W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Samuel Forbes
High Water Blues?
By Samuel Forbes
Birds singing their melodious songs, flowers blossoming, and the sun's warm rays burning off the last of old man winter. Yes, spring time is here and making things beautiful once again. Well, almost everything that is. Your local river is equally affected by spring but it doesn't quite fall into the beautiful category. In fact, this time of year it is high, fast, and far from what most anglers consider to be favorable conditions. This keeps many would-be fishermen home, waiting for the day when the water recedes enough to make their favorite spot accessible once more.
Well, wait no longer because the time to fish is now and especially if you want to pursue my fish of choice, old marble eyes. Although the river may not be suitable for your normal tactics and holes, these high water conditions can actually be very rewarding and lead to some of the hottest action all year. Here are a few simple rules that will have you catching some nice walleyes in no time.
To start, focus on locating the fish. Your summer hang out will probably be in the middle of a raging torrent with logs floating by at 15 knots. Needless to say, you will need to find a new place to start. Try motoring slowly along the bank watching carefully for any signs of a current break. These can be found along sharp bends in the river, below points that jut out into the main channel, flooded rocks or trees, or just about anything that can divert the fast water. It takes a little practice, but by watching the surface of the water, you can usually tell when you come across one of these areas.
Now that you have found a suitable spot to try, the focus turns to presentation. Since the water temperature is generally cold this time of year, a slow, precise method is usually best. I often start out with a jig. It is a great lure, easy to use, and can be incredibly effective. Use one just heavy enough to maintain contact with the bottom. Any heavier can lead to strikes that aren't felt and any lighter won't get you down to where the fish are. Throw upstream and let it drift down into the hole. More times than not, your strike will come at the edge of the fast water as the walleye wait here for food to wash down to them. Vary colors according to water clarity. Since it is normally stained when high, experiment with highly visible colors like chartreuse and orange. If clear, go with a more natural color such as black or a shade of brown.
There are many types of jigs that can be affective. For the slowest presentations, you could try a hair jig such as maribou. The fine hair will move in the water even at a stand still giving the appearance of breathing. For a faster approach, put a curly tail grub on your jig. If fish seem inactive, try enticing them by putting a minnow or piece of worm on the jig.
Suspending crankbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk can also be ideal in this situation. Cast to the head of the hole, and bring it in with a series of sweeps and pauses. When stopped, a suspending crankbait will remain neutrally buoyant right in the face of your quarry and is often deadly. I have seen this work time and time again.
Something that really needs to be stressed here is caution. The river, in these flooded conditions, can be hazardous so use a little extra care. All travel in your boat should be at very slow speeds. You may be over an area that is normally dry ground and there could be obstructions anywhere. I always recommend the use of a good sonar unit and especially now.
You won't be able to see the bottom no matter how shallow, due to the muddy conditions. The sonar will allow you to monitor the depth at all times and avoid some potentially dangerous situations. Lowrance Electronics make an entire line of top quality depth finders that are both dependable and state of the art. You will not have to spend a lot as the X-28 can be purchased for as little as $160.
The key is adaptation. Look for the fish, slow down your presentation, and get ready. If you are persistent, you will catch walleyes and some really big ones. So don't get discouraged this spring, grab your tackle box and head for the river.
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