Spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River

Spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River PIC


Are you on the hunt for some serious spring walleye fishing along the mighty Mississippi River? It’s a little-known fact that this river, particularly around Dubuque, Iowa, serves as an abundant playground for walleye, especially during winter and early spring.

This article is custom-made to guide you through understanding walleye behavior in different seasons, pinpointing their hideouts in the river and equipping yourself with optimal gear.

Ready to dive into your ultimate guide towards successful walleye fishing adventure?.

Key Takeaways

  • Spring is the most exciting time for walleye fishing on the Mississippi River, as the water temperature gradually warms up and increases walleye activity.
  • Understanding walleye behavior and preferred habitats during different seasons is crucial for successful fishing trips. Walleye movements are influenced by water temperature, with spring triggering their spawning period.
  • Following the flow of the river and identifying sweet spots where walleyes congregate are key tactics for catching these elusive fish. Pay attention to areas where current runs slower, muddy flat areas, inside turns near wingdams, bend areas with hard bottoms, flooded trees, and brushy areas.
  • To have a successful spring walleye fishing trip on the Mississippi River, make sure you have the right equipment such as a medium to medium-heavy spinning rod, high-quality fishing line (monofilament or braided), various sizes of jigs, suitable hooks for live bait or soft plastics.

Understanding Walleye Fishing

Understanding walleye fishing requires knowledge of the fish’s unique behaviors and preferred habitats. Walleyes, known for their distinctive pearlescent eyes, are a prized catch due to their elusive nature and scrumptious taste.

These nocturnal creatures thrive in cooler waters making them plentiful in bodies like the Mississippi River. Their movements are heavily influenced by water temperature which varies with seasons; hence springtime usually triggers their spawning period.

The fascinating migration habits of walleyes set them apart from others fish species. Following a drought in the 1980s, an interesting phenomenon occurred where they started spawning and hiding in new sections of the river- moving farther south all the way to St.Louis, thereby increasing their population significantly.

Key aspects here involve recognizing hard and rocky areas or muddy spots where these fishes lay eggs during mid-April – prime fishing time! As anglers keen on mastering open water walleye fishing, attuning ourselves with such specific patterns will definitely ensure successful outings along the magnificent Mississippi River straddling Dubuque, Iowa among other places.

The Best Time for Walleye Fishing: Spring

Spring puts the sparkle in the eyes of anglers across Mississippi River, as it marks the most exciting time for walleye fishing. During this season, water temperature gradually warms into the 40s, ushering in increased activity from our finned friends.

Large females begin appearing more frequently in livewells – their bellies swollen with eggs and minds focused primarily on breeding.

However, these ardent breeders aren’t just about reproductive duties; they still need to feed but do so minimally. For spring fishermen seeking that once-in-a-lifetime catch, a shift in strategy becomes necessary – going beyond regular spots and exploring areas such as backwaters or side channels adjacent to spawning beds where large walleyes often lurk.

Industrial zones too have their surprises up their sleeves – hot-water discharges elevate local water temperatures here attracting female walleyes. Likewise, mudflats nestled within peaceful backwaters and grass-covered flood areas become potential goldmines for landing an awe-inspiring catch during springtime.

Henceforth remember that patience is key; you are dealing with nature’s craftiest predator here – one who will give you both a challenging pursuit and an unforgettable experience on glistening waters under bright skies!

The Significance of the Mississippi River for Walleye Fishing

The Mississippi River holds significant value for walleye fishing due to its vast and varied underwater terrain. The extensive stretch of water, particularly near Dubuque, Iowa, is recognized as a prime hotspot for fishers, primarily during the cooler winter months.

Deep diving into the lower parts of this iconic river can yield fruitful catches beyond your wildest dreams.

Post-drought transitions in the 1980s have led walleyes to spawn and seek shelter in unconventional locations along the river’s course right down to St. Louis. In addition to these niches, anglers will find numerous walleye congregating around primary lock and dam bases in MidWest Outdoors locales such as Dubuque during wintertime.

This abundant aquatic life makes it optimal for open water walleye fishing adventures using a variety of successful tactics that change from late-winter approaches through springtime strategies.

Key Tactics for Successful Walleye Fishing

Late-Winter Tactics: Use slower-moving presentations such as jigs or live bait to entice walleye in the colder water temperatures.

