Tailwaters may not be the most scenic areas, or most secluded, but can be the most productive in terms of the season’s first open water fishing opportunities.
After a dozen or so casts I soon felt the pleasant “tick” of a fish sucking in my lure. “Fish on!” I mouthed to Theall, leaning back into my arched rod. After a short battle, I eased the undersized fish from the river, removed the hook and let it slip from my hands back into the olive green water. Fish always feel bigger when taken from areas of fast current. In Indiana, walleyes must measure 14 inches or more before gracing the frying pan.
In this part of the state walleyes are the first to start their annual spawning cycle. When the water begins to rise above the freezing mark, these fish begin moving upstream in search of suitable habitat to lay their eggs, which normally means gravelly stream beds.
Knowledgeable fishermen know that tailrace fishing is key when it comes to early spring walleyes. In this part of Indiana, just about any concrete structure that holds back flowing waters is a great bet for walleyes, and with good reason. These areas below dams have highly oxygenated open water. There is also a constant supply of food being washed over, through or churned up by electrical turbines, depending on their type of construction and use.
Dams also block the natural upstream migration of river walleyes, forcing them to congregate in these areas. While not every walleye in the river system will stack up in tailrace areas, I can guarantee there will be sizeable numbers.
Another factor to fishing tailwater areas is water flow. In high water conditions, walleyes will congregate close to the dam. Often times large numbers will lay within 100 yards of the steel and concrete structures. In low water, the productive runs can be over a mile long. The key is to move around until you locate them.