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Kayak Fishing for Walleye On The Detroit River

The beginning of April is time for the walleye run on the Detroit River. With the 2003 spawn of walleye now hitting 13 years old, you have a good chance to land a true trophy. Early catches by power boaters show the truth of that theory.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate, and the wind and rain won’t keep kayak anglers off the water. I see many questions about the current and whether a kayak is safe to get out on the Detroit River and join the spring walleye run. I have seen paddle kayaks attempt to get out and jig the river each of the last seven years. It would be possible if the current and wind direction were just right. I highly recommend a backwater hand paddle from the Backwater Paddle Company or/and a drift sock. It is easier than using your kayak paddle to make quick adjustments while still holding your rod to keep it vertical, and the drift sock will slow down your drift.

Though it is possible under the right conditions, kayak fishing the Detroit River in a kayak is where a Hobie Mirage Drive pedal kayak really shines. Even with the wind coming from all directions, it is still possible to keep your kayak drifting at speed to keep your line vertical during your drift. It also is a lot easier to travel against the current, eliminating the need to arrange a pickup downriver.

Fishing out of your kayak at this time of year doesn’t come without its risk. Wearing proper clothing during a time when the air temperature may seem comfortable, though the water is just breaking past the 40-degree mark, is very important. Capsizing on a river with a strong current is difficult enough without adding freezing water that can handicap you in a matter of minutes. Here is a site that gives you the hard facts about cold water, Cold Water Facts.

Every year I see kayak anglers on the water and posting pictures with little to no proper clothing to safeguard them from an unexpected dump. Even if you think that you are invincible and don’t think you will tip or ever have an accident, don’t bother advertising and posting pictures on social media. It gives the wrong impression and does nothing to educate the person that is new to the sport and is thinking of getting out at this time of year and may not be as confident or skilled as you. I have to admit, until I started kayak angling, I thought nothing about going out in a small boat at this time of year and not even putting on a PFD. With the internet and information out there about cold water safety, there is no excuse not to take the proper measures to keep yourself from becoming another statistic.

If you are wondering what temperature is safe before not wearing proper gear, I can say that I used to follow the 120 rule of any combination of air and water temperature that equaled 120 is safe. That theory went out the window last September in Manitowac, Wisconsin, when a kayak angler died from cold water exposure in conditions that met the guideline of 120.

Only you will know what you are capable of by following a few guidelines:

  • always wear your PFD
  • don’t go out alone in cold water conditions
  • spend less than what your kayak cost on good cold water clothing is a small price to pay for life insurance to safely enjoy fishing in the spring or fall.

And if you choose to do your own thing and not follow a few simple guidelines, please don’t post pictures on social media.

Jigging is still producing walleyes, but the handliners are doing well also, especially on the Canadian side. Although the walleye fishing in Detroit river has been good with the high winds, I expect it to taper off as the water muddies up. Most of the fish being caught are spawned out females.

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Amanda is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.