Monster Fall Rainy River Walleye and Sturgeon on Video!

It is that time of the year.  Each fall, the Rainy River experiences a right of nature, a tradition of sorts for outdoors minded anglers who don’t mind fishing in chilly fall temperatures for the chance at a walleye of a lifetime.  The emerald shiners run up the Rainy River.  We really don’t know why they swim up river but some believe they are in search of food.  Others believe it is to toughen up for the upcoming winter.  While we are not certain on why the emeralds enter the river, we do know why the walleyes enter the river, to eat one of their favorite forage, the emerald shiners.

Last year at this time, Greg Jones of Midwest Outdoors and myself had the opportunity to do a bit of fishing on the Rainy River.  The conditions last year were very much like this year.  If you got on the fish, you would catch them.  If you could not find the fish as they are moving around, sometimes pulling cranks is a good strategy to put walleyes in the boat.

We did both and had to be flexible.  Trolling a relatively shallow flat against the current, we caught some nice fish.  We then jigged and caught a few more including a huge 30″ walleye with a big girth and not on purpose, a sturgeon that went over 60 inches.  Check out this episode of Midwest Outdoors from the Rainy River.

The current Rainy River report.  The first thing to say is don’t sit all day in the same spot if you are not catching fish.  Move around and try and find fish.  Try up river, down river, deeper, shallower, different techniques.  Ask around, find out what the trends are.  This will lead to more success.

The thought is as the water cools into the low and mid 40’s and the larger emerald shiners will begin to run as will the larger walleyes.  Interestingly enough, this year so far, there was more of a good shiner run in Mid September than there is now.  That was evidently enough to get things in motion as the walleye fishing is only getting better this past week on the Rainy River.  The big walleyes are starting to show up and if this year is like most other years, it should only get better if you like hawgs.Emerald shiners, Rainy River, Lake of the Woods

Bait dealers have had a tough time finding shiners this past week so the run is definitely intermittent.  These sleep deprived entrepreneurs work very hard and are often out all night in search of shiners.  Anglers love nothing more than having fresh live shiners to tip their jig with.  Most don’t realize the efforts bait dealers go through to actually catch them this time of year, checking nets and key shiner areas often three or more times throughout the night.

As mentioned, some big walleyes have been showing up this past week.  The fishing on the river started out HOT in September with a lot of shiners and good numbers of walleyes.  With that being said, the action didn’t produce the big trophies during the warmer weather in September.  There were some trophies caught, but not like we are seeing this week.

Fall Rainy River walleyeNow that it is October pushing into November, the days are getting shorter and the water colder, things are starting to shift.  The last couple of weeks has not produced big numbers of walleyes but more average numbers.  With that being said, bigger fish are showing up.  Now, we are starting to hear reports of large numbers of fish coming in by some anglers.  Not all, but some!

Big walleyes during deer hunting.  It is common to hear about huge walleyes being caught during the weeks most are sitting in tree stands looking for venison or horns.  It is definitely a tough choice as the deer hunting season is short.

Most anglers are targeting walleyes jigging.  Typically a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig will give you control in the current of the Rainy River.  If water is really rolling, don’t be afraid to go to a 3/4 or even ounce.  It is important to maintain control and feel the jig occasionally bounce off of the bottom.  The walleyes don’t mind a larger jig.

Colors vary but you can’t go too wrong with colors like gold, orange, glow, pink, white, peacock or combinations of such.  Area resorts and bait shops have a good selection of heavier jigs in the good Lake of the Woods colors.  The local tackle company, Tom’s Tackle, has a wide selection of jigs that just work on these waters.

Jigs, Lake of the WoodsStinger hooks.  I am a big believer in stinger hooks this time of year.  Hook a stinger up to the hook of your jig.  This 2″ line attached to a small treble hook can be the difference between a so-so day and a great day.  Hook the small treble just in front of the tail of the shiner.  It amazes me how big of fish can be taken on the small treble.

stinger hookWork holes, current breaks or even flats.  Anchor up in a spot and wait for walleyes to move through or slowly motor up current and down current with a controlled drift.  Change colors of jigs until you find out which color is preferred that day.

One method of fishing on the Rainy River one shouldn’t overlook is trolling crankbaits.  This past week was a perfect example.  Although I stuck a big 30″ walleye on a jig and emerald shiner, we actually caught more walleyes trolling that given day.  In our case, on that day, we targeted 9′ of water and caught keepers and a 20″ and 26″ throwback.  We did hear of a couple of big fish taken trolling as well.

Leadcore line will allow you to troll the deeper holes in addition to the shallow stretches.  When fishing the shallow water, we simply long lined Rapala Shad Raps and Wally Divers.

It is a special window to fish right now.  If you aren’t an avid deer hunter or perhaps get your deer early, you may want to consider a trip to the river.  Dress warm, be safe and make some memories that only can be made late fall.


To learn more about Lake of the Woods, check out the Lake of the Woods Tourism website.

To find a guide, charter boat or lodging, check out our lodging page.

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