Spring walleyes and sauger: time to hit the Mississippi River

There will be warm days ahead and when there are, head down to the Mississippi River where the walleyes are fair game and they’re biting. Photo courtesy of Travis FrankMany of you have heard me say this before. If you are planning on fishing the river, take along some sand. This time of year at the boat landings you can get some ice on the ramp and if you don’t have sand you will be cussing in 10 minutes your total allotment for the month.

The Mississippi River is where to go when the walleye/pike season ends on the lakes. We’ll have warm days and the main channel will be wide open and there will be walleyes, bass, pike and catfish to bend the rod substantially. What more can you want.

The walleyes will be on the move. Any place there is a current break you have a potential hotspot for walleyes that are swimming upstream on their way to wherever it is they will stop to spawn. Along the way these pre-spawn walleyes do eat. 

When I say a current break has potential, don’t believe every current break is holding fish. Actually, you might only find walleyes on one in 10 or one in 20. But when you do find a pod of walleyes on some rock or rubble that is holding them, there will be a lot of fish. They move in packs, stop in packs and if you find them, they will bite.

Anglers like heading straight up to the big dams. Walleyes and saugers that are migrating upstream get stopped in their journey by these man-made structures. But expect a lot of company. It reminds me of the trout ponds at the sportshows. Anglers pile into one spot, there are loads of fish and occasionally one grabs a lure stuck right in front of it’s nose. That is the definition of dam fishing.

On a current break or at the dam tie on a jig and tip it with a minnow or a plastic body and work it like you mean it. It takes concentration and conviction to fish a jig well on the river. Complacent anglers just end up snagged and never feel the bites when they do get them. River fishing is not for the lazy anglers.

Slack water can be a productive program in March and April when the ice goes out. Huge northern pike are already up in the shallow backwater regions and are either spawning or have spawned. This is where the spinnerbait rates highest on the Lure-O-Meter. If your timing is right there will also be some largemouth bass navigating through the newly emerging vegetation, stumps and blowdowns.

River crappie anglers are all frothing at the mouth right now. They look like zombies as they wander around with a glazed look quietly whispering, “The crappies are biting.”

Anywhere there is a slack water area with a deep channel cutting through it you have a good shot and some huge crappies. Tightly schooled and hitting everything you toss out, this is a great time to be on the river if you are a crappie angler. You don’t even need live bait. Just a tiny hair-jig under a small bobber. 

Soon the statewide fishing opener will be behind us and we can all pull live-bait rigs on structure and get hypnotized by the sonar. Until then; the Mississippi River is your best friend.

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