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Open the Walleye Season Like a Pro

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Open the Walleye Season Like a Pro

Mathew Koprash's opening day walleye staple is a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce chartreuse coloured ball head jig that he tips it with a nightcrawler. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Use these tips to fish big ontario walleye during may opening weekend



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If you're a walleye angler who loves to fish in Ontario, you know what is going to happen over the next three weekends.

It's the opening of the walleye season on the first Saturday of the month in southern Ontario, the second Saturday in the central part of the province and the third Saturday across all of massive Northern Ontario.

It's like rolling Christmas and your birthday into one great big party.

"I'll be opening the 2017 walleye season this weekend on the Bay of Quinte," says top Ontario guide, Nicholas Werner, "I'll walk out my back door and hit the throttle on my new Kingfisher 2025 HHT and run right toward Lady O (Lake Ontario)."


With the warm weather we've enjoyed this spring, walleye guide Nicholas Werner anticipates finding the fish in their post-spawn transition stage. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Northeastern Ontario walleye stick, Mathew Koprash won't be going far either, kicking off the season on his beloved Lake Nipissing.

"There is no other lake I would rather target on opening weekend," says Koprash. "And I'll come home with a big smile and a sore arm."

While Werner and Koprash are separated by several hundred kilometres, they both anticipate that with the unseasonably warm weather we've experienced this spring, they will find the walleyes in the throes of the post-spawn transition.


North Bay walleye ace, Mathew Koprash will be opening the walleye season on Lake Nipissing, where he says when you find the bait, you find the fish. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"I am expecting the fish to be transitioning from the shallow spawning bays and inlets back out to the main lake basin," says Koprash. "They'll be focusing on restoring their energy levels and we may even get lucky and find them following the shiners into the shallows. If this is the case, when you find the bait, you will find the walleyes."

Werner agrees.

"With the warm weather," he says, "I'll have the Kingfisher loaded down with just about everything I own. I'll rely first on my Cabela's trolling rods rigged with the Quinte regulars, including specially painted clown and perch coloured Rapala Husky Jerks from Big Eye Custom Tackle, Berkley Flicker Minnows and Reef Runners. I won't hit the "meat street", (Werner's term for the classic walleye worm harness) until the water temperature hits around 53° F to 55° F.


With the warm weather we've enjoyed this spring, walleye guide Nicholas Werner anticipates finding the fish in their post-spawn transition stage. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Koprash, too, anticipates loading up his boat with walleye gear so that no potential opportunity goes untapped.

"Having bass fishing in my blood has me rigged up with all the options," Koprash chuckles, "but my tried and true Lake Nipissing staple is a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce chartreuse coloured ball head jig. I'll tip it with a worm and if the walleyes are biting tentatively, I'll add a stinger hook."

I should mention, too, that Koprash always keeps another ace up his sleeve -- a drift sock.

"Depending on wind conditions, I'll deploy the sock to help me control the boat. I'll drift to cover water, pattern the depth the walleyes are holding in and the type of structure they are relating to. Once I get dialed in, I'll make repetitive drifts until the bite slows down. At which point I'll start the process over again."


When it is breezy, Mat Koprash deploys a drift sock to help him cover water, pattern the depth the walleyes are holding in and position the boat. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

When I ask the dynamic walleye wizards what strategy change they will implement if their initial presentations fail to deliver the expected results, they both suggest changing location.  

"If the wheels fall off the bus for the big fish crankbait bite," Werner says, "I'll head back into the main Bay of Quinte, where I'll look to jig up a bunch of two- to eight-pound walleyes by fishing the "neck down areas" like Mississauga Point and Telegraph Narrows with a ReelBait Flasher jig and minnow."

Koprash, on the other hand, says he will likely shift from fishing the eastern shoreline of Lake Nipissing to Callander Bay, the south shore and the area around the Manitou Islands.


When it is breezy, Mat Koprash deploys a drift sock to help him cover water, pattern the depth the walleyes are holding in and position the boat. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"The south shore and around the Manitou Islands provides more opportunities for a reaction bite due to the available structure," he explains. "I have caught some of my biggest walleyes from these areas using reaction baits like 3.5- to 5-inch long perch and shiner coloured jerkbaits and soft plastic swimbaits.

"Rocks are critical for deciding which points to key in on, and I am never shy about casting into shallow water. I've pulled 26-inch plus walleyes out of two feet of water when the conditions lined up properly."


Mat Koprash is never shy about casting into shallow water, from where he says he has pulled plenty of hefty walleyes. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Lastly, Werner says walleye anglers should never give up too soon on their favourite locations.

"Spots reload with fish constantly during the post-spawn," he says, "So don't get frustrated."

It is an assessment with which Koprash agrees wholeheartedly.

"The walleye fishing is as good as it always has been.," he says, noting that, "I expect to catch at least 20 fish on a slow day and 100 or more if I get dialed in. The important thing is not being afraid to branch out and try something new or cover new water."

Like I said, Christmas and your birthday rolled into one great big celebration.

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