Walleye Opener and a Big Laker!
Leading up to walleye season I was putting in as much time as possible going after big lake trout. Minnitaki lake has a low density population of trophy fish. I always compare it to muskie fishing - if you get 1 or 2 fish a day you had a good day, but chances are one of them will be big. That's my style of fishing - hunting hogs rather than going for numbers.
Friday was a 'textbook' day, one fish and it was big! 37" and probably the biggest lake trout of my life. This fish hit a blue/silver Rapala J-13, 125-feet behind a planer board.
Walleye Opener 2011
After finding out the night before opener that my guests had to cancel, I made new plans and fished with a buddy of mine. We launched the boat at 5:30 am and headed to one of the current areas in SE Lac Seul. With the late ice out I was anticipating finding the big girls still spawning in the current. The fish were there, and in good numbers, but the big females have definitely spawned and started to move out. Only a few of the males were still milty and the girls were skinny after dropping their eggs.
The numbers - 2 of us landed 80 walleye. Biggest was 27".
Lindy jigs and Lindy X-Change jigs tipped with minnows did all the damage.
Sunday we did some exploring and checked out some post-spawn areas. We found fish on most of the spots, but not in good numbers yet. The fish are transitioning from spawning areas and the bite should pick up as the water warms up and fish get more active.
Walleye season opens Saturday, May 21st - just a couple days away! It was a late ice-out here in NW Ontario, which means one thing... BIG walleye and lots of them in the current areas of east Lac Seul.
Here's a teaser from last year.
I've got my box of Lindy X-Change Jigs ready to go. Different sizes, different colours, all without having to re-tie. Very cool!
Another product I'm really excited about this year is the Frabill FXE Stormsuit. I've been wearing it since the ice went off and I can honestly say this is the best engineered and best performing all weather gear I've ever had on. They literally thought of everything in the design of this fishing outerwear system. Move over Cabelas and Bass Pro, there's a new standard in performance fishing outerwear. Thank you FRABILL for making such an awesome product!!
One more bit of housekeeping... I've got an amazing opportunity for a group of guys, or gals, who can pull together a last minute trip. I had a cancellation for June 1-5 and I would hate to see this slot go unused. This is a PRIME slot for BIG walleye and pike on Lac Seul. Plus, lake trout on Big Vermilion or Minitaki. I know this slot won't stay open long so get in touch with me asap for a truly remarkable fishing trip. There is a reason it's hard to book a trip in June.... it's awesome fishing!!!
Check back next week for my Walleye 2011 Opener Report.
Ice Out Trout
The ice is finally going off the lakes around Sioux Lookout and that means one thing - Ice out trout fishing. We literally followed the ice off one of the local lake trout lakes, dodging chunks and trolling the ice edge.
Fishing has been pretty good with most trout in the 24-to- 30 inch-class. Longline trolling various crankbaits has been catching most of the fish. I learned a new trick from one of the old-time guides too - trolling tube jigs. You read right, trolling tubes! They troll straight and look like a darting smelt. We were using 4" tubes with 1oz heads to get them down about 15-feet. Another bonus is that you can easily vertical jig the tubes if you mark trout stacked up on bottom. Very versatile!
Here's the proof, my first tube-trolled trout with local legend Merle Botham in the background.
To mix things up, we did some bushwhacking and walked into a small splake lake. Splake are a hard fighting hybrid between lake trout and brook trout that are stocked by the MNR. The action was fast and we were having a great time bringing in one splake after another. A no. 6 panther martin did some damage casting, while minnow tipped Lindy Jigs under Thill slip bobbers caught the rest.
A nice limit of Splake for the pan.
Walleye season opens in less then 2 weeks in NW Ontario. Opener should be outstanding on east Lac Seul with big fish stacked up in current areas. Gotta love late ice out years!
In the meantime I'm looking forward to getting out on Minnitaki to target BIG lake trout. Minnitaki has a low-density population of lake trout, meaning there's not a lot of action, but if you do get one chances are it will be decent size. It's the closest thing you can get to muskie fishing in the spring up here. Fingers crossed for a monster laker!!
Bridging the Gap
Every year there's a period of time between the end of ice fishing season and the start of the softwater season when there's not much going on fishing wise in NW Ontario. No safe ice and nowhere to launch a boat. This is the perfect time to check out some fishing and hunting opportunities in other parts of Ontario.
First stop, Lake Superior Provincial Park for a day on the river chasing steelhead with my good buddy and fellow guide Graham Coulombe.
The walk in was about an hour long and the trails were still snow covered. Absolutely beautiful scenery though.
Fishing wasn't on fire but we had our chances. I hooked up first but the bright chrome steelhead jumped and spit the hook. We moved around a bit and fished a few other runs but returned to where I hooked up earlier. This time around my float popped under and I set the hook into a nice little buck that hit the bank for a photo shoot.
After that Graham broke off a good fish and that was it for the action. Great day with a good friend!
Next up was ice-out Lake Trout with another good buddy JP Bushey. Every year we gamble weather wise with the timing of this trip and this year mother nature got the best of us. Parts of the lake were still iced in and we battled high winds, cold, rain and snow. We ground it out a few hours each day and put a couple fish over the gunnels and lost a few others.
Here's JP with a Laker that hit a spoon behind a Dipsey-Diver.
The next adventure was a trip with my Dad and guide Steve Piggott of Angler's Way Guide Service on the Grand River for catfish. I was out with Steve two years ago and we had an incredible day with the cats so I was really excited to get my Dad out there. Once again, however, mother nature had other plans. It was cold, wet and really windy which made it almost impossible to hold anchor. We had a few pick-ups and Dad had a couple on but both of them came unpinned before reaching the net. That's fishing!
The only catfish picture of the day was of 'Muddy' who lives in a park in Dunnville.
Next up, time to put the rods away and grab the shotguns - the spring wild turkey hunt in southern Ontario is hands-down my favourite hunt of the year. My good friend Jotham 'Jocko' Dumesnil lives near Brantdord, ON and is a turkey fanatic. He hosts myself and our other buddy Rob each spring for a week in the woods chasing gobblers.
This year was no exception to Jocko's amazing track record of putting us on the long-beards! How about doubling up with Toms on opening morning? Sure!
We had action all week, seeing birds gobbling on the roost then flying down is a sight to see. It's a very interactive and up-close hunt which adds to the excitement.
In Ontario you are allowed to shoot two bearded birds during the spring hunt and I tagged-out with my second Tom on Friday.
A huge thanks to Jocko for another unforgettable hunt!
Back in NW Ontario the ice is almost off and I'm gearing up for some more ice-out lake trout action as well as spring pike. Walleye opener is just around the corner too. What a great time of year!!
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.