Missouri River Pre-Spawn Walleyes

Shore fishing walleye

There is something about this river in March and April....the first open water fishing of the season, the natural sights, the wildlife....it's probably my favorite place to be in the Spring. I just returned from the Missouri recently and  found that the walleyes are behaving well in advance of their normal calendar dates.  Usually they start their spawning rituals in the middle of April but just a few days ago I found them already on the "rocks" and  staging for the pending spawn. I knew something was "up" when I arrived into the town of Chamberlain and immediately noticed the shore fisherpeople lined up along Interstate 90 and the adjoining jetties.

These shore people don't usually start showing up until the spawn bite is on and that is mid-April most years.  They were extremely early in their shore positions but I knew they wouldn't be wasting their time getting a suntan....they were there to smack the walleyes as they congregated near the rip-rap in large numbers.  Late March into early April for this angler usually means exploring the vast river channels as they run northward towards the Ft. Thompson dam area.  These walleyes are usually predictable but the channel fishing can change almost overnight when the walleyes decide to start the active spawn and then this means a great majority of the fish congregate on the rock rip-rap and hold there during the midday and evening hours.

My first day was spent investigating the large concentrations of shore fisherpeople and pitching jigs towards the rip-rap and trying to stay a cast away from the shore people.  Remember that these "locals" have been fishing these shore area probably their whole lives and know every nook and cranny along the many miles of rock.  Usually the concentrations of shore fisherpeople are almost always located on a tiny "tip" or jut point that extends from shore.  You can't really tell by reading the shore but these people know stuff we are not privvy too and their many years of trial and error has made them educated and "in the know!"

I tried to cover as much ground as possible and probably caught one walleye for every three the shore anglers caught.  There were many frustrated Iowa and Minnesota anglers that were talking about beaching their boats and trying this shore fishing personally.  I am sure a bunch of them eventually tried it after watching the locals have success.  I managed my walleyes every day by pitching and working the rocks just to the off-sides of the majority of the shore anglers.  There were many nice females in the schools which means this spawn bite is just a matter of days before peaking.

The Missouri River can be very fickle.  Just when you think the spawn is imminent, Mother Nature throws  a cold front into the mix and the real spawn can be delayed substantially.  If the weather remains constant and warm, the spawn can peak in a matter of days and be over before you realize it.

My guess is we have another week or so to take advantage of this great seasonal bite before they disperse and  transition into their early summer patterns.

This first trip of the open water season for this writer is incredibly healing...after a long winter of ice angling this first trip with the boat on open water is heaven.  The "chinook" winds of the middle Dakota's made the temperatures hover near 70 degrees while Minnesota barely was out of the 30's.

There seems to be a good amount of moisture both in the river system as well as the sloughs and ponds from far eastern South Dakota to the central midsection.  Most cattle ponds, sloughs and creeks were bulging with water and these are the best water conditions I have witnessed at this time of the season in many years.  The last 7 drought years you were hardpressed to find a slough with more than an a few inches of water in it..now that has changed.  Hopefully the Spring rains will enhance what they already have on the ground.  The Missouri itself is at the perfect level and the Corp. of Engineers plan to keep this level stable for the time being.

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