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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 and a
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.  All
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,
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 Motorguide trolling motors 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 Lindy Little Joe 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 Motorguide trolling motors 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 have to

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.

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