Throughout the Walleye Belt, early spring is prime time to faucet a few of the yr’s finest bites. Courtesy of the annual spawning migration, massive numbers of walleyes roll into predictable locations, providing anglers a wide range of alternatives to get pleasure from high-quality fishing from the Prespawn by way of Postspawn durations.

Many walleyes spawn alongside main-lake shorelines, however rivers entice greater than their share of fish. Hallowed waters embrace legendary Nice Lakes tributaries just like the Detroit and Maumee, however rivers massive and small present probabilities to hitch the sport just about coast to coast.

Motor Metropolis Insanity

Waves of spawn-run walleyes flood the Detroit River from Lake Erie, boosting the river’s inhabitants and providing a few of the planet’s finest alternatives at boating behemoths topping 10 kilos. Veteran Detroit River Information Jon Bondy says the motion sometimes heats up in April, however varies in accordance with situations. “It relies upon when the ice leaves the river,” he says. “It is superb. Inside three days of ice-out, you’ve gotten a very good shot at a restrict of fish.

“In a typical yr I begin guiding the previous couple of days of March for early prespawn river walleye, and by someday between April 8 and 12, most of them are spawned out,” he provides. “In a median spring, the final week of March and first 10 days of April provide your finest likelihood at a large. However the numbers of walleyes maintain rising within the second to 3rd week of April, and the crowds construct as anglers from across the state and the area hit the river.

“One destructive factor to be careful for is muddy water,” he says. “Not from spring rains, like many individuals assume, however from sturdy north to northeast winds stirring up Lake St. Clair upstream.” Bondy advises touring anglers headed for Detroit to observe wind situations two to a few days previous to their journey. “A south wind means you are golden,” he says.

“No wind is nice, too. However if in case you have sustained 30 mph winds out of the north 48 hours earlier than you propose to fish, reschedule. The entire river goes to be turbid.” On the plus facet, Bondy says soiled water does not final lengthy. “The river flushes out in 20 hours,” he says. “Suspended sediments are shortly changed with blue water from Lake Huron.”

Though the walleye migration hits the decrease river first, Bondy goals for the midsection. “Fish are available in a day or two earlier downriver, however the center part has fewer snags,” he says.

From the early days of the run by way of the second to 3rd week of Might, he says few displays equal a correctly introduced jig. “I’ve tried numerous various things and jigging is tough to beat,” he says. His weapon of alternative is a 1/2- to three/4-ounce ballhead jig tipped with a 3½-inch paddletail softbait reminiscent of a Bondy Worm, although baits reminiscent of 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Alive! Ripple Shads and Northland Fishing Deal with Impulse Paddle Shads have produced massive catches in spring tournaments on the river. “I add a stinger hook after threading the softbait on,” he says. “And till the water temperature hits 45°F, I at all times add an emerald shiner. After that, simply plastic is okay.”

Bondy favors a spinning outfit spooled with 6-pound braid mainline with a 14-inch chief of 6- to 8-pound fluorocarbon, to scale back line twist and restrict line misplaced to snags. “The chief sometimes breaks first, so you do not lose numerous braid if you hold up,” he says.


He drifts downstream on the pace of the present, hopping the jig alongside backside immediately under the boat, being cautious to not let the jig relaxation on backside. “When a jig drags, it trails behind the boat and also you lose vertical contact, which prices you fish,” he says. “As quickly because it lands, hop the jig up 12 to 18 inches.”

Conversely, the autumn is gradual. “They chunk on the drop, reasonably than suck jigs off backside” he says. “Let the jig pull the rod tip down because it falls, by no means permitting a bow in your line. An prolonged drop offers them extra time to eat the jig.”

Whereas many river walleye anglers give attention to deep water in the primary channel, Bondy plies the sides. “Extra massive prespawn fish migrate in 8 to fifteen ft than out within the delivery lanes, so I often fish shallower than everybody else,” he says.

As Might wanes, incidental catches climb. “Smallmouth bass, white bass, and sheepshead make it powerful to get a very good bunch of walleyes on jigs,” he says. Crawler harnesses additionally come into play, as does casting.

It is laborious to speak early season on the Detroit with out mentioning handlining. “It has been round since earlier than the Melancholy,” Bondy says. “However you see only a few younger handliners as we speak. Most are senior residents.”

An efficient technique of presenting lures reminiscent of floating minnowbaits at exact depths, even in sturdy currents, handlining sometimes depends on a spring-loaded reel, bolted to the boat, crammed with sturdy wire line. Lures are connected to monofilament leaders tethered to a strong or versatile wire shank on the finish of the wire mainline, and a 1- to 2-pound lead weight anchors the rig.

