Jeff Gustafson’s opening weekend walleye report

After everything that we have all been through over the last couple of months, the weather across Northwest Ontario over the May long weekend was about as good as it gets, certainly the best I can remember. For the anglers out there, we were greeted with warm weather, lots of sun and light winds, the dream fishing scenario.
Saturday marked the opening of walleye season, which was always a big event in our house when I was growing up. My Dad used to take me and maybe my younger brother or sister or maybe a buddy of his and we used to make the annual opening weekend ride down to Tranquil Channel on Lake of the Woods. It’s a popular early season spot and was always a safe bet to put some walleyes in the boat. Still is today.
As I got older, May long weekend turned into guiding work and I usually fished the same area of the lake, venturing more into the Big Narrows area as I learned my way around the lake better. Today, we live near the west arm of Lake of the Woods so that is where we do most of our fishing and that was where we spent the walleye opener fishing this year. We met some friends out on the lake who brought their own boats and we fished around each other, it was a fun day.
My wife Shelby and I hit the lake by mid-morning on Saturday with plans to catch some walleyes for dinner and hopefully mix in a few bass, pike and lake trout. We spent all of our efforts fishing shallow, water less than ten feet deep, with jigs and soft plastics. Early in the season, plenty of walleyes live shallow throughout Sunset Country, chasing plentiful shiners, perch and other baitfish that can be found in these depths.
I enjoy catching walleyes on soft plastic baits as well as casting for them so I enjoy fishing the shallower water. If I’m guiding or fishing is tough, I’m not above using live bait but usually when I’m fun fishing I just use plastic. Fortunately we have some pretty good walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, as well as countless other bodies of water, so we can fish for walleyes however we choose to.
I’m not sure if it was to calm or if the water was still just a little bit too cold but the fishing was kind of tough for us. We caught several walleyes but most were bigger than what we wanted to keep. We did manage to get enough fish for dinner but we had to work for them. It was just a one here, one there kind of day. I think by the end of this week some of the small coves and bays we were fishing will have good schools of walleyes occupying them, the water just needs to warm up a little bit more.
Chatting with a couple of my buddies after the weekend, it’s interesting to hear all of the different reports. One boat was in the Big Narrows area of Lake of the Woods catching plenty of eater sized fish deep in 35-40 feet of water, while others were fishing 12-15 feet in front of beaches and another was catching them on traditional summer humps mixed in with bass. It always pays to keep an open mind, keep an eye on your electronics and try everything.
The good news for walleye anglers is that fishing will only get better as water temperatures continue to rise and fish become more aggressive. The shallower water will be good for the next several weeks before walleyes start to make a move for main lake humps and structure where they will spend much of the summer. Here’s to another great weekend!