Rocky shoreline walleye caught by the author on a minnow bait.

Summertime Eyes.
By….Tyler Dunn.

If Ontario is best known for one fish it is without a doubt the delicious walleye. Trophy walleye fishing can be had at both ends of the province. In Southern Ontario, The Bay of Quinte is a world class trophy walleye producer that rivals any other trophy walleye waters North America has to offer. Lake of the Woods, Eagle Lake and Lac Seul are the true gems of Northern Ontario and gives any angler a realistic shot at a fish of a lifetime. Rigging, bouncing bottom and casting or trolling minnow baits are extremely productive methods for catching big summer walleye.

Many different styles of sinkers for rigging are available to anglers. Banana shaped sinkers are most commonly used and often have internal rattles to imply extra vibration and sound to attract more walleye. Slip sinkers such as the bell and egg styles are  also good choices for any rigging techniques. A Bait casting setup will work well but I prefer a spinning rod and reel. Preferably use a 7 foot medium action rod spooled up with 12 pound fire line. Next, attach a barrel swivel to the mainline and add an 8 pound fluorocarbon leader to your bait. Lengths of your leader will vary from 2-10 feet depending on bottom structure and where the fish are holding in the water column. A great option during windy days is to deploy a drift sock and use your electric or even the main engine for small speed bursts to give yourself complete control of your drift. When targeting walleyes with a rigging technique bites are most likely going to be very subtle. If you are constantly missing fish or if you find yourself losing fish immediately after hook up, open your bail and feed line to the fish when you detect a strike. As you are feeding the line accelerate your motor and quickly move your boat towards the fish and try to place yourself as vertical as possible to the fish. This will increase your hook up percentage by giving the fish a few extra seconds to totally commit to eating the bait and will also give you a much stronger hook set into the fish.

Bottom Bouncing:-
One of the most productive methods to cover water and locate schools of walleye is to drag a bottom bouncer followed by a colourful crawler harness. Work these bottom bouncers in an S pattern along rocky shorelines or sand flat when searching for early summer walleyes. Often these fish can be found exceptionally shallow and a bottom bouncer would be best switched to a split shot in 5 feet or less of water. Use either your main engine or electric motor to cruise these areas at speeds of 0.5 – 1.5 mph. When fish become finicky or pressured areas are targeted, incorporate speed bursts and neutral drops on turns to entice more strikes from docile fish. When selecting the right weight for your bottom bouncer, always use the rule of 1 oz for every 10 feet and I always use heavier weights in waters with current. Another great method used to determine the weight needed is to always have your line in the water at a 45 degree angle. Using a heavier bottom bouncer is always a better choice rather than using a lighter weight. If the bouncers you are running are your heaviest and your bait is not making bottom contact simply add ¼ ounce split shots above the weight that is already in place on the bouncer. Three-way rigging is another option for pounding the bottom of water bodies in search of walleyes. I turn to this rig when my electronics are indicating fish higher in the water column usually between 3-6 feet off bottom. I can match the length of lead to the sinker to the distance fish are appearing on screen. Often these are snag filled locations where walleye often roam. Remember to tie on a lighter line to your sinker than you have spooled on your mainline. This will result in only losing your sinker and not your entire rig resulting in loss of time and frustration over the course of the day or night. Crawler harnesses, leeches and minnows are but I find minnow baits to be most effective behind a three way swivel rig.


A walleye that fell victim to a bottom bouncer and crawler harness.

Minnow Baits:-
Anglers who use minnow baits on a regular basis will agree that big walleyes love them. Most have developed confidence in these plastics baits with hours of practice fine tuning the presentation. When I am targeting large walleyes in the St. Mary’s River, I use a very slow retrieve with small twitches. This has become my best method for hooking walleyes along the river from shore. These fish are tucked away in the rocks waiting to ambush schools of unsuspecting smelts that swim by under the moonlight along the rocky shoreline. Match your colours to forage available and when nothing seems to work switch to a bright colour. I recommend using monofilament line with a fluorocarbon leader when battling shore hugging walleyes in areas that are polluted with rocks. The reason behind this method is that super lines such as Berkley’s Fire line will drive the bait much deeper than monofilament and the fluorocarbon leader is much stronger for rubbing on rocks than monofilament. When walleyes are in these areas I like to twitch these baits just over the heads of the fish. When specifically targeting walleyes located on structured shorelines, whether it be a river or lake always bring a high powered flashlight. Scan the shoreline quickly with the light looking for glowing green eyes and but be sure not to hold the light on the fish for any longer than 2-3 seconds or it will move out deeper to darker waters. Make a short and very accurate cast in a specific area where you can retrieve the bait directly in front of the walleye.