Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published October 21, 2017
It has become a bit of a tradition for my brother and I each October. One of the resorts located on the Rainy River in the heart of the fall Rainy River bite is Border View Lodge. Each year, they celebrate fall fishing and the community with a one day walleye tournament called the "Chili Bowl". In fact, this tournament takes a couple of steps to not be too serious. Walleyes and saugers from 14 to just under 19.5″ are qualifying fish. If you catch a trophy walleye 28″ or over in this tournament, it doesn't count! In addition, the chili is cooking most of the day. If you are fishing close by and need a bowl of chili, you are allowed to come in for a warmer upper. Most tournaments you are required to stay on the water unless you receive permission from the tournament director for an emergency. Everyone wants to catch walleyes and do well and in many cases, it is the anglers who show flexibility who are rewarded with good walleyes.
Sunrise, Rainy River, Lake of the WoodsWith that being said, I have a competitive edge much like most anglers. As we spoke to other anglers in the area, we learned that the shiners had quit running the past few days and the fishing was actually better in the lake than the river. The boundary for this tournament was the river only, in fact from Wheeler's Point to the Timbermill access in Baudette, about a 12 mile stretch of river. With this in mind, and not having that special "spot on a spot" dialed in, we decided to do something most fall anglers wouldn't consider this time of year, troll crankbaits.
We simply wanted to cover water hoping to put our lures in front of some walleyes who might lash out at a crankbait much like they would at an emerald shiner. Well, we had some success, but not enough success. We caught probably ten walleyes and saugers with a couple of pike thrown in. We weighed in four walleyes that fit the length criteria. Not a full bag of six fish per two person team, but some fish nonetheless.
It wasn't a great bite on the river this Saturday compared to what has been going on. It had been super good up until days before. What changed? The shiners are the key to walleyes in the river. The shiners come through in waves and for the past few days, for whatever reason, they just weren't running. We heard that there were good walleyes from Clementson to Birchdale, an area off limits for our tournament. Fall walleyes, Lake of the Woods
There are also a ton of fish in lake just adjacent to Pine Island. 29-30′ has been the go to for the daytime bite. 16′ the lat couple of hours of the day. Anchored up with a jig and emerald shiner has been the ticket. There are also fish in front of Graceton Beach, Zippel Bay and Long Point. Most anglers are reporting good numbers of fish with a lot of sorting out of small fish to get your keepers. You will get them, but will have to do some sorting.
Up at the Angle, fish are in the typical fall haunts in good numbers. Points, neck down areas with current and deeper water adjacent to bays. The fish are all around and have the feed bag on. In addition, anglers fishing the Ontario side are catching big numbers of crappies. Fall Walleye with jig, Lake of the Woodsis a go to time for the big black crappies of this lake.
So what is the point? Be flexible when you come up fall fishing. Do some intel with talking to folks at the resort or hotel you are staying. Ask around at local bait shops. Check out the fishing report at Lake of the Woods Tourism and watch local Facebook pages for info. If the fish are staged in front in big numbers and it is a nice enough day that your boat will handle the water, head on out, join the pack of boats and catch your share. If the shiners have not run up the river the past few days, perhaps boat or trailer up river to another section of the river the walleyes that ran earlier may be holding. Don't get locked into one stretch of river. Explore. There is literally 40 miles of navigable water on the Rainy River.
Things are constantly changing in the fall. Water temps are dropping. Shiners run one day and may skip a few days. The size of the emerald shiners running varies which also effects the size of the walleyes running. Be flexible and take what the lake and river is giving.
In speaking to anglers in the fish cleaning shack, they weren't hammering fish. However, they did catch some nice walleyes and had more than they could eat. There were smiles, stories, memories and experience of the fall fishing tradition so many look forward to year after year.