The basic principles of spring river patterns are as dependable as the sunrise. They do, however, directly relate to changes in current flow, and thus can vary from week to week, even day to day, as ice and snow melt, spring rains commence, current increases, and water level and temperature creep upward. River walleyes are in a state of perpetual transition, shifting location sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically, in relation to variations in current flow. The better you react to the ever-changing world of river walleyes, the more consistently you’ll catch them.
WINTER TO EARLY SPRING
Midwinter is typified by the coldest water of the year combined with the lowest annual flow. Minimum sun exposure and the coldest temperatures permit little snowmelt. Under such conditions, river walleyes most likely stack in moderately deep sections with subtle current. Deep holes directly below dams and downstream holes at river bends often hold most of the fish. Walleyes may scatter throughout the basins of holes, though the most active feeders tend to position along the upstream rims of holes, awaiting food washed downstream into the hole.
With such low flow, however, even deeper midriver basins may hold walleyes. Minor dips and rises in the bottom associated with mini sand dunes, scattered rocks or logs, or simply the middle portions of large slack-water eddies can draw and hold numbers of walleyes. Where current is negligible, fish may simply scatter across the basin. Where current’s a bit more pronounced, they more likely tuck behind small current-deflecting objects or variations in the bottom. Fish may appear to be randomly scattered throughout the area, but that’s not usually the case.
The common characteristic is that under low-flow conditions, walleyes do not need to tuck tight to current seams formed by underwater obstructions like wing dams, land points, bridge pilings, riprap, or other objects. They may be there also, but they’re not limited to such spots. Fishing midriver flats and holes, typically 10 to 25 feet deep, may require nothing fancier than a simple downstream drift while bouncing a jig and minnow on and off bottom.
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