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Though it can get cold – make that, very cold – during the fall, you don’t need rocks in your head to chase late-season walleyes. Even more than spring, autumn can be the best time to hook the trophy of a lifetime. The fish are big and hungry and unlike spring when they are spawning, eating is the only thing on their minds in fall as they fatten up for winter. Weather and water levels can also be more stable later in the season than earlier in the year.
But, whether we’re targeting rivers or lakes in fall, we certainly should have rocks on our minds. The biggest walleyes (and highest concentrations) will be schooled around places with hard bottoms. Take the time to find rocks, then locate the spot-on-the-spot and hold onto your rod. That chill in the air just might signal the hottest bite you’ve seen all year.
Many walleye fishermen will head to Wawang Lake in spring when the spawning instinct sends huge numbers of walleyes and saugers to their regular, shallow spawing beds. But the savviest walleye anglers know the spawning migration actually begins in fall. The fish that were scattered and hard to find all summer begin schooling and traveling toward hard-bottom spots where they’ll spawn when the combination of temperature, daylight and current is right, come springtime. Conditions can be better in August to November than they are in May and June.
You’re also not dealing with the crowds you see earlier in the year. By this time, many anglers have set aside fishing rods and picked up their guns or bows to hunt deer. If they head to the water, it’s only to down geese or ducks. Points and where current strength lessens offers fish places to rest, are key. But where inside bends were best in spring, outside bends may hold fish in fall. Check for places where hard bottom areas feature gravel and clam shells.
Hard-bottom areas at the mouths of bays and narrows are also key spots. As colder nights lower the water temperature and kill vegetation in the shallows, baitfish move toward the main lake. Predators station themselves at the openings and make a killing – literally. The mouths of creeks or inlets offer the same scenario.
Keep it simple. Slip jig with a Fuzz-E-Grub jig just heavy enough to maintain bottom contact. Lindy’s new X-Change jigheads allow you to change the weight to match the depth, current and other factors like wind. They also let you change up colors to see if walleye show a preference, and they often do. Use braided line to increase sensitivity, so you can feel transition areas from mud to rocks. Turn up the gain on your sonar. When you see a double bottom (‘second echo’) appear on the screen, you know the bottom is hard.
Pull three-way rigs as an alternative. Use a Lindy NO-SNAGG sinker with a dropper and enough weight to keep the line at a 45-degree angle while slowly moving or hovering with your trolling motor. Use a floating shallow diving crankbait or plain hook tipped with a lively minnow. Add color with a bead or a floating jig.
Shoreline points and islands that feature fast drops to deep water are key spots on Wawang Lake. Walleyes in areas like that can hold in deeper water for security and swim to shallower water to feed without much effort. Use Lindy Rigs with big chubs and NO-SNAGG sinkers to move up and down the dropoffs. Keep your bait fresh and tail hook it so it struggles to attract nearby walleyes. Try using 10-pound braided line, like Power Pro, for your main line, with a fluorocarbon leader on a rod rated for 8- to 14-pound-test line. The rod must have enough backbone for good hooksets in deep water but have a limber enough tip to vibrate when the forage reacts to an approaching walleye. Be ready when the chub starts to struggle a walleye is close by.
A soft tip also lets the rod absorb the shock of a big fish, a must when using no-stretch braided line. Don’t overlook rock piles. But, it’s important to realize the impact of turnover on fish location. Lakes stratify in summer with walleyes and other fish trapped in the water above the thermocline when oxygen content below it drops too low to support life. But that changes when water temperature drops down into the low 50s F. Water becomes heavier at that point and the water on top sinks and allows oxygen to mix at all depths again. Fish are free to travel downward as water near the surface dips below their comfort zones.
As a result, rock piles at ever-increasing depths start to hold walleyes. If you aren’t catching fish on rock piles that held walleyes in the warm months, go deeper.
It’s not all about hard bottoms in autumn. Walleyes will converge on mud flats if an insect hatch occurs. But at the same time, turn up the gain on the sonar and watch for places where a double bottom appears, signaling a transition to harder bottom. Travel around the area slowly. You might stumble across a peak (slightly higher point) in the rocks, where walleyes are gathered as if they were invited to dinner. Just because it’s cold and deer season is open doesn’t mean that fishing in autumn requires rocks in your head. But, you sure should have rocks on your mind.
