How to find river walleyes can be a daunting task. There are so many elements involved that if you can break it down into smaller steps your ability to catch walleye greatly increases. We’re going to show you the fastest and easiest way to find and catch river walleye.
Seven Steps to Finding River Walleye
- Use a map
- Local shops
- Scouting river
- Fishermen’s tendencies
- Sharp turns in river
- Joining fishing forms
- Walleye are like humans (path of least resistance)
Finding River Walleyes With a Map
All fishermen who own a boat have a fish finder in it, if they don’t it is just a matter of time before they get one. Most of the upper end fish finders today, have a built in GPS in the unit. If they do not then your next best bet is to purchase a local map of the waters that you are going to fish. On your maps you need to look for deep water pools, boulders, underwater islands, shallow water, and streams flowing into the river.
Local Bait Shops
Before we ever head out to the river we always stop at the local bait shop. In the shop we’re looking for the most popular walleye baits, crankbaits, jigs, and worm harness. We will ask the owner all kinds of questions related to where walleyes are, the best walleye rig and the depth that they’re catching the walleye in. We will ask them if the current break is important and if the visibility is reduced due to water runoff into the river. The local owner will share advice with you to help make a sale that is why we will always purchase walleye gear from him because he gives us valuable knowledge.
One of the first things that we do after we have launched our boat in the river is to drift with the motor in neutral so we can see and make sure that the current is not too strong. Time of year, temperature of water is an important role in determining when the spawn will happen. Moving at a slow pace will help you determine where the current break is. If you’re moving too fast and there is a good chance walleyes will be somewhere else. Catching river walleyes fast and consistently will only happen if you know where the fish are.
If it is a new river we are fishing, we like to scout the river first by driving down stream and looking for walleye fisherman. If we find them we mark the spot on our map and continue downriver. Once we have marked all the spots downstream then we will start working upstream. We will drive several miles upstream and continue to mark the walleye hot spots. In lakes and reservoirs if you ever see more than one or two boats in a certain area chances are good walleye are being caught or have been caught in prior days. Just remember during the day walleyes will be deeper than during the dusk and dawn periods. Slower moving rivers are more likely to hold walleye as long as the main channel is nearby.
Fishing for walleye during dawn and dusk periods are more likely to produce bigger walleye. They are also the best and most productive times of the day. Walleye are active feeders during these low light conditions because their eyes are so powerful.
As we have just stated dawn and dusk are the best times to find walleye actively feeding. No matter if you are downstream and upstream if you use your binoculars you can see if the anglers are catching fish or not. If you see a lot of people there and they continue to go in circles that means they are catching walleye. The best times to find walleye are when other fishermen are out fishing and you can see them. Fisherman’s tendencies are always to go to the favored spot first thing in the morning. If they stay there and don’t move somewhere upstream and downstream then you know they’re catching fish. If all the fishermen scatter then you know they are out hunting for walleye.
Basically what I am telling you is walleye fisherman are creatures of habit and they will always go to their favorite hot spot first thing in the morning. Walleye are no different they will go to their favorite spot when they are done feeding and this is usually in waters that are slow moving, cooler temperatures and protected from the fast current. If you know this and understand that the water level can increase or decrease current flow then you can be better prepared for the situations thrown at you.
Time of the year is critical in helping you find walleye in the river. The best times to find trophy walleye on a river greatly depends on the time of year. On the Columbia River trophy walleyes are caught in January and February. Big walleye can be caught first thing in the morning or right after the sunset. You can also catch trophy walleye at night but your best chance to catch the really big walleye on the Columbia is January and February. We have caught double digit walleyes in September after fishing for steelhead in the morning. These big walleyes were caught in the evening just at dusk.
Sharp Turns In River
When we go fishing up north we always get our map out and look for sharp turns in the river. After 10 years of fishing up north we have found that the point of the sharp turns hold walleye. The point is active during dusk and dawn periods and the backwater will hold walleye during the day. If you know that you could possibly catch walleye all day long. Do not be afraid to change the depth you are fishing and the presentation you are showing the fish. Do not be alarmed when you start catching bass because they will hold in the same waters.
Walleyes Are Like Humans
It’s hard to believe that walleye are just as lazy as human beings. If you had your choice would you rather sit down in the sun or sit in the shade? If you can answer that question honestly been that is what you need to look for when you are hunting walleye. Several years ago we were fishing on lake Roosevelt during the heat of the day. There’s no doubt in my mind that the temperature was at least 95°. My brother in law was in the boat about to pass out from the direct sun so we decided to move to the other side of the lake and we found a small sliver of shade. We fish that shaded bank as best we could and lo and behold within 30 minutes we caught 15 walleye, and in depths no more than 7 feet deep. Keep in mind this was early August and fish moved from deeper water into the shaded areas. Yes, we were surprised because earlier in the day we were catching them in 25-30 ft depths.
There’s no doubt in my mind that if you follow these steps the next time you go walleye fishing your chances of landing fish will greatly increase. Make sure that you mark on your GPS or your map the exact locations that you caught walleye. It is also a good idea to write a summary about the day’s activity. Include time of day, weather conditions, depth, and bait that you used. Also note the speed of the boat if you were trolling and if you were casting make a note of the crankbaits or plastic that you used. Don’t forget to include the color or name of the presentation you offer.
Now, if you really want to get inside the walleye scene there is a series of books written by Doug Stange and the In-fisherman staff that is awesome. You can quickly learn, quickly apply and quickly add more walleye to your ice box. Check it out here and the price will surprise you.
Best of luck and keep us posted.