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River Fishing
Mississippi River Walleyes and Sauger by Sam Anderson
 River walleyes love the moving water of the Mississippi, and never stray far from some sort of current. A classic walleye holding spot is a wing dam. Wing dams are man-made rockpiles which extend out into the river, deflecting the current and reducing its tendency to silt in. As the local fisherman know, all wingdams hold fish, but some are better than others. The wing dams that hold the most fish are the ones that have a deep scour hole behind them and are located on the outside bend of a river or a straight stretch. These wing dams receive less current and therefore their scour holes are not silted in. Needless to say the rocky composition is habitat for food, and the wing dam provides a current break.

There are two popular ways to fish a wing dam. Anchoring is most common, parking the boat on the front side, tip or back side of the wing dam. Jigs or bottom bumping lures can be cast to cover the area near the dam. Since you can fish with two lines at once on boundary waters, many anglers set live bait over the side of the boat and cast jigs to find fish holding closer to the wing dam.

The local walleye fisherman do well most of the time with a jig and minnow. The size of a jig would vary according to the speed of the current,. A 1/8 to1/4 ounce is the favored size for most situations. Popular colors are yellow, pink, black oh, did I mention chartreuse. Live bait rigs such as the Lindy Rig or Wolf River Rig are also used. River walleyes are more aggressive and seem harder hitting than still water walleyes. They hit a fast moving crank bait. These lures attract fish from far and wide to see what is going on or to stimulate a feeding desire. These lures may be as small as a jig or as large as a muskie crankbait. Two of my all time favorites are the Storm ThunderStick and the small Storm Lighting Shad.

Donít over look the presentation of drifting to find fish near a wing dams. By letting the current swing you behind the rock piles you can quickly find out if there are any fish around. If you catch one or two, anchor and fish it some more, if not find another wing dam to fish.

Lake walleyes often suspend, and they are very inclined to concentrate at certain depths. Itís different on the river. River walleyes are bottom fish. Always make sure your bait is tight to the bottom. If you arenít losing baits, you are fishing too high.

The speed of the current is one of the major elements of the river walleyeís world. They want some current, but not too much. They donít pay as much attention to light presentation, seemingly, as lake fish, and will hold in one foot of water at times if the current is right. Saugers, the walleyes look-alike cousin get big enough that the fisherman find them just as appealing.

Saugers have adapted more to a riverís murky environment than walleyes have. Their eyes allow them to feed in silty waters where walleyes have trouble seeing. Saugers, maybe because of that fact, stay deeper than walleyes. I like the fact that saugers strike harder than walleyes, too; even small fish hit a lure with gusto.

The middle of the main river channel is where you will find saugers just about all year. In spring, they will be found tight to steep breaks next to shore, where they have easy access to their spawning areas. Saugers spawn later than walleyes, so when walleye action tapers a bit in the spring you can still find saugers ready to hammer your lures.

Whenever I find walleye fishing slow, I follow a simple plan for locating saugers. First Iíll drive up and down the river, looking for the deepest hole I can find. Usually it will be at least 25 feet deep, and often deeper. Iíll stop my boat upstream from the hole and drift back over with at least a 1/2 ounce Fuzzy Grub jig, which I hold right under the boat. In these holes the saugers hit the jig with quite a jolt. Schools of saugers roam from area to area. If you donít find them on the first or second pass through an area move on to another hole. Saugers will usually inhale a bait on your first drift through. Walleyes and Saugers are the glamour fish of the Mississippi River. If you have been intimidated to try rivers or if youíve been fishing tem since a kid, try a few of these methods and let me know how you do Ö.e-mail me at sam102473@aol.com

 


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