Rainy Lake: A Summer Walleye Destination

By Jerry Carlson

Walleyes of all sizes can be found on Rainy Lake reefs in mid-July.

Our annual trips to Island View Lodge on Rainy Lake started about ten years. Our group of anglers was tired of the border hassles we encountered when traveling into Canada, yet we were still hopeful of finding a Canadian type of fishing adventure. After one trip to Rainy Lake, I haven’t crossed the border since.

Over the years of fishing on Rainy, our party has chosen to book our stay during mid-July. We have found that at this time of the year, many of the walleyes have migrated out into the main lake and are visiting the deep water humps and reefs in search of food.

This deep pattern changes somewhat from year to year depending on where the baitfish are staging. Some summers, the majority of our fishing is done in water that is 23 to 28 feet while other years the majority of fish are all over 30 feet deep.

It is important to note that not every reef and piece of deep structure is going to hold fish. Locating an area we wish to concentrate on may take an hour or more of looking. We motor from reef to reef and then zigzag back and forth over the top of the reef while watching our electronics for fish.

When we do find a concentration of fish, it is important to work them as quickly and efficiently as possible as they have a tendency to move onto the reefs, feed and then retreat to the open water. I nearly always punch in a waypoint to save the spot and will frequently throw a marker buoy if the fish are in a very tight area. The visual marker is extremely important at times.

When it comes to targeting these deep fish, we have several methods that we have found to be useful. One of our favorite systems is the standard live bait rig tipped with leeches, crawlers or minnows.

Feisty northern are one of the bonus fish we always find when targeting walleyes.

To increase our productivity, we have found that six foot six-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders and small #6 hooks will increase our bites. Long slender sinkers are more snagless than standard sinkers

Minnows always seem to catch fish as that is the prey the walleyes are seeking. However, there are times when either crawlers or leeches will out-produce minnows so we always have all three in the boat and experiment to see which is working the best on that particular day.

Jigs are always an option on Rainy, especially when the fish are schooled tightly on a reef. A vertical presentation keeps us out of the rocks.

Another favorite presentation makes use of heavier rods with bottom bouncers and spinners. We always use 14 to 20 pound braid on our bait caster reels. Braided super lines are tough and very sensitive. For the spinner options, we will use both crawler harnesses and slow death rigs with slow death being our favorite of the two.

The reefs in Rainy Lake are very snaggy. It is critical to not drag any type of presentation across the bottom. Always touch bottom and lift your weight or jig up so you are riding above the rocks.

Rainy Lake is an exceptional walleye fishery with options for targeting walleyes during all seasons. Although I have fished Rainy at other times of the year, I definitely prefer the mid-lake reef bite that occurs in July.

An evening fish fry is one of the many rewards found on Rainy Lake.