I generally don’t think of fishing for walleyes as work. No. 1, I don’t get paid; No. 2, it’s fun!
Yet, on my journey earlier this week to Lake of the Woods on my annual fall walleye fishing adventure, it seemed as though a high level of exertion was necessary to catch fish.
Or, perhaps, more accurately, some persistence was required. Normally, by this time of year, walleyes are pouring into the Rainy River from the main lake in waves, chasing shiners that migrate there every fall. So, it’s a matter of picking a spot in the river, anchoring and tossing a jig and minnow overboard. Often, the wait under optimal conditions is less than a minute for a bite — and, a very aggressive, swallow-the-jig type of bite.
Not so on this trip. Even though the water temperature was 42 degrees, there weren’t streams of walleyes invading the river. Rather, it was more of a trickle. The good news was, there were enough fish for my friend, Pete Wolney, and I to catch plenty for dinner and bring home a limit. The bad news was, we waited much longer than usual for bites, sometimes up to an hour.
But, I am not complaining. After all, I did land a nice, 23-inch walleye, plus we had one flurry on the trip in which we caught eight fish in an hour Tuesday morning. I caught five of those fish, which included back-to-back 18-inchers and a 19-incher, the biggest keeper of the trip. With a protected slot of 19 1/2 to 28 inches, the three nice fish I caught are some of the best eaters an angler could ask for.
Interestingly, during the time of that flurry, I had the unusual problem of ice buildup on my rod guides. That, more than anything, made me wonder if Pete and I were nuts for fishing under these conditions. That morning, the mercury dipped to 18 degrees and only got into the upper 30s. So, we spent much of the day fishing in sub-freezing weather.
Of course, cold doesn’t bother me nearly as much when the fish are biting. Unfortunately, they weren’t biting at all on the main lake, which is where we decided to try Tuesday morning due to a good report we got before the trip.
Last week, anglers were catching lots of fish out on the lake past a narrow opening in a long island called “the gap.” But, strong northwest winds over several days churned up the water and made it dirty, shutting down the lake bite. We didn’t get a bite in an hour and a half and heard similar reports from other anglers who also tried it.
Then, we came back into the river and anchored on one of our favorite spots. That’s when we had the eight-fish flurry. That was worth the whole trip for me. But, we caught more fish the next morning to replace what we had eaten the night before. This is our sixth or seventh year of going up in the fall, and we have taken home our limit every time.
We worked harder for it this year than other years, but our persistence paid off. So did our previous years of experience on the river. We have several spots stored in our memories that rarely let us down. Plus, we have learned to put our time in when the conditions are tough. We especially target dawn and dusk, when nice flurries often occur. However, this year, our best flurry happened from 11 a.m. to noon.
Sometimes, that happens. I’m just glad we were in the right spot when a good wave of fish went through. Now, it’s on to deer hunting, which opens on Saturday. We will face unusually mild temperatures and lots of standing corn. That could make the hunting tough.
But, I’m fresh off of a fishing trip where persistence made the difference. I plan to sit in my stand all day Saturday and I’m encouraging my two sons, Joe and Andy, to do the same. Last year, I got my deer at 12:30. Because the rut is in full swing, deer should move even if it’s warm.
That’s what I plan to keep telling myself on Saturday.