There is a tradition many anglers in the north country look forward to. Each fall, there is a run of emerald shiners up the Rainy River that flows into Lake of the Woods. The shiners are headed upstream, driven by biology but we are not exactly sure why. The DNR Fisheries office in Baudette point out fish will not expend energy for any reason, so they are after something. Possibly it is a good food source, possibly a different temperature of water. Whatever the reason, they typically move upstream in the fall and it can lead to some hot and heavy walleye action. With this tradition, plan for some epic fall fishing on the Rainy River and all around Lake of the Woods.
Every year is different. Based on weather, flow of the river, how much daylight remains throughout the day, etc. Some years the shiners run so thick it looks like you could walk on them at times. This is when you hear splashing fish busting up through the schools of minnows. Other years, the run of shiners is more tamed down. Either way, there are walleyes that come out of the lake and enter the river and this leads to some great fall fishing.
There are a number of methods to catch these walleyes, but the most common is a jig and minnow. Anchoring up on the edge of some structure and vertically jigging while watching the migration of a variety of waterfowl is a great day to spend a fall day. Some anglers use fatheads or rainbows. Others prefer a live emerald shiner if available. The second choice for anglers wanting to match the run is a frozen shiner.
This is the time of the year local bait dealers are busy working to net these shiners supplying ice anglers with a supply of frozen shiners through March.
Some anglers have learned how effective trolling in this cold water can be. I was anchored and jigging on one fall day and had the chance to have some chit chat with a passing troller. They were in a big Ranger boat that had Iowa tags on it. Kiddingly I said, “You can’t troll for walleyes this time of year, the water is too cold!” My reply with a smile, “Tell the three walleyes over 28″ and the many others we caught today that.” Obviously, walleyes still chase and eat minnows in the fall and crankbaits are still effective.
From the mouth of the Rainy River near many of the resorts up river through Baudette all the way over to Birchdale to the east, there can be great fall fishing. There is about 42 miles of very navigable Rainy River. This provides anglers with many great opportunities. Some walleyes will be moving upstream using current breaks, holes and rocks as they migrate upstream. Others will be staged feeding heavily in areas where the emerald shiners are hanging out. There is lots of water to fish and many techniques to catch fall walleyes.
If you haven’t been up, fishing is very good on the lake as well as the river. Many areas offer extremely good fishing. Charter boats at the south end resorts and guides up at the NW Angle offer anglers not only an experience but a very high success rate for good catches of walleyes and other species of fish.
If you have your own boat, the Rainy River is small water compared to the lake. Even on a windy day, there are opportunities to get out of the wind and find fish.
Now is a good time to start planning a trip. Grab some loved ones or friends and experience a beautiful time of the year and some of the best fishing of the year. Plan for some epic fall fishing on the Rainy River!
Last modified: 08/20/2020