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If you’ve ever driven any distance through the Canadian bush – especially endless miles of tree-lined, two-lane highways, then you will know about the moose as they often move about our Canadian highways freely.
There are foreboding signs along the way featuring outlines of these hulking creatures nonchalantly strolling across your path. The message is not one of protecting the environment, it is one of avoiding mortal danger and a warning to YOU.
An uneasy feeling starts to set in right about dusk, when the light of the sky darkens enough to match the light thrown by your high-beams.
If you know about the threat of the moose you will tend to slow down just a little, and your eyes will skirt furtively for motion and shadows along the treeline. Because you do not want to hit a moose. If you do, it will almost certainly be THE event of your day. Although generally timid, the males become very bold during the breeding season, when the female sutter a loud call, which can be heard from up to 2 miles away, and are often mistaken for lowing cattle; at such times they fight both with their antlers and their hoofs. Fierce clashing of antlers between males is also not uncommon during the rutting season. The female gives birth to one or two young at a time, which are not spotted. The gestation period for a moose is about 216-240 days. After the young are born, they drink the mother’s milk, which is very high in fat and other nutrients. Because of the milk, the calf grows very fast.
The cow moose is reported to kill more people in Canada than any other animal (far exceeding the toll of the grizzly bear). These large animals can be extremely protective of their young, and caution should be exercised when approaching a cow moose.
In the spring, moose can often been seen in drainage ditches at the side of roads, taking advantage of road salt which has run off the road. These minerals replace electrolytes missing from their winter diet. However, this is where the most potential danger lies in these locations as the moose will come out to the open for various reasons one especially to get away from the flies. So on your journey up to Wawang Lake be sure to heed the warning signs – keep your eyes peeled and scan the timberline on each side of the road for these majestic animals.
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When you catch a big Walleye, big meaning over 6-pounds, there is a 95% chance that it’s a female. The big females generally only go into the shallows in the spring where they are up along the shore, in rivers or over sandbars, which are their favorite places to spawn. The smaller males seem to stay in the 2 to 15 foot range all year. The bigger females tend to go deeper then 15 feet. When fishing deep for big mid-summer/ early fall walleye fish between 20 and 40 feet deep.
Why do the big females go deep? There are several explanations depending on the size of the lake and how far north the lake is.
2) Bigger females spend too much energy chasing small bait fish that are found in shallow water. The bigger bait fish that are found is shallow water like perch etc., are hard to swallow as they have defensive spins in their fins. Lake Chub, Whitefish, Lake Herring are all found in abundance down deep AND this food source is abundant in Wawang Lake. They are easier to swallow and more rewarding when considering the amount of energy needed to catch them. These deep water bait fish, especially Whitefish, have more oil in their meat thus more calories.
3) A walleye metabolism speeds up in shallow warm water. As a result, the bigger they get, the more food they need to maintain their weight. If the food is not there, they go to deeper cold water so their metabolism slows down. The dangerous thing about this is there is a fine threshold between eating more or conserving energy. If a big Walleye gets to the point where they can not find enough food to maintain their weight, they do get smaller, then they die. As soon as a Walleye gets to the point where they are starting to weaken from lack of food energy, they do not have the energy to catch bait fish and starve to death.
4) In smaller northern lakes, there is a larger population of Pike regularly attack walleye and bigger slower moving females are an easy target. This is another reason why they go deep right after they spawn.
When you are Walleye fishing on big water like Wawang Lake, the walleye tend to stay suspended along with the schools of bait fish. Lets say you were on a big part of the lake, , the best thing to do is troll until you come across a deeper school of bait fish and then keep trolling over the bait school.
|These schools of bait-fish can be 15 to 40 feet deep and the walleye will be there too. The most popular lures are the Rapala Husky Jerks and the Rattlin’ Fat
–> 10 to 20 feet deep – Regular Husky Jerks
–> 20 to 40 feet deep – Down Deep Husky Jerk or Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap
Just troll around and use your depth finder to spot schools of fish. To determine how deep you are, the Regular Husky Jerks go down about 1 foot for every 10 feet of line out. The Down Deep Rapalas go down about 3 feet for every 10 feet of line out. So using a Down Deep Rapala, getting down 30 feet deep means you need 100 feet of line out. This is just a general estimate. The speed of your troll will affect how deep the lures will go.
