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Rainy Lake Fall Muskie

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Rainy Lake Fall Muskie

Jeff Steinke trolling for muskellunge on Northwestern Ontario’s Rainy Lake. • Credit: Gord Ellis

Although not as famed for monsters like Lake of Woods or Eagle Lake, Rainy Lake does have giants



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The boat was just passing by an outcropping point when I felt the lip of my plug hitting rock ten feet down. "Should be a muskie here, "I said to my partner Jeff Steinke, who was deftly driving his 18- foot craft along the rock-strewn shore. "This has traditionally been a good spot," Steinke agreed.

The 6-inch crankbait I was pulling was grinding the rocks hard and threatening to get hung up, so I lifted the tip of my 7-foot heavy-action rod. The lure broke free from the rocks for a very short time before being stopped hard. The dead weight signaled something other than granite and I set the hook.

"Fish!" I said, standing up and leaning back on the rod. Steinke immediately goosed the throttle a bit to help with the hook set. I’d seen him do this trick before and was prepared for it. "How’s he feel?" asked Steinke, who’d now put the boat in neutral and was going for the net. "Feels good!" I replied. "All muskies feel good."

The fish was sounding deep and swimming almost directly under the boat. I kept a tight line and followed it around the bow, keeping my tip high and line tight. Then the muskellunge surfaced, rolled, and showed its girth and red tail. "Nice one Gord." said Steinke, who had the over-sized Big Kahuna net at ready. On the second pass, he managed to hoop it. We unhooked the fish in the net, measured it, and got a couple pictures. In no time, that 46-inch fish was released safely back into the ice-cold depths of Rainy Lake.

Rainy Lake is located in Northwestern Ontario

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This was my third fall fishing trip on Rainy and we were off to a good start. Although not as famous for monster muskellunge as Lake of the Woods or Eagle Lake, the south arm of Rainy Lake does hold some giants. There is a lot of water to cover, however, so trolling is one of the best ways to connect. Diving plugs such as Ernies and Jakes worked along narrows, off points and over reefs often equal success.

The good fishing starts in September, but the best bite is in late October. Steinke, a long-time Rainy Lake muskie angler, explained that the water temperature needs to be single digits -- usually about 4° or 5°C -- for the best fishing. The problem with fishing in late October is you can get all kinds of weather, very little of it pleasant. You can expect wind, snow, rain, sleet ,hail and fog. And that is on a good day. However, the rewards for putting up with the elements can be truly impressive.

Just a few hours after I landed my fish, Steinke hooked one of his own. We could tell right away it was a huge muskie, as it was literally pulling the boat around. After a few near misses at boat-side, I managed to net the beast. It was 52 inches long and likely weighed in the mid 30-pound range. It was a tank, the kind of fish that will bring an angler back to Rainy Lake year after year.

Jeff Steinke with a 52-inch muskellunge from Northwestern Ontario’s Rainy Lake. (Photo credit: Gord Ellis)

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