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Ontario Walleye

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Ontario Walleye

Tom VanLeeuwen caught this hefty walleye in the Spring while fishing Rainy Lake in Northwestern Ontario. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Opening weekend for Walleye is one of the most anticipated in Ontario

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It's the time of year again that walleye anglers look forward to with so much anticipation and excitement. It's the opening of the Ontario walleye season and the countdown is officially underway.

Things get started this Saturday in Southern Ontario, then a week later in the central part of the province.  Finally, on the third Saturday in May, the excitement kicks into high gear in Northern Ontario. And with the cool weather we've experienced this spring, it is going to make for an interesting "opener" no matter where you choose to wet a line.

Or, should I say, a "predictable" beginning to the Ontario walleye season because it is a sure bet, locating the fish in your favourite lake or river will be as easy as knowing where they spawn

Indeed, the opening of the Ontario walleye season is typically timed to coincide with the completion of the spawn which means that in years when the ice leaves our lakes and rivers early, and the water warms up quickly, the fish have often vacated the shallow spawning sites when the big day finally rolls around.

But, that is not likely to be the case over the next few weeks because many fish will likely still be spawning when the season opens.

Ryan Haines with a gorgeous early season walleye he caught in Northwestern Ontario's Lake of the Woods. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Walleyes tend to lay their eggs on shallow rocks and boulders where the eggs can settle into protected cracks and crevices. They also require sites exposed to the wind or current so the moving water can clean and aerate the eggs. This makes the mouths of creeks, streams and rivers prime spots to fish early in the season, as well as below dams and weirs.

And while it is a good bet you're going to locate walleyes around spawning sites, don't overlook the muddy, weedy back bays and coves that lie adjacent to the spawning grounds. They are often favoured resting places that the walleyes retreat to after they have laid their eggs.

And what is the best way to catch them once they've pulled back into these protected bays and coves? Have I got a secret for you.

Tom VanLeeuwen walleye Tom VanLeeuwen caught these hefty walleye in the spring while fishing Rainy Lake in Northwestern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Buddy John Butts, who lives in Dryden, Ontario and fishes many of the region's famous fisheries -- like Eagle Lake, Wabigoon Lake and Lac Seul -- is among the best walleye anglers in the world, being only the second Canadian ever to win a Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) tournament.

Earlier this year, I was working on a magazine assignment, featuring several top professional anglers and I called John to ask him a very simple question. If you could have kept one walleye presentation secret, what would it have been?

John, hemmed and hawed for a few minutes and then said, "Leave it with me, Gord, and I'll get back to you with the answer."

Well, a week went by and I didn't hear back from John, so I sent him a follow up email. Still, no response. I eventually tracked him down, after repeated cell phones, and that is when it became clear. He was avoiding me!

ontario walleye John Butts, only the second Canadian ever to win a PWT tournament, regularly catches walleyes like these using his early season trolling pattern. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"I am, actually, not thrilled sharing this one," John chuckled, when I told him it was finally time to come clean and to spill the beans. "It's an early season method I use to catch walleyes from Opening Day until the water heats up in mid- to late June.

"I look for small, shallow creeks connecting two lakes, knee-deep channels between sections of a lake, even shallow backwater areas off the main lake that are only two- to four- feet deep. Most anglers have no idea walleyes are using these areas.

To catch these early season walleyes, Butts trolls weightless spinner rigs 40- to 50-feet behind the boat. He makes his own rigs, by putting a #2 or #3 silver Indiana blade ahead of six beads, four orange and two chartreuse and then finishing it off with either a #2 or #4 Tru-Turn hook. He says the Tru-Turns have a little more length to the shank and that separates the lip-hooked minnows he tips them with, from the beads and blade.

John Butts walleye
John Butts, only the second Canadian ever to win a PWT tournament, regularly catches walleyes like these using his early season trolling pattern. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

But it doesn't stop there.

Butts says that he always places the long (8 1/2- to 10-foot) rods he trolls with into holders and that he relies on a small kicker motor, not an electric, to ease his boat along at approximately one-mile-an-hour speed.

"I think the noise of the motor in the shallow water flushes out the fish from any four or five foot deep holes," he explains. "And I always lip-hook the minnows so they track perfectly straight. If you put the hook in their mouth, out the gills and then back through the body in the traditional manner, they roll sideways."

But enough words. I caught up with Butts at the Toronto Spring Fishing and Boat Show and asked him to explain precisely how he does it. So, with that in mind, watch this video carefully, and then add this trick to your walleye bag of tricks when you open the season in Ontario over the next few weeks.

Be sure to follow Gord on Twitter as he travels across Northern Ontario @gordpyzer

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