Stand By Your Dam: River Walleyes
July 23, 2012
Most of us can't find a spot to stand for two hours and catch so many walleyes that counting them becomes an effort or a moot point. But river shore angler Andy Webber does it and says you can too.
"When river walleyes move upstream, they feed in key spots," Webber says. "I've had several nights where I've caught over 40 walleyes and nearly lost my rod because they slammed the lure so hard."
As they migrate upstream in fall, they often stage near dams until after they spawn in spring. Structure along the main current flow creates current breaks that provide resting and ambush spots. Tributary rivers and streams, points, wingdams, riprap, culverts, bridges, logjams, backwater bays, and deep holes near shore offer a place to rest and feed. They also provide a place for shore anglers to cast. Any place with calm water can be good.
Webber keys on riprap below dams that provides current breaks for walleyes waiting to ambush prey. Riprap along causeways, road and railroad crossings, and also boat harbors lined with riprap to protect the shoreline from erosion can be good too.
"Walleyes seem to spread out along riprap, instead of keying on specific spots as they would along wingdams, points, or eddy locations," Webber says. "I generally work my way up along the riprap and quarter my casts upstream using crankbaits, like a #8 Rapala silver-blue Shallow ShadRap. When I feel my crankbait bump rocks, I slow down my presentation to keep my lure running downstream just above the rocks, and I don't give my lure any extra jerking or pumping action.
"At night, keeping the lure right next to the rocks isn't so important. Aggressive walleyes will rise up to eat. They also want a bigger meal. Most of my big fish come on big baits and lures," Webber claims. "And smaller walleyes don't seem to hesitate to hit bigger baits."
Webber also keys on tributaries like small rivers and streams, or water flowing through culverts that create current breaks where they flow into the river. The tributary water is likely warmer, too, which attracts baitfish and walleyes.
"During high flow, I look for tributary creeks flowing over sand flats with scattered rock and rubble mixed in. At sunset, I've seen walleyes move so shallow that their backs stick out of the water. Wading spooks the entire school of walleyes, so I always start my night fishing right from shore. Waders or hip boots may be necessary when walleyes are holding deeper, however, so don't leave home without them.
"When snags are a problem, I use 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jigs rigged with a 3- or 4-inch twistertail or a 5-inch plastic shad, like a Mister Twister Sassy Shad. Keeping my rod tip high, I reel just fast enough to let the heavy-foot shad tail do its thing. My trusted colors are yellow and white plastic, but when the water's clear, I use black because it silhouettes well above the fish."
Backwater sloughs adjacent to the main river channel create current breaks and lots of feeding opportunities. Baitfish move into these spots in fall, and frogs migrating to hibernate in backwater sloughs are a walleye favorite. A jig rigged with a white doubletail twister slowly hopped and dropped produces when walleyes are eating frogs.
"Walleyes generally start biting at sunset and continue for the next two hours," Webber claims, "and when they're in there you really can't do much wrong."