Early River Walleyes

March 29, 2011 by  

By Bob Jensen

Across the Midwest, March and April mean one thing to most walleye anglers: Rivers! In some states, walleye season doesn’t open until early to mid-May. If you want to go fishing for walleyes, you need to go to a border river where walleye season is continuous.

river walleyesIn other regions, the lakes are still ice-bound. Walleye season is open, but if you want to fish in open water, you need to go to a river.

So, it’s pretty clear: If you want to go fishing for walleyes in open water across much of walleye country this time of year, you’re going to have to go to a river. The good thing is that there are lots of rivers criss-crossing the Midwest, and many of them have good to great populations of walleyes(and sauger). Here’s how you can get in on the action.

A really important thing to remember whenever you’re fishing rivers is to consider the current. Current affects where the fish will be. In cold water they will often be in the slack water out of the current a bit. Look for still water below current breaks. Sometimes you’ll find the walleyes right at the edge of the current, other times they’ll be tucked back in a little farther. Try the different current areas and let the fish show you which current area they’re preferring.

Jigs are the go-to presentation for most early season walleye-chasers. And, more and more, those early season walleye chasers are adding soft bait to their jigs. They’re starting with something like a Gulp! Alive three inch Minnow and seeing if the fish will eat it. Often times they will. The Gulp! Alive three inch minnow on a Slurp! Jig has become a favorite for many walleye folks.

Sometimes the walleyes will want a slower presentation. That’s when a stand-up Fire-Ball jig with a three inch fathead minnow will be best. You’ll want to give the jig plenty of stops as you use a dragging retrieve to tempt the less aggressive fish. This technique works best over a sand bottom.

If you’re fishing over a real rocky bottom, try swimming a three inch Power Grub on a Thumper Jig over the rocks, especially if the water has some color in it. The blade on the Thumper helps the fish find the bait in stained water.

Remember that river walleyes will be reluctant to chase baits in this cold water. When the water warms a bit they’ll be more aggressive, but right now you’ve got to make sure your bait is near the bottom and not moving too fast.

In stained water you’ll want a brighter color usually, and in clear water more subtle colors will usually be better. That’s a starting point. Always be willing to try different colors. Sometimes the walleyes will switch color preferences from day to day and from hour to hour. If they’re not responding to what you’re doing, do something else.

It’s great to get back on the water this time of year, and if you’ll keep these ideas in mind, your walleye fishing will be even better.

To see all the newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, visit fishingthemidwest.com


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