W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Bob Riege
Give Them What They Want
by Bob Riege
Canadian adventures are something that most anglers dream about. They visit sportshows and look at brochures that describe the bountiful fish in every lake. They are sold on aesthetics of the picturesque environment and the wonderful time they will have with friends and family. The trouble with is that there are a veritable plethora of camps, lodges and outfitters to choose from.
Allow me to cut through all the hype and to tell you about one of the best camps and outfitters in Ontario. North Caribou Camps headquartered out of Pickle Lake in the summer and Dryden, Ontario in the winter, will give you what you want. Rob and Sandy Brodhagen have a variety of lakes to choose from and a host of knowledge share with you if you are interested in a Canadian adventure. A good friend of mine Dave Hagan from my hometown of Austin, MN works sportshows for Rob and Sandy and I had always wanted to go along with him to some of these lakes. Dave would describe North Caribou or Troutfly and I would conger up memories of places that I had been and wonder if these lakes were anything like what I had experienced. At one of the sportshows I decided to meet Rob and Sandy and talk to them about booking a trip to one of their smaller lakes, Morris Lake.
Last August my wife Ginny and I drove to Pickle Lake and flew out to Morris Lake. I should say we attempted the first day, but the pilot turned back because of a bad electrical storm, which caused us a night stay in the Pickle Lake Motel which is located right next door. There we enjoyed a good meal and a needed nights sleep after our long drive from Southern Minnesota.
Upon arrival at Morris Lake our pilot gave us instructions on the cabin, generator, stoves, refrigerator and the use of satellite phone. Home base was a quick call away and I for one was glad that we had the instant contact with the outside world. Communications are important when in the bush in Canada for safety and in case you have to get more supplies before the mid-week check plane comes.
Unpacking and getting out on the water was my first priority. As Ginny made ice in trays and placed them in the freezer, I rigged the spinning rods and casting rods for our days outing. Fishing for walleyes on a Canadian lake in mid August can give you some trouble especially if you are not willing to try different tactics until you find one that works. For example, sometimes it is necessary to fish very slowly for walleyes, especially when they're inactive. But there are other times when you'll catch a lot more fish by moving the bait quickly. When this happens, I like to change my methods a little. I've found that these little changes will sometimes pay big rewards. I use the philosophy you have to give them what they want.
If walleyes smash my bait as I am looking for them they signal to me that they want fast moving baits and they will chase anything that will swim. When walleyes react this way I change to fast moving baits, like spinner rigs, crankbaits, or jigs. Experiment until you find which lure type works the best.
Most of the time a jig will be tried first. If the fish are active, I'll put a Cabela's Living Eye Minnow on the jig. These baits don't rip off easily, and I don't have to rebait after every walleye. Also, walleyes hit the plastic minnow very well, especially when the fish are on a "good bite".
Work the jig quickly through the fish holding area. Hop it or swim it, even snap the jig and don't pause as you usually would, but instead keep the bait moving. The theory behind this type of action is, if the walleye is serious about hitting your bait it will be there when you move it quickly. Many times when you are starting to snap the jig or swim it to you, the walleye is already hooked. The strike will usually be quite firm.
Jigs often work best fished quickly along weedbed edges, or over shallow humps. When the fish are on spots like this, they're frequently active. Casting is usually the best way to work jigs quickly along these areas.
Crankbaits work well in the same areas as jigs for active walleyes, and the area over the tops of weeds can be added if crankbaits are being used. Jigs can be worked over weeds, but depth control is easier with crankbaits. Therefore, I prefer to use Shad Raps and Rattlin Fat Raps, because they simulate the minnows many of these walleyes chase.
Walleyes seem very eager to smash a crankbait that has just been ripped free from a weed. Don't get too concerned about the lure's color, but pay attention to lure size. Use the biggest bait that the fish will hit. When the walleyes are active, the bigger baits will often take the bigger fish.
Live bait rigs with spinners work well when the walleyes are in dirty water or down deep. The spinner throws more flash and vibration, and will lure fish from greater distances. An active fish twenty feet away from your bait might not notice a straight live bait rig, but will come over and hit a spinner rig for the sole reason that it's more visible and therefore attractive.
Work quickly with the spinners. You're looking for active walleyes, and at times you have to cover a lot of water to find them. Vary spinner size according to water clarity. In stained situations, go with a larger, brighter spinner. As water clarity increases, try a smaller, more subtle color blade. Probably in gold or silver will be a good selection.
Spinner rigs are usually most effective when trolled as they're a little cumbersome to cast. Usually you can set the hook as soon as the strike is felt.
But for the hottest and fastest action, we worked mid lake humps trolling or casting crankbaits. Shad Raps have been and excellent producer. The # 5 runs about 4 to 5 feet deep and the # 7 runs 8 to 10 feet deep. Walleye color has been my hands down favorite followed by crawdad. Lately I have also made a switch to the Jointed Rapala especially in the crawdad color. It seems that even in the heat of July and August the walleyes sense that they should be eating bigger shad to fatten up for the winter and the color of crawdad is something that they love.
Again, trolling or casting crankbaits will get the job done in a hurry. In stained or dirty water that has a lot of prey, zip that crankbait by them and they won't resist the active vibrations of a wounded minnow.
Trolling success usually depends on how well you fine-tune your presentation. Simple things that will help you trigger fish might be pumping your rod, or allowing your crankbait to stunt.
Pumping a trolling rod is not a new technique. In fact, it's likely you have been using the method for years. The trick is doing it right. I have found, through experience that you should sweep your rod in a 30-degree arc with a pause at the end. The lure speeds up through the sweep and triggers the fish that there is an escaping prey. Most strikes might occur as the rod is returned to the original position because it is at the end of the fall and the lure is easily sucked into the walleyes mouth.
The stunting that you might want to try is to use a deep lip crankbait like a deep diving Storm Thunder Stick and troll this in an area that has a soft bottom like mud or sand. The long bill will dive deep and stunt into the soft bottom. This will cause an erratic motion, plus stir up the bottom and fish will move in to investigate.
While at Morris Lake we devoted our week to trolling Shad Raps or Tail Dancers with heavy line on a bait casting rig with a steel leader. The leader didn't spook the walleyes and Morris Lake has large northerns as well. In fact, one 48" northern pike has been caught twice and both times released to fight another day. With that size fish swimming out there I was sure to add the protection of the steel leader.
Our memories of Morris Lake are now a reality and I hope that you
will take the opportunity to stop by the North Caribou Camps booth at
your next sportshow. Or if you are like me you and you can't wait,
contact: Rob and Sandy Brodhagen at the winter address North Caribou
Camps, P.O. Box 990 Dryden, ON P8N 3E3, Phone 807-223-6533, Fax
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Since August 1, 1998