Fishing the rivers for walleye is usually completely different from fishing lakes and reservoirs. You will typically be fishing much shallower in rivers than on lakes and reservoirs. This all depends on the body of water, but most rivers will not have the depths that you will find in lakes and reservoirs. In rivers, the current helps to prevent the huge temperature swings that you will find in lakes and reservoirs. With cooler summer water temperatures and plenty of oxygen, you may catch walleye and sauger in just a few feet of water throughout the summer.
Walleye do follow seasonal migrations in rivers, but they are different from the lakes and reservoirs. In the spring and fall, fish will move upstream until they reach some type of barrier such as a dam or waterfall. If you time it right, you can catch a lot of fish at the base of the dams or along the current breaks near the dams and tailwaters. During the summer, walleye will move to the deeper holes and river channels, but every river is different. The deeper water may only be 8 to 12 feet in some rivers and as deep as 20 to 30 feet in others. Typically, you will find walleye shallower in the rivers than in reservoirs & lakes during the summer.
Fish the Current Breaks
The current breaks are key to finding large numbers of walleye in the rivers. Walleye don’t mind current, but they will usually be resting just out of the current most of the time.
Fish the Wood
Finding wood along the shoreline is usually a good place to target walleye in rivers. Wood is good cover and laydowns will usually provide a nice current break for them to get out of the current and rest.
Bridges Almost Always Hold Some Walleye
Bridges are great places to target walleye. Whether you fish upstream or downstream, there are usually plenty of awesome spots to target walleye. Current breaks and rocky structure are ideal places to fish around the bridges.
Rocks and Boulders Create Awesome Current Breaks
Rocks and big boulders will create current breaks down near the bottom that you will never see above the surface. Use your electronics to find some of these larger rock structures in the main current and there’s a good chance that you will find some walleye hanging down there just out of the current.
Fish the Dams & Spillways to Find Walleye
The major dams and spillways are usually home to walleye throughout the fishing season. Spring and fall are usually best as walleye migrate up river and then eventually have to stop due to the dam. Don’t be afraid to fish in the current, however, finding some current breaks will be key to finding good numbers of walleye. These current breaks can come from the side of the dams or just from big boulders down deep. Get a jig and minnow down to these fish and you’ll put some walleye in the boat.
Best Techniques for River Walleyes
Hard to Beat a Jig & Minnow
A jig and minnow will catch fish year-round. It’s hard to beat this combination when fishing in the rivers. Find some current breaks and get your minnow down to the bottom and you’ll catch some walleye.
Slow Troll a Scrounger Jighead for More Walleye
This may be the best lure technique you can use when fishing in a river. Find some current and slow troll into it while slowly presenting your scrounger and preferred soft plastic bait or live bait presentation.
Stay Vertical to Avoid Missing Fish
By staying vertical, your hook-up percentage will go way up. Position your boat appropriately and make sure you feel everything that is going on down below. Fishing horizontally may outfish the vertical presentation on occasion, but over the long haul, you’re going to catch a lot more walleye by staying vertical in the river systems.