Fishing for Rainy-Day Walleye

I always think the fishing is going to be really good when the weather app on my phone is announcing cloud and rain. This especially holds true when the foul weather comes hard on the heels of a stretch of blue sky days. The trick is to get on the lake just as the weather is changing, or at least that’s my theory at present. Who knows what I’ll be writing about weather-wise next time – the theory is sort of a work in progress.

My Walleye fishing partner David Mingie and I hit the local lake on a mid-August day for another of the Ottawa Region Walleye League’s tournament events. There were seven teams braving the forecast – 14 other guys who probably support the same weather/Walleye theory as mine, or just maybe a bunch of guys who fish no matter what?

We launched the Ranger 620 Fisherman FS, fired up the Evinrude E-TEC 250 HO G2, and shot down to the other end of the lake, you know, where all the fish are.

This new G2 has a noticeable extra kick on the hole shot that a guy can really feel, even in the passenger seat. One of the other features I really like with this new motor is the automatic controls for the trim. I no longer have to instruct new-be operators to drop the engine all the way down, or how high to trim up for maximum efficiency and ride comfort. Even if I don’t operate the boat myself because of my lack of sight, I’ve been around boats all my life and I know my Rangers having owned several models now over the past six years. Its true Rangers have a well-deserved reputation as a “point-and-shoot” boat, in that they unfailingly go where you point them; however, I’m a bit of a stickler for getting the trim right, and with the new G2 auto-trim feature, I don’t have to worry about having that discussion with operators any more.

We had a spot in mind to start, and our plan was to begin with bottom bouncers until we found some Walleye. Beginning in a range of water that was between 18-and 25 feet in depth, we each chose totally different patterns of worm harnesses. My choice was a bright Perch pattern on a large Colorado blade that took every gram of my 2.5 ounce bottom bouncer to hold down at our trolling speed of 1.5 mph. David tried something different, or at least that’s what he told me (LOL).

The bottom of this lake is fairly featureless. For the most part it’s a soft featureless bottom, but when you can find those subtle rises that represent a more rocky hard consistency, you have found the fish. The trouble is these harder bottom areas are shaped more like runways then humps, so you need to follow them along until you find the section that the fish have decided to inhabit for the moment.

It took some time, but we finally narrowed down an area where we were catching Walleye. The problem was that they were still scattered and all 12” clones – good enough to get us on the board, but five of these yearlings would only add up to 60” – hardly a winning total. Never-the-less, after plucking four of these volunteers from the bottom, we moved on to find their parents.

About two hours into the day we finally managed to hook up with a decent walleye. We were still bottom bouncing our worm harnesses when I felt my line stop. By that time we had already caught and released a number of jumbo Sunfish and 2-3 lb catfish, but this felt different. I asked Dave to stop the Terrova trolling motor, and that’s when I felt the first headshake.

Slowly I began gaining back line. There were a few minutes there when things came to a stop, but with some gentle pressure, I was able to resume reeling. Dave had his line in and the net at the ready. Sure enough, we managed to net our first big Walleye of the day. A decent fish of 19’ with big shoulders. We put her on the measuring board, snapped a quick pic for the record and another for bragging purposes, and let her go safe and sound.

We now had our five. We needed to cull some of those 12” fish off the score sheet. Dave dialed the I-Pilot on the Terrova back up, checked our track on the Lowrance and set a waypoint, and we were off.

Not 15 minutes later I had a second decent fish on the line. This too felt like a good Walleye so Dave slowed the Terrova, set his rod into one of the two new flush mount stern rod holders Ranger now includes in the FS series build, and got ready the net. I only had the fish reeled in about half way when Dave noticed his rod tip bouncing pretty hard. Yup, double header.

Not sure how we managed it, but we were able to net my Walleye, which measured 20”, snapped a quick pic and let her go. All while Dave was reeling his fish in, and what a beauty. I got her in the net and we were amazed. Not just because of the double header, but the size. Dave’s Walleye measured 22”.

The lake we were fishing lies within a 45 minute drive of Canada’s capital, Ottawa. The lake also has three different RV campgrounds, one of which has over 300 sites. Add to this natural/urban mix a bunch of cottages, and one might wonder how such decent Walleye manage to survive potentially significant fishing pressure?

Personally, I think the new bag limits have helped. The rules state a fisher can keep up to four fish under 14” in length and one fish over 18”. This means fish over 14” and fewer than 18” must be returned so that they have a chance of growing up and becoming breeders. Funnily enough, we didn’t catch a single Walleye that day that fell within the range of fish that had to be returned. For whatever reason however, the population of Walleye seems to be improving. Or, Dave and I just seem to be getting better at catching them. It wasn’t our first time putting together a decent bag of fish on that lake.

We had brought along some minnows that cost us a bit of coin, so we decided to give them a shot. We drop-shotted them while drifting for the next hour. We caught a good two dozen large catfish for our efforts. Dave picked up a Pike along the way, and off one deep point we stumbled into a school of large Green Perch that all measured over 11” inches – the size of Perch that would make great eating if you had decided to harvest them when they first made an appearance, which we didn’t. The only species missing from our day’s adventure were Bass, so I had Dave zip over to another point that was being churned up by wind-driven waves, and managed to tag a couple Largemouth on swim jigs in short order.

Days like this are memorable. Strangely enough you don’t remember how much or hard it rained, or how cool the weather got. No one died of hypothermia and the Ranger’s bilge pumps kept the deck water free. By the way, that new rubberized spray-in deck covering Ranger is now using in the cockpit is fantastic. Good traction, easy on the knees, and a snap to clean up. Drying out the boat also takes a lot less time. Oh yes, Dave and I managed to win the tournament in spite of our still counting two of the smaller Walleyes in our five best fish.