Friday, December 5, 2008

Best time to fish Red Lake, Ontario

Dan and Sam with fall pike
A common question we get is "What's the best time to come fishing?"
This is a legitimate concern because on some lakes fishing is way better when the water is cool but is not so good in the heat of the summer.
However, that is not the case when fishing Red Lake, Ontario, and particularly the west end of the lake where anglers at Bow Narrows Camp fish.
Our anglers do excellent in all months and in all weather and water temperatures. The reason comes from the lake itself.
Red Lake is a big lake, about 30 miles in length and with bodies of water that are five miles in width as well as small shallow bays and winding narrows and rapids.
There are lots of shallow bays that appeal to walleyes and northern pike when the water is cool in the spring and there are deep water bays where the water never actually warms up, even in the warmest part of summer.

Our anglers just fish different areas to suit the weather conditions.
For instance in June walleye fishermen spend most of their time in the bays that are 10-20 feet deep and which warm up rapidly with the sun. Mostly the fish will come from 6-12 feet of water in these bays.
In July anglers continue fishing the shallow bays but also start fishing the edges of the deep water bays, probably also in 6-12 feet of water. It's at this time that it seems like walleyes are everywhere. While some anglers are catching them in shallow bays, others will be doing the same fishing deeper.
By the end of July many fishermen will be concentrating on 16-20 feet of water at the edges of the deep bays. They will locate very large schools of fish around points and underwater structures like reefs and humps.
Meanwhile other fishermen continue fishing in the shallow bays and will concentrate on fishing windy shorelines. It is possible that some of the fish they catch there have swam into the area to feed from deeper water.
Some walleyes will stay in the shallow bays until the first cool nights of late summer in mid-August. That seems at odds with what happens in other, shallow lakes, but it is exactly what happens here. After a couple of chilly nights that cool off the shallow water, the walleyes start streaming out toward the deep. By the third week of August just about all the walleyes will be out there and will be in 26-30 feet. They show up easily on fish finders and we catch a great many of them at this time.
But something else happens as the summer progresses as well. Large numbers of walleyes from other parts of the lake start appearing at the west end where camp is located. No one really knows why but the west end is deeper than the east and that may have something to do with it.
What about northern pike?
By and large we catch them in exactly the same areas in all months and we catch just about as many of them in any particular month. The methods for catching can change a bit.
For instance, the dead bait system for northern pike works the best the first couple of weeks in the spring and in September. The first week or two it works far and away better than casting or trolling. But after awhile casting and trolling work equally as well and by mid-June these systems work better.
There can be a slight change in preference for size of lures as the season changes too. Larger lures work better in spring and fall but aren't worth a hoot in mid-summer. How big is larger? In a Dardevle the 3/4-ounce is good spring and fall whereas the 1/3-1/2 ounce is best in the summer. For a Mepps spinner, the #5 is best early and late while the #4 is better in summer.
In a Rapala an 8-10 incher will catch fish in June and September but is like fishing with a piece of kindling in July and August when a 6-8 incher is way better.
Although we fish for pike in the same bays from month to month the area we fish in those bays varies with the water temperature. Early on the fish will be right on the shoreline. As the season progresses they back out into the emerging weed growth and by season end will be on the deep size of those weeds, perhaps as deep as 12 feet.
Some northern pike will follow the walleyes all year. We catch a great many while walleye fishing (with leaderless jigs and spinners!) However, it seldom pays to purposely fish for northerns in the walleye spots unless it just seems like you are getting bit off by northerns as fast as you can get your bait down. Then put a leader on your jig and get to northern fishing!
So the best month to come fishing is just whenever suits your schedule best.
There's also the weather to take into consideration.
May, June and September can sometimes be cool while July and August are almost always warm. This can make a difference when your fishing partner is very young, very old or the fairer sex.

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