Ontario Walleye Fishing Tips
From the time I was 14 years old right up until my 30th birthday, I worked as a professional fishing guide for various fly-in fishing lodges in Ontario and Manitoba. Many of the guests did not want a guide. Not having a guide who knows the north, combined with guests using down-south techniques, made their fishing trip disappointing because it's a different world in the north with a different food chain.
In the spring, Walleyes are either in a river current or right close to shore. When I say close to shore, I mean 5 to 10 feet from shore. In Northern Ontario Canadian Shield Lakes, the Walleyes that don't spawn in the river will find sandy areas along the shore to spawn. By the time fishing season opens, most Walleyes are finished spawning but they will hang around to protect their spawning beds.
You can put on a light jig (1/8-oz) and cast along the shore and retrieve it quit aggressively as the Walleyes are very aggressive this time of year. Use bright colors like red, chartreuse, yellow or white. Walleyes that are feeding will hit the jig. Walleyes that are not feeding will still hit bright colors because they are defending the spawning grounds and bright colors aggravate them.
In the daytime and in early spring, your will most likely catch smaller males, which stay at the spawning beds. The bigger females usually take off into deeper water during the day.
How do you find that special spot along the shore where the Walleyes are congregating? In the spring, put on a small Original Floating Rapala or Thunderstick and troll really slow right along the shoreline. The Walleyes will be in 2 to 4 feet of water. Red, Blue, Chartreuse and Fire Tiger are the best colors in the spring. If you keep trolling past a spot and hit Walleyes, then that's where they are. In this case, stop the motor and start casing. Trolling back and forth too many times will spook the area and they will stop feeding.
Dusey Lake - A few years ago in very early spring (just after ice-out), Bill & Michelle Ferring, owners of Twin Lakes Outfitters, flew us into Dusey Lake, which is a widening of the Dusey River. We fished right along the shore. If we were more then 10 feet away from shore; we would not catch anything. Across the lake was a bunch of guys that were in a different outpost cabin. They watched us fishing along the shore and catching a walleye every few seconds. YES, SECONDS. They were fishing out in the middle of the lake and catching nothing. They watched us catch fish all day. We told them the Walleyes were right on shore yet they would not listen and fished out in the middle of the lake and continued to catch nothing. They got pissed off and asked to be flown out mid week when the pilot did the mid week safety check fight.
If you are going to be a stubborn thickheaded fisherman who never tries anything new or will not accept the fact that the fishing in Northern Ontario is different then down south, then all you'll catch is disappointment. Unfortunately these type of people go and tell everyone they know that the fishing was really crappy when in fact, the fishing was incredible, they just did not know what they were doing. This happens too many times and hurts the business of a lot of outfitters. So listen to the camp owner when he/she tells you what you need to do.
In the summer the walleyes go a little deeper, hang out at the mouth of rivers or lay off rocky points. Islands that have patches of gravel around them are good spots. Rocky drop-offs are also good. With lakes that have a flat structure, the Walleyes will head into the thick weeds to get protection from the sun.
In the summer, Walleyes tend to go after more natural colors like silver, brown, black and white. When fishing with jigs, you can go to a heavier jig like a 3/8-oz or even 1/4-oz depending on how deep you are fishing. The twistertails or rubber you put on the jig should be these natural colors. Live minnows, if allowed, are excellent whether on a jig or just a strait hook. If you are doing a fly-in or fishing on a lake where you can not use live bait, get some salted minnows. We use to catch minnows and then cure them with salt. It seems a little cruel but it's convenient and the Walleyes go nuts over them. Just put a bunch of minnows on a cookie sheet and cover them with a generous amount of table salt.
Hot Days - Some times the Walleyes get very lazy in the summer, especially if it's a hot sunny day. When I use to guide at Peace Island Lodge, I worked with the very best fishing guide on Earth. His name was Paddy Meakes. He lives in a Cree settlement about 30 miles down the lake from the lodge. He was our head guide and an expert at catching Walleyes in the summer and afternoon when the Walleyes slow down. He would use a 1/8-oz jig and put a white twistertail on. Then he would cast out and literally drag the jig across the bottom. He would give it tiny little jigs (2 or 3 inches) once in a while just to shake off any mud or weeds. This bottom dragging got the Walleyes feeding. It really works. You should always jig slowly, just make the jig motion longer in the morning, as the Walleyes are more aggressive. Sharp quick jigs will attract pike.
Trolling off the rocky points with a Rapala or Thunderstick is also good in the summer. Natural colors like silver or brown seem to work best. If you use bright colors, you will hit tons of pike. In the summer, the Walleyes tend to go a little deeper and stay off rocky points or rocky drop-offs because wave action on the rocks creates more oxygen. Also, bugs and other food floating on the surface tend to get more dense when drifting past a point so small minnows show up to feed and the Walleyes feed on the minnows.
Fishing in the fall for Walleyes can be very frustrating. What happens in many lakes is the water cools down and the weeds start to die. As the weeds die, they absorb oxygen out of the water as then decompose. The Walleyes take off into open water or up rivers.
Rivers - The Walleyes will swim up stream and hang around deep pools or back moving currents on either side of a rapids. When fishing in a river for Walleyes, the best thing to use is a float with a minnow or a worm. You can also cast Rapalas and Thundersticks and reel them in through the slower moving current and back-eddies. You can use jigs but you will get snagged many times and it can ruin your day.
Open Water - In the fall, many of the Walleyes go out into open water and stay suspended. Generally (not always) they tend to stay in 10 to 30 foot of water. Many fishermen like to troll with the Rapala "Down Deep Husky Jerks" and the Rattling Fat Raps. This is not the most exciting type of fishing but it's better then nothing. If you are in an area where there is a good population of Walleyes, you should catch them. You will need a depth finder and see where you are marking fish. The atmospheric pressure will effect what depth the Walleyes are at. If the pressure goes really low, the walleyes may stop feeding all together. BUT…if the pressure starts rising, the Walleyes will start feeding and aggressively. Walleyes always feed the best when the pressure is on the rise.
At night in the fall - Some of the really big females will come in close to shore at night, especially in the fall. Between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, try trolling with an Original Floating Rapala along the shore in 2 or 3 feet of water or troll past rocky shoals. Or put a worm or a minnow on a hook and cast off shore. This is a good way to fish if you have a fire going and a cooler full on ice cold beer.