Confessions of a (Walleye) River Rat
by Daniel Kiazyk
There are some axioms to successful walleye fishing. I wouldn't even dare to propose that I'll even touch upon the tip of the iceberg of relevant fishing facts referring to fall river walleyes. However, there are a few things I've noticed over the years while fishing for Manitoba's #1 sport fish the walleye.
1. Timing is everything. Want to catch a monster "eye"? Well, you can spend a 1,000 hours or just a few, but the time of year does make a difference, two periods of time in Manitoba spell trophy walleye: Spring and fall. Spring walleye tend to be leaner. This probably follows as a result of less forage and an exhausting spawn: Fall walleye show up in Manitoba's larger rivers towards the middle of September up to just before Christmas. As for any time considerations, some big eyes show up unexpectedly at the time of year you'd least expect it, but that's fishing isn't it.
2. Location, location, location as with any business the big eyes do show a tendency in Manitoba's big rivers to show up in certain locations year after year. Humps, large extensive flats associated with a good drop off. Break lines, fronts of islands, rocky areas near sharp drop offs. Narrowing down areas with rock being present (a lot of people on the Red River don't realize that the neck down rocky areas are tyndal stone deposits). The fish will overnight appear in the fall on these traditional structures. In the spring they will also be located near to specific structures, but here the biological imperative, water temperature, photo period, will impact on location to an even greater extent.
3. Forage plays another significant part of the puzzle. I've trolled on one river that flows into Lake Manitoba with one bait with little or no action. Change that bait to a perch colored bait – same size and make and regularly boat fish in the 8 – 10 lb. range. That same bait is near useless on another river which dumps into Lake Winnipeg where a predominantly yellow crank seems to do the job. What's the message – fish are keying in on a particular forage in Lake Manitoba and Lake Manitoba. Enormous schools of perch roam lake Manitoa marauding smaller forms of life. In turn, they make up a large part of the walleye's diet in this lake. In Lake Winnipeg where schools of white fish, goldeye and white bass, emerald shiners and rainbow smelt are the predominant forage species and as a result the walleye's diet is different. The crank baits I use resemble the latter forage species. Perhaps one experience keyed me into this forage-prey relationship. One particular river which flows into Lake Manitoba has an excellent population of bullhead and by changing my crank bait to something that resembled those creatures had a big impact on the number and size of walleye caught. It only makes sense; give them what they want to eat.
4. Go to where the big fish are and
5. Putting in your time.
These latter two adages have been written about ad infinitum in any number of fishing journals. They still hold true while fishing the rivers connected to the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Winnipeg. Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis do produce huge fish. Test nets by the department of Natural Resources in Manitoba's big lakes have yielded walleye in excess of 20 lbs. (shhh… you didn't hear it from me!). I've also read that the number of walleye in Manitoba lakes equals all the walleye in the continental U.S. (excluding the Great Lakes). So, why fish anywhere else if you're hunting for that big hawg.
As for the latter concept – "Put in your time" – nothing else rang more true in a recent conversation I had with an angler friend. The angler in question had seen me on the river one day this past fall and suspected that my day had ended up as his had – zip. On the contrary, the last 30 minutes proved to be extraordinarily profitable; two fish over 28" – but only after a 12 hour day; a day where we threw everything at them but the "kitchen sink". When we came back to launch no one would believe us as they had no luck. But that the point, they had left a half hour earlier – that's fishing eh!
These are a few of the muses of a younger river rat. Imagine the stuff that the "wiggler guy" – a guy on the Winnipeg River who, for the past 10 years I've seen him, fishes with nothing but a wiggler- would have to say! I'd like to be a fly on the side of his boat!