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Spring Walleyes In Rivers

By Bob Jensen - April 1, 2002
In many areas of the Midwest, rivers are the locations of some fast walleye action right now. In several Midwest states, walleye season isn't open yet in lakes, while walleyes in rivers are fair game. And, even if walleye season was open, the rivers would probably be a better bet for walleyes anyway.

One of the keys to catching river walleyes right now is the current. The walleyes will generally be in areas just at the edge of the current. They like a little current, but not too much this time of year. As the water gets a little warmer, the fish might be more tolerant of current, but right now concentrate on areas that provide relief from the fastest moving water.

It doesn't take much to break the current. Walleyes will move behind rocks, logs, into backwater areas, anything that slows the water flow might appeal to the fish.

Water clarity is another factor. Walleyes can find food in pretty dirty water: I've caught walleyes in water that had just a few inches of clarity. However, water that has a little more clarity is usually better, especially when the water is cold. It seems like if the fish are accustomed to feeding in dirty water they won't be as affected. If they are more accustomed to clearer water, then it gets very dirty, they need some time to adapt.

Jigs are usually the first choice for catching walleyes in rivers in the spring. Minnow-imitating baits will work very well at times, but day-in and day-out, a jig will do the job. My favorite presentation is a Fire-ball jig tipped with a two inch Power Grub and a minnow. I start without the stinger, but if a couple of fish are missed, that stinger is going to be snapped into place quickly.

A favored jig-plastic color combination is a jighead with some chartreuse and a tail that has lots of orange in it. The bright

"Jigs are usually the first choice for catching walleyes in rivers in the spring. Minnow-imitating baits will work very well at times, but day-in and day-out, a jig will do the job."
color of this combination is more visible, the wiggling tail sends out vibrations, and the minnow adds bulk and smell. When the bite is good, you can go without the minnow and catch just as many fish. In fact, many veteran anglers are using just a jig and plastic without the minnow more and more all the time.

Some anglers prefer to start out working an area quickly until the fish are found, then they slow down and really strain the spot. Others like to start off slow. Unless you are certain there are walleyes on the spot, it usually is better to keep moving until the fish let you know they are around.

Stable weather conditions will usually provide the best fishing, but don't wait for perfect weather to go. You probably won't get absolutely perfect weather, and you sure don't want to spend a spring day raking the yard when you could be fishing. Get out there now and find out how good the walleye fishing in rivers can be this time of year.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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