“Handlining is finest in soiled water,” he says. “It isn’t as efficient in clear situations, so it is primarily relegated to early season and night-fishing in the course of the summer time.”

The Mississippi Scene

Veteran Information Marty Hahn would not miss Pool 4 of the Mississippi River in spring for something. Colleges of walleyes and saugers congregate in a 3-mile part under the Crimson Wing dam, providing winter-weary walleye anglers their first style of open-water paradise.

“A bunch of fish come up within the fall, in what I imagine is the beginning of the run,” Hahn begins. “As we get into March, we sometimes see water temps from 36°F to 38°F, low flows, and clear water, with visibility as much as 8 ft. Though folks fish deeper, it isn’t unusual to seek out walleyes in 8- to 14-foot holes.”


When river walleyes play hard-to-catch in these situations, particularly on sunny days, he makes use of a splitshot rig. “A 3-inch lip-hooked fathead on a #2 Aberdeen will get them when nothing else does,” he says. “Drift with the present, permitting the sinker to faucet backside. When a fish bites, comply with it again with the rod, then set the hook. There’s often no must fish with an open bail and feed them line.”

He additionally slips downstream with a 1/4- or 5/16-ounce, oval-shaped leadhead like a Hutch’s Jig tipped with a 2½- to 3¾-inch plastic. “This prespawn sample is very efficient on saugers in main-river holes in depths from 18 to 25 ft,” he says. His high tipping is Hutch’s fluke-style Sauger Slayer, however once more, choices abound. “Ringworms work nicely, too,” he says. “No matter you want, fish it.”

Energetic jigging is out. “Transfer the jig and you will not get bit,” he says. “Faucet backside and lift it 6 to 12 inches, then maintain it as immobile as doable. The clearer the water, the upper fish transfer as much as hit the jig.”

As water temperatures heat into the 40s and runoff from snowmelt reduces visibility to a foot or two, Hahn runs a traditional Dubuque Rig in present seams under the information of wing dams and factors, or in slower stretches of the primary present. His typical setup consists of a three-way swivel with a 1/2- to five/8-ounce jig on a 12- to 16-inch dropper, with a 4- to 6-inch soft-plastic ringworm on a 2/0 Aberdeen hook trailing 4 to five ft behind. “Each dropper and lead are 12-pound Berkley Trilene XL,” he notes. “Troll upriver at speeds of .5 to .6 mph, tapping backside each 4 or 5 seconds, then holding the dropper jig an inch or two above it.”

Hahn says he just lately switched from 6½-foot, medium-power rods to a brand new 5-foot 10-inch medium-light energy, fast-action mannequin (LCS510MLF) from Restrict Creek Rods for pulling Dubuque rigs. “The shorter rod is lighter, so it is simpler to carry all day lengthy, however has sufficient spine to deal with heavy droppers,” he says. “It is my go-to for vertically fishing plastics as nicely.”

Dubuque rigs put massive numbers of fish within the boat, but when trophies are your aim, he suggests pitching oval- or roundhead jigs tipped with plastic. “Pitching plastics to present seams in 3 to fifteen ft of water is the way in which to go for giant prespawn females,” he says. “Match jig weight to the state of affairs. Jigs should be heavy sufficient to contact backside on the drop, but mild sufficient to bounce downstream with the stream.”

Casting angles hinge on backside composition. “Forged upstream on sand,” he says. “Forged perpendicular to seams over rocks otherwise you snag. Both approach, when the jig touches down, maintain the rod tip excessive, then elevate the jig barely so it sweeps downstream. “Watch your line,” he says. “And do not impart an excessive amount of motion. Let the present do the work.”

When the spawn kicks in, he appears to be like for the primary postspawn fish on fundamental channel edges and again channels downriver. “A wide range of displays come into play from right here on out,” he says. “Trolling jointed Rapala Shad Raps and Berkley Flicker Shads is sizzling. Or pitch jigs, pull Dubuque rigs—you title it.”


Missouri Breaks

In-Fisherman pal John Cooper has fished coldwater walleyes within the mighty Missouri River since 1973. “It is nonetheless one in every of my favourite issues to do,” he says. “Tailwaters under dams provide alternatives from January to April.”

Within the early prespawn, as water temps hover round 38°F, he appears to be like for candy spots tucked between fundamental present and backwater areas. “Behind wing partitions is sweet, however the most effective place is a flat simply off the primary present on an inside flip,” he says. “Most individuals goal 18 to twenty ft of water, however there are days fish slide onto 5- to 8-foot sandflats near deeper water.”

