Fishing season looks promising

Lindsay Campbell

With Saturday marking the opening of walleye season, local angler Dale LaBelle, of LaBelle’s Birch Point Camp on Northwest Bay, said the conditions are great—and should stay that way.
“We were pretty busy this weekend at the camp,” he noted.
“There were lots of people who came out who are just day fishermen,” LaBelle said. “Our parking lot was full. . . .
“For non-residents, there was probably 50-60 people up at the camp this weekend and they all had pretty good luck.”
LaBelle said for him, the conditions during the long weekend were slightly unexpected.
“The fish seemed to be a lot farther away from spawning areas than where I thought they might be,” he admitted.
“I was kinda surprised but Rainy Lake has really come back strong for walleye fishing.”
Scott Hamilton, the man behind Jackfish Hammy’s Guide Services, said the colder temperatures are influencing where the fish are.
“It’s cold out and the water is cold, too, so we’re finding that some of the fish are deeper than what they normally are than if it was warmer,” he explained.
“In the spring, fish will come up pretty shallow,” Hamilton noted.
“But because it’s cold out, they are staying down there in the deeper waters between 10 and 15 feet, when they are usually up between four to six [feet].”
Hamilton said the only thing that he’s concerned about is the water level.
“I’m not a biologist by any means . . . I just see what I see,” he stressed. “But in my opinion, we’ve got to get these water levels under control.
“I’ve had years that the water levels were so low that northern pike did not spawn.”
John Van den Broeck, a management biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry here, agreed low water levels have a large influence on spawning.
“Low water levels in the spring, and low flows in area streams and rivers, can affect the location and timing of spawning for certain species, lake sturgeon and walleye, for example,” he noted.
Although low water levels may disturb spawning conditions, Van den Broeck said it’s more important that water levels remain stable during times of spawning.
“In tributaries, a stable or rising level will keep incubating eggs submerged until hatched while a declining level may expose eggs,” he explained.
“Locally, this has been an especially important consideration for the regulated systems like the Rainy River, Seine River, and Rainy Lake,” Van den Broeck added.
“Rainy River is an important system that supports reproduction for Lake of the Woods walleye and lake sturgeon.”
At The Great Bear, on Highway 11 east of Fort Frances, owner Greg Gustafson said his business is ready to go for the season.
“We’ve brought in the all-around great selection of rods, reel, and tackle,” he noted.
“As far as new things, we’ve got the St. Croix rods and we’ve got lots of Ugly Stix combos.”
He’s also brought in new Humminbird fish finders, depth finders, marine radios, and GPS systems.
Meanwhile, all three agree the fishing season looks very promising this year.
“It’s gonna stay good here,” said LaBelle. “But the biggest thing with fishing here is that you gotta follow the fish.
“When the fish spawn, they’re up in certain places like rocky bays,” he noted. “Then as the summer progresses, they move out father into the open water.
“I naturally don’t even think about it but for guys who are starting, like the novice fishermen or weekend anglers, you gotta look more,” he stressed.
“We are really fortunate to live where we are,” echoed Hamilton.
“If you wanna fish the great Canadian waters, and be a part of the fishing that we’ve nurtured and created, then come to Canada because the guides and the resources are here,” he enthused.