Lake Winnipeg Greenback Walleyes… in May?

HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa

The famous Manitoba fall run of greenback walleye is well documented and anticipated every year. Targeting massive schools of these emerald giants through Lake Winnipeg ice has also become the stuff of legend. Increasingly gaining in popularity amongst anglers however, is the tail end springtime segment of the migration.

The period from season opener in May to about late June is walleye primetime just about anywhere in the province that is free of ice. The waters and tributaries of Lake Winnipeg are no exception as they have been producing some of the hottest bites for numbers and big fish combined in recent seasons. In an average year, there is a short period where the cooler water temperature and relative scarcity of forage make for an aggressive and sustained walleye bite. During a late spring situation, that window of opportunity widens considerably. The later the ice cover melts off, the colder the water is on opening day, and subsequently we see a delayed exodus north for the majority of the hundreds of thousands of walleyes currently in the south basin.

A wide variety of tactics can be employed as these hungry post-spawn schools are far less discerning and will readily attack anything resembling a meal. Some proven presentations include trolling spinners with worms, jig heads tipped with dead or plastic minnows presented vertically, still fishing pickerel rigs with bait, cast and retrieving swimbaits/jerkbaits/spoons, and long line trolling crankbaits.

Annual May and June walleye bonanzas take place on: the Manigotagan River and at its mouth; the main lake waters and tributaries near and around Gimli; the northern stretch of the Red River and entire Netley Creek system; the waters in and around Hecla Island. That being said, when fishing for walleyes at this time of year extra care must be taken when handling freshly spawned out female fish. The spawn in late ice-off years can actually occur after the opener in some areas. The females need time to recuperate and recover so we suggest to avoid intentionally targeting known spawning grounds.

Related article: Manitoba Hot Bite – Springtime Greenbacks

On a recent episode of Jason Mitchell Outdoors, we ventured with him on a late season mid-November excursion on the Winnipeg River at Pine Falls. The areas and structure where we were able to hone in on good sizes and numbers are also very much applicable in the spring. A program consisting of working the main channel edges, current breaks, and sand flats in the bay will have you hooking into early season greenbacks in no time.

For more information on fishing for walleye in Manitoba, visit our Walleye page.