Jigging the Detroit River for Walleye.

Posted on August 19th, 2009

cs23_14_italo_walleyeI love to jig-fish for walleye, and especially in moving water.  To me it adds more of a challenge when you not only try and keep your jig within 2′ of the bottom (in 20-40′ of water), but you are also dealing with a 3-5 mph current, a bottom structure that changes all the time, cross-winds that try and “push” you off your deapth-break, and stationary objects that you have to keep an eye on so that you don’t run into them (such as pier pilings, channel marker buoys, and anchored fishing boats.  Now does that sound like an interactive game or what!  Over the last decade I have traditionally fished the spring walleye run from Pesche Island (which is at the mouth of the Detroit River at Lake St. Clair), right down to Fighting Island (which is in front of La Salle, ON).  One thing most anglers don’t mention about the Detroit River is that very large cargo ships are constantly navigating back and forth through the river that connects Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair, and than Lake Huron through the St. Claire River.  Those barges are clipping along and will not change course for fishing boats, and they also create a really big wake, which if you are not ready, can really catch you off guard (whether you are fishing, or motoring along).   There are really two keys to catching spring walleye in the Detroit River.  The first if obvious, you have to locate holding schools of walleye.  In the spring they literally line the structure break from 18-40′ feet as you come out from both the Michigan, USA & Ontario, Canada shorelines.  Once you find the walleye (you can usually see packs of boats making the same drift over and over again and anglers landing fish), you need to get your jig/plastic grub down within 2′ from the bottom (without getting caught on the bottom), and be ready to set the hook at the slightest pause, tug, or irregularity on your line.  The Detroit River can be trolled very effectively, but the technique that is used on the River is very unique to the locals.  It’s called “hand-lining”.  This hand-lining employs a reel that is mounted horizontally on a boat.  It contains a heavy braided line to which is attached about a 1 lb. pencil-weight.  Just up from the weight, a floating minnow-imitating bait is used.  Some anglers use Rapalas, but the most popular minnow-bait is produced locally and looks more like a pencil that is fat in the middle and has a concave trough cut out at the front of it.  This produces a wide wobble from side to side.  This rig is lowered down until the angler hits the bottom, he than pulls up the weight a few inches and also start to “jig” the line in 2-3′ strokes.  When they feel a fish on, they crank it up with the horizontal reel.  I know, to many of you this sounds pretty primitive and not very sportsman like, but it’s legal, it’s popular for the locals on the Detroit River, and it catches tons of walleye.  So, if you watch the show this week on TSN, and you love to walleye fish, make sure to check-out the Detroit River next spring.  The walleye normally start to run as early as the beginning of April and remain in the river right up until bass opening.

Like me   Follow Me  
Subscribe youtube   Newsletter Subscriber   InstagramFollow in instagram