Best Spot By a Dam Site
By Sam Anderson
This is the time of the year that winter river walleyes are in their
prime. The walleyes have all moved up to the staging areas right
below the dams on the Mississippi and they are in open water. The
walleyes like this area because the "hole" below the dam is a resting place
feeding area. This area is high in oxygen and fish migrate to
this area to rest before starting the spawning cycle.
In fact, many anglers have already started fishing the Mississippi.
River from Prescott, Wisconsin down remains open year-round, and has a
large population of both saugers and walleyes.
A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their
lives. Therefore, the walleyes in the rivers have adapted to be in
areas that offer current breaks so they don't have to fight the
currenall of the time. These current breaks are anything that
diverts the current and allows slack water. The slack water areas
are found below the dams where an eddy is formed by the water being drawn
over the dam and rushing downstream causes a slack water area on each side
of the dam. Other obstructions that cause slack water might be below
wingdams, behind rocks, a depression in the floor of the river, a stump
or fallen tree, or man made obstacles such as bridge abutments.
The key to locating walleyes in the river in the late winter starts
with locating a series of obstacles and then allowing your bait or lure
to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from behind
the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into the slack
water area to digest his meal and await another. Look for breaks in the
current. They may be behind islands, points, and below bars in mid
channel. In strong current, walleyes group tight
to structure. In softer current or low water periods, like winter,
they often scatter, and hold on edges of barriers or current breaks. Other
spots may be structure like gravel or sandbars, shallow rocky shoals near
drop-offs, wave-washed points, deserted sandy bottom
beaches, or bottlenecks between two different landmasses. Riprap
is also good, particularly where current hits the rock; such as on a windy
point with deep-water access, or near a culvert where fresh water is filtering
through a rock causeway. Feeder streams funneling into a river represent
yet other spots which fisherman should check out. The mouths of these
tributaries often turn into fishing gold mines, especially after a heavy
rain washes fresh food and fresh water into the river.
Depending on the force of the current and the water clarity, fish may
be as shallow as a couple feet deep, or in the bottom of a washout hole,
or river channel 15 to 20 feet deep. If the current is stronger
than normal, the fish probably are hunkered in a slack water area.
anglers must learn that "current" sets the rules for location
and presentation when fishing rivers.
What I have just described to you are "breaks and barriers".
A "break" is anything that will slow down or divert the current.
Fish will be located behind such structure as rocks, wingdams, logs
and stumps. A "barrier" is anything that will stop a fish
from moving on, such as, holes or depressions in the floor of the river,
a dam, or a break water structure for harbors, or the narrowing of the
river into a channel. When fish are on the move concentrate on these
structures. Fish will usually lay in ambush waiting for food to swim by.
Usually fish (and large ones) will be in the warmer water less than 12
feet deep, chasing baitfish.
In search of walleyes in March and April I will begin by asking some
local tackle and bait store owners where most of the walleyes are located.
I want to concentrate on the most active bunch and they may be located
up by the dam or right on the lip of the wash out hole down river from
the dam. I eliminate a lot of searching by asking questions concerning
the migration of the walleyes. If the walleyes are concentrated at the
dam I will fish them with a vertical presentation. The jig of choice
here is at least a 1/4 oz. maybe even 3/4 oz. depending on the current.
The important fact to remember is that I want the presentation to be as
straight up and down,
run your big motor or a kicker motor in reverse to slow the presentation
down even more if the current is increased. If the fish are shallow,
you might want to anchor and use your bow mount motor to swing your bait
and change your position on the face of the wingdam. Well there are the
spots you should concentrate on this late winter or early spring and you
will find some of the best spots by a dam site.
vertically as possible. If the jig is too light it will float
off the bottom and I need to make contact with the bottom at all times.
If the line that I select is too heavy the line will get a large bow in
it and make my vertical presentation useless. I will probably go
with the heaviest jig to allow me to make contact with the bottom and 8
lb. line to prevent the bowing in the line. When the tailrace areas becomes
crowded with boats, start moving downstream to holding areas. Flooded
timber can be good at times. Try flipping a jig tipped with a minnow
into cover. Use your
bowmount electric trolling motor. The trolling motor is quiet and
usually in stained water you can stand right over the top of the fish without
spooking them. When the particular structure is shallow don't hesitate
to use the Thill slip bobber method.
Attach a 1/8 ounce
Fuzzy Grub jig with a piece of plastic grubtail and a minnow to your slip
bobber rig and allow the waves and wind to do the vertical jigging for
you. If those
walleyes are biting short, attach a stinger hook to your jig. Vertical
jigging is very popular, and the key to fishing a jig vertically in current,
is boat control. Work these areas over with a
controlled drift. The control comes from positioning your boat
sideways into the current and using your trolling motors or a DRIFTMASTER
"drift sock" to slow down your drift and your presentation. Another
structural element that I key on, are the wingdams. In most of the
pools on the Mississippi there are several wingdams either near the tailwater
area or down river from the dam. When fishing a wingdam, I concentrate
on the up current side of each wingdam or the flats between them.
An angler should look for the boil line (disturbed water on the surface)
that signifies the presence of a wingdam and check out the scour hole behind
the wingdam to see if it is large enough to hold inactive fish.
Wingdams hold fish all year long but I like to fish
them in the early spring. Fish are unusually spooky along wingdams
and noisy gas engines will
spook the fish. I prefer to use my bow mount
electric motor, because it is quiet. The key element here is,
to keep the bait in front of the fish. Point the bow into the
current and "slip" down at about current speed. Keep baits
in the strike zone longer by sweeping
the baits across the structure allowing the bait to fall at a slow
rate, naturally presenting the bait to the fish. It is essential;
to slow down your drift with the electric motor as you go over the structure
and watch your depth finder for "breaks and barriers". You might
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