Tactics for High Water Spring Walleyes
Gary A. Engberg
It's the beginning of April,
that magic time of year for the fisherman who's been waiting all winter
to catch those wonderful walleyes. We've watched all the fishing shows
this past winter. We've read al1 the magazines and seen all the videos.
We've even gone to numerous outdoor shows and seminars learning all we
can about our favorite species, the walleye.
Now, it's time to put everything
we've learned to use. It's spring on Wisconsin's own Wisconsin River and
the bordering Mississippi River. The mild winter caused northern Wisconsin
snow cover to melt early, but a late winter/early spring snow dumped snow
up north and copious amounts of rain in the southern half of the state.
It's time for spring walleye
fishing on the Wisconsin River, but in the wink of an eye water levels
rose dramatically causing the river to overflow their banks and flood backwaters
everywhere. The river's main channel is roaring with dam gates open up
and down the Wisconsin River, making the normal placid river a fisherman's
nightmare. What does a person do to catch walleyes during this high water
I'll tell you what I do and
have been doing to be successful during this difficult period.
First, remember that water
temperature is in the mid-forties (40's), nights have been moderate with
low temperatures still in the 40s and 50s, there's been some warm rain,
and finally dam gates have been opened allowing fresh water (i.e. baitfish,
bugs, other organisms) into a river system that has been stagnate for months.
The water flowing has rejuvenated the whole river system. But, where do
these ready-to-spawn walleyes go during the sudden period of high water?
Walleyes will move into shallow
flooded timber and brush during these periods. Instead of thinking like
a normal walleye angler does this time of year; light jigs, minnows, light
line, and plain hooks I take a page from the bass fisherman. I switch to
1) a heavier jig, usually 1/4 or 3/8 oz., instead of the normal 1/16 or
1/8 oz. jig. 2) I'm swimming my jig fast enough to just tick bottom occasionally.
Dragging a jig here would result in constant snags and break-offs, hence
reel fast enough to prevent getting constantly caught. I also switch from
live bait (minnows) to plastic-scented twister tails which stay on your
jig better than live bait and seem to attract fish better with its flash
and vibration. reel fast enough to get the jig and plastic through the
brush and wood. Occasionally, I lift the jig and let it fall. Hits usually
come on the fall. But, the most important thing I do is to switch from
6 lb. Stren Magnethin to the 10 lb. coffee colored Easy Cast. The coffee
color blends beautifully with the stained water. The 10 lb. test East Cast
allows you to pull out of most of your snags. If I used 6 lb. test line,
I would constantly be re-tying and losing jigs. You are going to lose some
jigs and break off on the occasional stump, but you are going to be able
to fish and you will catch fish in the wood.
In these extreme conditions,
I don't think the jig color or tail color makes that much difference. I
constantly change jigs and tail colors, until I find what the fish want.
The walleyes are in the shallows to get out of the strong current flow,
to eat, since the baitfish have moved into the brush cover and finally
they're looking for a place to drop their eggs.
So remember this spring when
confronted with high water, go shallow, right up into the wood, trees,
and brush; go to a heavier line, preferably 10 lb. test; and use plastic
twister tails changing colors until you find the profile these fish want.
You can anchor outside these
wooded areas, or use a push pole to get back into the timber, or you can
wade making short casts right into little pockets and openings. I guarantee
the walleyes will be there, now you have the technique and tactic to get