Walleyes in Small Rivers

March 7, 2016 by  

It appears that spring is attempting to make an early return this year. All across walleye country, anglers are getting in and on the water in search of ‘eye action. The small rivers that are so abundant across the Midwest get a lot of attention at this time of year. Here are some ideas that might help you catch more walleyes in those rivers in the next few weeks.

Warming weather is usually best, cloudy overcast days that are warm are my favorite. The sun feels good, but walleyes like it cloudy. However, if the sun is going to shine, go early or late in the day.

Walleye River Fishing

It was a warm, overcast day when river expert Loren Waalkens caught this nice walleye.

Fish slow. When the water is cold, fish of all species usually prefer a slower moving bait. If you can keep a sixteenth ounce jig and minnow near the bottom, that’s a good bet. If it’s a rocky bottom, swim the jig just above the rocks. If you’re not getting snagged every now and then, you’re probably working the jig too fast. On sand bottoms, crawl the jig and give it frequent stops. When the jig stops, the minnow will continue to move, and that is often what it takes to get a walleye to bite. Fire-ball jigs are as good as it gets when you’re using minnows.

Also try swimming the jig with a piece of plastic, something like an Impulse Swim’n Grub. You’ll cover more water, get snagged less, and at times the walleyes will prefer this presentation. Use a tail that contrasts in color with the jig head.

Cold, dirty water can make fishing tough. At times, especially in the spring, cold dirty water is a reality. Find the warmest, clearest water you can if the river you’re fishing is cold and dirty.

In stained water Rattlin’ Hornets do a good job. The rattles make the bait easier for the fish to find. You’ll want to keep your bait very close to the bottom. That’s why the Rattlin’ Hornet works well in stained water. It makes noise as it contacts the bottom.

Wading anglers can do very well this time of year. Walleyes will be very shallow at times.  Sometimes, in some rivers, you won’t be able to get to them with a boat because they’re so shallow. If wading is the best approach, it pays to be very quiet. Get into a casting position, then work the area thoroughly before moving. Quiet wading anglers catch more fish than noisy wading anglers.

One other way to catch’em:tTry a slip-bobber with a jig and minnow. Set the bobber stop so your jig is just a few inches off the bottom. This will take some experimenting, and you’ll still get hung up every now and then because a river bottom isn’t a consistent depth. However, this presentation will enable you to work an area slowly with your bait right in the fish zone much of the time. Give slip bobbers a try when the fish are lethargic.

The way the weather forecast looks, we could have an extended and earlier season for walleyes in small rivers. Make sure that the state you’re fishing in allows for walleye fishing this time of year. If it does, take advantage of it.

To see all the most recent episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, new fishing related video tips, and fishing articles from the past, visit fishingthemidwest.com. If you do Facebook, check us out for a variety of fishing related things.


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