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Spring Walleye Fishing on the River
By : Ross Grothe
If you have the urge to get out and do some walleye fishing, don’t overlook
the fishing on rivers in your local areas.
As the temperatures rise and a thaw starts to develop the walleye and
sauger action starts to heat up just below the dams. On many weekends
you will find a number of anglers jigging and drifting the area just below
many dams on the Mississippi. The system is relatively easy and requires
little movement on your part. (Probably a good idea as the air temperature
is just 35 degrees and the wind off the water feels like it is 0)
Rivers are everywhere, and most of them have a good population of fish.
Most anglers live close to a river, therefore it's easy to get onto
a good bite when the urge strikes you. In fact, some rivers that
border states have no closed season on a variety of species. This
enables the angler to get out and do some fishing even during the cold
Fish can be located below a lock and dam on the Mississippi or Ohio
river. Off the tip of a big sand bar on the Missouri or Minnesota
or off a log jam on the Des Monies River in Iowa. Or they might be
in a bridge hole on the Red River of the North.
Other spots may be structure like gravel or sand bars, shallow rocky
shoals near drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches,
or bottle necks between two different land masses. Rip-rap is also
good, particularly where current hits the rock, such as on a windy point
with deep water access, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtering
through a rock causeway.
Feeder streams funnelling into a river represent yet other spots which
fisherman should check out. The mouths of these tributaries often
turn into fishing gold mines, especially after a heavy rain washes fresh
food and fresh water into the river.
Depending on the force of the current and the water clarity, fish may
be as shallow as a couple feet deep, or in the bottom of a washout hole,
or river channel 15 to 20 feet deep. If the current is stronger
than normal, the fish probably are hunkered in a slackwater area.
All anglers must learn that "current" sets the rules for location and presentation
when fishing rivers.
When anglers learn this simple rule they can explore the tailout
area behind a sand bar or a depression in a long stretch of river channel.
Or they may find fish behind a "break or barrier" like a point or wing
dam, or a log or group of rocks,. A group of fish could be
scattered on a big bar (flat) on the slack-water side of the river (the
side opposite an outside river bend where the channel runs against the
What I have just describe to you are "breaks and barriers".
A "break" is anything that will slow down or divert the current.
Fish will be located behind such structure as rocks, wingdams, logs
and stumps. A "barrier" is anything that will stop a fish from moving
on, such as, holes or depressions in the floor of the river, a dam,
or a break water structure for harbors, or the narrowing of the river
into a channel. When fish are on the move concentrate on these structures.
Fish will usually lay in ambush waiting for food to swim by. Usually
fish (and large ones) will be in the warmer water less than 12 feet deep,
chasing bait fish.
When looking for those bait fish, I recommend using a good electronic
350 A unit . The
350 A unit will allow you to see the difference in the hard and soft transition
areas. Since river fish rarely suspend, the resolution on this unit
allows you to locate and see fish that are tight to the bottom.
Vertical jigging is very popular, and the key to fishing
a jig vertically in current, is boat control. Work these areas
over with a controlled drift. The control comes from positioning
your boat sideways into the current and using your trolling motors or a
"drift sock" to slow down your drift and your presentation.
The method that most anglers are using is jigging. I prefer
to use a
Fireball jig in about 3/4 ounce( maybe lighter if you fish the river a
lot ) and I like to tip it with a fathead minnow. The reason I like
the Fireball is that it has a short shank and the hook is easily covered
by the head of the fathead. The additional eye hook allows me to
attach a stinger hook to catch those walleyes that are biting short.
Another structural element that I key on, are the wingdams. In
most of the pools on the Mississippi there are several wingdams either
near the tailwater area or down river from the dam. When fishing
a wingdam, I concentrate on the up current side of each wingdam or the
flats between them. An angler should look for the boil line
(disturbed water on the surface) that signifies the presence of a wingdam
and check out the scour hole behind the wingdam to see if it is large enough
to hold inactive fish. Wingdams hold fish all year long
but I like to fish them in the spring and the summer.
Fish are unusually spooky along wingdams and noisy gas engines will
spook the fish. I prefer to use quieter electric motors, like
my bow mount
The key element here is presentation, to keep the bait in front of the
fish. Point the bow into the current and "slip" down at about
current speed. Keep baits in the strike zone longer by sweeping the
baits across the structure allowing the bait to fall at a slow rate to
naturally present the bait to the fish. It is essential, to slow
down your drift with the electric motor as you go over the structure and
watch your depth finder for "breaks and barriers". You might
have to run your big motor or a kicker motor in reverse to slow the presentation
down even more if the current is increased. If the fish are shallow,
you might want to anchor and use your bow mount motor to swing your bait
and change your position on the face of the wingdam.
Therefore, when you are in search of walleyes this spring look for
breaklines and barriers and you will be more successful at catching a boat
load of walleyes.
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