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Walleye In The Net
Wanted Lake Erie Walleye

Detroit River Walleye
plentiful on the river
Dave Richey / The Detroit News


The Detroit River: This river separates Michigan from Ontario, and it has the largest run of walleyes in the country. The big question is when it will kick off, and that depends on weather and water temperature.

The river from Peche Island downstream to Lake Erie begins to hit its walleye spawning stride in mid-May. Early catches are predominantly male fish but in mid- to late-April, ripe hens (female walleyes) move into the river to spawn. Males seldom weigh over three pounds but an egg-laden hen can weigh 10 pounds.

The major hotspot is the Trenton Channel along the Michigan shoreline, and just
upstream from Lake Erie and downstream n are good spots. Try fishing off Celeron Island as well. from Elizabeth Park Marina in Trenton.

The water depth ranges from four to 30 feet, and early morning action can be found in very shallow water, but as soon as angling boat traffic arrives, the fish move into deeper water and hug bottom.

Walleyes relate to rocks and rubble on bottom, and anglers can troll with a hand-line and pencil plugs or vertical jig with roundhead jigs. Vertical jigging requires a medium-action spinning rod, a reel stocked with six-pound monofilament, and a leadhead jig weighing ?, 1/3, 3/8, ? or 5/8 ounces, depending on water depth and current speed. Top colors are chartreuse, Kelly green, pink, white, yellow or any other color combination. Add a grub or twister tail body and shiner minnow to the hook. Some anglers use a stinger hook to nail short striking fish, and it can produce a few more walleyes every season.

Vertical jigging means drifting downstream at the same speed as the current, and using just enough power from an electric trolling motor or small outboard motor, to bounce the lure against bottom directly under the boat. This vertical jigging allows better lure presentation and a better feel of the jig when a walleye hits. A sonar unit is needed.

Other hotspots are around Grosse Ile, along the Ontario shoreline (an Ontario fishing license is required), and near the bridge to Windsor. It's a wise thing to carry at least one pound of jigs every day because the rocky river bottom grabs jigs and seldom gives them back.

Don't expect hard strikes from walleyes. Set the hook at any hesitation, and jig the lure just a few inches off bottom. Lift the jig six inches up, hesitate for a second, lower the jig back to bottom on a tight line, and repeat the process. And remember: small walleyes may not fight hard but big 'eyes do.

Walleye fishing on Detroit River
When: The peak of the spawning run should occur during Late March and extent through Mid-May.

Where to fish: Separate Michigan and Ontario fishing licenses are required on each side of the international boundary. Anglers commonly fish various spots along each shoreline and it pays to have both licenses when fishing the river. The Trenton Channel near Lake Erie is a solid bet and fishing off Celeron Island at the downstream end of the river is good. The Hiram Walker whisky plant on the Ontario side can be productive. The water on both sides of the river above and below the Ambassador Bridge is noted for producing fish. The Canadian shoreline near the Windsor Casino produces plenty of walleyes.

Jigs: The river bottom is loaded with rocks and rubble, and it's not uncommon to lose a dozen jigs daily. The best jigs have a round head and will weigh 1/3 and 5/8 ounces. Many anglers use a Fuzz-E Grub or Twister Tail body, and as is true with jig heads, it pays to have an assortment of colors.

Favorite colors: Black, chartreuse, kelly green, orange, pink, white and yellow are good colors and many people prefer two-tone leadhead jigs.

Jig strokes: Several methods work and a favorite is a slow three- to four-inch upward lift of the rod tip followed by lowering it and allowing the jig to hit bottom. Another is a variation of the up-and-down movement but has a snappier lift on the upstroke. One that pays off is to raise the rod tip three or four inches, pause for a moment and lower the jig to bottom on a tight line.

Times to fish: Many anglers like to be fishing by dawn and it can produce strikes from undisturbed fish. There are days (especially when overcast), however, when walleye action can be great all day. The best tip is to cover the water and keep trying new spots.