We’re going to switch up the pace today and talk a little about regular fishing, my second biggest passion. Where do you find river walleye? You can find river walleye almost anywhere that you might search for them. As an angler, you can choose to wade or you can fish from a boat. It depends on preference.
Don’t Make This Mistake as an Angler
A lot of walleye fishermen don’t believe that rivers hold much for walleye, so they don’t bother with fishing on them. In fact, you can sometimes find more walleye here because of how these rivers will often cover more surface area. This becomes prime real estate when it comes to fishing for walleye. Especially on a major river system, you have a lot of area that you can cover, and you have even more opportunities for catching fish. You increase the chance–not decrease them–that you will catch a trophy-worthy walleye.
Reading a River for Walleyes
Right around the end of September, walleye will usually migrate further upstream. Walleye, rainbow trout and northern pike all spawn in the early spring, and the rainbows and the walleyes will move up the river for this spawning. The key to catching them comes down to understanding their preferences in the water for habitat. A walleye’s spawning ground will need cover and an area to rest.
While the current can act as a friend or a foe, in general, walleyes aren’t strong swimmers. Because of that, they usually take the path of the least resistance. They will usually swim closer to the river bottom because the current is slower here.
What should you look for? You have a few areas where walleye like to hide. Some of the most common places include:
- Bridge abutments
- Wing dams
- Large rocks
- Fallen logs
- Areas that block the current
Closer to the bank, you will also see some coverage for walleyes where they like to hide. Undercut banks in particular have been known to provide them with excellent coverage.
Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Walleye also tend to like great depth because of how the deeper you go, the less the strength of the current. If you see a broken surface, it most likely means that you have cover for the fish.
Where the Walleyes Spawn in the River
Important to understand, walleyes don’t make their nests or a spawning bed. Instead, they will put their eggs over a rocky bottom with a moderate current. When fishing in an area, you want to look for an area that has a firm substrate.
Many times, these walleye will concentrate in these areas. While you can intercept them on their way to the spawning grounds, you will have more luck fishing in this area. Important to note, check your local laws and regulations about spawning grounds because some species like the bass will have their spawning grounds protected during this time. It depends on the state.
Great Area to Catch Walleye
One of the best places where you can catch walleye is near dam locations. They love to concentrate in these areas because the current won’t act as strongly in these places. Understanding how the dams work, they will occasionally have a fish ladder.
While you will find that rainbow trout will ascend this when they find it, walleye, on the other hand, will rarely ascend the fish ladder. Because of that, you can generally expect to find them downstream of the dam. Usually, they will try to go upstream, but they will give up and spawn further downstream instead.
Fishing under Bubbles
When you can’t find the walleye through any other method, you might decide to search for them through looking for the bubbles. The bubbles will normally concentrate themselves and go with the main part of the river. This current gets used by the walleye as a way of guiding their migration upstream, and this is a good place to fish for them. Even if you can’t find the walleye right away, one might come passing through this route.
No Secrets Barred
Fishing for walleye on the river doesn’t hide much for mystery on where to look. Look for a deep pool or changes in the river bottom’s soil. For example, where the river changes from gravel to sand or mud, you increase the chances that you will find walleye and even other fish.
In addition, you might look at river bends. These are areas where the river current eats into the bank. The current will be less strong in these areas, and it offers an opportunity for the walleye to sit back and relax. They don’t have to fight with the current as much. Walleye love to hang out in these transition zones.
Look for Islands
You want to seek out islands when seeking out walleye because deeper water tends to form in these areas. Because of that, they will prove a perfect hiding ground for walleye because they like the areas where the river doesn’t have as strong of a current. Walleye aren’t strong swimmers in river currents, which means that they prefer the calmer waters.
Deep water has also been known to form next to the island. For that reason, you should also be careful if you decide to get out of the boat and explore the island because of how the water can be deep.
You can fish along the sides of sandbars as another one of the areas where you might catch some walleye. That’s because these areas tend to be 2 meters deeper than the rest of the river. For that reason, a lot of fishermen like to fish in these areas because they often hide some fish in them.
In some cases, the sand bars will shift, which is why you have to be careful of this when you have a boat. It may not show up.
What Season is Best for River Walleye
In general, autumn will give you the greatest opportunity for fishing in the rivers. That’s because the pools will be easier to locate during this time because a lot of the weeds start to die during this time. In addition, the dropping water levels will make it much easier for you to know where to find river walleye.
Check the holes during the fall season because this especially becomes the time where they will start to plan for the winter.
What Baits Should You Use to Find Them?
You may be familiar with some of the baits and lures that you use on the lakes for catching walleye. In general, the rule for what works on the lakes will work just as good on the rivers. If you don’t think something is working, try another type of lure for them.
Some of the things used to catch river walleyes include:
- Soft plastics
What you should use will depend on the type of river you fish. If you will be fishing a smaller river, then you will want to use a smaller walleye fishing lure because of how the walleye tend to be smaller.
In some of the clearer running waters, you will want to use a lure that is darker or has a more natural color. Black and silver crankbaits tend to find the walleyes more easily on the clear running waters.
With muddier water, you want to use lures that have a brighter color because they will stick out more. For example, use a pink, orange or yellow. In especially muddy waters, you will most likely have no choice but to use a brighter lure.
Most Productive Season for Walleye Fishing
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the best time to fish for walleye will be during the spring season. Right after the ice has begun to melt, the walleye will start to move, and they like the shallower waters during this time.
Search for deep pockets, gravel and rocks which have all become favorite spawning points for them. In general, don’t go for the fast and open bottoms. Avoid muddy riverbeds and areas with heavy weeds as you won’t like find river walleye in these areas.
Look at the Water Level
Especially when you first go fishing for walleye at the start of the year, you should pay close attention to the water level on the river. That’s because you will always have an ideal level of water where the fish want to sit in for feeding.
If the water starts to rise, you will want to begin your search in the shallower water. That’s because the walleye will often hide here as a way of getting away from the current.
When you have low water levels, you will want to look for the river walleye in the middle of the river because it will be deeper.
How to Target Walleye in Deeper Water
You have a few things that you can do when you want to target walleye in the deeper water. For example, you might do a vertical jigging with live bait or plastics. Some professional fishermen like Bill Shimota has found how a three-way jig will often give you a high level of success.
Trolling for river walleye has become one of the best ways that you can crank in the big one because a lot of the time, it just depends on how long you have your reel in the water. When trolling for walleye, lower your speed. In a fast-flowing river, you don’t necessarily have to troll too fast to catch a walleye. You might also bounce the bait off the river bottom in the hopes that you will catch the attention of a nearby predator. Remember: Just because you can’t see the fish doesn’t mean that they aren’t down there.