The lure of spring Mississippi River fishing

During the early season period on the river, fish are at the mercy of the spawning ritual. They are either pre-spawn, post-spawn or spawning and this makes their locations inevitable. Lesmeister found this northern pike basking in the backwaters searching for an easy meal.

Every spring the Mississippi River demands attention. Her channel bulges from the pressure of the extra water that enters the river system from the melting snow and soft spring rains. Rising water levels massage the river banks, and the twists and turns of those banks attract anglers who don’t own watercraft. Those with boats dimple the river’s best spots, searching for fish that are not available to them elsewhere due to seasonal restrictions.

Then the Mississippi generously releases what she hides under the surface to those who understand how to coax fish that slip up and down the river’s distance from one dam to another. The Mississippi River can give you all she has one day, then reveal how fickle she is on another so you understand that she offers no guarantees. Never knowing how she’ll respond creates the lure of the river.

The Mississippi River provides a spring ritual for many anglers who have discovered they can take advantage of an open season for walleyes, pike, and bass. The boat landings see a surge of trucks and trailers delivering the watercraft that become the floating fortresses in a fishing crusade. Early anglers snatch up small chunks of shoreline that have proven their value as a prime fishing spot. They stake their claim and guard it like an eagle on a massive white pine.

It’s not only the open seasons that lure early anglers; the fish are active and the opportunity to achieve success is high because all species are predictable in their movements, locations, and what presentation will best target their feeding sense. This is due to the timing of the year when fish are at the mercy of the spawning ritual. They are either pre-spawn, post-spawn, or spawning, and this unveils their locations like no other time of year.

Largemouth bass will be basking in the backwaters sharing space with the northern pike. The pike are finished spawning, and the bass are gorging on forage preparing to spawn. Veteran anglers know the best locations so watch for their boats.

Smallmouth bass like a little current so the moving-water creases are where you will find this species staging. Forage is key to finding smallmouth bass, so rubble-hiding crayfish is a good indicator that bass are nearby.

Walleyes are migrating upstream. They concentrate at dams and where smaller rivers and streams flow in. There are no secret spots on the Mississippi. Where there is a great location, expect  anglers. Fishing in a crowd is part of the spring river experience.

So she has no secrets. Nothing to hide. But knowing doesn’t mean the Mississippi will be kind. A river, after all, can change weekly, daily, even hourly with currents accelerating and slowing down, and water levels rising and falling. Just when you get to know her, and think you understand her, the river changes and you have to start all over again.

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