Rainy River walleye tops right now

After many months of hard water on our lakes and rivers, things finally are starting to bust loose—and slowly but surely, we’ll all be in boats sooner than later.
By the looks of things, we are going to break all kinds of records on ice-out dates for the big lakes across Sunset Country.
We did get the short end of the stick on the ice-fishing season a little bit because things ended so quickly, but that’s the way it goes.
I had my new Lund in the water for the first time in Ontario this past weekend down on the Rainy River. Scott Dingwall and a few of my friends from Minnesota that were supposed to be up in Kenora ice-fishing made the trip down for the day and we had a great time.
Although the weather was not great, we did manage to catch quite a few walleyes on the best open-water option right now in the region.
After all these years, it was only my second time ever fishing the Rainy for walleyes in the spring. It is one of the best fisheries in North America for a few weeks every year when thousands and thousands of walleyes from Lake of the Woods travel upstream to spawn before retreating back out to the lake.
I did fish the river one other time but it was more than 10 years ago when my friend from Fort Frances, Al McTaggart, took me out. It was a cold, rainy day and I remember I just turned my back into the wind and burrowed up in my jacket to stay warm, so I don’t recall where Al took me.
I do have some knowledge of the river from fishing the Emo Walleye Classic a couple of times and the International Falls Bass Championship a number of times. We launched our boats in Barwick and fished that part of the river between Manitou Rapids and the Long Sault Rapids.
Although the fishing was not outstanding, it was good considering the river actually was pretty dirty and we got hit with a significant cold front the day we fished there.
We had two boats and both boats probably caught about 25 fish each in about five hours of fishing.
The best bait was a Northland Thumper Jig tipped with a shiner. I had several cans of frozen shiners left from the ice season and had pretty good luck just using those.
They don’t stay on the hook all that good, but they work.
The Thumper Jig was key in the current because in the muddy water, I think it just made it a little bit easier for the fish to find it. They smell the shiner and then can zone in on the bait because of the vibrations of the little spinner on the bottom of the jig.
If you have a boat ready to go this weekend, my suggestion is to get out on the Rainy River. My plan is to head back for another day before the season ends April 15.
Predictions are that the river will continue to clean up in the coming days and that the fishing will continue to improve.
It truly is one of those special deals where we only get a narrow window to fish this place. The opportunities are good for monster fish in the 30-inch range, as well as big numbers of 16- to 20-inch fish.
If you have never fished the Rainy River before, you should make the trip and try it for yourself. There are literally hundreds of Minnesota boats fishing it every day right now, which travel long distances every spring to fish there.
If you go, you can fish the Canadian side with just an Ontario licence. If you want to fish the U.S. side of the river, you need a Minnesota licence, as well.
We’re fortunate because many of the best spots are on the Canadian side of the river—and it receives much less angler pressure.

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