Rivers can be quite challenging to fish, but once you understand them, it’s easier to pattern the fish that are there.  Rivers can hold a variety of fish from catfish and carp to bass, pike, muskie, trout and more.

Murky Water Rivers

Most rivers that people think about will be murky colored.  This doesn’t mean that there isn’t some good fishing in them though.  Many of the rivers that are murky colored will have solid populations of catfish, carp, walleye, sauger, white bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and even northern pike.  Many rivers are going to be better for carp, catfish and some rough fish, but there are plenty that also offer good fishing for game fish too.

When you are fishing these rivers, make sure to brighten up your baits and use some baits that make noise.  Crankbaits and jigs with rattles in them will usually out fish ones without the rattles.  The extra noise helps the fish find your baits.  When using live baits, try using hair jigs and jigheads tipped with live bait instead of single hooks.  This will help fish find your baits easier.

Clear Water Rivers

The clear water rivers look beautiful, but can be extremely tough to fish.  The fish can see you quite easily in these rivers, so make sure to fish during low light conditions, use light line or at least fluorocarbon leaders and make sure to make longer casts.  Some of these rivers will have awesome fishing, however, if you don’t know how to fish clear water, you can struggle big time.

Fast Flowing Rivers

The faster flowing rivers will usually limit what fish can be in them.  There are a lot of fish that can’t deal with the constant flow of a faster river.  Some of the fish that can handle it will do just fine as long as there are plenty of current breaks and pools in the river for them to get out of the current.  Salmon, trout and smallmouth bass are some of the species that do well in the faster flowing rivers, but the current breaks are where you are going to find most of these fish.  Target the pools and you’ll have more success than by trying to fish in the rapids.  There are always exceptions, but the pools will usually be much better spots to fish.

Moderate Flowing Rivers

The moderate flowing rivers are usually the better rivers to fish.  The decent current makes sure the fish have plenty of oxygen in the river and with enough current breaks, most fish can handle living in a river.  These types of rivers could hold salmon, trout, both species of bass, a variety of panfish, catfish and more.  You may find fish in the current and in the current breaks.  As long as the water isn’t flowing too fast, you may find a good amount of fish in the current as well as in the pools.

Slow Moving Rivers

There are a lot of slow-moving rivers that are productive fisheries.  Current will help position fish throughout the river system, however, during low water periods, some parts of the river may actually fish more like a lake.  With higher water periods, more current will help position fish on the current breaks, which makes it a lot easier to find and catch fish.  You can find some slow-moving rivers that provide good fishing for a variety of fish species such as walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, catfish, panfish and more.

Tips for Fishing the Rivers

Fish the Current Breaks

So many fish hold in the current breaks.  It can be a rock on the bottom, a bridge piling, an island or many other things that block the current.  Fish like to hold in the slack water facing upstream and when they see an easy meal flow by them, they go out and grab it, then head back to the slack water.  You can find plenty of fish in the currents and some in the backwaters of rivers too, but the better fishing usually occurs right on these current breaks where fish are holding.

Fish the Deep Holes

The deeper holes will almost always hold something in the rivers, especially from summer through the winters.  Find the deeper holes and put some time in to see if you can find some active fish.  The bigger holes will usually have some of the better quality catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger, pike and more.

Fish the Dams & Spillways

Fish move upstream in the rivers, especially during the spring and fall.  You will often see anglers fishing below the dams whether by boat or just standing in the water with waders.  These areas will almost always hold something there and at times, the fishing can be fantastic.  Some dams are huge pieces of structures that you will need a boat to fish properly while other areas might be a smaller spillway on a smaller stream that you can easily fish with some waders.

Fish the Backwaters

Some of these rivers will have some excellent backwater areas where there is little to no current.  Some of these spots will have enough depth to hold fish year round, while many of them will be productive spots after a big rain.