Spring Walleye Fishing on the Upper Mississippi River

Springtime brings a sense of renewal not just in the natural world around us but also unleashes one of the most anticipated fishing experiences in North America – walleye fishing on the Upper Mississippi River. Renowned for its spirited walleye run, the river draws anglers from far and wide, eager to cast their lines in these prolific waters. Here’s a detailed guide to help you make the most out of your spring walleye fishing endeavors on the Upper Mississippi.

Why the Upper Mississippi?

The Upper Mississippi River, particularly from the river’s source at Lake Itasca down to the Missouri River confluence, provides a diverse habitat conducive to walleye breeding. In spring, when the water temperature begins to rise, walleye start their upstream journey to spawn, making this the perfect fishing hotspot.

Timing Your Trip

Timing is crucial for walleye fishing, especially in the spring. The prime season usually kicks off in late March and can last through May. Key to success is the water temperature; walleye begin to spawn when the temperature is in the 40s (Fahrenheit). Keep an eye on local weather and river conditions for the best indicators of peak activity.

Choosing Your Spots

The Mississippi River is vast, so choosing effective fishing spots is essential:

  • Dams and Locks: Areas around dams and locks are hotspots because walleye often pause here during their migration. Try Lock and Dam 12 at Bellevue or Dam 5 near Winona.
  • River Bends and Pools: The slower water in bends and deeper pools provide excellent shelter for walleye. These areas are perfect for a more serene fishing setting.
  • Wing dams and drop-offs: Walleyes frequent these areas to feed due to the currents that direct smaller fish towards these structures.

Gear and Techniques

  • Rod and Reel: A medium-light to medium rod with a fast action is perfect for the sensitivity needed to feel the walleye bite and the backbone to handle their weight.
  • Line and Bait: Monofilament or braided lines work well in these conditions. Popular baits include minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers. Artificial lures like crankbaits or jig and minnow combinations can also be effective.
  • Technique: Jigging is a popular and effective technique for river walleye fishing. Cast upstream and let your jig drift with the current, mimicking natural prey.

Conservation and Regulations

Always check the local fishing regulations before heading out. With the popularity of walleye fishing, many areas have specific rules regarding catch limits and sizes to ensure sustainable fishing practices. Practicing catch and release also helps maintain the health of the walleye population.

Enhancing the Experience

While fishing is the main allure, the Upper Mississippi River region offers more than just walleye:

  • Wildlife Viewing: The river’s ecosystems are bustling with other wildlife, from soaring bald eagles to playful otters.
  • Scenic Beauty: The river landscape, dotted with bluffs and forested riverbanks, is picturesque, especially during sunrise and sunset.


Spring walleye fishing on the Upper Mississippi River is an incredible experience that combines challenging fishing with breathtaking natural beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious beginner, the river’s springtime walleye run promises an unforgettable adventure. Prepare well, respect the natural habitat, and you’ll likely have a great story to tell about the one that didn’t get away. Happy fishing!

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