Fall time is mooneye time!

 Ryan Suffron shows how it's done!
As summer starts to wind down fishing usually tends to slow a bit. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year in a number of our lakes, rivers and reservoirs. High water in many parts of our province, including the Whiteshell Provincial Park, has kept many of our freshwater game species in shallower water than usual. In high water years there are some key spots to find species like walleye, smallmouth bass and pike. One of my favourite fishing locations involves two key elements, weed edges and current. When you combine those two, fish will congregate in large numbers. In hot weather both of these provide much needed oxygen for the fish along with some temperature relief. These fish can be using water depths of two to five metres of water and will hit jigs flipped along the edges. It’s a fun way to fish but requires some boat control along with concentration to present your lure properly. When the weather is really warm I love to troll crankbaits into the current areas. This can be incredibly effective in many of our rivers in the province like the Winnipeg River, and the Saskatchewan River at Grand Rapids.  In most cases, fish are not necessarily deep. I can usually get away with a # 7 Flicker Shad either in white or fire tiger colours.
 Grand Rapids walleye
The nice thing about this presentation is the control you have with your lures. By pointing the bow into the current you can work current seams and edges, keeping your lure in the zone for longer periods of time. Many time the fish will either turn to grab the lure or swim up behind. When this happens your lure will get pushed forward before you feel weight.  By presenting your lure this way, you are also reducing snags, especially in areas that have a lot of boulders. With the bill of the crankbait digging down in the current, it will bounce erratically off the rocks, triggering strikes from even inactive fish.
While walleye, pike and bass are the main target species for much of the year, mooneye come into their own from mid-August to mid-September. They are an incredibly fun fish to catch on light tackle or a fly rod.
 Hungry mooneye swallows a leech pattern
These fish are in extremely abundant numbers on the Winnipeg River and I can remember spectacular days catching them when I guided out of Eagle Nest Lodge. Most of the places you find mooneye are not far off of the same areas I have just talked about for walleye and bass. These fish love to form huge schools off the edge of current breaks and back eddies. They will also use bays next to heavy current, especially if the bottom is mud. It’s here you will get a late season caddis fly hatch, a preferred food of these veracious predators. Ever looked into the mouth of the mooneye, or goldeye for that matter, an impressive set of teeth for sure!
One of the best ways to find these fish is by using your eyes. If there is a hatch happening you will see them swirling on the surface, eating as much as possible in the shortest period of time. To avoid breaking up the school, keep your boat a distance away and drift a slip float on the fish rigged with small hook, split shot and piece of crawler. You can also use a small Mepps spinner or small jig rigged with a one inch power grub.  If you are more ambitious yet, try fly fishing for them.
Guide and expert fly fisher Ryan Suffron says be prepared to change depths when the fish are a little more inactive. Perfect conditions include a bright sun, and rising temperatures that trigger a hatch.
If using a fly rod bring two different reels, one with floating line and the other with a sink tip if you need to go deeper to dig them out. I have caught many crappies as well this way by using a fly weighted with a small piece of lead on the head. Try and use a fly that has some marabou on it, so it ripples in the current. One of my favourite looks like a miniature version of jig fly.
Mooneye are spectacular fare to eat when smoked. If you don’t plan on keeping the fish when caught make sure to leave them in the water to release. They are a delicate fish when handled and this will reduce mortality substantially. Mooneye do not have a gold eye, so this is the obvious difference between its cousin, the goldeye.