Destination: Rainy Lake Walleyes

It is during the late winter period when the snow starts to melt and the ice is going out that my thoughts drift to summer and open water fishing. Of all the events that take place during the warm weather angling, our trip to Rainy Lake is the highlight of them all.

It has been close to a dozen years that our group of anglers has been making an annual trek to Island View Lodge on this beautiful body of water. The accommodations we find at this full service resort are always ideal and add to the enjoyment of our experience.

Although this resort attracts a number of guests that are interested in a lakeside vacation, our group is totally into the fishing. Even though each year presents some new and different challenges, we always end the week marveling at how great the walleye angling really is.

Our favorite time of the year to chase old marble eyes on Rainy starts in mid-July. It is during this summer period that the walleyes follow the annual migration of the baitfish out to the deep-water reefs.

If one looks at a map of Rainy, it doesn’t take long to realize there is no shortage of deep-water reefs. Because of this, a typical day on the water may take us to a dozen different locations. Some of them will hold fish while others will not.

It is also important to note that the walleyes we chase are real roamers. Often times we will pull up onto a reef and hammer fish like crazy for an hour and then they are gone. When the fish disappear, so do we. We simply move to another reef and look for feeding fish.

This concept is really important when reef fishing on Rainy Lake. With fish constantly moving on and off of the reefs, it is imperative that searching is built into the daily routine. If we don’t mark fish on our electronics, we don’t fish. It is that simple.

There are times we may search for a couple of hours before we hit pay dirt. We expect this and know we will find them eventually.

Although there are a number of ways to target walleyes once they are found, my personal favorite is the standard live bait rig. I do use a few special adaptations with this set-up.

First of all, Rainy Lake reefs are very rocky and snaggy. To help combat this problem, I utilize a standup style 1/2- or 3/4-ounce sinker. This allows me to fish quite vertical and to keep my weight just off of the bottom as much as possible. The standup sinker will still get stuck once in a while but usually comes out.

A long 5- to 6-foot fluorocarbon six-pound-test leader is essential. I tip this leader with a red number six hook. Minnows will work all summer long on Rainy but leeches and crawlers will also produce plenty of fish.

Our group has had great success with a bottom bouncer and slow-death presentation. When we find the fish are scattered, this option can be extremely effective.

One bonus found on Rainy Lake is the northern. This toothy critter will often hit our rigs and offer a great fight and added action.

Rainy Lake has proven to be a walleye factory over the years with plenty of eating size fish plus lots of hard fighting walleyes over 20 inches. For our group of anglers, every summer seems to be better than the year before.