Fishing the Spring Opener in Ontario
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If you're like me, you've been waiting through the long cold winter months. You've been waiting and checking the weather at the lodge where you're booked. It's a long way from where you live, but you're anxious to see how it's going up there. The waiting is over; the dog days of winter have finally passed and now you are just a few weeks away from your Northwestern Ontario Spring fishing trip. Last year the ice cleared only a few days before the Saturday morning opening day. You were concerned whether or not you and your friends would be able to get in a full week's fishing and, even more so; how good the fishing would be that week at camp following the ice-out. That was last year. This year the ice is already off the lakes and you are checking with your buddies on the final arrangements before the day you leave for your camp.
No matter what lake you're driving to it will most likely have Walleye, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass. Some lakes also have Lake Trout, Muskie, Perch and maybe even Crappie. There truly is no other place to fish multi-species waters like Northwestern Ontario.
You've made it. Now skip forward a bit and you're down on the dock with your thermos of hot coffee and first light is just breaking over the water. You've caught up with the camp owner(s) and they told you there's been a Southwest wind the last few days, so you're all set to fish those northern shallow bays. As you pull into the bay you've chosen and shut off your outboard, you get your electric trolling motor ready to take you down the shoreline. You reach for your favorite spinning rod and check your bait, before making your first cast for this Canadian trip. What bait will you choose? Here are some tips from my tackle box to help you make your Spring Opener trip a success.
Casting Artificial Baits
My fishing crew and I cast artificial baits 98% of the time for the Opener. That's not to say minnows and leaches don't catch a lot of fish; they do. A good friend of mine from the Twin Cities nailed a 49-inch Muskie back-trolling a minnow on a Lindy Rig. He also caught a good number of nice Walleye one Spring Opener a few years ago using the same presentation. However, most of us in our group like action, and casting a Spinning Rig or Bait-Caster with artificial baits are a great way to find active fish.
Twisters & Jigs
One of my favorite baits is the 3-inch twister made by Kalin in the Cotton Candy or Bluegill color. Use these on a 1/8 oz jig combined with 6 lb braided line (I like Power Pro) and you will feel the slightest tick or pick-up on your line if you're fishing a sensitive rod. If the action slows, I'll switch from a regular jig head to a Northland Whistler jig and continue to use a Kalen's 3-inch twister on it.
Several of my friends like to use the Blakemore Roadrunner, though I prefer the Whistler Jig if I'm not using a regular jig. I had one die-hard fishing friend that would only fish a chartreuse twister-tail on a plain jig head. He'd say, "If the fish won't bite a chartreuse twister, they're not biting." A lot of times he was right.
My twin brother will often fish a 5 or 6 inch bulked up soft-plastic bait. He might not get the action that a 3-inch twister tail will get, but he will (often) pull larger Walleye. I'm more focused on getting strikes, while my brother targets larger fish. We fish the same areas but we get different results.
Another favorite of mine is a 1/4 oz swimming jig tipped with a Berkley Power Leach, which caught the large (28 inch) Walleye in our group my last trip north of the border. I stay away from crank baits if I can, as they have a lot of hooks that can get caught up in the net (as well as in the fish). That said, we have occasionally trolled shallow running/dark colored 6-inch Rapala stick baits in the rivers if the ice has just gone out. (The lakes we fish during the Opener have tributary rivers)
Silver Spoon Jigging for Walleye
One other bait that I enjoy fishing with is a light silver blank spoon (think a 1/4 oz Hopkins Spoon only lighter). A good friend purchased light blanks and made a number of these spoons for me. They cast a good distance, so you can jig and then (with a flip of your wrist) swim the spoon over the shallow shoreline waters. Walleye will slam this spoon, as well as will other fish like Perch, Muskie, Smallmouth Bass, and Northern Pike.
What is great about using these baits is that most days you'll get a steady amount of action landing large fish, an occasional Pan Fish and, of course, Walleye. Occasionally you'll have a bite-off, though when replacing these baits you don't feel as bad as if you'd just lost a $10 lure. You don't have to use a leader if you use braided line and you can either tie it on directly or use a straight clip.
These baits are good all Spring, though we normally fish either the Opener or the week following and have had much success. Hopefully you are able to get north of the border next year for the Ontario Spring Opener and take these tips (and baits) with you. If you're like me, you're already booking next year's trip. If you're like me, I might just see you on the water.