Fall Fishing on the Rainy River
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.
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.
Other anglers will troll in this cold water. 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.
With thousands of acres of public hunting land and a strong population of grouse, some choose to throw the shotgun in the vehicle. Some prefer to spend a morning targeting waterfowl on 4 Mile Bay, Zippel Bay or the Rainy River. Others enjoy the fact most outdoors folks are spending their hours in the field this time of year and enjoy the solitude of the river. Either way, opportunities abound.