River Slips

Rivers lend a helping hand to walleye anglers in the fact that they tend to have open water year around. If you live in an area where you can fish twelve months out of the year for walleyes, winter open-water fishing can relieve a little of the winter doldrums.

Most winters, it is the headwaters or the first few miles of a river that tend to stay open all year. This all depends on currents of course, but open water is available. If you have not had your boat out on rivers in the winter months, the first thing that will catch you off guard is the crystal clear water. Rivers tend to turn much clearer with cold water. This problem eliminates a good number of techniques including vertical jigging in shallower water. But many times in the winter, the walleyes will hold in main river eddies. These eddies tend to be on the shallow side, anywhere from 6-15 feet. If you pull the boat into the area, the fish blow out of the zone.

To reach these fish, you must retrace you fishing knowledge back to the basics. Dig out the anchors. Dig out the split shot, get some minnows, and plan on pure finesse fishing.

Tie up split-shot rigs with a number 10 or 12 livebait rig hook. Put the split shot anywhere from one to two feet above the hook. The length between the split shot and the hook will vary with how fast the current is running. You always want to have a good feel of your bait. The longer the lead gets, the less feel you will have in stronger currents.

To start off, you will have to play with the distance and weight of the split shot. The ideal presentation is to cast up current and let the bait bounce along the bottom through the eddy. If the bait stops, a simple lift of the rod should get it drifting again. If you have to keep lifting the rod to get the bait to move, you have too much weight on. Vice versa, if you cannot feel the bottom, you have too little weight on. Finding the right weight generally takes a couple of drifts through the eddy. The rule of thumb for the distance to place the split shot is that the minimum distance is twelve inches. The lighter the current, the more you can extend the distance. Do not go over two feet. When you extend that distance over two feet, you have too much play in the line between the weight and the hook. This means a slack line and missed fish.

When fishing eddies in the winter, you want to take a three-step approach. First, anchor off the outside current line of the eddy. Drop the anchor so the boat is a good twenty feet off the outside current line. Once you anchor, cast the outside edge of the current line. Give it a good fifteen minutes. If you catch fish here, you may not have to move the rest of the fishing trip. If you only get a few hits or no hits, it is time to reposition.

Move the boat within ten feet of the outside current line and fish the slacker water inside of the eddy. This is generally the best location in the eddy in midwinter. Cast the same as you did on the outside current line.

If you do not get any results, move the boat further in and anchor so you can cast the shallow current line. Cast this area the same as before.

The fish will be in one of these three locations in the eddy. Rule of thumb: the most aggressive fish are on the outside current line, the neutral fish are holed up in the slack water of eddy, and the least aggressive fish are on the inside line of the eddy. This does not always hold true, but it is a good guideline.

One more key to this -- earlier I said dig out the anchors. It is always good to anchor the front of the boat, and once in position, drop an anchor off the back of the boat too. This will keep the boat from moving and keep you in proper fishing position.

The next time cabin fever hits you, grab the boat and hit the water. And, nothing cures an ailing angler better than a fight at the end of the fishing rod.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Pike & Muskie

Best Drive-To Pike Waters

Gord Pyzer

Some of Canada's best pike waters are within driving distance.


Costa Baffin Sunglasses Review

Chris Schneider - April 26, 2019

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious...


Sensational New Softbaits for Bass

Steve Quinn - April 22, 2019

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

See More Stories

More Accessories


Costa Sunglasses Untangled Collection

In-Fisherman Online Staff - July 18, 2018

We came across a product that really opened our eyes to the big picture of an even bigger...


Frio 360 Cooler With Bluetooth Speaker

Jessyca Sortillon - July 17, 2018

Frio 360 18-Can Coolers at ICAST 2018 (Jeff Phillips photo) From the latest crankbaits to


Best Summer Clothing for a Sunny Day

Lynn Burkhead - April 13, 2018

When I was a young boy in the 1970s, there were two basic types of fishing attire that an...

See More Accessories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.