Can I Fish the Canadian Side of the Rainy River During the Spring Season?
There are a lot of really cool things about spring fishing on the Rainy River. It is tradition for many. The first time the boat hits the water for the 2019 season. The first time to feel that ever so emotional “tap” while slowly working a jig in the ice cold waters. The chance at big numbers of fish and certainly a trophy or multiple trophy walleyes. Another cool nuance to the Rainy River is it is the international dividing line with Canada. With that being said, anglers are always looking for an advantage or even something different. One of the questions we have been getting a lot lately is, “Can I fish the Canadian side of the Rainy River during the spring walleye season?” The answer is yes, but…
The spring walleye season runs from March 1st through April 14th on the Rainy River and Four Mile Bay. This season is a catch and release only walleye season. With so many big walleyes swimming around in the river during this stretch, most anglers are OK with catch and release.
For anglers who are still fishing the lake (currently on the ice), the normal limit of a combined limit of 6 walleyes and saugers, with up to 4 being walleyes still exists. Anglers must release all walleyes from 19.5″ – 28″, and can keep one fish over 28″ per day.
When discussing crossing the border or fishing regulations, we have learned over time to use the disclaimer, “it is our or my understanding”. Ultimately, each one of us has the ultimate responsibility to know both fish and game regulations as well as rules to crossing the border. Here are some tidbits to consider if you want to slide over into the Ontario side of the Rainy River during the spring walleye season.
Do I need to call into Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) if I want to fish the Canadian side of the Rainy River after launching on the U.S. side of the river? No. As long as you are not touching land in Canada, touching or exchanging any items, taking anything on board or touching a dock, you are allowed to navigate back and forth from the U.S. and Canada without contacting CBSA or U.S. Customs upon your return. If you were to step foot on ice, that is a game changer as ice by definition for crossing the border equals land and check in then would be required.
Do I need credentials such as a passport to fish the Canadian side of the Rainy River? Yes. Even though you may not be touching land, you are still in Canadian territory which merits the proper credentials if approached by Canadian authorities. Proper credentials could be a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or a birth certificate combined with some form of government issued ID with a picture such as a driver’s license.
Also be aware folks with a DUI or other offenses considered a light felony by Canadian definition need to check regulations before entering Canada.
Do I need an Ontario fishing license? Yes, if you plan on fishing in Ontario waters, you need a valid Ontario fishing license. Anglers must also abide by different regulations with limits, length of fish, no live bait, no alcohol, etc.
Is it legal to boat from the MN side of the Rainy River into Canada, keep walleyes and boat back during the spring season? It is my understanding after some due diligence that if you launch your boat on the U.S. side of the river and boat over to the Ontario side of the river to fish, it is not legal to transport walleyes back across the MN side of the river as it is considered “closed” waters for walleyes during the spring season. The catch and release season equals closed by definition of keeping fish. In essence, if boating across to fish the Canadian side, it is illegal to transport the walleyes back across MN waters.
Do I need a RABC (Remote Area Border Crossing) to boat into Canada to fish? No. The RABC has lost some of it’s luster with the fairly new rule that it is now OK to boat into Canadian waters without checking in with CBSA. Previously, when it was required to call into CBSA prior to entering Canada for a day of boating or fishing, and as long as everyone on board the boat had the RABC, no check in was necessary. Now, travelers boating into Canada waters who will not be touching land do not need to report.
Why would anglers want to fish the Ontario side of the river? Well, first off, there is an entire half of the river that is full of walleyes that anglers are looking at all day with fewer boats. This gets to be less of an issue now that there is plenty of open water to spread out on with two or three ample boat ramps open on the river, Birchdale, Frontier and an unofficial report of Vidas (Clementson) opened up. With open water on the river making good progress each day, there is plenty of water to fish on either side.
Second, some believe the water can be a degree or two warmer on parts of the Canadian side based on the angle of the sun. Believe it or not, this slight difference in water temp can hold some big walleyes.
The Rainy River is one of the only places in MN (if the only place with flooding on rivers down south) to fish open water for walleyes. There are thousands of walleyes from the lake that enter the river on their annual spawning run this time of year. That big influx of walleyes mix with local river walleyes and create a biomass of walleyes in the river that is to the liking of Midwest walleye anglers. With the walleye season on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River open through April 14th, this offers anglers a chance at some of the best walleye fishing of the year, both for numbers and the chance at a true trophy fish in excess of 10 lbs.
While you are working a jig in the moving water under your boat or perhaps trolling a shoreline with a crankbait watching a nearby angler take a hero shot of a 10 lb walleye, take a peek across the river over to the Canadian side. It is OK to peek, but before you venture over to where you are peeking, know the rules. It is easier now than ever to fish the Canadian side of the Rainy River, but it is also good to have your ducks in a row!