To get the most out of river fishing, you may find it helpful to learn some valuable tips that you may not have known as a beginner. Let’s have a look at different techniques and fishing tactics that have helped people to put more fish on their line when fishing on the river.
Tip #1: Seek out the Meeting Point of Two Streams
The meeting point of two streams has proven a powerful choice for fishing in the river because of how fish will often hide here as a way of resting, and some of the more predatory fish will look for prey that goes through both rivers. This area provides them with a good hiding place that allows them to ambush their prey. For some of the other fish, it gives them a rest from the current.
Tip #2: Weather Matters
You have to take the weather into consideration because of how the temperature and the overall weather will play a big role in the rising or the dropping of the water levels. When you have a dry year, the smaller creeks might even dry up in certain places, which can leave the fish trapped.
When the water floods out in the river, you will especially want to check with some of the backwaters because you will find many fish that like to hide in places like this. More than on lakes, weather can have a big impact on river fishing.
In my experience, fishing on rivers in the winter has proven especially valuable because of how a lot of fish get desperate during this time for food. The bites become even more. With that said, the fish also tend to slow down more during this time to conserve energy, and they won’t be as active. Slower movements in the winter season can make a big difference.
Tip #3: Look for Dropoff Points in Rivers
If you want to catch some more fish in the rivers, look for dropoff points or areas where the stream gets deeper. This especially becomes beneficial in rivers with a strong current because of how deeper dropoff points will provide the fish with an opportunity to get out of the current for a rest.
Not to mention, it makes it easier for them to hunt down fish that happen to pass by. They might even try to stop in the same area to rest, leaving them vulnerable to an attack.
Tip #4: Check for Underwater Obstacles
In a river, underwater obstacles become another opportunity for fish to escape the current. They might choose to hide near a point where a tree fell in the river because of how it gives them a place to hide and wait in ambush. For panfish, it gives them a place to hide and escape if needed. Seeking out these areas becomes one of the most powerful places to crank in a fish. You can’t go wrong looking for areas like this.
Tip #5: When is the Best Season
I’ve said that the winter can be productive, but I also like to fish on the river in the spring season. That is because of how the river tends to flood during this time because of the ice and snow melting, which causes the fish to become especially active coming out of the winter season.
Important to note, the flooding can make it difficult, but at the same time, you could also find it beneficial. From May to early June, I have it to be the best time to go fishing on the rivers. When the best season is will also depend on the type of fish that you might be targeting.
Tip #6: Location Matters
The advantage of a river is that you can cover miles on it that wouldn’t have been possible on a smaller lake. The location for fishing does make a difference. If you don’t seem to be catching much in one area, try to catch them in another place. You’d feel surprised at what a difference changing the location can make.
Tip #7: Don’t Need a Boat
Especially with river fishing, you have the advantage that you can follow the river. You don’t necessarily need a boat, but you could find it useful. Many times on the river, you can catch just as many fish as what you could otherwise. You can lower many of the disadvantages that you’d have on a lake without a boat on a river.
Important to note, if you plan to wade into the water, know the river that you will wade into. You should never enter water that you aren’t familiar with, and never go into water with too strong of a current because it can sweep you off your feet and drag you along without warning. They estimate that 320,000 people drown every year worldwide, which should show you the extent of the problem with drowning.
Tip #8: How Play to the Water Level Advantages
Where the water level sits will dictate where you should seek out fish. When you have fast, high and dirty water, you will want to look in areas away from the current where the fish will have the opportunity to rest. During this time, they might seek out the bait, which gives you the opportunity to catch them. They can ambush their prey without exerting too much of their energy.
Now, let’s talk about waters with low levels. When the water on the river gets low, you will want to concentrate your fishing efforts over into the deeper parts of the water because that is where the fish will lurk. In addition, the current will lessen, and the fish often prefer this part of the river for a rest.
Tip #9: Look for the Bends
Fish like the areas with less current in the river, especially when they go after food. Are you starting to see a pattern emerge here? Anywhere where you will have less current, you will have more fish here. Look for the areas where the river bends because of how the current will weaken in these parts.
Predatorial fish especially like to hide in areas like a bend because of how they can hide out at the bends and wait. You will find many fish hiding in these places like catfish, northern pike, bass, carp and many others.
Tip #10: Several locations to Check
You have several great locations that you will want to check for fish that include:
- Sunken structures
- Creek mouths
- Outside of bends
- Tails of holes
- Creek mouths
If you can’t seem to find fish in any of the other areas, you may want to check them out in a place like this because you will find it easier to catch them here.
Tip #11: Thermocline-Use It to Your Advantage
Many rivers have what you call a thermocline. The thermocline means that the water closer to the top of the river will have a warmer temperature, but the deeper you go, the lower the temperature. Lower water temperature will also have less oxygen in it, and because of this, a lot of fish prefer the water closer to the top.
Normally, a lot of fish will prefer to swim closer to the top because of how the water at the bottom will have less oxygen. When this happens, like humans, they prefer the area with more oxygen. Suspend your bait right above the thermocline and you will especially have an advantage catching the different fish.
Tip #12: Bigger Fish on the River
Let’s say that you have caught a bigger carp or catfish. The one thing that you have to understand with these types of fish is that bigger fish on the river will have a fishier flavor. While they make a good trophy, they don’t make as good of a meal as some of the smaller scavenger fish.