Cooper favors a jig and minnow fished with a gradual hand. “Strike home windows are small and the fish aren’t shifting a lot,” he says. “Use your trolling motor to level the bow upriver whereas slowly drifting downstream. Forged into slower water and let the present carry the jig down till it is under you within the seam. Do not raise, jerk, or jig. Use the rod to tug the jig slowly upriver a couple of foot, let it fall again, flip the reel three to 4 instances, and repeat.”

Cooper says the fall-back part is important. “In clear water, you possibly can watch walleyes shadow the jig because it strikes upstream, stopping when it stops, shifting when it strikes, by no means closing the hole,” he says. “Letting the present carry the jig again to the fish is vital to creating it chunk.”

He spools a 6½- to 7-foot medium-power spinning outfit with a light-weight braid, tipped with a 4- to 5-foot, 4-pound mono chief. Eighth-ounce jigs are customary. “If it is windy, you may bump as much as a quarter-ounce, however no heavier,” he says. “I like a normal roundhead in shades of chartreuse, orange, and pink.” He threads a soft-plastic physique onto the shank, then provides a 1½- to 3-inch minnow, hooked upward by way of the chin so the purpose emerges between the eyes, with out killing it. The place water depth or readability permits, he additionally drags the jig on a longline downstream behind the boat whereas drifting with the present.

Simply earlier than the spawn, with water temps working 45°F to 47°F levels, Cooper accelerates his presentation. “Extra fish enterprise shallower, and you’ll transfer the jig somewhat quicker when casting into 10- to 12-foot depths,” he says.

In the course of the spawn, river walleyes transfer even shallower and the fishing will get powerful. “You hit a wall till postspawn males transfer again out to the seams we fished first and turn out to be aggressive,” he says. “The identical jig-and-minnow combo is lethal, though just a few anglers drag 3-foot Lindy-style rigs with a 3/4-ounce strolling sinker or small backside bouncer and a minnow. This can be a nice solution to fish for individuals who aren’t snug with jigs.”

Hail, Columbia

Few fisheries produce walleyes in sizes equal to these within the Columbia River, and prespawn is a high time to take a trophy. Many giants are landed from mid- to late January into February, however fishery biologist and avid angler Paul Hoffarth says early March holds potential as nicely.

On February 28, 2014, native river rat John Grubenhoff landed a 20.32-pound monster that shattered the Washington state report, and it stays the benchmark as we speak although Hoffarth says challengers floor every season.


Grubenhoff was fishing the McNary Pool part of Lake Wallula, situated between the McNary and Priest Rapids dams on the confluence of the Snake River. “It is a transition space the place the free-flowing Columbia meets Wallula,” he explains. Assured the river’s walleyes stage adjoining to spawning areas, Grubenhoff focused a breakline and present edge a brief forged from a rocky, windswept shoreline. “It was the proper situation,” he says. Certainly, he landed a 14-pounder minutes earlier than hooking the report.

A fan of beefy minnowbaits, Grubenhoff was pulling a 5¼-inch, silver-and-black J13 Jointed Rapala when the massive fish struck. The lure trailed 6 ft behind a 2-ounce bottom-walking sinker in 22 ft of water, as he trolled upstream alongside the break at .8 mph. He was utilizing 17-pound-test monofilament mainline and chief.

His method works within the prespawn. As March progresses, nevertheless, Hoffarth says fish location turns into problematic. “As soon as they get into spawning mode they’re harder to seek out,” he explains. “By late March into April, flows improve, which assist flush juvenile salmon downstream. Postspawn walleyes are pushed to river edges farther under dams, and into sloughs and different off-channel areas.”

Hoffarth reviews anglers fish prop jigs like Northland Whistler Jigs, tipped with a nightcrawler or soft-plastic trailer, in addition to bladebaits and crawler harnesses. Catches are dominated by smaller males, with the occasional massive fish. Numbers of fish enhance till peaking from June by way of September.

Whereas these patterns had been cast on numerous rivers, they provide insights for plucking spawning-phase walleyes from rivers throughout the nation. Issue them into your early playbook to make this your finest spring but.

*Dan Johnson is a frequent contributor to In-Fisherman publications and director of All Creation Outside Media. Information contacts: Jon Bondy, 226/ 346-1748; Marty Hahn, 612/875-8848; Jason Muche, 920/210-0181.

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