Although there is still plenty of ice-fishing going on, some anglers throughout the Midwest are already enjoying open water fishing. They’re on rivers, and they’re fishing for walleyes. Walleyes will eat a bait year ‘round. While they will get more aggressive later in the year as the water temperatures rise, right now can be a good time to get in on the action. The walleyes are willing to bite, they can be found in good numbers in certain areas, and it’s always fun to get the boat in the water for the first open water fishing trip of the year. Here’s how you can get in on the action.
First you need to find a place to go. That’s not difficult in most areas of the Midwest. Major rivers like the Mississippi, Missouri, Fox, Wolf, and Illinois rivers are great places to find walleye and sauger action, but there are miles and miles of smaller rivers that can provide action also. Ask around and do a little homework and you’ll find a place close to where you live that can provide walleye or sauger action.
Bait presentation will be pretty simple. You can use three-way rigs or blade-baits or jigging spoons if you want, but you really only need jigs, and you really only need one style of jig. In the spring, you can’t beat a Fire-Ball jig. Early in the year when water temps are still pretty chilly, a jig and minnow combination is tough to beat, and many walleye anglers will agree that there is no jig better with minnows than a Fire-Ball. It has a short-shank hook that allows an angler to hook the minnow in the mouth and out the back of its head so the minnow’s mouth is right against the jig head. This makes the bait look smaller, which is an advantage in cold water, and also increases hooking percentages.
Fire-Ball jigs also have a quick attach-detach stinger hook system. If you’re getting short strikes, a stinger hook will put fish in the boat. A stinger hook is a treble hook that is attached to the jig with a short piece of wire or monofilament. The stinger is hooked into the minnow a little behind the dorsal fin. When a walleye hits short, it gets the stinger. Tie the jig to six pound test Trilene XT or Sensation.
Try different areas. Some folks like to be right up by the dam, and, some days they’ll do very well.
However, there will be lots of fish downstream from the dam a couple of miles, and there will probably be fewer anglers.
Perhaps the most important consideration is current. Work the areas at the edge of the current very carefully. Walleyes will tuck into areas out of the current whenever they can.
If you’re anxious to get the boat in the water, walleye fishing on rivers provides the best opportunity right now. Make this the year you find out for yourself how productive rivers can be for walleyes in early spring.