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Late Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

Late spring is the time of year when fish become active and aggressive, since they’re cold-blooded, warmer water means more activity and more activity requires more food.

The walleye will be on the move, cruising, looking for a meal, so you’ll need to make some changes from the way you fished during the cold-water period.

This is the time of year when you’ll be able to speed up your presentation. You’ll still use many of the same lures, but you’ll fish them a little faster.

If you’re using a jig, you’ll want to speed up your retrieve, jig a little more aggressively, drift the boat a little quicker or use your trolling motor to move the bait a bit quicker.

When using a live bait rig, this is a good time to switch from your minnow rig to a crawler rig.

Catfish like this one are eager biters in the late spring, feeding heavily in the fast water below the Missouri River dams.

Catfish like this one are eager biters in the late spring, feeding heavily in the fast water below the Missouri River dams.

Depending on the temperature, it may still a little early to troll a spinner, but a live-bait rig like the Northland Roach Rig worked just off the bottom will start to look pretty good to walleyes, bass and other predator fish.

Crankbaits will really start to come into play as the water temperature rises and trolling or casting crankbaits along the shoreline will really start to produce.

You’ll probably start trolling crankbaits about 1 ½ mile per hour, but as the water warms, fish will be more apt to chase a fast moving crankbait and you can troll at a faster speed, covering more ground and catch more fish.

Fast water presentations will also become more productive! The fast water below the Missouri River dams will hold a variety of fish. Theses predators will lie among the rocks and debris on the bottom, waiting for an easy meal to swim or drift by.

By drifting through the fast water, and kicking your motor in and out of gear, which helps to slow your drift, you’ll be able to get your bait in a vertical presentation.
If you’re after catfish, try a crappie rigs with rubber bands hooked between the bottom snap and the sinker, as this will help to keep your rig out of the snags and in the fish-catching zone.

The rubber band lets the sinker snap in and out of the rocks and when you are hung up, you can pull back hard on the line, letting the line snap back. By doing this you will either kick the weight loose or break the rubber band, Now all you have to do is replace the rubber band and weight instead of putting together an entire crappie rig, which saves you time and gets your rig back into the water quickly.

Anglers using bottom bouncers and crankbaits will start to pick up the aggressive walleyes that have moved up into the turbid water looking for an easy meal.

Prior to dropping a bait into the water, I generally like to make a drift through the area, keeping an eye on my locators so I’ll know at what depth the walleyes are located.
If they’re tight to the bottom, I’ll tie my crankbait on a short snell, if they’re suspended higher, I’ll us a longer snell to get the bait into the area that the walleyes are feeding..

Fish this rig by taking your motor in and out of gear so that the rig will stay vertical which allows the crankbait the opportunity to work its magic.

Jigs cast along the shoreline or off the points and retrieved in a darting fashion will also take these fast water cruisers.

One thing you’ll want to do when fishing the fast water below a dam is to use heavier line. Since the fish you’re after are aggressive, water clarity is generally poor and the rig you’ll be using heavier, so you won’t need to use lighter line.

Heavier line, although a pain to fish with, will help you to get any snagged lure from the bottom. Line in the 10 to 15 pound range will generally work well when fishing live bait rigs in the fast water. Drop your line down until you feel the bottom bouncer tick the bottom; now work it up and down as you would a jig. This causes the crankbait to dart and jump around resembling a wounded minnow. Use just a heavy enough bottom bouncer to keep the bait vertical. If you aren’t vertical, you’ll know soon enough because it will snag up.

The bites on this rig will generally come as you jerk the rig upward or just as the bottom bouncer comes in contact with the bottom.

Late spring is also the time of the year when you need to keep your eyes open, looking for signs of activity on the surface.

Seagulls diving on an area or minnows hitting the surface are a good indicator that predator fish such as walleyes and bass are on a feeding spree. The fish force the minnows to the surface or up into the shallow water where the gulls and other shore birds take advantage of this easy meal. If you spot this type of activity, it will pay to check it out, as there are probably game fish near by.

This is the time of the year when walleyes and bass will move from the deeper water off the points and sandbars, especially when the water is rising. You’ll also find them in areas where creeks, streams or runoff enters the lake or river.

The water coming in is generally warmer and the incoming water brings a smorgasbord of fine dining to the hungry fish.

Grubs, worms and insects are carried along by the incoming water and the fish will set up below these areas waiting for lunch to come to them.

Late spring is an excellent time to head for your favorite fishing hole, as the fish are more active, the mosquitoes haven’t come out yet and the temperatures are comfortable.

By speeding up your presentation and going to a bit larger bait, you should be able to take a few of these aggressive late spring fish.