High water in spring is often accompanied by fast flow and muddy conditions, pushing river walleyes tight to shore and even up into shallow cover.
Sometimes, though, rivers muddy up on their own, even without fast flow.
The Rainy River along the Minnesota-Ontario border is a good example where this situation occurs each spring when the Big and Little Fork rivers, tributaries to the Rainy, shed their ice and pour muddy water into the main river. The sudden reduction in water clarity generally shuts down the traditional jigging bite, which most anglers rely upon while drifting downstream through holes at river bends.
Fact is, when the water turns to chocolate milk–which it has been recently–walleyes simply can’t respond to lures moving that quickly. You can, however, tip the odds in your favor with some down and dirty walleye tactics.
Anchor in known productive spots, generate a lot of noise with your lures, and attract walleyes to the commotion. Once they’re able to locate your baits in the murk, they just might eat them.
Holes at river bends are obvious staging areas for schools of fish moving upstream. Eddies formed at tributary intersections are also great. Lesser-known but potentially just as good are rolling sand dunes, with pockets of calmer water between them, as the current flows over their tops and past their tips.
Cast out jigs and minnow, let them fall to bottom, and tumble with the current. Beef up to heavy jigs that barely roll, then hold. Pump them once or twice. Pause 15 seconds. Shake them. Pause. Thump–a bite!.
Don’t be afraid to go to bigger 1/2- to 5/8-ounce jigs, pounded on the bottom below the anchored boat, interspersed with long pauses allowing walleyes move in, locate the bait and then bite. Upsize from small jig bodies to larger 4-inch grubs, to 6-inch lizards in wild, bright colors—plus a minnow or two on the hook for good measure!
Try jigs with rattles or spinners. The bigger, bolder, louder and more obnoxious the presentation, the better it sometimes works in muddy water. Just as long as it’s barely moving or literally held in place for long periods, allowing fish sufficient time to find the lure via smell, sound, vibration, radar, voodoo, whatever.
Here’s mud in your ‘eye(s)— river Walleyes!