Dirty Water Spring Walleyes
Author: gary.engberg | Date: 4.10.2017
Anglers have been fishing Wisconsin rivers for over a month and the fishing has been up and down just like the thermometer. Every few days a frontal system goes through the state and any pattern that I’ve found changes with the weather and I have to start over trying to find active fish.
Anglers that I’ve talked with have been confronted with the same problem. Besides the spring weather, Wisconsin’s river anglers have had to deal with another variable that makes catching fish even more difficult. What I’m talking about is the dirty and high water that all the recent rains have brought to Wisconsin’s rivers. I’ve seen the Fox, Wolf, Crawfish, Rock, Wisconsin, and Mississippi Rivers recently and they all are flooding, have a strong current, and are the color of chocolate milk. Visibility is only a few inches. So, how can a fish see your bait? Most of these rivers are stained normally, but the rain has made these waters dirtier, their current stronger, and some rivers have flooded their banks. If you would try most normal walleyes techniques like jigging, rigging, or trolling in these waters, you would have a tough time catching any fish species. So, what should a river angler do to catch fish when confronted with these difficult conditions?
The first thing to do is to stop thinking like a walleye fisherman and more like a bass angler. Why? Because walleyes will move into shallow water and vegetation when they’re confronted with strong current and dirty water. Another reason why walleyes and other fish move shallow is that the baitfish that they feed on are moving into the shallow water, also to avoid the rivers current.
Instead of using live bait and light jigs and line as most walleye anglers would use I take a page out of the bass anglers textbook and change techniques. Here is what I do when facing these tough conditions; 1) I would switch to a heavier jig (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) instead of the normal (1/16 to 1/8 ounce) jig that I’d use if walleye fishing. 2) I swim the jig fast enough to just “tic” the bottom. Dragging a jig would result in constant snags. This is why you have to reel fast enough to prevent your jig from constantly being snagged. The third (3) change that I would make is to switch from live bait to a scented plastic ringworm which will stay on your jig longer while attracting these shallow water fish with flash and vibration. Since, it is so difficult for fish to see, vibrations and rattles help fish hone in on your bait. The 4th change I would make is to switch from the 6# mono I normally use for walleyes, to the coffee color mono in a 10 # test. The coffee color blends in perfectly with the stained river water. The 10 # test line allows you to pull out of most snags that you’d encounter while shallow. You’re still going to lose some jigs, but I’d constantly be losing jigs and re-tying with lighter line. Bring a few bright colored jigs which will show up better in dirty water and can make a difference. The last thing I’d do when trying to catch walleyes under tough conditions is to look for cleaner water. All fish will seek out cleaner water if possible. Check side channels and backwaters for cleaner water.
In closing, when confronted this spring with tough conditions go shallow, use a heavier jig, and a stronger line for catching those shallow water walleyes.
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