In last week's blog, I touched base with a trio of walleye guides, who make their living in southern and central Ontario, to find out how the season was progressing. This week, let's shift our focus to the phenomenal northern half of Ontario and do the same thing, starting with buddy Mathew Koprash, who had a last-minute change of plans.
"I had originally planned to open the walleye season on Lake Nipissing," said Mat, "but changed my mind and made the trip west to the Spanish River. I love chasing walleyes relating to current, so I couldn't resist the urge.
"The fish were definitely post spawn and the action was superb, with two of us landing more than 40 fish. All the other boats around us were catching walleyes, too, so it was a real festive atmosphere.
"As a matter of fact, the first five walleyes we put in the boat were between 21 and 25 inches, and the average size fish was at least 17 inches. We landed a dozen over the slot and caught two bonus muskies. How cool is that?"
"Dragging a ReelBait Flasher jig tipped with either a large minnow or leech was the ticket," David told me. "But then the shallow walleye bite started to pick up. My best presentation for over slot size walleyes was fishing in four feet of water with a 4/0 Lazyman hook dressed with a four-inch soft plastic Sassy Shad. I put a drop of Liquid Mayhem leech scent on it and the big girls crushed it." Thunder Bay walleye ace Davis Viehbeck also found the walleyes up shallow on sprawling Lac des Mille Lacs, which he calls a "walleye factory."
"We started off fishing shallow sand and gravel areas, as well as rock piles in 3 to 6 feet of water," says Davis. "Lac des Mille Lacs is quite stained, so there is always a solid shallow water bite during the first few weeks of the season.
"But the extremely fish were scattered this year, so we moved out slightly deeper and found the walleyes stacked up in 11 to 14 feet of water.
"Whenever we marked a school, I dropped a waypoint so we could stay on top of them. Then we fished with 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jigs tipped with either a minnow or half a nightcrawler. Interestingly, the crawler was the better choice.
"As a matter of fact, I've never had such a great crawler bite so early in the season. I almost always fish with minnows the first two weeks, and then transition to crawlers and leeches as the water warms up. "
"Over on Northwestern Ontario's magnificent Eagle Lake, buddy Cal Ritchie found the walleyes in 2 to 10 feet of water at the mouths of feeder creeks and around rocky points adjacent to spawning areas.
"The early ice out this year didn't impact the fishing conditions as much as I thought they would," said Ritchie, whose guest landed a gorgeous 28-inch opening day opal eye.
"The fish were in their normal post spawn patterns and locations, but they were scattered more than usual. So, I relied on spinner rigs to find the bigger pods of fish, then jigs and minnows to mop them up. It is my go-to strategy on Eagle Lake once I find the fish."
As Northern Ontario continues heating up in the days ahead, our panel of walleye pros is expecting the fishing to shift into overdrive—if that is even possible.
"I anticipate the fish will stay in the river for another couple of weeks," says Koprash, "before the majority drop back out to Lake Huron and the Whalesback Channel. When that happens, I'll start targeting Lake Nipissing."
When the predicted hot, humid, sunny weather arrives in the Timmins area, Reid says he will put away the live bait presentations and start throwing a Kamooki SmartFish lipless crankbait.
"It put several dandy walleyes in the boat for me last year at this time," he says.
Viehbeck, too, is looking forward to casting artificial lures for bigger than average walleyes.
"I've been out several times since the opener," he says, "and the fish are definitely in their late spring and early summer locations on Lac des Mille Lacs. With the predicted warmer weather, I'll be checking out the shallow bays with weed growth. They are walleye magnets in early June.
"I like targeting the fish with grubs and paddletails like a Berkley Ripple Shad, swimming them over and through the weeds. It is much faster fishing than using live bait and the walleye chomp them like there is no tomorrow."
Ritchie, too, is looking forward to the days ahead when the walleye bite blossoms along with the cabbage weeds.
"A jig and minnow combo is still the most productive presentation," he says, "but as the weeds continue to grow, I'll start trolling spinner rigs and it will be lights out."
Hmmm, lights out walleye action in Northern Ontario?
Bring it on!