Rainy River bite is heating up

If there is one place in Northwestern Ontario that I wished I spent more time fishing when I was younger, it certainly has to be the Rainy River in early April.
Every spring, thousands of walleyes from Lake of the Woods make a run up the 137-km river in pursuit of their annual spawning ritual—providing one of the best fishing opportunities in North America when it happens.
Across our region, the walleye season closes every year from April 15 until the third Saturday in May. Some years, when we have a late winter, anglers miss the bite because it’s into the closed season when the big numbers of walleye make their run up the Rainy.
But during years that we have an early to average finish to winter, the first couple of weeks of April provide some great angling.
Not only is the fishing good but since the river is one of the first water bodies in the region to open up from the grip of ice, it gives us a great place to drop the boat in the water—something most serious anglers are dying to do at this point in the year.
The Rainy River attracts thousands of anglers each spring because it offers a unique opportunity to catch not only big numbers of walleyes but large trophy fish, as well.
As these fish make their way up the river, they are using up a lot of energy, so they seem to be in the mood to eat as much as they can over the course of their journey—providing some great fishing.
It’s only been in the past five or six years that I’ve been making trips down to the Rainy River to take advantage of the hot walleye bite. And on a few of these trips, 100-plus fish days have been easy.
The best trip ever was back in 2012 when my Dad and I went down and filmed a TV show for my program. We put the Minn Kota Talons down to anchor us on a sandbar and did not move for eight hours—seldom going more than five minutes without catching a fish.
As well, many of the walleye we caught were big eight-pound-plus fish.
When it comes to catching fish, the old jig-and-minnow or jig-and-soft plastic combination is tough to beat. Anchoring near holes or sandbars that stick out into the river are hot spots for walleyes as they like to hide from the current in the slack areas created by these different structural elements).
The water is shallow, in general, on the Rainy so most fish are going to come from between six-12 feet.
When it comes to jigs, usually a quarter-ounce jig is perfect for matching the current and keeping your jig near the bottom. When the current is heavier, a 3/8th-oz. model may be better.
While any regular jig is fine, Jay Samsal and I filmed an episode of “Fishing with Gussy” there last April that is going to air in the coming weeks, and we used a new jig that Northland Fishing Tackle just released called a Swivel Head Jig.
This jig incorporates a swivel between the hook and the lead head that allows the hook to swing around freely, giving it more action.
When used in the current of the river, this jig style allows the minnow or plastic to move around naturally while the jig bounces along the bottom—it’s a unique and original design.
It worked very well for Jay and I out there last year while we were testing samples.
For more information about fishing on the Rainy River, you can find the TV show that we filmed a few years ago on YouTube (it was a good one!)
The cold weather over the past week has cooled down the walleye migration, but the river is open and fish are on the way.
So I would predict some awesome fishing next week just before the season closes if you can find the time to get the boat out there.