Balmy weather offers ‘bonus days’ fishing greenback walleyes on the Manitoba side of the Red

With temperatures forecast to rise into the 50s this past weekend, I couldn’t resist the invitation a Canadian friend dangled last week to join him for a couple of days to fish “greenback” walleyes on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg.

Few places within easy driving distance offer a better shot at a big walleye.

Set the hook and reel me in.

Regardless of the fishing, the opportunity to fish walleyes in a boat in mid-November is a bonus, and we enjoyed two fine “bonus days” of fishing for greenbacks, so-called for the iridescent bluish-green color unique to walleyes in Lake Winnipeg and the lower Red River.

Saturday was about as perfect of a November day as you could ask for, and the muddy parking lot at the End of Main boat access on Netley Creek north of Selkirk, Man., was filled with vehicle-trailer rigs when we launched shortly after 10 a.m.

The first walleye of the day — which also proved to be the largest of the weekend — was putting a bend in my new Jason Mitchell spinning rod barely half an hour after we dropped anchor in about 13 feet of water a couple of miles downstream from the landing.

The greenish beauty was robust, in the way Lake Winnipeg walleyes always are, and measured 27½ inches. I set the fish free after a couple of quick photos and resumed jigging.

I couldn’t have scripted a better way to begin a bonus day.

Days without wind have been rare occurrences this fall, but Saturday passed with barely a breeze, and the surface of the river showed only the slightest ripple. That made the balmy temperature even more enjoyable, and at times, the warmth bordered on hot.

Neither of us were complaining, though.

We encountered a phenomenon Saturday that was made even more obvious by the lack of wind. Normally, as everyone knows, the Red River flows north, but on Saturday, the current along the stretch of river we fished near the mouth actually flowed the opposite direction.

The current wasn’t strong, and with no wind, I easily could feel bottom with a ¼-ounce Northland Tackle Whistler Jig — quite a change from the 6 to 8 ounces of lead we often have to use to keep our bait on the bottom in the summer when catfishing in Manitoba.

The only explanation we could muster for the reversal in flow was that several days of north wind earlier in the week had pushed water from massive Lake Winnipeg into the Red River so vigorously that it actually caused a temporary change in the direction of the current.

At any rate, the fish didn’t seem to mind.

Fishing wasn’t fast, by any means, but it was steady enough to keep us interested. Typical of fish in cooler water — the surface temp was 36.9 degrees — the bite was light. On several occasions, all we could feel was a “presence” — for lack of a better description — at the end of the line when a fish mouthed the bait. Whether the fish was a small sauger or a big walleye, we often couldn’t tell until we set the hook.

We fed our fair share of fish throughout the day and on numerous occasions were serenaded by coyotes howling and yipping nearby. That seemed odd, as coyotes typically are loudest after dark, but these coyotes apparently weren’t listening.

Sunday’s temperature also lived up to predictions, but an east-southeast wind blew just hard enough throughout the day to keep us bundled up. The current also was back to normal, flowing north toward the lake.

Fishing was similar to the previous day. The biggest walleye Sunday measured 24 inches, and my fishing partner made the save of the year when he managed to scoop the greenback into the landing net after it shook my jig nearly 5 feet from the boat.

I also lost a walleye late in the afternoon that felt considerably heavier and left me wondering what might have been.  Losing fish is part of the game, though, and as my fishing partner said, it’s what keeps us coming back.

Judging by the weather forecast, which calls for high temperatures to fall into the low 30s to high 20s by Friday, our days of boat fishing probably are done for the fall.

After two bonus days like we experienced Saturday and Sunday, it’s hard to complain.

Here are a few photos from the weekend:


Brad Dokken started the day Saturday by landing this 27½-inch walleye on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg.


With a cloudy sky in the background, the east side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg appeared to glow Saturday afternoon, illuminated by the setting sun. (Brad Dokken photo)


The sun dips toward the horizon Saturday afternoon on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg, marking the end of a day that passed much too quickly. (Brad Dokken photo)


The boat ramp at End of Main north of Selkirk, Man., was a busy place both Saturday and Sunday morning as anglers converged on the Manitoba side of the Red River to take advantage of the balmy November weather. (Brad Dokken photo)

S.D. angler leads Cabela’s NWT championship on Devils Lake

Walleye pro Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D., weighed in five walleyes for 31.18 pounds — better than a 6-pound average — to lead the pack after Thursday’s first day of the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour championship on Devils Lake.

A total of 77 pro anglers and 77 amateur co-anglers are fishing the tournament, which continues Friday. The top 10 pros and co-anglers after Friday will face off Saturday for the championship. Grahams Island State Park is tournament headquarters.

Rounding out the top five were:

  • Second: Scott Larson, Mayville, N.D., 27.52 pounds, five walleyes.
  • Third: Ed Stachowski, Canton, Mich., 26.41 pounds, five walleyes.
  • Fourth: Paul Steffen, Pierre, S.D., 25.14 pounds, five walleyes.
  • Fifth: Rick Olson, Mina Lake, S.D., 22.46 pounds, five walleyes.

Co-anglers fishing with the top five pros were, from first to fifth: Mike Utley, Zumbrota, Minn.; Clint Glass, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Scott Cisewski, Stevens Point, Wis.; Jimmy Cox, Bono, Ark; and John Hoyer, Orono, Minn.

Brian Brosdahl, a northern Minnesota fishing guide and ice fishing promoter who’ll be featured in a story on the Herald’s Sunday Outdoors section cover, was in 37th place after the first day, with four walleyes for 13.22 pounds.

For a full listing of day one results, click here.

Odds and ends to start the week

A few nuggets for this first day of April:

Hunting can be a pricey sport, to be sure, but the winning bidder spent a whopping $75,000 for a North Dakota bighorn sheep tag March 23 at the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation’s annual meeting in Bloomington, Minn. The previous high of $50,000 was set in 2007. Proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota, and the auction has raised more than $1 million for the cause since 1986.

Speaking of bighorn sheep, the odds of drawing one of the three lottery tags in North Dakota are somewhere between slim and none. According to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, a total of 8,704 people applied for the three available tags last year. That puts the odds of receiving a sheep tag at a miniscule .03 percent. The odds are considerably better for elk and moose, which round out the “big three” in North Dakota. Hunters last year had a 1.39 percent chance of drawing an “any elk” tag, a 50 percent chance of drawing a cow elk tag and a 30.17 percent chance of drawing a landowner tag. Moose license applicants last  year had a .75 percent chance of drawing a “bull/any moose” license, a 12.93 percent chance of drawing a cow license and a 12.67 percent chance of drawing a landowner moose license. If you didn’t apply for one of the big three licenses this year, you’re out of luck; the deadline was March 27.

Don’t forget you need a new North Dakota fishing and/or hunting license as of today, which marks the official start of the new season.

Anglers in Lake of the Woods country have the best of both worlds right now. According to the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau, the ice on the big lake, including Four-Mile Bay at the mouth of the Rainy River, is still in good shape. And if you’re itching to get into a boat, anglers have been dragging small boats over ice to reach open water on the Rainy River near Birchdale, Minn. I talked to a fisheries biologist in Baudette, Minn., the other day who tells me the open-water walleye action has been good. Look for it to stay that way until spring runoff muddies up the water. Walleye season on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River is open through April 14.