Fall is a very special time up at Lake of the Woods. There is no doubt it is beautiful. As the leaves are turning and the migration is taking place overhead, walleyes are active. The walleyes are transitioning to their favorite fall areas and putting on the feed bag for the upcoming winter. This all means some excellent fall fishing for anglers fishing both Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River.
South shore. The south end of Lake of the Woods gets pretty loaded up with walleyes. Walleyes begin to school up as they are following minnows. Anglers find these tasty cold water fish close to shore relating to sand, mud, structure and current. Most anglers will anchor up and simply jig a frozen emerald shiner over the side of the boat. The walleyes and saugers are normally moving around and if you are in the area, they will find your offering. This kind of fishing is not only relaxing, it is productive.
Schools of walleyes and saugers can extend for miles. At times, it is not uncommon to see nets swinging all around you when the bite is on.
Certainly jigging is by far the most popular technique, covering water trolling crankbaits is still effective. Putting your lure in front of a lot of fish is normally productive. At the same time, this is a good way to cover water to find active walleyes. Some anglers will troll until they find larger schools of fish and then anchor up and jig them. Lots of options in the fall.
NW Angle. At the same time, a great bite is also taking place up at the NW Angle. Walleyes are using points, the mouth of bays or neckdown areas between islands where current is created. These three areas hold bait and that’s what the walleyes are after. Again, much like other parts of the lake, jigging is the preferred method of catching nice walleyes this time of the year up at the Angle.
The Rainy River Tradition. For those who enjoy fishing the river, each fall the Rainy River experiences a right of nature, a tradition of sorts for outdoors minded anglers who don’t mind fall fishing in chilly fall temperatures for the chance at a walleye of a lifetime. The emerald shiners run up the Rainy River.
We really don’t know why they swim up river but some believe they are in search of food. Others believe it is to toughen up for the upcoming winter. While we are not certain on why the emeralds enter the river, we do know why the walleyes enter the river, to eat one of their favorite forage, the emerald shiners. This natural pattern triggers that itch for many anglers leading to great memories and the Rainy River tradition.
This given day on the Rainy River really reminded me why anglers love fall fishing and the Rainy River tradition. Check out this episode of Midwest Outdoors from the Rainy River.
Fishing the Rainy River. The first thing to say is don’t sit all day in the same spot if you are not catching fish. Move around and try and find fish. Try up river, down river, deeper, shallower, different techniques. Ask around, find out what the trends are. This will lead to more success.
The thought is as the water cools into the low and mid 40’s and the larger emerald shiners will begin to run as will the larger walleyes.
Some years, bait dealers have some live shiners for fall fishing, other years, just frozen. These sleep deprived entrepreneurs work very hard and are often out all night in search of shiners. Anglers love nothing more than having fresh live shiners to tip their jig with. Most don’t realize the efforts bait dealers go through to actually catch them this time of year, checking nets and key shiner areas often three or more times throughout the night.
Typically, good numbers of walleyes with some big walleyes show up in the river. This is what sustains the tradition. Will the run continue all fall or stop and start up again? Only Mother Nature knows, but anglers realize, there are normally shiners and walleyes in the river each and every fall.
Into October and then pushing into November, the days will get shorter and the water colder, things will start to shift. Normally bigger fish will continue showing up for anglers more hard core for fall fishing and big fall walleyes.
Big walleyes during deer hunting. It is common to hear about huge walleyes being caught during the weeks most are sitting in tree stands looking for venison or horns. It is definitely a tough choice as the deer hunting season is short.
Most anglers are targeting walleyes jigging. Typically a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig will give you control in the current of the Rainy River. If water is really rolling, don’t be afraid to go to a 3/4 or even ounce. It is important to maintain control and feel the jig occasionally bounce off of the bottom. The walleyes don’t mind a larger jig.
Colors vary but you can’t go too wrong with colors like gold, orange, glow, pink, white, peacock or combinations of such. Area resorts and bait shops have a good selection of heavier jigs in the good Lake of the Woods colors. The local tackle company, Tom’s Tackle, has a wide selection of jigs that just work on these waters.
Stinger hooks. I am a big believer in stinger hooks this time of year. Hook a stinger up to the hook of your jig. This 2″ line attached to a small treble hook can be the difference between a so-so day and a great day. Hook the small treble just in front of the tail of the shiner. It amazes me how big of fish can be taken on the small treble.
While fall fishing, work holes, current breaks or even flats. Anchor up in a spot and wait for walleyes to move through or slowly motor up current and down current with a controlled drift. Change colors of jigs until you find out which color is preferred that day.
One method of fall fishing on the Rainy River one shouldn’t overlook is trolling crankbaits. This past week was a perfect example. Although I stuck a big 30″ walleye on a jig and emerald shiner, we actually caught more walleyes trolling that given day. In our case, on that day, we targeted 9′ of water and caught keepers and a 20″ and 26″ throwback. We did hear of a couple of big fish taken trolling as well.
Leadcore line will allow you to troll the deeper holes in addition to the shallow stretches. When fishing the shallow water, we simply long lined Rapala Shad Raps and Wally Divers.
If you aren’t an avid deer hunter or perhaps get your deer early, you may want to consider a trip to the river. Dress warm, be safe and make some memories that only can be made late fall.
Last modified: 09/24/2020