The first bit of advice I give walleye anglers heading to Canada for the first time is DON’T over think your approach – the walleye are just not that smart…really.
I’m not saying Canadian walleye are easier to catch, which generally they are, what I am saying is your approach should start with the basics.
The first bit of information I want when fishing unfamiliar walleye water comes from the anglers in camp who have been fishing it the past week. And, I only ask two questions…what depth are they at and what colors are the walleye hitting – most anglers will give you an honest answer to these questions and it is information you can really use. I will have already studied the lake map provided by the lodge owner and will have marked areas holding the most potential…points, reefs, islands and current.
Now the KEY to catching more walleye in Canada…mastering the technique of backtrolling a spinner rig with a bottom bouncer. Why is it so important? You can cover a lot of unfamiliar ground quickly, varying your depth and speed to locate schooling actively feeding fish. Once you find the walleye backtrolling you can use your favorite more productive tactics to catch them.
Here’s all you’ll need…a Lindy Little Joe type spinner for minnows (some people prefer crawler harnesses, my preference is minnows), metal finish weighted stick stand bottom bouncers to keep out of all the rock snags found in Canadian shield lakes.
My rule-of-thumb is you want ¾ounce for every ten feet of depth you fish. The most common depths depending on time of year are between 15 and 30 feet, so 1 ounce up to almost 3 ounces will do. It is better to error on the side of heavy as you also get fewer snags the more vertical your line is in the water. Stock up on two ounce and don’t worry about whether they are painted, bare metal is fine.
The most universal have just a single hook and can be used with minnows or leeches or imitations of either. Crawler harnesses have multiple hooks. The leader length can be important in clear water – standard 3 ft works fine in stained water – if you are fishing clear water look at least 4 feet. Colors and patterns are mainly preference, my advice based on experience is; do not leave home without florescent orange, green and chartreuse, plus silver, hammered copper and red/white.
A GPS is helpful in determining back-trolling speed which starts at 1 MPH all the way up to 2 MPH (which is fast). Our recommendation is to start slow which tends to be most effective. At times you may even slow way down by putting the motor in neutral every so often.
You will primarily be working islands and shoreline trying to find beaks at 10-20 and 30 ft depending on the time of year. The earlier in the year the shallower and working deeper until the end of August, then start working shallower again. Look for areas of current as that is also key structure. If you get lucky and find any mid-lake humps, or you have a topographical lake map work those as well.
If you pick up a few fish in a given area stop and work the area with your favorite method like jigs or cranks. If you don’t pick up any fish after working an area head for another spot working the lake as quickly as you can. After a couple days you’ll have an excellent feel for where the walleye are and what they’re doing.
When I fish Canada for walleye I always begin by backtrolling. I’ve tried backtrolling here in the states many time with little success, which gets me back to my original theory…Canadian walleye really aren’t all that smart.
Good luck outsmarting them on your next adventure north of the border!
Joel Prunty is the president of Fishulo,llc and is passionate about using his expertise in Canadian wilderness travel to assist anglers and hunters in planning adventures of their very own. He can be reached at email@example.com.