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Day Dream Walleyes
By Sam Anderson
Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River I learned at a very early age that most of the fish that live in current seek out slack water areas and current breaks. They like to be in these areas because it provides a food source for them. All they simply have to do is wait for the food to pass by and select the food they desire. Come to think of it, this is a pretty easy life.
A river's course marks myriad changes in direction and flow; shallow stretches, mid depth runs, bends, holes, and other distinctive structural features interrupt and deflect the flow, creating hiding holding places for all fish, from the tinniest minnow to the greatest predator. Among these characteristics, holes typically rank as the foremost fish attractors, especially in the spring, when holes become increasingly important as collectors of migrating walleyes.
Holes typically form at outside river bends or tributary intersections,
though they can occur almost anywhere water is constricted and gouges out
the bottom. Most have current, yet in portions, current is greatly
reduced or negligible. At the very least, the leading upriver edge
of the hole forms a current deflecting lip below which walleyes lie, anticipating
prey tumbling into the hole.
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 logjam on the Des Moines River in Iowa. They might be in a bridge hole on the Red River of the North or they can be on an outside bend of the Little Muddy in North Dakota or the Tippecanoe in Indiana.
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 funneling into a river represent yet other spots which fishermen 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, 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 slack water area, All anglers must learn that "current" sets the rules for location and presentation when fishing rivers.
Therefore, river walleyes tend to be right on the bottom or behind a submerged log out of the current. These river walleyes grow long and lean in the current areas and they try to stay out of current to preserve energy. When anglers learn this simple rule they can explore the tailout area behind a sand bar or in 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 bank.
What I have just described 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, wing dams, 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
Two main differences between jigs and blades and spoons are: blades and spoons typically are worked with a more aggressive hop and fall motion. Use as much as 24 inch upward sweep of the road tip to rocket them upward, then follow them back down on a semi taunt line to detect strikes on the fall. Blades wobble best on the upward surge, spoons better on the downward flutter. And in rivers, spoons and blades typically offer fewer casting applications than jigs, their treble hooks are prone to snag when cast. Shoreline structures spout abundant rocks and wood, and even the bottoms of holes collect bits of wood that grab trebles. Stick to vertical jigging with spoons and blades in most current conditions.
Another structural element that I key on, are the wing dams. In
most the Mississippi there are several wing dams either near the tail water
area or down river from the dam, When fishing a wing dam, I concentrate
on the up current side of each wing dam or the flats between them.
An angler should look for the boil line (disturbed water on the surface)
that signifies the presence of a wing dam and check out the scour hole
behind the wing dam to see if it is large enough to hold inactive fish.
Wing darns hold fish all year long but I like to fish them in the spring
and the summer.
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