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Fishing for Walleye / Pickerel on the Detroit River in Spring: A Guide

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Timing is Key

Spring is an exciting time for fishing enthusiasts, especially for those looking to catch walleye on the Detroit River. This river is known for it’s plentiful, high-quality walleye/ pickerel, which makes it a popular destination for anglers. The best time to fish for walleye / pickerel on the Detroit River in spring is during the spawn, which typically occurs in April and May. During this time, walleye move into shallower water to lay their eggs, making them easier to catch. To make the most of the spring spawn, it is best to fish early in the morning, when the water is cooler. In this article, we will provide you with tips and techniques for a successful walleye fishing trip on the Detroit River in spring.

Where to Fish

Walleye / pickerel can be found in several locations on the Detroit River, including near islands, drop-offs, and points. One of the best places to fish is near the mouth of the river, where it meets Lake Erie. This area is known to produce large numbers of walleye, particularly during the spring spawn. In addition, look for areas with a drop-off or a point, where the river bottom quickly drops off into deeper water. Walleye/ pickerel like to hold in these areas, where they can ambush their prey. A popular spot is the area just south of the Ambassador Bridge. Nearby McKee Park has a free public boat launch.

Tackle and Bait

When fishing for walleye/ pickerel on the Detroit River in spring, it is important to use the right tackle and bait. A medium-action spinning rod, around 6-7 feet in length, paired with a reel spooled with 6-8 lb monofilament line, is ideal for catching walleye in the river. When it comes to bait, live minnows, worms, and jigs are popular choices for walleye fishing.


One of the best techniques for catching walleye / pickerel on the Detroit River in spring is drift fishing. This involves drifting with the current while slowly dragging a bait along the bottom. Pay close attention to your line, as walleye/ pickerel will often hit the bait when it is in the right spot. Another popular technique is casting jigs, which can be tipped with live bait or soft plastic worms. Jigs can be cast and retrieved slowly, mimicking the movement of baitfish in the water.

Fishing Boat, Canoe, Kayak or Cast from Shore?

When fishing for walleye on the Detroit River, you have the option to use a boat or fish from the shore. While fishing from a boat can provide you with more access to deeper waters and a wider range of fishing opportunities, walleye / pickerel can also be caught from shore. If you choose to fish from a boat, there are several options to consider.

A small, lightweight aluminum fishing boat is ideal for navigating the Detroit River, as it is easy to maneuver in the river’s tight turns and narrow channels. This is also a great way to spend time with a friend. You can rent a fishing boat for the day or just a few hours for as little as $99!

Canoes and kayaks are also popular choices, as they are lightweight, easy to transport, and provide excellent stability on the water.

For those who prefer fishing from a larger boat, a pontoon boat can be a great platform to fish from and offer a higher level of comfort and stability on the water. They are ideal for fishing in open waters or for those who want to fish for longer periods.

When choosing a boat for fishing on the Detroit River, it is important to consider factors such as the boat’s capacity and size to accommodate your gear. Make sure the boat is equipped with the necessary safety equipment, such as life jackets and a safety horn, and ensure that you are familiar with the rules and regulations for boating on the Detroit River.

What to bring with you in addition to your tackle

It is important to come prepared with the right gear and equipment. In addition to your bait and tackle you will want to pack these essential items:

Cooler: A cooler with ice can be used to store your catch and keep drinks and food cold.

Rain gear: April can be a rainy month, so be sure to bring waterproof rain gear to keep you dry.

Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, the sun’s rays can be intense, so don’t forget to bring sunscreen to protect your skin.

Hat: A hat can provide additional protection from the sun and can also be useful in keeping the rain out of your face.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from the sun and for helping you see into the water to spot fish. Opt for polarized lenses to help with the glare from the water.

First aid kit: A basic first aid kit is always a good idea to bring along on any fishing trip.

Camera: A camera can be a fun way to capture your fishing experience and the scenery on the Detroit River.

In addition to these items, it is also important to bring along any necessary licenses and permits, as well as a map of the Detroit River to help you navigate the river and find the best fishing spots. By coming prepared with the right gear, you can increase your chances of having a successful and enjoyable fishing trip on the Detroit River this Spring.

Ontario Fishing Regulations and Licensing

When fishing for walleye on the Detroit River in Ontario, it is important to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations and licensing requirements. Fishing regulations in Ontario are governed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), which sets rules and guidelines for fishing in the province.

In Ontario, all anglers must have a valid fishing license, which can be obtained online or at a licensed vendor. There are different types of fishing licenses available, including a short-term license, an annual license, and a conservation license. The type of license you need depends on the type of fishing you plan to do and the length of time you will be fishing.

In addition to a fishing license, it is important to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations for the Detroit River, which include restrictions on the size and number of fish that can be caught. The MNRF sets seasonal fishing limits for different species, including walleye, to ensure the health of fish populations and to protect the environment.

It is also important to be aware of fishing regulations related to the use of fishing boats, such as safety requirements and restrictions on the use of motorized boats. These regulations are designed to promote safe and responsible boating practices and to protect the environment.

Do you need a licence to rent a boat? No, your boat rental outfitter can provide a temporary boaters license after a brief proof of competency test. Learn more about Temporary Boaters Licences here.


Fishing for walleye on the Detroit River in spring can be a thrilling and rewarding experience. With the right tackle, bait, gear and techniques, you can increase your chances of landing a big catch. Remember to follow fishing regulations, such as size and catch limits, and to respect the river and its environment. Have fun and good luck on your fishing trip!