The fall season marks the time when local anglers flock to the banks and boat launches of the Red River at Selkirk and the Winnipeg River at Pine Falls. While fishing can be outstanding for a variety of species on these waters all year round, anglers at this time of year are in search of mainly one in particular, the ‘Greenback’ walleye.
Lake Winnipeg walleyes live in the cold clear waters of the northern basin during the summer. Usually around mid-September, an enormous number of them begin to migrate into the southern basin of the big lake and eventually swim into the Red River and Winnipeg River along with a number of other tributaries and creeks that feed into Lake Winnipeg. As their nickname suggests, these fish have a distinct iridescent bluish-green coloured back. All walleyes are coloured in direct relation to the water that they live in. Greenbacks get this way from their skin adjusting from being in clear water to murkier water.
Many of our kababayan anglers fishing in the Gimli area have been catching ‘greens’ since the beginning of September. Generally the early run of fish will be the smaller and skinnier males which can range from 15” to 20”. The larger females and trophy sized walleyes start to arrive once the water temperature gets to around 60F (12C). The opportunity to land a Master Angler (70cm/27.75”) walleye is always possible and at times even probable once the run is at its height in October. The possibility of breaking the provincial and even world record is not out of the question either as our famous walleyes are some of the largest growing ones around.
The Red River has been hit or miss the last few weeks but should hit full swing any day now. The unusually strong current flowing this fall can make for less than ideal conditions to fish from shore or boat at the moment but these are typically the years where higher numbers of bigger fish move in following the shiner minnows. Reports out of Pine Falls are that the greens have arrived as anglers have been getting into schools of them fishing in Traverse Bay as well as in the river.
To target these fish, the most popular method is presenting a salted shiner minnow. From shore the best way to do this is with a ‘pickerel rig’ or a modified version of one. Out of the package these rigs come with small low quality brass hooks. If using store bought rigs I would strongly suggest replacing the hooks with better ones such as Eagle Claw snelled hooks in size 2/0 to 4/0. These will ensure better hooksets and will eliminate lost fish due to snapped hooks. A tip for anglers who make their own rigs is to add an oversized chartreuse or orange bead on the rig or snell to help the fish hone in on your bait. From the boat, a simple jig and salty is sufficient to lure a monster to your line. A good rule of thumb is to use as light a jig as you can get away with while still being able to have your line drop more or less vertical under the boat.
As a reminder, the limit is four (4) walleye/sauger on the Red River downstream of Lockport and the Winnipeg River downstream of Pine Falls. Only one walleye in your limit can be longer than 55cm (21.75”). Only one walleye over 70cm (27.75”) can be kept in a year. Good luck to all greenback hunters this season and send me your pics!