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Walleyes Far From the Madding Crowd
By John Campbell

 Winter walleye fishing is just now starting to get into it's prime.  This is the time of the year that river walleyes start moving up to staging areas below the dams on the Mississippi and they are in open water.  The walleyes like this area because of the "hole" below the dam is a resting place and a feeding area.  This area is high in oxygen and fish migrate to this area to rest before starting the spawning cycle.
 In fact, many anglers have already started fishing the Mississippi.  The Mississippi River from Prescott, Wisconsin down remains open year-round, and has a large population of both saugers and walleyes.
 The trouble is that many anglers have the same idea that you do.  It is a good warm spring day why not take a trip to the river and see if you can catch a few walleyes for supper.  When you arrive at the landing you might be surprised to see hundreds of boat trailers parked, and when you venture to the dam you know just where they were headed.  You know that the most sensitive of all of these fish are the fish that are related to structure.  The fish that were located off the rock piles or the tips of the wing dams are being hammered.  Where can a person fish who wants to catch fish?  Where aren't the boats?  I begin looking further downstream from the madding crowd.  Walleyes can be very spooky fish and you have to fish them where there is not a lot of fishing pressure.  In fact, I might go downstream as far as two or three miles before I start looking for fish.
 When I first get on a heavily fished body of water, I'll start running the river and looking for things that aren't obvious to all anglers.  For example the things like bottom changes.  You might run a straight shoreline break and see where it changes from sand into rock or mud into hard bottom.  You may even discover a rock pile that doesn't show up on a map.
 A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their lives.  Therefore, the walleyes in the rivers have adapted to be in areas that offer current breaks so they don’t have to fight the current all of the time.  These current breaks are anything that diverts the current and allows slack water.  The slack water areas are found below the dams where an eddy is formed by the water being drawn over the dam and rushing downstream causing a slack water area on each side of the dam.  Other obstructions that cause slack water might be below wingdams, behind rocks, a depression in the floor of the river, a stump or fallen tree, or man made obstacles such as bridge abutments.
 Look for breaks in the current.  They may be behind islands, points, and below bars in mid channel.  In strong current, walleyes group tight to structure.  In softer current or low water periods, they often scatter, and hold on edges of barriers or current breaks.
 Other spots may be structure like gravel or sandbars, shallow rocky shoals near drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottlenecks between two different land masses.  Riprap 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 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 slack water area.  All anglers must learn that "current" sets the rules for location and presentation when fishing rivers.
 I will ask local tackle and bait storeowners where most of the walleyes are located.  I want to concentrate on the most active bunch and they may be located up by the dam or right on the lip of the wash out hole down river from the dam.  I eliminate a lot of searching by asking questions concerning the migration of the walleyes.  
 Once I have found the fish I will fish them with a vertical presentation.  The jig of choice here is at least a 1/4 oz. maybe even 3/4 oz. depending on the current.  The important fact to remember is that I want the presentation to be as straight up and down, vertically as possible.  If the jig is too light it will float off the bottom and I need to make contact with the bottom at all times.  If the line that I select is too heavy the line will get a large bow in it and make my vertical presentation useless.  

Lindy little Joe Fuzzy Grubs one of my personal choices
Lindy's Fuzzy Grubs
I will probably go with the heaviest Fuzz-E-Grub jig to allow me to make contact with the bottom and 8 lb. Original Stren line to prevent the bowing in the line.
Flooded timber can be good at times.  Try flipping a Fuzz-E-Grub jig tipped with a minnow into cover.  Use your bowmount electric trolling motor to fish flooded timber. 
MinnKota Maxxum 101 bow mount trolling moto4r
Minnkota 101
I prefer the Minnkota Max 101, because it is quiet and usually in stained water you can stand right over the top of the fish without spooking them.  
 When the particular structure is shallow don't hesitate to use the slip bobber method.  Attach a one-eighth ounce Fuzz-E- Grub and a minnow to your slip bobber rig and allow the waves and wind to do the vertical jigging for you.  If those walleyes are biting short, attach a Lindy stinger hook to your jig. Finding the walleyes far from the madding crowd is the key, and refining your presentation will allow you to catch you limit of fish, while all the others up by the dam are playing bumper boats
 Remember these tips and I hope to see you on the water this spring.  If not drop me a line at www.walleye.info

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