Post Spawn River Walleyes
By Brian Radcliff
It often amazes me how quickly the walleye spawn comes and goes. A few warm weeks of spring weather and the dams are ritually packed with walleye seeking anglers, looking to fill their buckets with the first river walleyes of the season. Another week passes and it seems as though the walleyes have all but vanished, leaving behind a few tiny male fish for the remaining anglers to sort through. Many anglers will fluidly transition to other species, maybe in other locations and the walleye hot streak is over. Not all walleyes spawn at the same time however and the weeks following a hot bite may incorporate a population of fish that are still preparing to spawn.
The pattern of post spawn walleyes is often overlooked by many. Once spawned, the walleyes will naturally migrate back down river to areas where food, habitat and water flow once again dictate their daily cycles. These transitional locations are abundant in all rivers and are continuously replenished with new walleyes for weeks preceding. Keep in mind that post spawn walleyes are constantly on the move. The will slowly filter back downstream and their movements revolve largely around current breaks and the main river channel. May I repeat, current breaks are key!
When the river is low, walleyes will stick to current breaks, seams and eddies within the main river channel to navigate and feed. During periods of high or rising water, they will move closer to the bank. Walleyes unlike Saugers are not fans of high current. They will use high current areas during short movements but will avoid them at all cost while feeding and resting. Saugers on the other hand are notorious current lovers and will often sit in holes and runs where current velocities are elevated.
Baits and Presentations
Everyone has their go-to bait for river eyes and for many this is a jig combo of some sort. Jigs shine through in many aspects in that they can be fished slow, fast, tipped with live bait and come in a vast array of color schemes to suit seasonal water conditions. My favorite way to fish post spawn walleyes with a jig is to vertical jig as I drift along. In turbid water my top color choices would have to be chartreuse, orange, white and even black.
Walleyes this time of year will relate to the bottom so make sure that the jig head is heavy enough to reach them. I often negate jig head size for the simple reason that a walleye will eat your offering if you are presenting it where the fish are holding, regardless of jig head size. A 1/8 ounce jig will catch just as many fish as a ½ ounce so long as it is the appropriate weight for the current conditions you are fishing. Many anglers think that a light jig is the key to finicky eyes yet this jig is rendered useless if it does not reach the fish holding near the bottom.
Other top producing baits are crankbaits and stickbaits. These lures are great for covering water in search of roaming fish and also are top producers when walleyes pull up on flats and gravel bars in shallower water. When the water is high or rising, crankbaits are great for tossing along riprap and bank side debris. If you know a specific depth margin that walleyes are staging in, tie on a crank that will effectively fish that depth.
The 3-Way Rig
This time of year and through the summer there is no deadlier rig for walleyes than a three way rig. This presentation allows you to hold your bait in one position for periods of time and virtually sit the bait in front of active and passive fish triggering a strike. The weight will hold the bait on the bottom while the snell will trail teasingly behind in the current. Using a number two octopus style hook, tip it with a worm, leech or minnow and hold on. Select a weight of the appropriate size to suit the current velocity you are fishing. I always like to use a section of 8-10 lb fluorocarbon as the snell leader.
This rig can be cast out, lifted or drug along the bottom and held in place for periods of time. For those of you that fish from a boat this is a superb rig to slowly bounce along as you drift. Or if you are anchored up, simply drop the rig down and let the current spin the blade as the weight holds it in place.