Fisherman’s Digest… Fall Fishing on the Rainy River
The time is now. Many anglers look forward to a longstanding tradition created by Mother Nature, the fall run on the Rainy River. Now, it could be argued if the actual “run” is referring to the emerald shiners that make their way from Lake of the Woods up the Rainy River each fall, the walleyes that love the shiners and follow them up or both. Either way, anyone with an average sized boat and a liking to jig for walleyes will enjoy this adventure.
Last year, I had the chance to fish with a couple of friends and make a TV show out of the afternoon. John Bergsma is the host of Fisherman’s Digest, an outdoors TV show that originates out of Michigan but is seen across the U.S. on a variety of outdoor channels as well as more local channels in Michigan. Although John and I have known each other for a number of years, we never had the chance to spend time in a boat together. This was a nice opportunity.
Interestingly enough, our guide for the day was another great angler many might be familiar with, Greg Jones of Midwest Outdoors. To have two TV hosts, great anglers and friends in the boat at the same time was a treat. As you can see, they are obviously good sticks as well.
John has a history of fishing various pro walleye tournaments. For a good number of them, his partner was Brian Ney of Adrian’s Resort. Consequently, John, in addition to loving the Lake of the Woods area and having fond memories of fishing tournaments here, loves coming back and seeing his old fishing partner.
As many anglers, I feel pretty confident in my fishing abilities. I will say, on this given day (can’t wait for another chance), John had the hot hand. He has a ton of experience on a variety of water and I wish I had more time in the boat with him.
I think if someone has the right attitude, they can learn from other anglers. When the fish are biting, almost anyone can catch them. When they are a bit more finicky, that is when the little nuances become a much bigger deal. Trust me, I was watching John trying to pick up any little tool for my walleye toolbelt.
One thing was interesting was he knew exactly which jig he wanted to use and stuck with it. He had caught so many walleyes over the years on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River he just knew this was the right jig.
The bite wasn’t great honestly and there weren’t a ton of walleyes in this stretch of river we decided to fish. But, it is fall and it’s the Rainy River so compared to most bodies of water, even on a day that was mediocre, it was pretty darn good.
From the mouth of the Rainy River to Birchdale there is 42 miles of navigable river. As a reference, the City of Baudette (which has some great fall spots in proximity to the city) is 12 miles from the mouth of the river called Wheeler’s Point. Birchdale is approximately 30 miles east of Baudette.
There are many public boat ramps along the river. Depending upon where you want to fish and how you roll, some anglers enjoy going for a nice boat ride to the stretch of river they are fishing while others would rather trailer their boats to the stretch of river they plan on fishing.
The Rainy River is our international dividing line with Canada. Technically, half way across the river, shoreline to shoreline is the line. When navigating, you are allowed to cross the line for safety reasons, such as avoiding other boats or perhaps shallow water.
If you want to fish the Ontario side of the river, you must have an Ontario fishing license, adhere to different fish limits, and cannot possess any bait that you brought into Canada from the U.S. That means live, frozen, dead, etc. Since Canada implemented this rule in October, 2020, U.S. anglers who boat into Ontario waters from Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River have been using plastics on their jigs and spinners. There is plenty of water and good spots on the U.S. side, but this info might be helpful nonetheless.
The Rainy River in the fall is special for a lot of reasons. The fishing, scenery, migration, and peacefulness. John Bergsma with the Fisherman’s Digest will tell you, it’s one of his favorites.