaller: with limited sight, anglers must get their lures closer to fish for walleye to see and strike them. Presentation, especially depth control, needs to be precise with strike windows sometimes only being a few feet in depth and anything out of that window will NOT catch fish


3) Open Water Schools Break Up: Walleye in open water depend on good visibility to see and chase open water schools of bait and to work as a group to herd minnows. Without the ability to see very far, open water schools get smaller and feeding will sometimes stop until the water clears enough to spot baitfish easily.

4) Location becomes more critical: Being where the fish are is always critical, but dirty water creates smaller pods of fish that are less likely to randomly roam. Walleye tend to find a comfortable spot and just stay put.

5) Less food for baitfish: Because dirty water lessens sunlight penetration, insect life and plankton become less active and available for baitfish to feed on. Bait fish will act the same as game fish and slow their activity. With baitfish not moving, feeding becomes tougher for walleye.

6) Bite Windows are usually short: Bite windows are the special periods of time that walleyes are active. Dirty water shortens and concentrates bite windows, meaning anglers better be in the right place at the right time to have a chance to catch some fish

7) Lure choice needs to be right: All the challenges that dirty water presents for walleye make lure choice critical for anglers. Finding lures with the right sound, size, shape, scent and action profile becomes tougher. Productive lure colors and contrast patterns are harder to find so changing often can be important.


Fishing in dirty water can still be productive but understanding how dirty water affects the behavior of bait and game fish can help you catch more the next time you are faced with dirty water. Keep these factors in mind, find a good spot, make good presentation choices and dirty water does not need to mean bad fishing!


  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Walleyes Vision
  • 3. Strike Windows
  • 4. Open Water Walleye
  • 5. Location
  • 6. Bait Fish Factors
  • 7. Bite Windows
  • 8. Lure Choice
  • 9. Final Thoughts