It was a beautiful fall day, the leaves a blazing orange in the distance on the shores of mighty Lake Winnipeg. Unseasonably warm after one of the wettest summers on record, we were on Traverse Bay in the southeast quadrant of this massive body of water. Water levels were up at least two feet in the lake and the Winnipeg River, just a half kilometer away, was ripping massive amounts of water into the lake. Water quality in the river was good, meaning decent visibility in the bay itself, a fact that is critical when trying to catch these sight feeders. Walleye like to roam the bay, feeding on large schools of shiner minnows and other baitfish that‘s attracted to the current plume streaming into the lake. The boat launch parking lot on the west side of the paper mill was full when we arrived at 8 a.m. in the morning but the lineup to launch was minimal. Part of this was testament not only to the good fishing but to tough conditions on the Red River. High and fast with poor visibility, the fall walleye bite had been almost non-existent. Anglers who normally fish the Red have been forced to make the trek to Pine Falls in search of the famous greenbacks.
Once in the lake, my partner and I decided to cover some water by trolling a wide variety of crankbaits, those that would dive anywhere from eight to fourteen feet. We started out almost in the middle of the bay, trolling a large sand flat next to the main river channel. Pete caught the first fish of the day, while reeling his crank bait back to the boat to check for weeds. A short time later he hooked another walleye, this one considerably larger. Again, it was the same scenario, he had been reeling his Rapala X Shad back in to the boat. Those two fish made me pick up boat speed to about 3.9 miles an hour according to the GPS readout on my Humminbird. Both came trolling into the current but running the boat with the wind. Neither fish was on the bottom, with Pete’s lure about three feet up. After about an hour of trying to duplicate our success we decided to moved further south, back toward a large rock pile that dominated this section of the bay. Dropping anchor, we decided to see if there was a jig bite. After about half an hour with only two small fish landed on jigs, we went back to the troll. As we headed to the side of the structure were a west wind was crashing some decent water on the rocks, I had my rod been over in half in the rod holder. As I struggled to gain control of the rod, the fish was taking off impressive amounts of 12 pound lime green Fireline. Unfortunately, one of the wraps had got wedged under another down in the spool. With no room for error, this big fish parted the line and kept going. Wow, what a bad way to start the day! Frustrated, I switched over to another level wind rod and reel combo spooled with ten pound mono. About noon, we decided to take a quick run back to the mouth of the Winnipeg River to see if the current bite was happening. Two spots later with three small walleye released I got a text from friend Jim Price, who was still out in the bay. He had found a big school of walleye a short distance away from where I had lost the big fish. He and his boat partners had released three trophy fish in a half hour. Quickly we headed back out into the bay to find Jim and another seven boats working a series of eight foot rock piles on the troll. Pete continued his hot ways, landing five walleyes in a row on Berkley Flicker Shad, black and white in colour. Finally, after switching to a similar bait I started to get the mojo back landing the next three fish.
Summary: Around five p.m we cruised over to Jims boat and thanked him for the information. We also lent him my anchor as we were headed home and he had a tournament coming up on the weekend.
Why the fish were in this part of the bay? My only guess was that a constant north wind the previous three days had piled up the bait against the south shore. Whatever the reason, another lesson learned about Lake Winnipeg. Keep moving around!!!!