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Three ways to catch a Red River walleye

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It's finally happened in Manitoba, the arrival of the zebra mussel. Discovered on the hulls of boats in dry dock in Gimli and a dock and boat at Winnipeg Beach, this freshwater mollusk has been wreaking havoc in the U.S. for a long time.

After it was recently found in the watershed of the Red River south of the border, it was inevitable it would arrive here. Only time will tell the impact it will have on Lake Winnipeg.

Cold nights and some north winds have triggered walleye to move into the Red River in numbers from Lake Winnipeg. I was out twice this week, the first time on Thanksgiving Monday. It was a busy day on the water, with a large number of American fishermen looking to catch a trophy walleye.

My game plan includes three ways to fish the Red River. All can work, depending on the day and the activity level of the fish:

1) Drift fish with a jig depending on water clarity.

2) Troll crankbaits that dive to five metres.

3) Anchor and jig with salted shiners.

On my first trip, a few anglers were catching walleye while anchored, but most of the big fish caught this day were on the trolling bite. Water clarity was good and water temperatures were perfect for trolling #7 Flicker Shads in two to five metres of water along the edges of the channel.

At about 2 p.m., we found a school of active walleye. The first walleye landed measured 61 centimetres (24 inches), then a number of fish from 45 to 50 centimetres were caught. At about 5 p.m., we decided to work our way back to the boat launch. We started trolling by the old power plant when my crankbait stopped dead in the water. Was I snagged? I picked the rod out of the holder and put some pressure on the rod to see if there would be a head pump in response... nothing! Hmm, what did I have here?

My fishing partner was convinced I had a big fish. Not taking any chances, I slowly pumped the rod up and down. Finally this snag started to move sideways in the current and I knew I was in business. Sure enough, a huge greenback walleye came to the surface and we were able to put the net under it. It was my first trophy of the fall season -- a gorgeous 74-centimetre walleye.

Inspired by that, I headed back out the next day. I was a little apprehensive about the conditions, though. The drawdown of the river in the city had begun, which usually slows the fishing for a few days until conditions stabilize. Sure enough, we never caught a walleye until we moved downriver north of Selkirk. Finding a nice point, we anchored in 3.7 metres of water and dropped down some º ounce jigs tipped with Berkley finesse minnows tipped with salted shiners. In no time at all we had landed seven nice walleye, a great way to end the day.

Anglers Notes: If you are after a trophy muskie or pike, now is the time to get out your big crankbaits and head to Lake of the Woods. Drop your line near rocky points and current edges, areas were whitefish and ciscoes like to spawn, and you will be successful.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 C12

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