W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Sam Anderson
Watching water levels for fish location
By Sam Anderson
As the water levels dropped over night I knew that many of the walleyes would be in the necked down area just south of the big lake. Whenever the water level drops walleyes rush out of the backwaters areas and head to the main river for safety and for feeding purposes.
As I pulled my Champion boat into position at the head of the narrows I noticed that there were quite a few fish on my depthfinder. I quickly flipped out a Fuzzy Grub tipped with a minnow and as it settled on the bottom I felt that familiar pick-up as the walleye inhaled my offering. It wasn't long and I hoisted a nice 22 inch walleye in the boat to prove that this was the place to be in to catch walleyes during low water.
Spring is one of the best times to consistently catch walleyes. Distinct patterns are much easier to set because the lake has settled and the fish are schooled and making predictable movements. The water temperatures of spring increase the walleye's metabolism and those fish are feeding more often and more intensely. This is the growing season for walleyes and all species of fish. They're more active and more aggressive. There will usually be a number of patterns that might work during the spring period, some at the same time. However, you might find only one, maybe two, big-fish patterns.
Early in the year, they're up shallow, then they go out to the deep water and get on the humps in the 20-foot or deeper range. When fishing these humps I rely on my depthfinder to tell me if anyone is home. I usually like to look for a good shelf that comes out from an island that has boulders on it. This is the structure that many walleye key in on to rest and ambush their prey as they slide back and forth from the hump to deep water. These are transition areas where the fish come to feed. These humps provide a structure for baitfish that have moved out into deep water as schools, and are looking for a place to rest. Naturally, what attracts the baitfish also attracts the walleye. The other thing that my depthfinder unit allows me to see is how active these fish are. Many times you can go over the hump and you will see that the walleyes are moving up to the top portion of the hump, this signifies that they are in a positive mood and within minutes you should be landing a nice plump walleye in your boat.
A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their lives. 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 on each side an eddy is formed by the water being drawn over the dam and rushing downstream. 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 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. When I am on the water I tend to look for funneled down areas, because it is a great place to look for walleyes as they pass through in search of food. Necked down areas, saddles between island and land, narrows, and even break lines are great places to begin looking for active walleyes.
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 this spring, they often scatter, and hold on edges of barriers or current breaks. This spring we probably will not get our spring run off and that will make the walleyes easier to find and locate, because the current breaks will not be flooded or receive a lot of current so fish will be located on them.
Other spots may be structure like gravel or sandbars, shallow rocky shoals near drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom beaches, or bottlenecks between two different land masses. Riprap is also good, particularly where current hits the rock; such as on a windy point with deep-water access, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtering through a rock causeway. Feeder streams funneling into a river represent yet other spots which fisherman should check out. The mouths of these tributaries often turn into fishing gold mines, especially after a heavy rain washes fresh food and fresh water into the river.
Depending on the force of the current and the water clarity, fish may be as shallow as a couple feet deep, or in the bottom of a washout hole, or river channel 15 to 20 feet deep. If the current is stronger than normal, the fish probably are hunkered in a slack water area. All anglers must learn that "current" sets the rules for location and presentation when fishing rivers.
This year with low water conditions reports of good catches have been
numerous. Get out on the water and join the rest of the avid anglers
taking part in all the fun! If you want more information about
rivers, lakes, streams, or reservoirs contact me at
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