Outdoors: Spring angling on the Rainy River at Baudette

You can catch huge walleyes now on the Rainy River. (Photo submitted)
You can catch huge walleyes now on the Rainy River. (Photo submitted)

By Steve Carney

Contributing Writer

As we await the opening of the inland walleye opener here in Minnesota, April is the best month to be angling on the Rainy River in northern Minnesota. This early walleye season gives anglers an opportunity to fish for walleyes until mid  April.

Instead of waiting until mid May, you can catch huge walleyes now on the Rainy. This unique fishery is not for the faint of heart as the crowds descend on this river in droves. Here are some tips to make your Rainy River experience successful.

The crowds

Yes, the crowds.  Don’t plan of being able to get away and fish in privacy because that won’t happen. The Rainy is very limited in size and the hundreds of boats make for an interesting experience on the water. Anglers from all over the Midwest make the April pilgrimage and you can expect to run into a variety of people from amateurs to pros. My biggest beef is the amount of boat traffic constantly going up and down the river with very little chance to avoid the chaos. You put up with the traffic because the fishing is so darn good. Weekdays used to be less busy but the Rainy has such a great reputation that even weekdays are busy. If at all possible, try and avoid weekends.

The Minnesota/Canada line

There is an “imaginary” line that goes down the center part of the river that divides Canada and Minnesota. We anglers are only able to fish on the Minnesota half of the river. If you stray over the dividing line, you are susceptible to a fine from the Canadian authorities. I have been asked several times over the years to adjust my boat drift as it can be sometimes very  difficult to stay on the correct side. Keep that in mind as the fines are quite heavy.

Lures and baits

On the Rainy, you don’t have to be too particular on your lures and presentations because these are so many walleyes in so many places, you just can’t go wrong. I prefer larger jigs in the ¼ and ½ ounce sizes because the current can be a factor. Many anglers swear by frozen shiner minnows while others prefer large chubs. Personally, I don’t get hung up on the minnow types on this river because the fish are so aggressive.

I don’t believe they are that picky. Gold is the favored jig color but also pink and silver work well too. Many anglers troll plugs upriver and hug the shorelines and do quite well.

On the Rainy, always be on the lookout for deep depressions or “scoops” on the river bottom. These early spring walleyes tend to use these changes in depths to relax and loaf out of the current. Just a slight change from 8-12 feet is huge.  

Yes, it is a very unique fishery but the chances at catching a trophy walleye over 9 pounds is very possible. If you can stand the crowds, this incredible walleye fishery is the best in Minnesota.