It is important to understand
that subtle changes in water temperature, oxygen, bottom structure, shadow
lines, and similar factors make a significant difference in locating fish.
Fish tend to locate along transitional zones. The bottom may change from sand
to rock or from mud to weeds; a dropoff may occur or a slope into deep water;
or water in one sector may be a slightly different color.
The most important transition
zones are the weeds. The weeds or vegetation may be the key to successful
angling. Bass seldom stay in open water and characteristically move toward
some form of structure, if it is summer you can count on weeds. Muskies and
northern pike are ambush feeders, lurking in or near weedbeds or an object
that conceals them. Walleyes can be found on the weedline during the day
feeding on small fish. Bluegill can be found in shallow water and also are
found where weedbeds drop off into deeper water.
Fish are wary. This helps them
survive and can also make them difficult to catch. They utilize their
excellent senses of vision and hearing, detect motion with unerring accuracy
using their lateral line, and also use their sense of smell. Therefore, a
cautious approach is required of an angler.
The key to locating walleyes in
the river in the late fall and early 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
In the late fall or early
winter of the year the turbidity of the water subsides and walleyes are more
visually stimulated as they see food floating by the slack water areas. This
is not to say that all walleyes see their food before they strike and in some
cases they strike more out of vibration and smell than they do from visual
With the proper head design and
weight, jigs are the most versatile of all river techniques, from the
shallowest flooded cover to the deepest, fastest current. The majority of
river fishing with jigs involves either slipping the current or drift fishing
the current breaks. The presentation is a simple lift-drop-pause method of
jigging, raising the jig some 3 to 6" as you slip downstream.
If you are as vertical as
possible the jig will stand up allowing the hook to be exposed away from the
floor of the river. When you tip the jig with a fathead minnow the minnow
stands up and looks like it is trying to pick up the jig. As the minnow
struggles against the weight of the jig it sends out wounded signals and the
natural scent attracts the walleyes and allows them to hang on just that much
Colors of the jigs should be
bright in dingy water. Colors such as fluorescent orange, chartreuse and my
all time favorite, gold are great for fishing those fall walleyes. Anytime
that you can bring attention to your bait it will help you up your odds for
catching those fall walleyes.
Weights may range from 1/8 to
1/2 ounces, but usually stay with the weight that is the lightest but still
maintains contact with the bottom. River walleyes have a tendency not to
suspend as much as the walleyes in the lake and you don't have to worry about
missing a strike zone that is in the fish column.
I will tip my jig with some
plastic if I want to slow down the rate of fall, but current usually fights
gravity faster and defeats the purpose of vertical jigging. Slack water fish
can also be found by pitching Fuzzy Grub jigs of 1/16 to 1/8 ounce to the
shoreline or cover like flooded wood or boulders. The angler in this situation
should use a lift drop retrieve to slip or quarter the jig downstream as it is
retrieved back to the boat. This is a super tactic for fishing eddies, wing
dams or shallow mid river shoals.
This winter grab some jigs,
slip on a heavy coat, and head for the nearest river. Look for fish catching
structure and you will find some good fall walleyes. It is my understanding
that the Winnipeg river, or the Mississippi is a great place to look for some
monster sensitive structured walleyes right now.