Late-Winter Tactics

Late-winter is an exciting time for walleye fishing on the Mississippi River. As the water temperature starts to warm up, these elusive fish become more active and hungry. To increase your chances of a successful catch during this season, here are some tactics to keep in mind:

  1. Target deeper areas: During late-winter, walleye tend to gather in deeper parts of the river where they can find warmer water and abundant food sources.
  2. Focus on lower areas of the river: When scouting for walleye hotspots, pay attention to the lower sections of the Mississippi River as they often hold larger concentrations of these fish during this time.
  3. Use winter fishing techniques: Employing tactics that work well in colder conditions can be effective during late-winter as well. Slow presentations like vertical jigging or deadsticking near potential holding spots can entice walleye to bite.
  4. Time your fishing trips: As winter transitions into spring, keep an eye on the water temperature and plan your fishing excursions accordingly. When the water temperature hovers around 40-45°F, it’s a good time to hit the river for some late-winter walleye action.
  5. Utilize natural bait: During late-winter, using natural baits such as minnows or nightcrawlers can be highly effective in attracting walleye. Their heightened feeding activity during this season makes them more likely to strike at authentic prey.
  6. Experiment with jig sizes: Adjusting your jig size based on the current flow and depth can make a significant difference in enticing bites from walleye. Be prepared with a range of weights from a sixteenth of an ounce up to a quarter ounce to adapt to various conditions.
  7. Seek out areas with structure: Look for rocky areas, flooded trees, brushy regions, or other forms of cover where walleyes may seek refuge during late-winter. These structures can provide hiding spots and serve as ambush points for them.
  8. Keep an eye on water clarity: The winter months can bring fluctuating water clarity due to melting ice and snow runoff. In stained or muddy water conditions, opt for brighter-colored baits or lures that create more vibration to increase visibility for walleye.

Springtime Tactics

Springtime is an exciting season for walleye fishing on the Mississippi River. As the water warms up and the days get longer, the walleye become more active and easier to catch. Here are some key tactics to help you have a successful walleye fishing trip during this time:

  1. Target deeper areas: In early spring, walleye often hang out in deeper parts of the river where they can find cooler water temperatures. Look for holes, drop-offs, and channels where the walleye may be congregating.
  2. Focus on lower areas of the river: As spring progresses and the water temperature rises, walleye start moving from their spawning grounds to lower areas of the river. These areas provide them with ample food sources and make for great fishing spots.
  3. Use fast-tipped spinners: Walleye are known to be aggressive feeders during spring. Using fast-tipped spinners can help attract their attention and trigger strikes.
  4. Downsize your bait: While large baits can still work, downsizing your bait can often yield better results during springtime. Try using smaller jigs or live bait presentations to entice those hungry walleye.
  5. Fish shallow water: As the water continues to warm up, walleye start moving into shallower areas close to shorelines or structure like rocks, stumps, and fallen trees. Cast your baits towards these areas and slowly reel them back for maximum effectiveness.
  6. Pay attention to current: Springtime often brings rain showers which can cause an increase in water flow and change the current patterns of the river. Look for eddies or slack-water areas created by bends in the river or man-made structures like wingdams – these are prime spots for feeding walleye.
  7. Adapt your tactics as conditions change: Remember that fishing is not always predictable, especially during spring when weather patterns can fluctuate. Be willing to experiment with different techniques, baits, and locations based on the current conditions for optimal results.

Tips and Tricks for Catching Walleye

To increase your chances of catching walleye, it’s important to follow the flow of the river and identify sweet spots where they are likely to gather.

Following the Flow

One important tactic to remember when targeting walleye on the Mississippi River is to follow the flow of the water. During the early spring months, when walleye are more likely to be found in areas where the current runs slower, it’s crucial to pay attention to how the water moves.

Walleye tend to congregate in muddy, flat areas and inside turns near wingdams and downriver spots. By understanding where the current is running slower and identifying these prime spots, you can increase your chances of finding success while fishing for walleye.

So, keep an eye on the flow of the water and position yourself strategically for a better chance at landing that giant walleye!

Identifying Sweet Spots

One of the key tactics for successful walleye fishing is identifying sweet spots, or areas where walleye are likely to congregate. These sweet spots can vary depending on the season and conditions, but there are a few general guidelines to follow.

During the spring months, when walleye are spawning, look for bend areas along the river where the bottom is hard and rocky. These areas provide ideal spawning grounds and attract large numbers of walleye.

Additionally, muddy areas and flooded trees and brushy areas can also be hotspots for finding walleye during this time. It’s important to pay attention to changes in water flow and current as well, as these factors often dictate where food sources accumulate and draw in hungry walleye.

