Opening weekend walleyes await

Ask any avid walleye angler in Northwestern Ontario what they are doing on the third Saturday in May and you’ll get the same answer every year: “I’m going fishing.”
This date marks the annual walleye opener in Sunset Country, which this year falls on May 16.
Whether you are chasing walleyes on Lake of the Woods, the Rainy River, or one of many smaller bodies of water, fish are easy to find and very catchable.
When you think of opening weekend walleyes, think shallow water. Walleye are just wrapping up their annual spawning ritual and they will not be far from where this action took place.
Most fish will be slowly making their way back to deeper summer areas, but they are making stops along the way in predictable locations and looking for vittles.
Classic fishing spots are neck-down areas in lakes and rivers (places where the current is really noticeable). Target depths of six-20 feet in most situations.
Where current is not a factor, look for small coves along a shoreline. Beaches can be excellent, too, because walleyes absolutely love sand in the early season.
The first weeds that begin to grow are walleye magnets, as well.
Basically, if you have an idea where walleyes spawn, work your way from the spawning grounds towards the main basin of the lake and you’ll find walleyes on some type of structural element along the way.
If you don’t have the spots already, trolling is a great way to catch fish because it is a technique that allows anglers to cover a significant amount of water quickly and effectively.
Trolling crankbaits like a Rapala Shad Rap is an effective presentation, as is the ever-popular spinner rig—tipped with some scented plastic or live bait.
Just remember to troll slowly—just enough to keep your presentation moving. The cold water tones down the activity level of fish so you won’t get as many of the savage strikes that you will during the summer months.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Walleyes do want to eat; they just don’t do it as aggressively as they will in July.
If you know some spots, the best way to load the boat with walleyes in May is with the classic jig and live bait presentation, typically a minnow this early in the year. Everyone has their preference on live bait, but I like to use minnows until about mid-June, when the water temperatures get well into the 60s F, then I’ll start to fish with crawlers and leeches a little more.
Jigs are effective at working precise spots. You can hang the jig slowly in front of fickle fish or jig aggressively during periods of peak activity.
I choose my jig colour based on water colour, but always experiment and let the fish tell you what’s hot on any given day. On Lake of the Woods, I like to go with white or chartreuse jigs most days while on some of the more stained, inland bodies, bright colours like orange and pink can be hot.
Also match your minnow to the activity level of the fish. Since the water is cold, I like to use small- to medium-sized minnows but if fishing gets hot, bigger minnows likely will garner the attention of bigger fish.
Sunset Country has region-wide regulations on walleye that anglers should know. The sport limit is four fish per person while the conservation limit is two fish per person. As well, anglers only can keep one walleye over 18 inches.
Finally, when you get your fishing licence, grab a copy of the 2009 Ontario Sportfishing Regulations and make sure the lake you are fishing has no “lake specific” walleye regulations because some do.

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