Late Fall/Winter Walleyes In Rivers

Big fish
Big fish

Big walleyes like this one are going on a final feed before ice-up in many areas. Catch them on a jig tipped with a minnow.

It’s turning cold in walleye country across the northern half of the nation, but ice-up is still a while away and there are still many great opportunities to catch some open-water fish before you have to turn to the ice shanty for your angling fix.

Just about any northern or Midwestern lakes or rivers might give up some late fall walleyes, but some of the best include the Red and Winnipeg rivers in Manitoba, particularly if you’re after a trophy-size fish. The greenback walleyes that call these rivers home are big, and fall is prime time to connect.

Move farther south to the Rainy River where one side of the river is in Ontario and the other side is in Minnesota. You’ll catch big walleyes, and you’ll also catch eater-sized ones. Lake St. Clair near Detroit is one of the most famous giant walleye fisheries in the country, and massive Lake Erie is not far behind.

eating size walleye

Eating size walleyes are also quick to bite as water temperatures drop.

As we move farther south, the Mississippi River from below the Twin Cities all the way down to Bellevue Iowa will provide fast action. There won’t be as many big ones, but the action can be tremendous. In this part of the country, sauger, the walleye’s tasty smaller cousin, will start to make up more of the catch. You’ll also catch some saugeyes, a combination walleye and sauger-they taste just as good as the parent species

The rivers in Kentucky and Tennessee are pretty much the end of walleye country, and in these waters, sauger will dominate. There are sauger farther south, but not as many as farther north.

Walleyes, sauger, and saugeyes can be caught on a variety of baits, but it’s really hard to beat a jig: Pure and simple, jigs are the go-to bait of many of the best walleye catchers in any of these regions. Find the fish on your sonar-they’re probably working shallower with the colder nights-and put a lure in front of them.

Walleyes will eat jigs tipped with plastic or minnows this time of year. If you’re using plastic, you’ll want a jig with a long-shanked hook like a Slurp! Jig. These jigs were made for the use of plastic. An Impulse Swim’n Grub in the three-inch size would be a good choice, as would an Impulse Smelt Minnow. Experiment with colors. It’s often a good idea to use a jig of one color and a body of another color. This way, you’re giving the fish color options.

Most lakes and rivers across the northern U.S. and southern Canada have walleyes ready to bite this month.

If the fish take minnows better, use a jig with a short-shanked hook, something like a Fire-Ball jig. Hook the minnow through its mouth and out the back of its head. By doing so, you’ll increase your hooking percentages.

The Fire-Ball has a quick attach-detach system for a stinger hook. If you’re missing fish, add the stinger.

Much of the time the walleyes will be scattered near shallow water structures and more tightly grouped in deeper water. Sauger will often be deeper than walleyes.

Anytime you can extend the fishing season, you’ve got a good thing going on. If you live in walleye or sauger country, get on a river, tie on a jig, and catch some walleyes, sauger, or saugeyes. From now until the ice forms, you can still get some use out of your boat and put some fillets in the freezer.

Bob Jenson

To see all the newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, visit

Join us at


Previous articleHoliday Gifts – SodaStream seeks to help you and help the environment
Next articleOntario Principals concerned over school safety during OSSTF job action or NNL offers news, information, opinions and positive ideas for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and the world. NNL covers a large region of Ontario, but are also widely read around the country and the world. To reach us by email: Reach the Newsroom: (807) 355-1862