April WalleyeBy Mike Mladenik - April 1, 2007
Walleyes will start to move below the dams in late fall and early winter. By early March, water levels are low and current is minimal below most of the dams. With days becoming longer and warmer, fishing can be good by mid-March. Several years back, I managed to catch several nice walleye fishing from shore below a few of the dams even though the weather did not cooperate. I had to choose my days since we did have a few heavy snowfalls during this period.
It looked like I had things under control until the bottom dropped. We experienced a warming trend and temperatures approaching 70 degrees. The fish were biting and even getting ready to spawn. However, with the warm temperatures and frost still in the ground the snow melt had no place to run, but in the river and did the river rise. I have lived in this area for 25 years and have never seen the river this high. The feed back I received form others is that the river was probably at its highest point since the dams were built.
Shore fishing is overlooked by many anglers in the early spring. In fact, in the cold water of spring, a shore angler will often out fish the angler in a boat. Once the water levels began to rise, fishing from shore is the only safe way to fish. However, with the high water, I experienced conditions I never faced before. By adapting to these conditions I was able to catch fish and learn as well.
Keep in mind that the walleye had already come close to spawning and were in a positive mood prior to the high water. Once the water began to rise they did not head back to deep holes in the river, but instead moved tight to the shorelines avoiding the current in hoping to complete spawning. As the walleye moved to shallow water, they became fair game for the shore anglers. The bulk of the fish were stacked up in the first slack water areas downstream from the dams. These areas would have been impossible to fish let alone navigate to with the high water.
Although it was a good hike to where I located the walleyes minimal tackle was needed. My tackle box consisted of an assortment of jigs ranging in size for 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounce, some Aberdeen hooks and split shot and a few three-inch twister tails. I did have to bring along a small minnow bucket and some fatheads and golden shiners. In the spring I rely on both types of minnows. As far as a rod goes when shore fishing I like a seven foot medium action rod to maximize my casting. My favorite is a Lamiglas XMG 50 EXS 703. I spool my reels with 8 pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft.
Under a normal year, the best time to try shore angling for walleye is from early March through late April. Once walleye have completes spawning, they will move and you will fare much better by fishing from a boat. By mid April, almost all of my fishing on the river is from my boat but on occasion I will still cast a few jigs from shore.