Fall is on its way. Cool breezes, changing leaves, and falling temps bring on one of the best periods to get a line in the water. If angling is something you've wondered about but haven't tried yet, this is a great time to start. All species feed heavily to bulk up for a long winter and are much more susceptible to ending up on the end of your line. Walleyes are great table fair and there are many ways to catch them this time of year in our local rivers.
The stereotype for most walleye anglers is to fish the deepest holes in any given stretch. Don't be sucked into only fishing these areas. Even in the heat of the summer there are places to catch walleyes in small rivers where the water is barely shin deep. The main thing to remember with walleyes is in their name, the eye. Their eyes are extremely sensitive to light. This brings into play many factors into finding where they will be on any given day.
Now the stereotype does produce fish many times in small rivers given the conditions. When light penitration is high, like a sunny day and clear water conditions, holes can be a good bet. Many anglers who chase walleyes however sometimes let that be the rule. Walleyes in small rivers must take advantage of all ways to avoid light during a sunny day. With our local rivers we have an abundance of brush piles. Many of the larger fish in these systems utilize this structure as well. Even shallow brush can hold fish especially as we move into the fall period. Walleyes here can almost act more like trout in small streams. They will hide in the shadows and burst out to hit as food or a lure pass by.
A good rule of thumb for walleyes is to keep your presentation near the bottom. Whether you're jigging, cranking, or trolling for walleyes staying on or near the bottom is crucial in small rivers. The fish don't really have the depth needed in most cases to suspend, which they do at times in other systems.
The easiest place to start walleye fishing is jigging. It's also the least expensive which is a bonus. One thing that's going to happen in small rivers is losing some tackle at times. With a jig, between it and your trailer of choice, you'll only lose around fifty cents. Losing some of the latest crankbaits out can leave a ten dollar bill clinging to a limb. Realistically jigs work very well and are easy to get the hang of for new anglers.
When working a jig try to visualize the lure beneath the water and work it in accordance with the color and type of bait you have chosen. If you're trying to imitate a minnow, slowly reel the bait back with your rod at a ten o'clock position. Vary the retrieve by moving the rod up and down and changing its speed and direction. If you do get hung up the best way to break free is what many call piano stringing.
Hold your rod at that ten o'clock position and reel until the line is taught. Get a firm grip of the rod with your hand just ahead of the reel seat. Raise the rod to put a good bend in it while the butt section is against your forearm. Use the opposite hand to pull the line section between the reel and the first eye of your rod. Move the line to the side and toward you a little. When the rod is bent good and the line is very tight let go of the line. If done correctly it should snap violently and send a shockwave of vibration down the line which can shake the lure free. It won't always work on wood but will most times in the rocks.
When you head out for walleyes on small rivers keep the eye most prominant in your mind. Bright sunny days and clear water stick to deeper water and shallow current breaks with structure and shade. When the clouds roll in you'll be surprised at times just how shallow walleyes can be. Just remember when he gives ya that great walleye hard tap, SET THE HOOK!