The river patterns covered here are for walleye populations that make long-distance spawning migrations from large bodies of water into a significant river with lots of five- to 10-foot depths, holes at bends down to 15-plus feet, and plenty of room for walleyes to move miles upstream to reach suitable spawning sites.
All spawning rivers, however, are not equal; many are considerably shallower and shorter. If so, fish tend to linger at the river mouth until spawning conditions are suitable, then swiftly move upstream, sometimes in waves, when conditions are ideal.
This is common where dams lie just a short distance upstream from the mouth, or where hard-bottomed tributary rivers are only a few miles long. In these conditions, fish tend to wait until the last moment and then make a mad dash to spawning shoals. A good example occurs on Greers Ferry Reservoir in Arkansas, home of the world-record walleye. Fish hold at the mouths of several major coves until spring rains send a surge of warmer, dingy water downstream, triggering sudden fish movement upcurrent. A day or two of hot river fishing may be followed by a week-long lull until the next major rainstorm. Then another wave surges upstream.