Anglers chasing walleyes during the fall greenback run have been having tremendous success over the last few weeks. After the strong current and high water on the Red River eventually leveled off, it was no coincidence that I began receiving positive reports from a number of fishermen in our community of successful outings from the boat and on shore. This primetime fishing window will go well into November for those who are not deterred by cooler temperatures and a little drizzle.
Despite the almost assured active bite at this time of year on the river, there will still be those out there on the outside looking in so to speak. Have you ever found yourself watching in envy as anglers nearby are seemingly hauling them in continuously while your rod remains straight and excruciatingly quiet? We have all been in this situation in some way or another and the first thing one will question is ‘am I doing something wrong?’ The answer is almost always yes.
Many non-anglers or casual participants in the sport maintain the assertion that angling is mostly about luck. I personally could not possibly disagree more. While there is absolutely an aspect of chance when we define success dependant on decisions made by other living creatures, the heart of sport fishing entails doing all that we can to maximize the odds of achieving the target outcome. On any given day someone dangling a hook randomly in the water with a cigarette butt for bait will still have a chance of catching a fish, but the knowledgeable angler who is prepared and in tune with the right formula will always be more consistent and successful over time. The combinations of factors and variables that go into catching fish are literally endless. This is the reason why there are countless magazines, TV shows, articles, and books dedicated to the subject matter.
Going back, if we specifically look at the Red River-in the fall-targeting walleyes, there are tried and true techniques to getting these fish into your net. From shore, just soak a still fishing presentation such as the ever popular pickerel rig baited with a couple of dead shiner minnows and you are in the game. All it takes to play from the boat is dropping a jig and shiner combo to the bottom and waiting for your shot to set the hook. When the going is good, as it sometimes can be, it really is just this simple. When others are getting fish and you aren’t is when the intricacies of your presentation, equipment, or location need to be examined and refined.
The difference at times can be something as minute as the line diameter between one angler using 14lb test and the other 8lb. More often than not however, missing out on the action on the Red can be attributed to one of two things, bait and depth. Our natural instinct as anglers is to want to get closer to where the action is. What one should focus on more is what depth they are fishing in or how far they are casting out from shore. The Red is not that structure specific in the sense that the same channel edges or flats will be consistent or continuous for long stretches of river. Casting your rig at an angle over someone’s area or snuggling your boat next to another is not at all necessary as the specific depth or contour can easily be replicated in your own space and in addition these groups of walleyes are well known to be highly mobile. As for bait, a tub of quality salted shiner minnows will go a long way to having anything bite your hook. Minnows that are brownish, soggy, or smelly will most definitely get bit less. Bringing out the same tub that you used and saved over several previous trips is also asking to fail. When buying minnows, look for shiners that still have a bluish tinge to them and are firm from salt and formaldehyde. There are batches of tubs out there regardless of brand that are sometimes not up to snuff and are essentially useless. Live minnows and various soft artificials will work on the Red but are not as effective as the ‘salties’ in my experience. I will delve more into local bait options in another article.