As most walleye anglers know, especially river rats,
everything revolves around the current.
Nothing pulls in the big fish faster in the fall and positions them more
ideally than perfect current conditions.
By the same token, nothing shuts down the bite quicker or
keeps the fish out in the big waters more than too much current or not enough.
That is what is happening right now on Manitoba's
Red and Winnipeg
rivers. The two marquee waterways play
host to the famous annual fall migrations of "greenback walleyes"
that move out of giant Lake Winnipeg and into
the river .... when the conditions set up properly.
"Each year, when the water cools in the fall," buddy Donovan Pearase
was telling me the other day, "hoards of walleye anglers pack the local
launches and crowd the river hot spots in search of their fish of a
lifetime. A 10-, 12-, even 15-pound
greenback is a real possibility, and limits of "footballs", walleyes
fat from stuffing themselves on baitfish, are easy to come by when the bite is
on. The only thing that is not guaranteed from year to year is knowing which
river you should be fishing. As awesome
as the Red and Winnipeg
Rivers can be, they're
unpredictable. It is not until the fish actually start moving in that you know
how it is going to be."
As an example, the last two years, walleye anglers have seen
a ton of water flowing down the Winnipeg River and through the dam at Pine Falls.
All that current and clean water produced an
amazing "greenback" bite that started in mid-September, before the
water even started to get cold, and lasted for much of the fall.
Even inexperienced walleye anglers were boating ridiculous
numbers of greenbacks (100 fish or more a day) and landing giant trophies with
The Red River, on the other
hand, was dead by comparison. The
current in the Red was too fast, the water was generally dirty and the fishing
was mediocre to say the least. So the
bottom line the past few years has been that Pine Falls
was the place to be.
Oh, what a difference, a year has made.
"Until a few months ago," Donovan says, "we
were experiencing one of our worst years on the Red in terms of prolonged high
water levels. The fishing was difficult.
Even the catfish bite, which is normally not affected by high water, was
sub-par. So we were expecting another
poor fall run of greenbacks this fall.
Until almost overnight the Red River
started dropping. First, it was by
inches and then by feet. And the water
cleared up considerably when they closed the curtain at the dam in
Selkirk. Within a month, not only were
the cats on fire, well into the fall when they would normally shut down, but we
started catching walleyes."
Falls, by comparison, is
slow beyond belief right now," says Donovan. "There is low water
throughout the upstream system, from Lake
of Woods, and the current
is non-existent. Oh, sure, there are
still some fish in the system but they're just not the size nor the numbers we
Not surprisingly, Donovan, who runs Blackwater Cats
service (you can e-mail him at email@example.com
has been hitting the Red River
hard this autumn and his guests have been scoring big time. And he is doing it in a surprising way.
"I've incorporate my ice fishing electronics into my
fall routine," he says. "I have my Marcum LX-5 Flasher units mounted
on both the front and back of the boat, and boy, do they make a
difference. You just need enough weight
right now to stay vertical and you can jig up 'eyes just like in the
winter. Walleye anglers get into such a
habit of jigging on bottom they don't realize what they're missing. When you
use an elite high power flasher like the LX-5 you can see how the walleyes are
positioned and responding to your presentation.
And with a little finessing and adjusting, you can get them to bite.
Without a flasher you don't even know they're there. "
Donovan says he is also, "loving my new 6' 6"
medium action Quantum Energy walleye rods this year, paired with size 5 Kinetic
PT spinning reels. The rod is a perfect
balance of sensitivity and hook setting backbone and the smaller sized reel,
with its ceramic drag and ti-mag bail makes for a perfectly balanced
"An insider’s secret," says Donovan, "is that
red tail flasher jigs are always king on the Red for greenbacks. This year, though, I have been using the new
ones from Xtreme Tackle. They are similar to most other red tail flasher jigs
with the notable improvement being super strong hooks. So many of the name brand jigs on the market
have very weak hooks that are prone to bending open when you hook a big
walleye. These ones are great. Probably the best hooks I have ever seen in a
jig. I think they're available at both
the Fishin' Hole and Pro-Am Tackle in Winnipeg
for anyone coming up here to fish."
If you're looking to catch the biggest walleye of your life,
it sounds like the place to be is on the Red River
below the dam at Selkirk. And the time
to be there is right now!