Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2016 (317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
My friend Don Delorme yelled, "check this out, guys."
As we quickly moved to the side of the boat to see what all the excitement was about, an amazing scene was playing out in the water below us. Delorme had hooked a Lake of the Prairie walleye and was in the process of bringing it up the water column, when the afternoon sun illuminated the water to a depth of about two metres.
Wow! A school of big walleye could be seen slashing and swirling at the fish that Delorme was fighting. Tim Reid, who was in the front of the boat, was the only one who had his jig out of the water. Not for long though. Dropping it down, he immediately hooked one of those fish, another double header of walleye.
This scene has played out many times in my mind since that day a few years ago. It is one of the few times in my fishing career I have actually seen walleye so competitive they would come to the side of the boat.
Since that trip, Lake of the Prairies has had its ups and downs. Over the past three years fishing has been "tough" by the lake’s usual high standards, with lots of small walleye less than 38 centimetres being caught. Constant winter drawdowns have had a negative impact on the walleye’s spawning success. Many of our other lakes, rivers and reservoirs have still been producing some great fishing spots.
Almost all of our rivers in Manitoba continue to be very productive, including the Red and Winnipeg Rivers in the fall season along with the Assiniboine, the Whitemud and the Saskatchewan rivers.
Why are rivers so productive in the fall?
If there is any amount of current flow, many of our baitfish species are attracted. So, for example, there could be a huge run of shiner minnows up from Lake Winnipeg into the Red and Winnipeg rivers, followed by ciscoes, tullibees, and the increasingly prevalent lake whitefish.
Big walleye, pike, and other top-of-the-line predators like catfish, gorge on these species. Goldeye and mooneye also enter into the equation. The quality of the fall run of greenback walleye is then predicated on the number of forage fish in the system. If there are a lot, then the fishing season can be incredible.
For the Red River, there are a couple of other factors that come into play. One is water clarity and the other is current speed. If you have the right combination of both (not too dirty and not too fast) then you can have some fishing that is generally lights out. Wind direction also plays a factor in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg. A big north wind for more than one day can pile up water and baitfish in both of these rivers.
At the mouth of the Winnipeg River in Traverse Bay, you want to be out on this body of water when a long period of northern wind subsides. Out on the shallow rocks, many walleyes will be slashing into huge schools of forage fish that have become disorientated from these winds. I have had many incredible fishing days like this trolling crankbaits in the two metres of water on these rocks. This is a fall pattern worth noting for almost any body of water you fish on.
Not all anglers have the equipment or experience to successfully troll, but it’s not always necessary to do so. When the fish are scattered, trolling can certainly help, but in many cases if the angler can find a spot that funnels fish like a river mouth, then anchoring can be the most effective method to present your lure. I have had many great days in the Red and Traverse Bay just jigging behind the boat. This is especially important when it is windy and boat control becomes an issue. Having a really good anchor is critical to success in bigger bodies of water. Traverse Bay can be an extremely tough place to hold anchor when you get on mud bottom.
Speaking of Traverse Bay, Garther Cheung of Winnipeg has an incredible fish story that occurred three years ago on the bay. He was out anchored in the middle of November at the mouth when he hooked into an absolute beast of a walleye. He fought the goliath for about 10 minutes before his partner was able to put a net on it. It measured more than 82 centimetres and pushed his scale past the 6.8 kilogram mark, the fish of a lifetime!