Different Perspectives for Fall Walleye
By Daniel Kiazyk
Over the years I've been exposed to a variety of different approaches and to a variety of fisheries. Each approach had been specifically "honed" as it were to meet the demands of this or that specific fishery. I've angled with different fisherman whose insights into different fisheries had been so acute that it has changed the way I think of fishing. So it was a couple days this fall when I spent some time with two such acutely attuned anglers.
"Angler one" had become a student of Pine Falls a few years ago. His preference for Pine Falls came as a result of a need for a "lack" of confinement and the opportunity to explore a variety of different environments. Angler "2" was a dyed in the wool Red River fanatic. This angler's penchant for "hawgs" as he'd put it would only be satisfied by one of the world's best trophy walleye rivers and approaches he had established as effective there over a period of years..
So, it was one early Saturday morning that I'd met up with angler "one" and we were on a mission to fish Pine Falls. With the normal necessities out of the way and all gear stored ready to go our discussion would turn to angling (is there any other discussion when driving out to go fish anywhere?) I soon came to realize that this angler had put in an enormous amount of time fishing for walleye all over eastern Manitoba and as a with many other walleye fanatics fishing Pine Falls was a long looked forward to angling opportunity. Pine Falls in this Angler's opinion lacked the "constriction" of the Red and it sported cleaner water. On both accounts I'd have to agree that Pine Falls offers a larger area to work and of course it has better water clarity (not necessarily quality).
Our initial foray that day would be to head out towards the traverse bay/end of river section. Being as early in the season as we were fishing, the choice to go out nearer to the bay was definitely a good one as we would immediately encounter fish when we'd drop our lines.
What was our strategy? Simply stated we were going to fish structure and to it we were going to present a variety of jigs in different sizes and colours, live minnows and we were going to "drift" through these areas. The advantage to the drift when presenting our jigs in these contexts was that our jigs would work through a number of different micro -environments related to the structure. The fish would tell us where exactly in the structure they were if they were there at all. Moreover they were going to tell us what color size and presentation they were wanting on that specific day. This latter component wasn't different from what anyone does when out on a greenback hunt.
So, we would do a milk run around the end of the river and the various points out into the bay. Occasionally we would bump into a flurry of walleye in any of the places met, but of course there were those places where walleye were stacked and were caught with increased frequency. Key to the drift technique was the use of a drift soft which would be thrown out to keep the boat "square" into the wind. Having the boat "square" into the wind allowed both anglers to fish without any obstructions.
The other interesting component of "Angler one's" approach that needs to be mentioned was the use of fireball jigs. The fireball has the unique capacity to present live bait allowing loads of opportunity for the bait to move and present itself naturally to a fish. Also advantageous with the fireball short thank configuration is the distance the hook needs to have to get into a fish's mouth. Of course the fireball is far more effective when rigged with a stringer. Short bites will be hooked with great efficiency.
As for Angler 2, this Red River fanatic was in a "hawg" hunting mode. Once again, we were poking around some very specific structure that over the years I was told could hold big mama green. Furthermore, the advantage this particular angler had was not to be swayed by the herd mentality that can some times be operative on the Red River. This particular day Angler 2 decided to fish a stretch of river quite obviously fishy but not frequented by a lot of other anglers.
The normal approach used by Angler 2 is to make a controlled drift through his area. By "controlled", the trolling motor is used to control depth and in some cases speed and boat position the trolling motor is also used to slowly pull the boat upriver through the same area. Upon questioning this tactic of moving in a river when almost everybody sits anchored jigging, angler two noted that the speed that he is moving at still presents the bait slow enough for fish to find it. He also suggested that by doing so he is probably putting his bait in front of more fish (and more actively feeding fish) than he would if he just sat anchored and waited for them to come by for a visit.
This last point is particularly important when you consider the "dynamics" of fishing a river. Fish are always moving and by moving you always have the option of going deeper or shallower. The general rule of thumb for the river is that fish go deeper during the day and are shallow morning and evening. Being able to adjust accordingly with your rigging only makes sense. The use of spinners is not precluded in this environment. Using this particular tactic offered two unique advantages. Firstly not too many other people were using this approach and as such he was presenting a technique that fish were not going to be conditioned to seeing. Secondly using rigs and a trolling motor meant he was able to go around and look for fish versus the traditional wait for the fish approach that anchoring can involve.
So, it goes after experiencing these two different views/approaches to fishing for greenbacks that a little more is revealed about walleye behaviour on the Red and Winnipeg rivers. Does either approach surprise me? No, not really. I've previously employed both but with far less frequency than I believe either angler previously mentioned did. Can we all learn from one another…. You bet. If you get the chance sometime to see the river you fish from another perspective it may have an impact on strategies you use on any given day when fishing for Manitoba Giant Greenbacks.