Equipment Needed for Walleye Fishing

To have a successful walleye fishing trip on the Mississippi River, it’s important to have the right equipment. Here are the essential items you’ll need:

  1. Rod and Reel: Choose a medium to a medium-heavy spinning rod around 6-7 feet in length for casting and jigging. Pair it with a reel that has a smooth drag system.
  2. Fishing Line: Opt for a high-quality monofilament or braided line with a test strength of 8-10 lb. This will help you handle the strong fighting capabilities of walleye.
  3. Terminal Tackle: Stock up on various sizes of jigs, ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 ounces, depending on the current and depth you’re fishing in. Also, carry different types of hooks suitable for live bait or soft plastics.
  4. Bait and Lures: Live bait such as minnows, leeches, or nightcrawlers work well for walleye fishing on the Mississippi River. Additionally, carry an assortment of artificial lures like crankbaits, swimbaits, and jigs in different colors to attract bites.
  5. Trolling Equipment: If you plan on trolling for walleye, invest in planer boards to spread out your lines and keep them away from the boat’s disturbance. Also, consider using downriggers or lead-core line setups to fish at specific depths.
  6. Fishing Accessories: Don’t forget to bring tools like needle-nose pliers for removing hooks and cutting lines, extra sinkers and bobbers for adjusting your presentation in different conditions, and a landing net to safely land your catch.
  7. Safety Essentials: Pack essentials like life jackets (PFDs), sunscreen, polarized sunglasses (to spot submerged structures or fish), bug spray (if fishing during mosquito season), and a first aid kit.
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Environmental Considerations and Safety Measures

When it comes to walleye fishing on the Mississippi River, there are a few important environmental considerations and safety measures that every angler should keep in mind. First and foremost, it is crucial to be aware of any regulations or restrictions set by local authorities regarding fishing seasons, bag limits, and catch sizes.

These rules are put in place to protect the fish population and ensure sustainable fishing practices.

Additionally, being mindful of the river’s ecosystem is essential. Avoid littering or leaving any trash behind when you’re out on the water. Dispose of any waste properly to prevent pollution and maintain a clean environment for both fish and other wildlife.

Safety should always be a top priority during your fishing excursions. Make sure you have all the necessary safety equipment onboard, including life jackets for everyone on board. It is also wise to check weather conditions before heading out as unexpected storms or high winds can make for dangerous boating conditions.

Furthermore, understanding the unique characteristics of the Mississippi River is key in staying safe while enjoying your walleye fishing adventure. The river’s current can be strong at times, so it’s important to stay vigilant and cautious when navigating through different areas.

Lastly, if you are not familiar with this specific stretch of the Mississippi River or if you’re new to walleye fishing altogether, consider hiring an experienced guide who knows these waters well.

They can provide valuable insights into prime locations for catching walleye while ensuring your safety throughout your trip.

By adhering to these environmental considerations and safety measures, you’ll not only contribute positively toward preserving this natural habitat but also enhance your own enjoyment as a responsible angler on the Mississippi River.


Spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River offers an exciting and rewarding experience for anglers. By understanding the best tactics, following the flow of the river, and identifying sweet spots, you can increase your chances of a successful catch.

With the right equipment and environmental considerations in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to venture out onto the river and enjoy this popular pastime. So grab your gear and get ready to reel in some giant walleyes during this prime fishing season.

Happy fishing!


1. When is the best time to go spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River?

The best time for spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River is generally from late March through May when the water temperature starts to warm up and walleye become more active.

2. What are some effective techniques for catching walleye in the spring?

Some effective techniques for catching walleye in the spring include trolling with crankbaits or spinner rigs, jigging with minnows or soft plastic baits, and casting with jigs or jerkbaits near structure such as rocks, logs, or drop-offs.

3. What kind of gear do I need for spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River?

For spring walleye fishing on the Mississippi River, it is recommended to use medium to medium-heavy spinning rods paired with reels spooled with 8-12 pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line. You should also have a variety of lures such as crankbaits, jigs, and soft plastics in your tackle box.

4. Are there any regulations or limits for catching walleye on the Mississippi River?

Yes, there are regulations and limits for catching walleye on the Mississippi River. It’s important to check with local authorities or visit your state’s wildlife agency website to be aware of specific rules regarding size restrictions, bag limits, and seasonal closures that may apply in different sections of the river. Following these guidelines helps preserve fish populations and ensures sustainable fishing opportunities for everyone.


Hi, I’m Kurt and I’m the author of walleyemania. I’ve been fishing for Walleye since I was a kid and I love sharing my tips, tricks, and stories with other anglers. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find something useful and entertaining on my site. I cover everything from the best gear, baits, and techniques to the best spots, seasons, and recipes for Walleye fishing. Join me on my journey to catch more and bigger Walleye!

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