GPS for River Walleye

By Lance Valentine

Most anglers think of GPS as mostly a big water tool for finding fishing spots, avoiding hazards and getting home at the end of a fishing trip. But successful anglers know that a GPS is an invaluable tool for finding, catching and analyzing river walleye too.

Using a GPS while river fishing gives an angler several advantages. First, is the ability to see depth contours and major structure pieces. Using a quality digital chart chip will give river anglers a detailed look at the river bottom and show fish holding spots. The best chips show depth contours in 1, 3, 5 and 10’ increments, allowing anglers to use larger scales to easily see major structural elements then use and smaller scale to zero in on key spots that other anglers may miss. Most of today’s GPS units allow for instant “LIVE” mapping that records depths from the transducer as you are driving and fishing, creating a detailed, accurate chart.

Second, a quality GPS allows anglers to view bottom composition changes that will hold and concentrate fish. C-Map Genesis Edge for Navico units (Lowrance and Simrad) allows an angler to record sonar logs, upload the logs then download a chart with bottom composition. Being able to quickly spot the proper bottom composition, or transitions between varying compositions, can be the key detail for finding walleye in rivers, especially around the spawn period. When overlaying waypoints onto the bottom composition layer, it is amazing the information your GPS can provide to help in identifying daily, seasonal and yearly location and movement patterns.

Third, is another great feature available with most of the newer digital chart options and that is depth shading. Depth shading allows the GPS user to assign different colors to specific depth ranges. This can help when looking for mid-river structures at a certain depth or for allowing an angler to make boat control easier by simply keeping the boat in the “color” that represents the best depth to be in. Depth shading also is a huge help in locating new productive spots by being able to identify the characteristics of a current productive spot and being able to easily see spots with the same characteristics up or down the river.

Fourth, and probably the most common usage for a GPS when fishing a river, is saving waypoints when you catch a fish. Saving waypoints is one of the main reasons most anglers buy, and use, a GPS but there are a few things you can do to make saving waypoints more efficient when fishing a river. My river fishing usually starts in late March or early April and continues through the post-spawn period into early June. When on the river, my most basic key to fish location is surface water temperature, so I like my waypoint to signify what the temperature was when I caught a fish and saved a waypoint. Looking at the picture you can see my water temperature legend and it doesn’t take long to see a few locational shifts during the fishing season. I also use “X” and “Cross” waypoints for my morning (7am – noon) trips and “Circles” or “diamonds” for my afternoon (4-8pm) trips. So, by using a combination of colors and symbols, my waypoints start to tell me a fishing story, and allow me to make location decisions faster, and with better information than just saving the same looking waypoint every time.

By understanding what your GPS is capable of and taking advantage of all the features it offers, it can become a much more valuable fish catching tool every time you are on the water.

Visit Our library of Blogs