This giant Canadian Shield lake straddling the border of Minnesota and Ontario is one of the finest drive-to fishing waters in North America. Situated about a four-hour drive from our office in Baxter, Minnesota, it has long been one of our favorite destinations to film In-Fisherman TV. Over the years we've filmed walleyes, Smallmouths, pike, and crappies, as well as lake sturgeon in the Rainy River, which flows out of Rainy Lake on it's way to Lake of the Woods. We fish it on ice and open water.
The smallmouths, which typically run from 2.5 to 4 pounds, move into sandy-rocky bays to spawn in early June, and then move onto adjacent rocky habitat during the rest of the season. There are many rocky points and reefs adjacent to deep water that hold fish. At times cabbage weedbeds also provide habitat the fish like. One of our favorite times to film is right after ice out, which typically occurs in early May. With calm warming weather, fish move onto shallow rocky structures to feed, where we catch them on jigs and shallow-running crankbaits.
Walleyes are plentiful and also get big, with some fish surpassing 10 pounds. During summer and fall, many fish hold on deep-lying rocky humps and points. At times fish also roam open water near these structures. And fish push shallow at times, where they're caught with crankbaits and paddletail swimbaits over reefs and along rocky edges.
Pike also are plentiful and get big, with some fish surpassing 20 pounds. Cabbage weedbeds are an important link to these fish during summer and fall. But they mainly use the same type of rocky structures frequented by the bass and walleyes. Pike in Shield lakes often respond favorably to wind, moving shallower onto rocky spots with waves pounding in.
Pike, smallmouths, and walleyes are found in most areas of the lake. Crappies are more area specific, with Black Bay in Minnesota, and Northwest Bay and Redgut Bay in Ontario, well-known areas to find fish. One favorite pattern is for fish to school in deep-water basin areas 25 to 35 feet deep during fall and winter.
Traditional motel lodging is available in Fort Frances, Ontario, or its sister city on the Minnesota side, International Falls. Woody's Fairly Reliable Guide Service also provides lodging in Rainer, close to International Falls. Meanwhile, Camp Narrows Lodge is on an island in Northwest Bay in the North Arm of the lake in Ontario. Both Woody Woods and Camp Narrows owner Tom Pearson are fine anglers who always know what's happening on the water. Guide Chris Granrud of RainyDaze Guide Service is another top contact who's on the water almost every day.
Contacts: Wood's Fairly Reliable Guide Service, 218/286-5001, fairlyreliable.com; RainyDaze Guide Service, 218/290-6102, rainydazeoutdoors.com; Camp Narrows Lodge, 866/294-5067.
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