Earlier this week I was fortunate to get back in a boat on pool 4 for the first time in over 5 months! That might not sound like a long time away for some but to a guy that used to fish that body of water 150 – 200 days a year for nearly a decade… I felt like I’d been away for years. I knew it had been far too long when the truck started down the hill at Everts and I got my first glimpse of the river at the bottom of the hill. My heart rate picked up and I felt this electric excitement hit me that reminded me what a special place the big river holds in my heart.
But I wasn’t the only guy in need of a river walleye fix. Dean "The Cookie Monster" Marshall had been buried behind the counter in the bait shop at Everts for 14 hours a day since the warmer weather brought the crowds out of winter hibernation. A couple of quick back and forth phone calls earlier in the week firmed up details for our planned outing… we were going to fish wednesday and hit the water as soon as there was enough light to navigate.
The day started off at sunrise and the temps were hovering right at 30 degrees. The river was is great shape with no visible floating ice to impede navigation and clarity was still excellent. David Lofgren, sales rep for St. Croix rods, was making a call down to the resort and made time to hop in the boat for the day. The three of us decided to head out with the goal of landing a big fish or two instead of spending our time at the dam jigging up saugers.
Our primary target this time of year is sand bars and sand flats with a little current rolling through the area. Big mama walleyes like to hunker down in the depressions in the sand and wait for a shad to make the mistake of swimming just a little too close.
Unfortunately our day started out slow. Dead slow. We hit 3 or 4 of our favorite big fish spots and after 4 hours of whipping the water to a froth we had nothing but a couple of encounters with a pair of big carp to show for our efforts.
Lunch! The Harbor Bar in Red Wing has docks that allow a group to tie off the boat and walk up for a burger and a basket of fries… and that’s exactly what we did. It gave us a chance to regroup and formulate a new plan for the second half of the day. Unfortunately David received a call that he needed to cut his day short to go pick up his daughter after school. I think it was Dean that uttered the all to prophetic statement "David, you know what’s going to happen! As soon as you go home the fish are going to turn on!"
And that’s exactly what happened.
Our change in game plan included a relocation up near the dam and a switch away from sand to targeting rip rap. We planned to drag jigs in 15′ of water along a current seam and that decision paid off in a huge way with the 30" x 21" walleye I’m shown holding in the first photo. This big girl weighed in a 13.8 lbs on Dean’s digital scale and was my first walleye from the river in over 5 months. What a way to get back on the water.
We were fishing DARK colored ringies in electric blue, plum and pro blue on 3/32 & 1/8 ounce jigs. My best combo was an electric blue ringie and a 1/8 oz. pyrokeet precision head. Earlier in the day Dean had stated that the glow eyes seemed to be making a huge difference in the catch rates during low light periods of the day for the guys dragging jig the past week. Dean gives out the best advice on the river so when he made that suggestion earlier in the day I filed it away for use later on… and it paid off in a huge way.
Starting about an hour before sunset the fish really started to turn on and Dean and I took turns landing and netting fish. Dean had a couple of nice walleyes in the 22" range and a super fat sauger to get the ball rolling. Once the flood gates opened the fishing was really quite fast paced which was a welcomed change to the slow bite earlier in the day.
The second, third and fourth photos are some nice cathes from earlier in the week. Dean’s been so swamped at the resort that he hasn’t had much time to put these out on the web so I volunteered to add them to my report.
Jim Bealieu has been having an exceptional week fishing blades on sand and is shown in pics 2 and 4 with a couple tankers he caught on the 12th of March. The big fish are definitely on the chew this spring… and the best is yet to come!
But the bite isn’t limited to a small number of big fish. Guys up at the dam are getting some nice limits of saugers and walleyes on hair jigs and minnows, livebait rigs and paddletails. The key is to fish very slow once the sun is up over the trees as the fish have definitely been most active early and late in the day. That will change though as the runoff continues to pour into the rivers. Once we get a little colors to the water expect that midday bite to remain strong and for more aggressive techniques to really start to dominate the bite.
The best is yet to come! With the walleye spawn about 3 weeks away the next few weeks is your best shot at a monster ‘eye!