Three Cant Miss Walleye Methods on Eagle Lake:
Article By: Gord Bastable of Vermilion Bay Lodge
With over 68,000 acres of clear Canadian Shield waters, more than 100 islands, and in excess of 400 miles of shoreline, Eagle Lake offers very good walleye fishing. The Ministry of Natural Resources considers it to be one of the top walleye lakes in northwest Ontario.
There are several good reasons for this assessment. Eagle Lake's healthy walleye population has had the benefit of almost 20 years of innovative fisheries management practices. A slot size (all walleye between 18-23 inches must be released) implemented years back has resulted in a stable & robust spawning population. Combined with a restriction of only one fish over 23 inches in a "limit", no night fishing, and a catch & release philosophy amongst many of today's anglers , the result is a quality fishery here on Eagle Lake. It's no accident that walleye fishing is significantly better than it was 20 years back. Unlike some lakes where the fish seem to be from the same cookie cutter, on Eagle one never knows whether the next fish will be 17 inches... or 27 inches!
There are many methods for catching walleye. This article will cover three good ones for Eagle. Each has a different purpose and requires different skill and equipment. Remember, the better you become at each one of these, the more fish, and bigger fish, you're going to catch. So, we suggest that you use your stay at Vermilion Bay Lodge, in part, to intentionally become a better angler. Challenge yourself to make it more than just another fishing trip. After all, you're going to be on outstanding walleye water.
If you're fishing with a partner, talk about what you're each interested in and then work together on the methods. Be aware that the methods are not compatible for simultaneous use. For example, one of you should not be jigging while the other is trolling. Agree upon a method and stick with it until change is deemed desirable or necessary. You can take turns selecting the method to fish with which has the advantage of forcing periodic changes if what you're doing is not working very well. Experiment with different lure sizes, weights and colors. And if one lure proves to be hot, both of you can run it.
Crank-baits are an excellent method to cover the water quickly and locate walleye. Forward troll at slow to moderate speeds, working weed and rock edges, depth changes, mud flats & humps. Tie on using a small snap swivel. Ten to 14 pound "super-line", such as FireLine or PowerPro, is recommended for trolling. Its "no-stretch" design will help you feel the lure working properly, much more so than with mono. This is a big plus, because a lure fouled with weeds won't catch fish. The thin diameter line will allow your lures to run deeper as well. It's advisable to attach a three-foot length of 10# fluorocarbon (or mono) leader material between your line and lure to make the line less visible to the walleyes. This is an advantage. A six and a half foot (or longer), medium-power rod with either a bait caster or spinning reel will work fine. And it's best to hold your rod in your hand to know if you're hitting bottom or ticking weeds, which is something that you should be doing occasionally, unless the fish are clearly suspended higher in the water column.
Two or more anglers in the boat should spread their rods widely off to the side. And let out plenty of line (75 feet or more) to get your lures well behind the boat. Check your lures periodically to insure they are running clean. If it's breezy out, troll with the wind-it's much easier to control the boat.
Jigging is a good way to work concentrations of fish once you find them. Tie your jig directly to your line...no snaps or leader. Six to eight pound monofilament line with the lightest jig to do the job. Back-troll slowly, drift or cast, keeping your jig just above the bottom. A 6' or 6 ½' medium power spinning rod with a fast-action tip would be a good choice.
• Bottom Bouncing:
Bottom bouncing is a deadly method of covering the water using live bait spinner rigs. A single hook minnow or double/triple hook crawler harness are commonly used. A bottom bouncer is a weighting system that attaches a piece of lead to a wire shaft. Special bottom bouncing weights are available in various sizes with the generally recommended weight of 1 oz. for every 10ft of depth. There are several designs available and they all work. However, we favor the "slip bouncer" design that allows your line to freely slide through the bottom bouncer, much like the traditional Lindy Rig does.
When a fish bites, you immediately feed it line for 2-3 seconds (undetected by the walleye) before tightening up and setting the hook. Look for the Northland Tackle "Rock Runner Slip Bouncer" in stores. Cabela's sells something similar they refer to as a "torpedo style" bottom bouncer. Forward trolling at moderate speeds is preferred, although a slow back-troll or drift early in the season is effective using lighter weights. From mid-summer into fall, fishing with heavy weights (2-3 oz.) is necessary. A 7 foot medium-power rod with a fast-action tip combined with a bait caster with a "flippin' switch" is ideal. (A "flippin' switch" allows you to quickly and precisely release line in a controlled manner, which is a huge plus when you're trying to stay close to the bottom.) Other rod/reel combos will work, but not quite as well. Ten to 14 pound "super-line" is recommended to allow you to get to the proper depth and give you excellent feel of the bottom, as well as the lightest walleye bites.
The idea with bottom bouncing is to run your bait just above the bottom, while just ticking it every now and then. This is very important because if you drag this rig on the bottom it's going to get badly fouled. Northland Tackle "Bait Fish Image" holographic spinners and crawler harnesses work exceptionally well. Choose the bigger blades if planning on fishing late summer/fall. Suggested spinner blade colors are: Fire-tiger, Gold Shiner, Silver Shiner, Sunfish, Rainbow Chub, Gold Perch, Yellow Perch and Sunrise. Minnows are the bait of choice in the spring with crawlers through the summer and fall.
Significant Seasonal Events -
"Adapting to the Mayfly Hatch":
The annual hatch of mayfly larvae which occurs mid-June to early July, and lasting several weeks, is a preferred food source for walleye and can create difficulties for some anglers. Rather than using this as an excuse to NOT catch walleyes, use this feeding frenzy to your advantage! Walleyes will actively seek out areas where mayflies are hatching, generally mud bottom, cabbage strewn, shallow sections of the lake. Back bays containing the warmest water will show the first mayfly hatch...key in on this structure! Larvae activity is triggered by rising water temps which is often at its peak during mid day, high light conditions. Contrary to our "walleye instincts" mid day (10-2) can often be the best time period to catch fish during the may fly hatch! Cover these areas by trolling crank-baits, keying in on weed edges and shallow mud flats. Many times the walleye will be buried in the cabbage beds themselves. Working a jig tipped with a crawler or casting & twitching a lure such as the Rapala Suspending Husky Jerk can often result in some quality fish.
Remember, these fish are often "stuffed" full of food and may require an aggressive approach...bigger baits, erratic action, a quicker retrieve. Mix things up till you find what works.
There you have it, three ways that will definitely catch walleyes. You will be pleasantly surprised with the numbers and size of the fish you will be catching as you develop real skill with these methods. We have caught hundreds of walleyes on Eagle Lake using the same methods described above. You can too!
Author Bio: Gord Bastable is the owner of legendary Vermilion Bay Lodge. To follow Gord's blog - The Electric Beaver, a page packed full of highly entertaining articles illustrating life at VBL. Check it out at www.electricbeaver.ca. Trust me, it won't disappoint!
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