By: John Neporadny
Dam spillways in my region harbor large schools of walleye, white bass, trout, crappie and some bass as the dam serves as a blockade preventing fish from heading farther upstream. These fish gather in large concentrations below the dam throughout the winter giving bank anglers a golden opportunity to catch their limits.
Spillway shorelines usually feature rock riprap which absorbs heat in the winter and draws fish to the warmer water close to the bank. Spillways also have steeper shorelines, which gives easy access to bank anglers who want to cast to fish wintering in deep water. The constant current in spillways created by the need for power generation from the dam keeps the water from freezing so bank anglers have an ice-free spot to fish throughout the winter.
Spillway Fishing By Species
If the spillway contains trout, these fish are probably the easiest to catch throughout the winter because the fish become more active than other species in the cold water. Rainbow trout are common in many spillways and trophy brown trout migrate into the dam’s tailwaters to spawn throughout the winter.
Crappie try to avoid current, especially in cold water, so targeting current breaks and eddies will help you catch a mess of these panfish. Smallmouth bass are more current-oriented and can usually be found above a current break when the water flow is minimal, but the fish will hide behind current obstructions during heavy current.
Walleye Below Dams In The Winter
The dam blocks walleye and white bass from making their spawning run farther upstream. Current throughout the winter draws some walleye and white bass to the deeper holes of the spillway. Larger concentrations of these migratory fish start showing up in mid to late winter for the early stages of their spawning runs.
When reservoirs freeze, the spillways below dams offer the easiest way to catch open water fish from the bank throughout the coldest months.
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