Sunday, December 30, 2007

Red Lake Walleyes Everywhere

Canadian walleye fishing
Red Lake, Ontario, has some of the world's best walleye fishing, especially in the vicinity of Bow Narrows Camp.

In the spring, walleyes are found in exceptionally shallow water, 3-8 feet deep, and key in on those areas where the water warms up the fastest. The ice will only have been off the lake a couple of weeks by the time walleye season opens the third Saturday in May. So the water temperature is still very cold. The places that warm up the fastest are shallow spots with good exposure to the southern sun. Unlike other times of the year, the walleyes don't seem inhibited by bright sunlight in the spring. They are hungry and can be found right out in the open on the sunniest of days.

If you like to jig for walleyes, use a 1/8-oz to 1/4 oz jig with bait of any kind: minnows, worms or leeches. A good technique is to anchor and pitch your jig right up next to the shoreline and then jig it slowly back to the boat being alert to any resistance on the line. There are no weeds at this time of year and that slight increased weight on the line will be a walleye. Set the hook!

Many anglers at Bow Narrows Camp also do well this time of year by trolling minnow imitations such as Rapalas. Floating models in the 5-7 inch length work well. The Shallow Runner Shad Rap is also a favorite. Colors preferences vary from day to day and even throughout the day so bring a selection.

As the water warms in June the fish start keying more to structure such as the emerging weedbeds, rocky reefs, points, etc. The walleyes will likely be in 6-12 feet of water. They become very wind-specific. Always fish the windy shore or shores parallel to the wind. In addition to the above-mentioned lures and techniques, the Little Joe spinner is a favorite with Bow Narrows Camp fishermen. This inexpensive lure consists of a monofilament snell on which is a small round spinner blade, a few beads and a single hook. Sometimes there are two single hooks or even three. This latter version is usually called a nightcrawler harness and is fished with nightcrawlers.

These rigs are virtually always backtrolled. By trolling the boat in reverse, it travels more slowly and also keeps the propellar away from the fishing lines. The exception to backtrolling is when the waves are too large for this operation and come splashing over the transom. In those conditions the boat is trolled forward.

The key to all walleye fishing is to fish as close to the bottom as possible without being continually snagged. This requires a sinker as the spinners have no weight themselves. The size of the weight depends on the depth you are fishing in and the speed of the boat. Generally you will need a sinker of 1/4 to 1/2 oz.

Experts are able to keep their spinners within a foot of the bottom at all times. They do this by a number of methods but mostly by letting out line until slack appears, then reeling up a few turns. They keep checking for the bottom in this manner every few minutes.

Others use the bottom-walker sinkers that have a large wire through a lead sinker. With these you can feel the wire dragging the bottom. Your lure is attached to a length of fishing line on another wire and swivel above the sinker. The length of this "lead" varies with the conditions but in general the more aggressive the fish, the shorter the lead. The more finicky they are, the longer it should be. Say 3-feet at the shortest and up to 9 feet at the longest.

You will want a wide variety of colors of spinners but make sure you have: silver, gold, yellow, orange, blue and purple.

When using spinners with a single hook, when you have a bite, swing your rod towards the direction of the fish, giving it slack. As the movement of the boat tightens the line again, Set the Hook! This action lets the fish take the bait into its mouth before you set the hook.

All these techniques work throughout the season.

In July and August, some walleyes begin making their way to the edges of the deep bays. There will still be fish in the shallow bays too, especially on windy days, but now you will also find them in 12-20 feet of water around reefs and flats that are not far from extremely deep areas (100 feet or more).

It is at this time that it just seems like there are walleyes everywhere: shallow, medium and deep. Many times in recent years Bow Narrows anglers just for fun tried fishing areas of the lake they had never considered for walleyes. And they found fish everywhere they looked.

In September, the fish move to about 30 feet in many of the same places they were in the summer. But in addition they key in on entrances to narrows, such as the one where camp is located (lucky for us).

Minnows seem to be the bait of choice in September. The fish can be in very large schools at this time.

Depthfinders are useful when walleye fishing mostly to find the depth. Fish don't show up on the depthfinders too well until you start fishing deeper. They work perfectly for spotting fish when they are 30 feet deep in September.

Red Lake walleyes are exceptionally large, especially at the west end of the lake where Bow Narrows Camp is located. The average fish in 2007 was 22 inches with a great many in the 24-28 inch range. Since then we have also started catching smaller fish as well. In 2010 we were still catching large walleye but also many 14-18 inchers too, perfect for eating.

Most anglers release the big fish these days. They are the important breeders and don't "eat well" anyway. The best eating fish are the 16-18 inchers.

Every year the fishing gets better and better and anglers themselves are largely responsible for that. Keep it up!

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Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

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