By Dan Johnson

Many ice fishing discussions focus on still water, but rivers of all sizes offer excellent opportunities as well. Thanks to the current, ice safety is even more critical than on lakes, but where solid ice forms, flowing water can be a gold mine for walleyes and northern pike.

I’ve loved small rivers since I was old enough to pedal my bike to the nearby Rum River as a boy, and they’re equally productive summer and winter. One fine pattern for walleyes that run up small rivers in mid- to late winter, along with resident northern pike that hang around the river most of the year, involves finding seams between fast and slow flows.

Inside bends are top prospects, as they usually offer some type of breakline descending into the stronger flow on the outside of the bend. Sometimes holes on the outside can drop to 30 feet or more, and can be tempting to fish, but active predators often prowl shallower water. Exact depths at which fish hold depend on the river and the structure at hand, but you typically see walleyes a bit deeper than pike. For example, where walleyes roam the break at 10 feet, pike will often prowl in 5-foot depths.

Presentational options abound, but an aggressive snap-jigging approach with a Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon or Darter is often as good as it gets for both pike and walleyes. If multiple lines are legal, try running a live minnow on a Lindy Rig behind a three-way swivel with 1- to 3-ounce No-Snagg sinker on the dropper line.

Even small rivers can produce some surprisingly big walleyes and pike this time of year, so don’t be afraid to gear up with 8- to 10-lb line and a medium- to medium-heavy jigging rod. For the three-way setup, you can use a tip-up style rod-holder or hand-hold the rod, just make sure to keep your line close to a 45-degree angle like you would in open water.