Lake of the Woods country, in Northwestern Ontario just north of Minnesota, is pretty much forsaken in late September as far as tourists go. The fishermen from the U.S. are few and far between when September’s first frost and thirty-degree daytime temperatures come along. But the fishing can be unbelievably good, if you can get lucky enough to hit the calm days. Even if it’s cold, you can have some great fishing if the wind lets you get out there.
It was that way a couple of years ago when I fished out on Lake of the Woods in early October, all bundled up and trying to keep my hands warm. We caught crappie and smallmouth and walleye, fishing a minnow and jig right on the bottom beneath the boat, all day long. Over one little point which jutted out into the lake, I dropped my bait down about 30 feet and began to lift it up about two or three feet, drop it and lift it again. There was that sudden, solid jolt that meant walleye, and I figured I had another one in the two- or three-pound range. We had caught some of those already, though most were just a pound and half or so. This one didn’t give so easily, and he stayed deep and kept my rod arced hard against my pressure, even stripping some line now and then. In three or four minutes, I got him up close to a waiting net, and he weighed better than seven pounds.
You can catch big walleye in Canada in the fall because that’s when they’re fattening up for the winter, feeding at about twice the rate they do in the summer. And they move to points, narrows, and underwater humps and gravel or sand flats which are usually 23 to 28 feet deep (occasionally a little deeper). You find those places, fish them for awhile, and move on to another similar spot. When you catch one, stay with that spot, moving around over it, fishing the jig, or minnowing up and down on the bottom. The walleye stay with that depth from mid-September until you can’t fish because of the northers, which come through in mid to late October.
Larry Dablemont currently writes a weekly newspaper column for 35 newspapers, publishes the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, has written seven books, and can be heard on KWTO AM 560 Radio Springfield each Sunday morning on The Larry Dablemont Outdoor Program. He and his wife reside in Bolivar, Missouri. You can read some of Larry’s current and older posts at his blog, Outdoors with Larry Dablemont, and visit his Lightnin’ Ridge Facebook page.