Welcome to Apex Fishing Tips, this section of our website is about river fishing and how to catch fish in a river. You can find rivers throughout North America and they're an attractive place to catch fish of all different sizes and species. On this web page we're going to teach you how to bigger fish, more often in a river.
Below you'll find 7 river fishing tips that will improve your chances of catching fish in a river. Rivers can be an amazing place to catch fish, they can vary both in size and depth and be home to some of the largest species of game fish, like catfish and northern pike. Continue down below to learn how to catch fish in a river.
Along with 7 river fishing tips we give you a detailed checklist of all the fishing tackle you'll need when you go river fishing. We've also provided you with some amazing pictures of anglers fishing in rivers around the world. If you need more information on river fishing, you can use the additional resources we've provided at the bottom of this page.
7 River Fishing Tips
It doesn't matter if you're going to fish a river from the shore or via boat or kayak, you'll need to learn about it. A great way to study a river is to use Google Maps. This will allow you to explore the river and find areas where you can fish from shore or launch your boat or kayak. A topographical map of a river can be useful to understand the depths of the areas where you're fishing. You'll also want to learn about what fish live in the river, what sections of the river they're commonly found and the best techniques to catch them.
There are quite a few different fishing rigs that work great in rivers. Avoid anything that is free floating or suspended, typically it will get pushed a shore and most likely get snagged. We recommend you try using the three-way rig, the drift rig or the fish finder rig. Make sure you use a weight that is at least an ounce, in rivers with a stronger current you may need to use two ounces. Fly fishing is another great method for catching fish in a river, especially for trout.
Some of the best live bait to use in a river is bait fish (minnows, shiners, etc.) and worms. You might be able to get away with larval type live baits (waxworms, etc.) if the current is weak enough. If you're trying to catch catfish try using chicken liver or dough baits. If you're targeting carp, nothing beats plain old sweet corn. Cut bait or pieces of fish can also yield good results in a river.
You can get some good results with lures, jigs, spoons, etc. in a river if the water is calm enough. Rivers with heavy flowing currents can make it difficult to successfully present them and often get snagged. Results vary between anglers, but in fast moving currents you'll lose far more gear than you'll catch fish. Artificial flies on a fly rod, also known as fly fishing, it's a great way to catch trout and other panfish in a river.
Many rivers have areas where water can pool, and the water is as still as a pond or lake. A lot of big game fish like to live in these pools and will hunt for bait fish in the inlet area feeding this pool. These can be hard to find because the time of year and water levels influence if these pools are filled or not. That's why it's important to use Google Maps to study a river for these areas before you head out fishing.
Safety is very important when river fishing. While some rivers are calm others can be rough or downright violent. When fishing from the shore be careful where you step, especially if there are rocks. You can slip and fall into a river quite easily if you're not paying attention. When fishing from a boat or kayak, make sure you have a map of the river and know where you're going. A calm river can easily become rough, causing issues for smaller boats and kayaks. Beware of rocks and other underwater structures that can damage or capsize your watercraft.
If you're going to use waders in a river you must have two things to protect yourself, a knife and a safety belt. The safety belt helps keep water getting into your waders. The knife is to cut away your waders if they fill with water. If you slip into the water with waders and they fill up with water it can be very difficult to get out, even in calm river water. Many anglers have drowned in as little as 3 feet of water due to their waders filling up with water and trapping them.
About Rivers and River Fishing
A river is a flowing body of water fed from a natural source. Rivers are typically fed by natural streams and creeks that are created from snowmelt and/or rain moving downhill from mountains or higher elevation areas. All rivers eventually meet up and flow into an ocean. Rivers can vary in size both in length and width. The longest river in the USA is the Mississippi river with a length of 2,341 miles.
Rivers are a great place to catch fish. River fishing is a great way to catch many common game fish species, such as trout, salmon, catfish, northern pike and walleye. River fishing can be hit or miss at times, fish migrate up and down rivers in search for food and places to spawn. A kayak or boat can make it easier to cover large sections of a river and find fish. Bottom fishing style rigs are recommended in rivers, along with lures and jigs.
River Fishing Checklist
The below river fishing checklist has the fishing gear and tackle you might need when fishing in a river.
Valid Fishing License
Fishing Rod Holder
Map of the River (Topographic with Depths)
Hooks (various sizes)
Weights (various sizes)
Lures, Jigs, Power Bait and/or Spoons
Live Bait (worms, minnows, etc.)
Fishing Stringer (unless you catch and release)
Measuring Tape (to measure your fish)
Fish Scale (to weigh your fish)
Needle Nose Pliers
Portable GPS Device (navigation and marking locations)
A Clean Towel
Insect Repellent (Scentless)
First Aid Kit
River Fishing Pictures
A picture of someone river fishing in the Trinity river. (Credit: Larry Bozka / Flickr)
A picture of an angler's catch from river fishing in Oregon. (Credit: jwheeler655 / Flickr)
A picture of someone river fishing in the Allegheny river. (Credit: pgh_shutter / Flickr)