Small River Walleye: Late Fall

Anglers familiar with fishing in the fall can attest to the fact that the season possesses some pretty distinct traits. Periods of climate changes impact water conditions and fish behavior and can leave inexperienced angers scrambling to keep up. I provided some tips to give autumn fishermen a head start on walleye in rivers this fall during the early and middle portions of the season, and today I wrap things up with advice on how to reel in more fish during the late part of the season.

The drop of water temperatures into the upper 40’s signifies the arrival of late fall, which will last until the waters freeze and winter arrives. By this time walleyes and other fish will be isolated in slackwater holes away from the main current. Higher water flows during the fall will cause walleye to head to these areas sooner, though, so it helps to keep an eye on the water level.

A good way of finding slackwater pools and eddies during the fall is to observe the areas that collect leave litter and other floating debris. These slackwater holes are often located on major river bends, where the consistent current carves out deep depressions. Also, areas downriver from islands formed by breaks in current often hold walleye if they’re deep enough. These obstructions nearly always have good walleye-holding water below them.

Throughout the day walleyes will mill around these protected areas. Leadhead jigs dressed with a soft twister tail body, or tipped with a medium-sized minnow, do a great job at catching these fish. Quarter-ounce jigs are nearly always the right size for the depth fished in free-flowing river pools, which is usually around 10-15 feet. I’d go with orange in dirty water, chartreuse or firetiger in stained water, and white in clear water. Experiment throughout the day, though, as walleyes can be picky during this time of the year. To fish these jigs effectively, you’ll want to slowly drift your boat down the pool work the jig vertically right below the boat, like a yo-yo. As the boat drifts over the changes in depth, make the necessary adjustments by taking in or letting out line. The idea is to keep the jig a few inches off the bottom, with occasional touches on the bottom to help trigger a bite.

Cold water river walleyes tend to be more active during cloudy or rainy days and during the late evening hours. During these times they’ll often be in shallower water, as well. One of the key areas they can be found at such times is the mouth of a feeder stream, where it’s wise to anchor the boat near the creek mouth and cast to the fish. It might take a couple tries to get the boat in just the right position, but the effort is often worth it.

As I’ve always said, the hardest part of fishing during seasonal changes—even changes within the season itself—is keeping up with fish behavior. Walleye in small rivers are no different. If you’re thinking of hitting the rivers for walleye this fall, hopefully the tips I’ve provided over the last few articles will help steer you in the right direction.