Manitoba Hot Bite
Pine Falls in Manitoba’s Eastern Region traditionally plays host to one of the last vestiges of open water angling in the province every fall. The term ‘save the best for last’ applies perfectly however when talking about the incredible greenback walleye hot bite that takes place here at this time of year. Some of the largest walleye that have ever been caught in Manitoba have been hooked by trophy hunting anglers on the Winnipeg River and Traverse Bay out of the town of Pine Falls.
Originating from the north basin of Lake Winnipeg, huge schools of walleyes of all sizes invade these waters in massive hordes during their annual migration. All the tributaries as well as the main south basin itself see waves upon waves of fish move in every fall. Traverse Bay at the mouth of the mighty Winnipeg River consistently has one of the largest congregations of greenbacks in the entire system.
We went on a recent late season excursion in search of Master Angler-class greenback walleyes. The plan was simple: track down one of these schools, stay on top of them once we find one, filter through endless average-sized walleyes and boat a few giants.
How to get in on the action
The fall program on this fishery isn’t overly complicated as vertically jigging fresh, frozen, or live minnows is all that is needed to get in on the action. Trolling crankbaits and casting plastics have their time and place but presenting bait under the boat does the majority of damage on this fishery.
There are numerous Pine Falls community hole spots where a sit-and-wait approach can be very effective. During the height of the run, quite often it is just a matter of waiting for schools to periodically swim by your spot. Interestingly, school movements along breaks and channel edges can often be observed above the waterline as hooksets and netting action make their way down along a long line of boats.
For those with slightly less patience, moving around while paying attention to your electronics can yield more consistent numbers throughout the day. On particularly good days, this method can also help with focusing on schools with a larger average size of fish.
High water year
The southern half of the province has seen extraordinary precipitation and resulting high water levels this fall. The normally easy flowing late season current below the Powerview Dam to Lake Winnipeg is currently raging at unprecedented flow. Veteran greenback anglers here know well that stronger current years usually attract more baitfish and the schools that hunt them deeper into the area.
The boat launch parking lot was full of trailers by the time we arrived at 10am. It was a typically cool and sunny late-October morning with a slight breeze out of the south east, prime greenback weather by all accounts. With water blasting through some of our favourite river spots, we decided to head straight to the lake. The last section of the river channel entering the wide expanse of Traverse Bay is the epicentre of this world-renowned fishery.
Find them and stay on them
Finding the edge of the channel that we wanted to focus on was easy with the use of our electronics. Many waterways and lakes in Manitoba are mapped nowadays with more getting released every year. I dropped the trolling motor when we idled up on the 15-foot target depth. At this particular spot of the channel edge, a cast length north is about 13-feet and a cast length south drops to about 17-feet of depth.
With the boat ‘spot-locked’ on our chosen spot, we dropped lines down attached to ½ oz jigs and frozen salted minnows. After ten minutes with no bites and no marks on the sonars, we adjusted our anchor position further south into gradual deeper water. This process continued zig-zagging our way along the area until my rod got slammed. It was a swing and a miss but a good sign, nonetheless.
Flurry of action
Not long after, Mike got a bite and a nice 17-inch walleye took first fish of the day honours. That set-off a flurry of action with each of us hooking into multiple walleyes ranging from 16 to 20 inches in length. There was a collective gasp however when Mike’s rod doubled over much deeper than his previous hook-ups did. “This is a big fish”, he kept repeating as he battled the fish in the strong current even out here in the middle of Traverse Bay. Measuring at exactly 28-inches, we had a Master Angler walleye on the board.
The action was fast and furious for another hour straight with several double headers and even a triple header at one point. We caught fish of a variety of year-classes with the average size being fat and feisty 18 to 21 inchers. Mike got his second Master Angler of the day, I hooked into a 27.25”, and Garther had a trifecta of 24 to 26-inch greenbacks before we could even take a break. The action slowed to a fish here and there the next few hours but that was okay.
Bonus lake sturgeon catch
Mike had the hot stick so it was no surprise when his rod buckled over once again. This time though the fish was peeling line off the reel like crazy. We knew immediately that he had a lake sturgeon on the end of his line. It is not unusual for walleye anglers to occasionally get bit by incidental sturgeon here. An entirely underutilized sportfish here at Pine Falls, big fish anglers would be amazed to know that this area holds some of the densest sturgeon populations in the province and are fully legal to target.
We decided to end the day fishing beside our friends who had set-up shop in 14 feet of water further upriver along the same channel edge. We moved partly because they shared that the bite was on where they were, but mostly because we ran out of bait and they were willing to throw us a tub. The next two hours were filled with hooksets and several more double and triple headers.
Still time to head out this fall
Open water fishing here has boats going out right up to ice-up which is normally in mid-November. During particularly warm years, die-hard anglers can push it even later. If you are still looking to get your open water fishing fix in or are keen on getting a trophy walleye, the greenbacks on the Winnipeg River at Pine Falls are in thick right now.
HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa
For more information on walleye fishing in Manitoba, visit our Walleye page.
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