Walleye opener is finally here

Here in Sunset Country, the third Saturday in May is one date nearly all anglers mark on their calendars every year—the opening of walleye season across the region.
Walleye is king across Northwestern Ontario and anglers should be out in droves this weekend, especially if the nice weather holds on for a few more days.
Let’s take a look at how to find—and catch—some walleyes when the season opens this weekend.
Walleyes have wrapped up spawning over the past couple of weeks on most waters and although they probably won’t be in a super-aggressive mood, they will be looking for food to help them recover from the rigorous process.
In most cases, they will not have travelled too far from major spawning areas so knowing this, we can narrow down our search on where to fish and which presentations to drop in front of them.
When thinking about areas that walleyes migrate to for spawning activity, think about current first. Any kind of creek or river that drains into a body of water is going to be a magnet for attracting fish.
On some of the smaller lakes, or large bays on the big bodies of water like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake that don’t have water running into them, the next best place to look is along shallow, sandy shorelines with a mix of weeds and boulders.
If you know of a creek or river in the area that you want to fish, you should use it as a starting point. In many cases, the fish still may not be right in the strong current that’s actually coming into the lake, but these spots can be used as a starting point on where to begin looking.
If you have a map of the water, there are high percentage locations to look for nearby–the first humps on the way back out to the main lake area can be really good, for instance.
Otherwise, shorelines can be really key for kicking out big numbers of fish. I have some stretches of shoreline on Lake of the Woods that I learned on guide trips several years ago and they always are big producers on opening weekend.
Shallow stretches of water six-12 feet deep are the best, and it is important that they have some sand on the bottom. Walleyes absolutely love sand this time of year.
Scanning the shoreline of the lake can give you a good idea of where to find sand under the water. When you see it along the bank, it usually runs into the water a ways.
Beaches also are obvious early-season hot spots.
For choosing your presentation, simple is best. When we head out on opening morning, we’ll all have pre-conceived notions on where we’ll find fish and most times these notions will work out.
I like to start by trolling small spinner rigs behind a 3/8 oz. bottom bouncer. Northland makes some great spinner rigs with small #4 blades that have a beautiful finish.
I like the 3/8 oz. bouncer because it is light enough that it will cause you to fish slow to keep it on the bottom.
In the summer, when the activity levels of the fish increase, I’ll step up to 1/2 to 1 oz. bottom bouncers and troll slightly faster.
Once I find fish, then it’s time to bust out the jigs.
In most situations when you find fish, they will be located on some sort of unique structural element that will concentrate them. It could be a small bump along the shoreline, a hole in a channel, a stretch of sand, or a clump of weeds in a shallow bay.
When you find these types of places, pitching jigs tipped with minnows is tough to beat for catching big numbers of fish.
A six- to seven-foot medium action spinning rod will do the trick for handling jigs on light line.
If you have never used braided fishing line before, you owe it to yourself to try it out this year. Power Pro is my preference. Eight- or 10-pound Power Pro has the diameter of two- or four-pound monofilament but it is super strong and extremely sensitive.
You will feel more bites and catch more fish. That’s because braided line has zero stretch, which is what improves its sensitivity.
I don’t tie my braid directly to the jig. Instead, I tie on a six-foot leader of monofilament that gives me a little bit of stretch and an invisible connection to the jig.
Although braided line initially is more expensive, it has a much longer life than monofilament does. Spool it on your reel and it will last you the entire season—making it cheaper over the long haul.
But before you head out this weekend, make sure you have a quick check of the fishing regulations because several waters across the region have lake-specific walleye regulations.
Have fun on the water—and good luck!

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