The opening of walleye/sauger season in Ontario is this Saturday (May 18) but the action may be slow this year thanks to the lingering cold weather and subsequent delayed spawn.
“Ice-out” on Rainy Lake occurred May 8, one week later than last year, and some local anglers and guides say that may have an effect on the bite this weekend.
“This winter couldn’t end quick enough,” said part-time fishing guide Leroy Wilson. “Because of that, the walleye could be about 10 days to two weeks behind.”
If his experience fishing during the Minnesota opener last weekend was any indication, Wilson, a native of Manitouwadge who now lives in International Falls, advised anglers try their fall spots.
“I caught about seven under the slot size,” he said, adding his crew fished past the 40-foot depth mark for bites. “That’s really strange for this time of year.”
“It’s usually pretty slow for the first few weeks,” agreed Dale LaBelle, owner of Birch Point Camp on Northwest Bay. “I don’t find fishing really good until the first week of June.
“[But] it’s usually better in places around Seine River, where it’s warmer and the spawn’s a little better,” he added.
Meanwhile, despite the unseasonably cold start to spring, the Ministry of Natural Resources, with the help of studies by biologists Darryl McLeod and John Van Den Broeck, said not to expect much difference from last year’s “good to very good” forecast.
Tom Pearson, owner of Camp Narrows Lodge on Rainy Lake, said the late “ice-out” isn’t that much of a concern, but added it may affect the turnout of anglers on opening weekend.
“It’s normal. It’s just been really early the last couple of years so it probably seems late,” he reasoned. “We usually get people coming in earlier. Most people are waiting for ice to be completely out.”
Wilson said the joy of the catch is only part of the whole picture.
“I don’t think people are so much into the catch anyway. When I was younger, I never missed it. It was always fun to out on the lake.
“For me, [Rainy Lake] has always been a pleasure lake.”
“I enjoy the opener because it is such a challenge,” added LaBelle, who has fished Rainy Lake for walleye the past 40 years.
The MNR said anglers should check the 2002 Recreational Fish-ing Regulations Summary Guide-lines, available at the Fort Frances and Atikokan offices, for details on all the fishing rules and limits.
Conservation officers also will be out at various checkpoints this weekend to be on the watch for any infractions.