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Open Water Walleyes In the Winter
By Sam Anderson
Winds blowing out of the north at 15 to 20 miles per hour. Chances
snow 40% today, increasing to 80% tonight with a 4 to 6 inch accumulation
possible. Monday, a warming trend and a thaw, temperature to soar
to about 35 degrees by Tuesday with slow to moderate rise by Wednesday.
Does this sound familiar? Do you want to know what is hot at this
time of year? Winter walleyes below the river dams on the Mississippi
or heading south are the answers to your forecast as well as your questions.
This is the time of the year that winter river walleyes are in their
prime. The walleyes have all moved up to the staging areas right
below the dams on the Mississippi and they are in open water. The
walleyes like this area because 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. This "hole" below
the dam is not just for resting, but also is a major feeding area for those
walleyes that have migrated to this area. Their body metabolism is
slow, but they still have to eat. Therefore, they simply watch the
offerings float by them or be carried downstream via current.
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, like
winter, they often scatter, and hold on edges of barriers or current breaks.
With this in mind anglers should stop and think where are the edges on
this body of water.
For example, walleyes in cold water will probably be where there is
a warmer temperature. That might mean the northern part of the lake
or where a feedcreek dumps into the river. Then, what other structures
are present to make up the edge? Is there a barrier from current
or wind? Is the bottom sandy, muddy, rocky etc.? A river walleye unlike
lake walleyes has to fight current all of it’s life. 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 causes 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.
The key to locating walleyes in the river in the fall and early winter
starts with locating a series of obstacles and then allowing your bait
or lure to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from
behind the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into
the slack water area to digest his meal and await another. To slow down
your lure presentation use a little jig tipped with a minnow. But
don't get stuck in a slow pattern. Utilize extremes. Rip the
jig back to the boat on one retrieve, and then work the jig slow,
bouncing it along the bottom on the next retrieve. My favorite
this situation is a 1/4 ounce
Fuzzy Grub jig tipped with a minnow. I prefer the Fuzzy Grub because
it is round and I can easily attach a stinger hook to the minnow and up
my chances of catching a finicky
walleye. When in doubt if you have contact with the bottom, increase
the size of your jig and minnow. You might get hung up more, but
you might also have a wallhanger on your hands. Winter has its icy grip
on the Upper Midwest. Most of us have our boats on our trailers and if
"cabin fever" has set in all we need to do is pull it out of the garage
hook it up and we can be heading south for
some great walleye fishing. How far south, you might ask? Well
if you could draw a imaginary line through Little Rock, Nashville and Atlanta
you could pretty much define the southern limit of the walleye range.
But is seems that those lakes lying closest to that boundary are the ones
that produce the biggest
fish. Many fishermen heading south will probably fish deep water for
and that can be a big mistake. Most of the walleyes in these
southern lakes are shallow. Any short, hard bottom point may hold
walleyes on a given day. But reservoirs or lakes have hundreds of
short, hard bottom points. You are better off passing up the short
points and stopping when you find a long point with several kinds of fish
attracting features. A good point might have a stair step ledge on
one side, scattered rock on top and a shale bed lining the other side.
The point’s shallow inside turn may be soft bottomed, while the deeper
outside turn might break off into another smaller, hard bottom point.
Such an area is almost certain to hold walleyes. The same principle applies
to sunken islands; many points, stair step ledges, and a variety of bottom
conditions are generally better than a smooth, gradually breaking sand
hump. I might also mention that an already good island is made all
the better by the presence of a saddle. This saddle is a dip between two
higher spots of land. If this saddle
area is connected to a prospective point all the better, because it
is a fish magnet. Don’t forget to check out some other productive areas
such as roadbeds, riprap, creek channels, stump fields, or isolated rock
piles, bars and
rockslides. One type of structure that is over looked by many anglers
structure. Oh sure there is the buoy and maybe a swimming platform
that fish are attracted to, but more specifically there are mud lines.
Mud lines can be formed when the wind comes up on those warm days or they
may be formed as another stream or river flows into an existing one. The
confluence of the two rivers meeting will also form a mud line.All mud
lines are not created equal at least in terms of angling potential.
An angler should look for secondary structure contained in the mud line
such as vegetation, boulders, and submerged brush. This secondary
will hold baitfish and eventually the larger fish will follow
the mud line until it provides food or an advantageous ambush point.
Mud lines are a great structure to fish in because the angler can fish
them quickly. If you fish an area and you don't have a fish within
10 to 15 minutes move on to another location. My father, who loved
to troll, would work over a mud line and if nothing was active he would
be on to another spot. Lure selection in the form of crankbaits should
appeal to the fish senses. They should be big lures that displace
water and give off vibration, or rattle and they should be flashy with
bright metallic finishes. A great choice here would be the Storm
Thunderstick. It has all the ingredients for fishing mud lines, color,
flash and vibration. If you are looking for trophy walleye fishing then
Greers Ferry in
Arkansas is the place to be. Early in the winter concentrate
your fishing at the mouth of feeder creeks, especially in the early evening
hours. Troll your
#7 and #9 Shad Raps parallel to the deltas formed by
these creeks. There are literally dozens of healthy walleye fisheries
in the large
flood-control and hydro-electrical lakes of the South. Such lakes
Cumberland Lake in Kentucky; Stockton, Truman and Lake of the Ozarks
Missouri; Greers Ferry, Bull Shoals and Norfork in Arkansas. Friday
a Winter Storm Watch will be in effect. Blizzard conditions will
make travel extremely dangerous. Travelers are advised to use extreme
caution. What is it going to be? Heading south for those walleyes
or, open water walleyes, you can make the decision, but the important thing
is don’t give up, there is still a lot of hot action.Where ever you decide
to go this winter let me know how you are doing by contacting me on the
web at www.samanderson.com..
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