The reason for this is that both catfish and carp are scavengers, which means that they feed off the dead things in the river. The older they get, the more this flavor tends to stick around because they have fed off of more fish, insects and dead things like this. Also, the other thing to understand is how a more polluted river will have have a fishier flavor with the fish.
You should always remain mindful of the fish that you eat from polluted rivers because of how it will have a negative impact on your health.
Tip #13: Bring Along Some Food
Especially as a beginner, you may not have the experience to realize that having some food along can mean the difference between ending early and continuing to fish. You want to bring some food in the form of bologna sandwiches or some snacks like chips that you can munch on while on the river. You will find that you experience while fishing will be more enjoyable on the river.
Tip #14: Practice Good Environmental Awareness
We want to keep our rivers as clean and beautiful as possible. That means, don’t throw your trash in the river. Sometimes, you will see some of the less responsible fishermen who will drink a can of pop, and they will throw the can in the water after they finish. That makes the water less beautiful for everyone.
Sure, it might not have an impact if only one person does this, but when you have hundreds of thousands of fishermen who all throw their garbage in the river, it adds up to a lot of trash going into its waters. We have to take care of our rivers and protect them from people who would do them harm.
Tip #15: Exercise Caution with Scent
Especially river fish like catfish, they have a nose comparable to a bloodhound. That means that they can pick up on strange scents and will avoid the bait. Because of that, you may want to wash your hands with scentless soap to get rid of any unnatural scents that might turn the fish away.
You can also use this to your advantage, however. For example, you have certain scents that will attract them, and many baitshops have begun to sell baits with scents on them to attract certain types of fish.
Tip #16: Use the Colors Red and Pink
When the fish see the colors red and pink, it leads them believe that they have an injured fish on their hands, and they will attack it because of how they have an easy meal. You can use this type of lure to especially have a powerful effect and catch more fish this next trip to the river. Important to note, you want the bait to look as natural as possible.
Tip #17: Hold the Rod Upwards
In general, you want to keep the rod held upwards because of how this keeps the fish hooked at the end of your line. They don’t have as much wiggle room this way. When you only hold the rod downwards, this makes it easier for the fish to get some slack to allow it to escape. Keep the line tight, and they will have less opportunity to get away.
Tip #18: Look for the Mouth of a River
Any time that you fish near the mouth of a river or a stream or creek, you increase your chances that you will crank in a big fish. A lot of fish like to hang out near areas like this, and you will find it rife with fishing activity here. That’s because of how the mouth of a river will also have a lot of nutrients and things that fish can feed off of. The smaller fish will feed here, and this attracts some of the bigger fish to feed on the smaller fish.
Tip #19: Fish These Areas on the River
You will especially find some areas on the river as more fruitful than others. Some of the areas that I always recommend that beginners check out include:
- Lily pads
- Fallen trees
You will especially find a lot of fish in areas like this. One of the advantages of being on the river is that you can find many places where the trees have fallen into the water because of how a river covers more ground like this than on a lake. As a result, the fish will often flock to areas like this.
They flock to it because it offers them shade, and they come here because of how they can use it as a form of protection against predators. The more predatorial fish will hide here in the river because of how they can use it as an ambush point. They know that some of the other fish will come here.
Tip #20: Look for Boulders
When the river current hits a boulder, it will either move up, or it will move around the rock. This also has the advantage of making the water calmer for the fish, and as we know about the river, fish on the river often look for areas to escape from the current and rest. Some fish use areas like this as the opportunity to hunt other fish. Either way, boulders provide you with a chance to wait for other fish to come along and catch them.
Tip #21: Look for Eddies
Eddies on the river are areas where you have swirls on the water. This will usually be a calmer part of the river, and this slow moving area will usually be deep and have less current where the fish can stop to rest.
Beware: Usually these areas will be deep and difficult to see into. Don’t wade out into an eddie.
Tip #22: Bottom Bouncing
A popular fishing technique that has especially proven effective, you could bottom bounce a live bait off the river bottom. You could also use a soft plastic bait to achieve a similar effect, and this has especially proven effective on the rivers because it looks more realistic here.
Tip #23: Near the Current Edge
Along the current edge, you have a place where the fast current will come up against a slower moving current. Areas like this have especially proven effective for catching fish here. The other idea is to look for crosscurrent areas of the river. Look for areas that are somewhat murky.
Tip #24: How to Read a River
Around September, you will find how a lot of fish will move upstream. Walleye, rainbow trout and northern pike will all move upstream in the spring of the year for spawning, so you may want to check further upstream during this time for cranking in some fish.
Learning how to read a river means that you know what to look for. Some of the popular places to catch fish on the river include:
- Large rocks
- Fallen logs
- Obstacles that block the current
- Wing dams
Tip #25: Look for the Bubbles
Especially fish like walleye, they will go with the main part of the river where the bubbles are at. They follow this migratory pattern. Walleyes use this to gudide their migration upstream. Let’s say that you can’t find a walleye here for whatever reason. That doesn’t mean that one won’t come up through the bubbles later at some point. Just wait and see.
Here are 25 river fishing tips for beginners that will hopefully help you to catch more fish. While you don’t have to do anything particular when it comes to fishing, and some of it comes down to luck, understanding some of these tips could help you to crank in more fish on the river. You just have to understand how fish on the river differ from those on the lake because of how the surroundings and environment differs. If you liked this article, check out my article 101 Fishing Tips for Beginners.