SUMMER RIVER WALLEYES

SUMMER RIVER WALLEYES

As spring evolves into summer, river walleyes typically disperse downstream and break up into small groups, setting up temporary residences near current-breaking objects or structures. Once water levels drop low enough, flooded shoreline cover becomes too shallow to attract fish. Now walleyes have no choice but to move toward the center of the river or to holes formed at bends. Current becomes moderate, but it remains a primary moving force in the lives of gamefish and baitfish — something to be dealt with every moment of every day. As water levels drop, then, current-deflecting structures projecting into the river become prime summer walleye locations.

In adult or mature rivers, long shallow runs typically become devoid of walleyes because fish concentrate near deeper holes. Thus even small rivers with weak walleye populations may offer fair summer concentrations of fish.




Aggressive walleyes tend to lie near distinctive current breaks like rock points or along the lips of holes, rather than in basins, which appear to be used chiefly as resting or cold front locations. Look for visual current seams, eddies, or other distinctive interruptions in flows. Without the threat of freezing, currrent-breaking structures that drop into as little as 4 — 5 feet of water may hold plenty of walleyes in summer.

On larger middle-aged rivers, even straight stretches may be deep enough to hold walleyes in summer, provided that distinctive current breaks are present. The basins of deep holes near river bends may not attract many fish until fall. Natural rock points and wing dams become primary summer walleye locations almost everywhere they occur.


Fishing a big river like the Mississippi during summer is a pleasure. The hordes of fishermen who descend on the river for the spring walleye run are long gone; like walleyes, spring also concentrates fishermen. During summer, fishing pressure becomes lighter and more spread out. You'll catch plenty of walleyes and still have time to pull off the river at noon for a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and you'll be able to find a cozy restaurant to enjoy a traditional riverside fish fry in the evening, too.


During 1982 and 1983, Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist John Pitlo and co-workers radio tagged and followed walleyes in Pool 13 of the Mississippi River. Their conclusions, coupled with our fishing experience on many large rivers during summer (and fall), provide a clear picture of where walleyes are, based on available habitat and water conditions.

Most larger river pools contain a tailwater area, a main channel, main channel border areas, side channels, river lakes, and ponds. Pitlo compared the time that radio-tagged walleyes spent in specific habitats to the amount of each habitat type in Pool 13. Seventy-five percent of Pitlo's walleye observations occurred in about 25% of the available habitat.

"To be more specific," Pitlo said, "wing dam habitat makes up only about 5% of the habitat available in Pool 13, but it accounted for 32% of our observations. Flowing side channels make up about 15% of the habitat and accounted for 23% of our observations, and main channel border areas make up about 5% of the habitat and accounted for 20% of our observations."

Continued - click on page link below.

In essence, wing and closing dam structures are the principal walleye areas under normal pool (water level) conditions during summer and fall. Main channel border habitat is most important when the water level is low in winter.

As the amount of water discharged from Lock and Dam 12 increased, walleyes' use of wing dams decreased. Under high water conditions, in other words, walleyes vacate wing dams for side channel habitat, in which they are protected from heavy current. When the water drops, they move back to wing dams.

The Best Wing And Closing Dams

Wing Dams

Some habitat areas, in this case certain wing and closing dams, are better fish attractors. The two most important physical characteristics affecting walleyes' use of wing and closing dams are the depth over each structure and the location of the structure in relation to the river's meandering channel.

Water depth is greater around structures located on outside river bends and less on inside bends; so is the current velocity over the top of those structures. Some of the volume is directed toward the main channel, while the remaining volume increases in velocity in order to pass through the restriction. Current velocity almost doubles over the top of the structure compared to velocities upstream and downstream. Higher current velocity increases scouring action and results in deeper scour holes below wing and closing dams, especially near structures located on outside river bends.

The quality and diversity of habitat appear to be enhanced by dams with shallow water depth over the top and deep scour holes below them. Many bait- and gamefish species gather around structures that possess those characteristics. Current velocity decreases with increase in depth, so deeper scour holes make better resting spots. This, plus the diversity of fish life, probably makes wing dams with these traits better areas for walleyes.

Feeding Versus Resting Walleyes

The deep scour holes behind wing and closing dams make good resting spots for walleyes, but fish don't usually feed there. During summer and fall, feeding walleyes almost always position themselves at the base, just up the face, or on top of wing or closing dams.

Wing and closing dams are best located by (1) consulting a map of a river pool, (2) looking for marker cans that occasionally mark main channel ends of dams, or (3) watching for telltale signs of surface disturbance caused by water being forced over the top of dams.

Wind blowing against current sets up distinct wave lines that mark the tops of dams. Position your boat from 50 to 100 feet upcurrent from such wave lines, stay there, and you're in proper position.

If wind is blowing with current, you need to create your own wave line by motoring along the backside of the dam with your boat. It's amazing, but one run usually sets up a distinct line that can last for 10 minutes.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

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

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...

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas. Walleye

Spring Walleye Fishing Tackle Choices

Steve Ryan - October 19, 2017

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas.

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make an irresistible and addictive crust for catfish fillets Fish Recipes

Pecan-Crusted Catfish Fillets Recipe

By: Emilie Bailey

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

Simms

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

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north or south, will help you pinpoint their predictable locations year after year. 

Walleyes spawn in spring, but spring may arrive in February in Mississippi, March in Walleye

Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

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

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

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

See More Stories

More Walleye

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and August. Walleye

Trolling for Walleye During Summer

Dan Johnson - July 15, 2018

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and...

Across the Walleye Belt, big water often equals big opportunities to enjoy some of the continent's finest walleye fishing. Walleye

Staying on Big-Water Walleyes

Dan Johnson - September 09, 2019

Across the Walleye Belt, big water often equals big opportunities to enjoy some of the...

Algae blooms are a fact of life this time of year on lakes across the Walleye Belt. Walleye

Walleye Fishing During Algae Blooms

Dan Johnson - August 14, 2018

Algae blooms are a fact of life this time of year on lakes across the Walleye Belt.

See More Walleye

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

×