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Across Ontario Walleye Roundup

Summer-like weather and warm water conditions combined to make the Ontario walleye season opener a real humdinger. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Across Ontario Walleye Roundup

Fishing Pros share their thoughts on how the 2017 walleye season is shaping up

The 2017 walleye season opener is now officially in the record books, and the beautiful warm weather and water combined to make it a humdinger, with some awesome 'eyes coming over the gunnels.

In my last blog, I caught up with some of Ontario's top walleye anglers and guides and put them on the spot, asking them where they would make their first casts and to predict how the start of the season would unfold.

So, let's catch up with these "pros in the know," as well as some other seasoned Ontario walleye sticks, and see if their prognostications unfolded the way they thought they would. Let's also hear about how they anticipate adapting to the walleyes' ways as they transition to different parts of the lakes and rivers in the days ahead.

And because Ontario is such a massive walleye wonderland, with over 400,000 lakes and more than 2/5 of all the freshwater found on Earth, let's focus on the southern and central parts of the province this week, hitting the vast northern half in Part 2, next week.

Proud angler. (Photo credit: Nicholas Werner)

"Believe it or not," says buddy Pete Garnier, who is better known for running around the elite bass circuits in a high-performance boat, "I opened the season on the Trent River fishing from shore. The beauty of fishing rivers at this time of year is that the current really concentrates the fish and baitfish, making for some spectacular catches where a mixed-bag of multi-species is the norm. We caught white bass, sheepshead, northern pike, yellow perch, white perch and walleye on the same baits from the same spots. It’s why I always say that river fishing early in the season is 'like a box of chocolates.'"

Garnier went on the say that he found the walleyes had completely spawned weeks before the season opened, and with the record rain and high-water conditions that preceded opening day weekend, many of the larger walleyes had vacated the river mouths and retreated back into Lake Ontario.

The same high-water conditions greeted Kingfisher boat pro Nicholas Werner, who guides on the Bay of Quinte, and he loved all the extra real estate that it had created.

"The extra water that we are sitting on has made for a lot of new walleye real-estate to explore," says Werner. "The sunny days have also warmed up the water quickly in the back bays, so the fishing is superb, especially in the Big Bay Area. Matter of fact, it is so easy right now that everyone is looking like a pro."

Talking about "pro moments," Ottawa Valley guide Rob Jackson took his daughter's boyfriend fishing for only the third time in his life, and the youngster landed a 10-pound trophy of a lifetime.

10-pound ontario walleye

Rob Jackson guided his daughter's boyfriend to a 10-pound trophy walleye. It was only the third time the youngster had ever been fishing. (Photo credit: Rob Jackson)

"How many people do that on only their third ever fishing trip?" chuckled Jackson.

And what strategies did our trio of pros find best to entice the post-spawn walleye into biting?

Jigs unquestionably lead the lure parade for both Garnier and Jackson, with the former drifting 1/4-ounce lead heads tipped with soft plastic minnow imitations, while the latter relied on 3/4-ounce models to counter the heavier current.

"Low and slow is the deal in the spring for smaller eater-size walleyes," says Garnier, who tipped his jigs with either an Angler's Choice Wally Min'R, 4-inch straight-tailed worm or thin profile swimbait.

"I typically lean on lighter colours that look like minnows," says Garnier. "White, yellow, pink and shad-type patterns are best in the current seams along shore and current breaks on the bottom. Any time you have high water and increased current, it will push good numbers of walleye toward the bank, which is why we are enjoying such spectacular shore-fishing opportunities right now."

Concentrating on main river breaks, on the other hand, required Jackson to tie heavier 3/4-ounce jigs onto his client's rods to counter the stronger current.

"We had our best luck jigging in 20 to 35 feet of water," says Jackson, "so I tipped my guests' rods with 3/4-ounce jigs dressed with Jackall Rhythm Wave Pearl swimbaits. It was the ticket for both numbers of fish and some giant 'eyes."

Fishing calmer lake waters, without swirling river currents, meant that Werner could put his rods in holders and troll a combination of crankbaits and worm harnesses.

rob jackson ontario walleye

Ontario walleye guide Rob Jackson focused on main river breaks, using 3/4-ounce jigs to counter the stronger current. (Photo credit: Rob Jackson)

"I was fortunate to have a day off from charters," says Werner, "so I was able to get the kids and our neighbours out for a memorable day on the water. They kept me so busy running around the Kingfisher netting walleyes that I was run off my feet."

And how do our walleye wiz kids see the bite progressing in the immediate days ahead?

"The walleyes are moving towards their late spring and early summer locations," advises Jackson. "I’m definitely seeing the night bite turning on."

little boy fishing walleye

Bay of Quinte guide, Nicholas Werner took his family and the neighbour kids out for a memorable day on the water and they ran him off his feet netting walleyes. (Photo credit: Nicholas Werner)

With all the new high water real estate that has opened up for Werner, on the other hand, he expects the weed walleye bite to explode in the days ahead.

"It’s going to be ‘mad’ in the days ahead," says Werner, with a big grin spreading across his face. "I expect to see large numbers of big fish finding the new haunts as spring transitions into summer."

big ontario walleye

Summer-like weather and warm water conditions combined to make the Ontario walleye season opener a real humdinger. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Indeed, Garnier is finding the walleyes much more in the mood to chase after horizontal moving baits like crankbaits and spinners.

"The water is definitely warming up," says Garnier, "so for the folks who are looking to hang a 'bragging rights' walleye for the photo album, I would suggest trolling a thin profile crankbait along the deep weedline in 10 to 14 feet of water. The walleye fishing is really heating up there."

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