River Fishing: Tips & Tricks on How to Fish in a River

River fishing is a fun way and one of the most relaxing freshwater fishing experiences an angler can ever have. Most anglers find this activity one of their favorites, especially if they are in a secluded river or trying to fish in high water.

Additionally, anglers of all experience levels can easily fish in the river. It doesn’t require much gear, and they can do it while on a boat, kayak, or while wading.

If you’re interested, here are some river fishing tips you can read through to help you get started!

river fishing
Fishing in Ohio. Source: Don Sniegowski

River Fishing Tips

River fishing is different compared to fishing in still waters. You have to take into consideration that fish will seek refuge from strong river currents or predators. Here are some places where you are most likely to reel in more fish!

Stumps and Vegetation

Always look for stumps, vegetation, and even sunken trees in rivers. Areas underneath these are good spots that will hold fish since they provide shade and protection from wildlife like birds.

Merging Currents

You should focus on areas where the currents in the streams change, especially when you’re on a boat. These areas might be merging currents, feeder springs, or drop-offs where food sources can gather. It makes the perfect spot where fish are caught and easily spotted!

Calm Areas or Eddies

Always keep an eye out for backwaters, even when you’re on a boat. These calmer areas in the river are perfect spots to set up traps and baits since fish are easily caught. These areas are also perfect if you want to find fish.

Islands or Rock Piles

Areas near islands or rock piles are also great spots to catch fish since these are calm areas. Fish often rest either facing upstream or downstream by these areas. Here’s a tip: a smart cast in the right spot will likely land you a catch!

family fishing
Family fishing. Source: Steve Miller

River Fishing Techniques to Catch Fish

Now that you finally know where to find more fish, here are some tips about the best methods for catching fish in lakes. From float fishing to whip fishing, we’re here to help you! Who knows, you might get your first game fish with the right gear and these fishing tips.

Upstream Casting

If fishing river fish like rainbow trout or brown trout is what you want, always remember to cast upstream using in-line spinners. These fish will always be swimming downstream. You should cast upstream since the river will create a natural presentation.

River Jigging

Many anglers consider jigs as the best lures for river fishing when you’re at the mouth of a river or in areas where there are slower currents. You can use ¼ to ⅛ ounce jigs most of the time, but if you’re looking for fish in stronger currents, you can use up to 1 ounce.

Ledgering and Feeder Fishing

Ledger fishing is a popular type of fishing that involves casting a weighted bait when fishing river fish. Many anglers usually include a feeding device to this rig, which helps entice fresh bait.

Bottom Bouncing

Bottom bouncing is one of the most common river fishing tips. In this one, you use a Carolina Rig to bottom bounce live bait and lure in fish. It can also be a good technique if you plan to catch smallmouth bass around drop-offs or ledges near deeper channels.

Whip Fishing

This type of fishing requires you to use a whip instead of a pole. Whips are smaller than poles and are usually telescoping, meaning they are easier to carry and set up. Whip fishing is great for beginners when they are looking for fish in narrow rivers and streams.

Fly Fishing

This is an angling method where you use a lightweight lure to catch fish. Essentially, you are tricking fish into thinking the artificial flies on your hook are lures. For this to be successful, make sure you’re equipped with the best hooks for river fishing.

River Fishing Essentials

Finally, you have decided it is time to go river fishing! Now, here’s everything you need to bring with you and a few more tips. From gear to lure, you can have access to these down at your local fishing tackle shop.

Quality Fishing Pole

Before you can even fish, you need your fishing pole. Many different fishing poles cater to different fishing styles but keep it simple if you’re starting. Best fishing poles are those that work for your style, after all.

Good Bait

Most anglers, if not all, prefer to use live bait to hook in fish. The most effective live bait out there is the nightcrawler, as virtually any fish will eat this bait. You can also opt for live shiners when you want to lure and hook in predatory fish. Essentially, you need to decide which bait you’d use depending on your target fish.

Polarized Glasses

An angler’s best asset when fishing, aside from his gear, is his eyes. Not only will polarized fishing glasses protect your eyes from harsh rays. But these will also filter certain lighting and give you a clearer view of fish just below the surface of the lake or river.

Fishing tip: Check out our list of the best fishing rod for river fishing to help you choose the right rod for you!

Where to Go River Fishing?

Many rivers in the U.S. offer plenty of opportunities for anglers to have great travel experiences. These rivers also offer anglers the chance to enjoy fishing no matter the weather, during summer or when it is cold. Here are some of the best spots to go river fishing in the country: 

Bighorn River

This area is known for heavy hatches that house some of the biggest fish like trout and carp. However, you have to be cautious since the currents in this river are swifter than they appear. Try to fish by the mouth or the shore; you’ll have an easier time to lure fish of good size.

Colorado River

This is one of the best rivers to fish in when you want to bait rainbow trout. Other fish you can catch here include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel fish, striped bass, and bluegill. The flowing water will also make great currents that can gather food sources for fish.

Missouri River

This river is most overlooked because of its fast currents and channelized riverbanks. But the Missouri River is the best area for fishing both channel and flathead catfish. The constant flowing water in this can also make good merging currents for fish to gather.

Common Species of Fish You Can Hook in Rivers

Are you finally convinced in trying out river fishing? If you are, you should know just what game fish you are trying to hook. There are lots of fish species you can reel in those rivers. That includes bluegills, perch, salmon, largemouth bass, trout, shiner, and walleye.

Fishing tip: If you want to catch some trout, check out our trout fishing tips for rivers.

You still have to consider where you are fishing and in which season. These are some of the factors that determine just what good fish you might catch in the river.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Johanes Godoy

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