Mid Summer Success - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Mid Summer Success

On a recent trip to Miminiska Lodge I got lots of opportunity to fine-tune my mid-summer walleye techniques. On a couple of the days my son-in-law, Joe Mikulinski, and I caught 100 walleye! And that’s no exaggeration. We carefully released most (96% to be exact) so they could be caught again. The lodge is situated about 400km north of Thunder Bay on Miminiska Lake, part of the Albany River system. While it is a long way north for many of you, we still get temperatures that break 90-degrees during the heat of summer. This normally puts fish deep, but not always on Miminiska.

While we did catch walleye in 25-feet of water, we caught most between 6- and 14. Surface temperatures were around 74-degrees, yet we saw walleye lying on sand bottoms in 6-feet of water – sometimes less. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is structure and the other is current. Structure almost always attracts baitfish, and current provides adequate oxygen for game fish. The tea-stained water on the Albany also provides a measure of protection from predators when fish are in the shallows.

Having the opportunity to fish such a prolific watershed allows you to experiment with various techniques. If you pay attention to where, when and how you’re catching fish; it can help you understand the “why” so you can repeat the performance in the future.

Here’s a short list of things I’ve learned from my “research” at Miminiska that can help you have mid-summer fishing success:

Fish Wind-Blown Structure – Windy days make for great walleye fishing. Wave action against rocky shorelines and underwater structure concentrates baitfish and other food sources around the structure. Fish can be very close to shore under these conditions. We found a couple of hotspots near small islands and rock outcroppings where walleye were feeding heavily around the boulders. We drifted the boat through these channels and fished a jig and twister tail just above bottom – making sure we popped the jig behind and around the boulders. To avoid snags in these situations, I fish my jig as close to the drifting boat as possible. Once the jig trails too far behind the boat, I reel in and drop my jig again so I’m always presenting in a near vertical fashion. I call this “fishing a jig on a short leash.”

Fish the Shadows: Those of us who snorkel or scuba dive will know that fish generally congregate in the shadows on sunny days. I do a lot of snorkeling and often see fish “parked” on the shadowy side of a rock or drop-off. These fish are exhibiting basic predatory behaviour. So when fishing in the morning, remember the shadows will be on the west side of structure; the reverse, of course, is true in late afternoon. Keep this in mind when presenting lures or flies to rocks and other structure. Aim for the shadows.

Colour schemes: Don’t be afraid to try new colours of jigs and tails. I have a couple go-to colours that always seem to work for me. But this trip I learned a thing or two about colour. Joe fished some green jig heads with an orange and green Yum tail. His jig soon doubled the number of fish I was taking on my pink-and white combo. So I quickly switched over. We both wondered why this colour scheme was so productive; that is until we started catching perch. Prior to this, I had no knowledge of perch existing in the Albany system. Joe’s jig-and-tail combination was an exact match for the perch colour scheme.

Ramped-Up Rapalas: While it’s hard to beat a jig-and-tail for taking walleye, there are other ways to catch them. Late one hot, windless, afternoon we were fishing near a bed of pencil reeds along an island. Joe had mentioned that this would be an ideal time to try trolling a Rapala along the edge of the weed bed. So we rigged up a couple diving Rapalas, cast them out while Joe throttled up the motor to a brisk troll. A troll speed that I sensed might be too fast for walleye. But no sooner had we got up to speed, both of us was hooked into a nice walleye. While netting these fish we noticed several nice walleye cruising below the boat in about six feet of water. These fish were evidently cruising the sand flats looking for baitfish. The walleye weren’t in a “school” per se, but haphazardly dispersed along the bottom. Once we started trolling again, we were instantly doubled up on walleye. This went on for a good hour, and made me a believer in Joe’s “ramped-up Rapala” troll.

Find your own honey-hole: One of the most significant things I learned on this trip was that there are many great spots to fish that are not marked on the map. As a guide, I have a default tendency to fish known hot-spots. Meanwhile Joe likes to find his own. So I let him take me to places that he thought looked productive. I was pleasantly surprised. We caught dozens of walleyes in spots I had never tried before. But Joe paid attention to wind direction, structure and the position of the sun and it paid off big time. I now have lots of new hot spots penned on my map.

Follow these simple mid-summer tactics, and you’ll have a few new ‘X’s on your map too!

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