I have just returned from a few days of fishing on the Winnipeg River. This was my annual fall trip with my friend Frank who just gets out fishing a couple of times a year and our “to do” list included pike, walleye, bass, and muskie. This is late in the season for us and usually around mid October I am pulling the boat out of the water for good so I was not sure of exactly what the fish would be doing this time of year. It turns out my uncertainty was well founded as the fishing had changed from what I had experienced throughout summer and early fall.
Priority was given to catching walleye to make sure that we had a good fish fry while we were out there and to make sure Frank caught his limit to bring home with him. With that in mind we decided to target walleye on our first afternoon on the water. We found the fish to be biting real light and just nipping at the tails of our Gulp nightcrawlers attached to our spinner rigs. With three hooks on the rigs we were catching them but with just two we found that we missed them. We kept enough for a good feed and opted for an early walleye supper so we would have a couple of hours of daylight left after for some more fishing.
After supper we decided to target northern pike in a large weedy bay and didn’t have great success. We caught a couple of hammer handles but I also caught what would turn out to be the largest walleye of the trip – a 24 incher. It was feeding in just a few feet of water and we did catch others shallow in the evenings as well. For the few days we were fishing we found that walleye were really scattered and didn’t seem to be concentrated in any particular areas. They were everywhere at every depth but were sparse. We would only catch a couple at any one location. I thought that perhaps if they were to be concentrated anywhere they may be seeking out current areas so one morning we headed out to the Norman Dam at Perch Bay. That ended up being a big waste of time as we didn’t get so much as a nibble there. We did find an almost dead 30 inch sturgeon on the water’s surface that looked like it had been attacked by something with teeth.
We set aside a day to troll for muskies in the Minaki area and a heavy morning fog kept us off the water until about 11:00 am so our time targeting muskies was short. We didn’t catch any muskies but caught four nice pike in the 8 to 12 pound range that made the afternoon trolling the big baits a lot of fun.
We caught a few more large pike while bottom bouncing deep for walleye. Pike seemed to be the only species that were really attacking the bait. Smallmouth bass were were not attacking the bait very aggressively either but we caught a few really nice ones down deep while walleye fishing.
We set aside yesterday afternoon to target some keeper walleyes. As it turned out the walleye had really turned neutral and we had to resort to drop shotting with large salted shiners in order to entice them to bite. The bite was extremely light and the hits were unbelievable subtle even using 6 lb test line with a light action rod. Often the only indication that a walleye had taken the bait was just a very subtle quivering of the rod tip. Most of the walleye caught that afternoon were quite small but we did get the eaters to take home that we were looking for.
This was the first time I had to resort to using a drop shot setup to catch walleye this year. Up until now the walleye had always been relatively active feeders and uninterested neutral walleye was not something I had run into in a long time. We got it all figured out however and count the fishing trip as a great success!