Rainy Lake: A Summer Walleye Destination


Our annual trips to Rainy Lake started a decade ago. Our group was tired of the border hassles we encountered when traveling into Canada, yet we were still hopeful for a fishing adventure up north. 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 mid-July. We have found that this is when many walleyes have migrated out into the main lake and visit 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 in water 23 to 28 feet while other years the fish are all over in 30-foot depths. Also, it’s 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, it is important to work them as quickly and as efficiently as possible because they have a tendency to move onto the reefs, feed and then retreat to the open water. I always punch in a waypoint to save the spot and will even 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 walleyes, we have several methods. One is the standard live-bait rig tipped with leeches, ‘crawlers or minnows. To increase our productivity, 6-foot, 6-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders and small number 6 hooks do well for bites. Long slender sinkers are more snagless than your standard sinkers.

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

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

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Another favorite presentation makes use of heavier rods with bottom-bouncers and spinners. We always use 14- to 20-pound braid on our baitcaster reels. Braided superline is tough and very sensitive. For the spinner options we’ll use both ‘crawler harnesses and slow-death rigs. The slow-death ones are our favorite of the two. The reefs in Rainy Lake are very snaggy, so it’s critical to not drag any type of presentation across the bottom. Always touch the 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 them during all seasons. Although I’ve fished Rainy at other times of the year, I definitely prefer the mid-lake reef bite in July.


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

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

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