By Dan Johnson

If you live within a few hundred miles of the Missouri River, you’d better get the boat hooked up. Reports say that it is prime walleye time right now.

If you like catching walleyes, the mighty Missouri River system is a top destination virtually year-round, but it’s especially hot right now. The spring spawn has hordes of ’eyes schooled in easy-to-fish places.

“The fish are on the verge of spawning,” reports veteran guide Jason Feldner. While the Perch-Eyes Guide Service proprietor normally offers updates from his home waters of Devils Lake, he routinely samples the Missouri River bounty as well.

Stationed on the stretch downstream from Bismarck, N.D., Feldner reports that 40-fish days are not uncommon right now.

“Walleyes average 15 to 18 inches,” he says. “You can expect two to five over 20 inches a day, with the occasional 7- to 8-pounder.”

Top tactics include pitching 1/8-ounce Lindy Jigs tipped with a fathead minnow or artificial softbait into slack-water pockets below spawning sandbars.

“The fish are staging in 3- to 8-feet of water below the bars, getting ready to move up on them to spawn,” he says.

Feldner expects the pattern to hold up for about a week.

“After that, the fish hang around a couple of days, then move downriver toward shallow-water feeding areas to replenish after the spawn,” he explains.

Along with jigs, Feldner notes that size 3 and 5 Lindy River Rockers are also deadly weapons for pre- and post-spawn Missouri River walleyes.

“Troll them along inside bends for fish staging for the spawn, and over slow-tapering, hard-bottom shallows once the walleyes begin moving down the river toward Lake Oahe,” he says.

It’s worth noting that Feldner’s jig and crankbait strategies will produce walleyes on river systems across the Midwest, and are worth giving a try right now, wherever open season allows.