3-Way Swivel Rig:
The best way to fish down deep for Walleye is with 10-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for other fish that are right on bottom in the 20 to 60-feet of water.
You need 8 to 10 pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel and a lure that does not sink. Use an Original floating Rapala, Junior Thunderstick, Countdown Rapala or a worm harness with small spinner blades and a big fat worm.
This rig is smaller than the standard type; You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure. Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then reel up a foot and wait.. Keep those lines tight!
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The Ontario archery hunting season will be open mid-September and it’s a tortuous time of year, because the urge to hunt is so strong after a long off-season. Yet, while the bush beckons the hunters, Wawang Lake is still here – promising what is arguably the best fishing of the whole year!
That’s because the cool autumn months before winter are prime days to catch fish, and BIG fish, in generous quantities. Why? Because fish feed more voraciously during the fall than any other time of year. They instinctively know that winter’s coming, marking a cold-water period of low activity. So, predator fish bulk up for winter by packing in as much eating as they can. This time also coincides with the fall spawn of baitfish.
Basically, the baitfish school-up to move into the spawning grounds and the predator fish follow them.
One such predator in the mix of the fall bite is the magnificent Northern Pike. As anyone who knows Wawang Lake – it’s stuffed with these jaw, snapping monsters! Our pike hunters love the way they look, strike and fight. They have the attitude of a pitbull on steroids! Even a 3-4 pounder can give any angler a thrill. Add twenty pounds and you have a serious freshwater battle on your hands.
One of the best ways to catch a bunch of pike in the fall is by trolling and covering a lot of water. Before hitting the water, have a game plan. Study the Wawang Lake map of the lake and identify the steep breaks where shallow water drops off into deep structure. These are potential hotspots.
If the shallows in these spots are weedy, look for weedlines that are still green. Weeds that have already laid down and are beginning to decay do not hold fish like they did in the summertime. Fish like GREEN weeds, for the leafy cover they provide, and dying weeds don’t offer the same concealment. On a particular weedline, the top fish-holding locations are points and inside turns. These are key ambush areas at any time of year, including fall.
If the lake has no green living weeds, then other types of cover are your next best bet. Rocks are ALWAYS dynamite areas to target big pike, particularly if they’re out on a nice point. Add wind ripping into or over that point, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for big gators laying in wait. The wind creates current that pushes bait into the point, where opportunistic feeders are always hanging around After determining which weedlines, rocks, points, etc. that you intend to target, the next decision to make is lure selection. During the fall, northern pike like to eat big meals. So opt for baits that have a large profile.
Lure suggestions to start with: ·
Once you get on a weedline depth (typically 10-15 feet), watch your sonar and stay on that contour. Pike aren’t afraid to hit a fast-moving bait, so I usually begin with a troll speed of about 2.5 miles per hour. If that doesn’t get results, try slower or faster speeds – even up to around 5 miles per hour even.
Leave your rod holders at home when trolling for pike, because you’ll get a lot more bites if you continually work the lure with quick, hard jerks; steady pull-and-drop movements; and erratic twitching. Pike will routinely follow behind a bait, and the instant it “pauses” it often triggers an aggressive strike!
Fast trolling regularly results in an immediate hook-up, especially if you’re using no-stretch braided line instead of monofilament. However, we prefer braid for trollling, because the line transmits the wobble of the lure to your hand and lets you know if the bait is running properly or whether you’ve picked up a stray weed.
The fall trolling pattern for northern pike can provide you with some of the most action-packed fishing of the year. Handle the fish with care and release them healthy so they go into the winter months stress-free. And don’t be afraid to keep a couple of 3-4 pounders for the dinner table. Pike is an amazing fish to eat, especially if you de-bone it to remove those nuisance “Y” bones. Or, leave the bones in and opt for pickling instead. The pickling process turns the bones to mush, and there’s a better than pickled northern pike!
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