Ice-fishing educator Dave Genz is not only an ice fishing guru. He also loves to spend summer days on the Mississippi River where it flows past his backdoor in St. Cloud. When the weather turns hot, fishing is far from hard for this northwoods Huck Finn, who launches his boat from his backyard.
Genz says anglers shouldn't be deterred by high water on the Mississippi and other Minnesota rivers. The added current concentrates fish, making the search more predictable.
Genz said he's caught walleyes and smallmouth bass over 20 inches and also some bonus catfish. "I fish with live bait so I'm not particular about what bites," Genz said.
Over the centuries, evolution has favored river fish that adapted to moving water. A fish can't eat enough to survive if it spends all its energy fighting current. As a result, most gamefish in rivers are ambush feeders. They gather where obstructions break the current and provide resting areas. They sit in this slower-moving water and wait for prey to swim by.
In times of high water and strong current, Genz focuses on the downstream side of islands, places often too shallow to fish in normal-water years. But this season they have the right combination of depth and eddies, the name for the slack areas formed by current breaks.
A good river rig is an 8-foot steelhead rod, spinning reel and 10-pound extra-tough line. Your line will get nicked repeatedly, so check it and retie often to prevent a break while bringing in a good fish.
Keep terminal tackle simple. A 1/4- to 1/2-ounce Lindy No-Snagg works great. Genz sticks with those sizes because he can keep them on the bottom where water moves slowly enough to hold fish.
The sinker should be fixed. Clip the No-Snagg onto a snap swivel and tie an 18-inch leader to the snap. Add a hook and nightcrawler pierced once through the nose and then twice more through the body.
Use the outboard motor to hover over the eddy or to slip slowly downstream with the current through slower-moving water. Most fish stay tight to the bottom, so stay in contact with the lift-drop, lift-drop presentation.
Keep your rod tip high. Often you'll feel only some extra weight when a fish takes the bait. Drop the tip, reel up the slack and set the hook. Sometimes Genz beaches his boat on the downstream side of an island and casts to the edges of the eddy. Fish any eddy formed by points jutting into the river, rocks or man-made obstructions.
Genz also explores feeder creeks with newly-submerged timber. As the water drops, fish move to more traditional locations such as rocks and boulders in deep water.
Want a catfish? Beach the boat upstream of a fallen tree, cast toward it and let the bait drift to the wood.
Water clarity has been a factor this year. Check eddies at the mouths of creeks, where the water is cleaner than in the main river. Fish the line where the color changes from dirty to clear.
Rainfall can turn feeder creeks and the main river to mud. When that happens, go upstream to a dam. Water often is clearer where it exits the reservoir because the sediment has settled.
Don't make the mistake of assuming river fishing is good only in spring and fall. Summer fishing on moving water can be hot.
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