Spring Rainy River Open Water and Fishing Progressing
Apr 7th, 2022 by Keith Worrall
Modified Apr 7th, 2022 at 3:03 PM
It’s a tradition for many. For others, the chance to catch a fish of a lifetime or maybe a personal best. It is spring fishing on the Rainy River. This year, like most years, Mother Nature is moving things along and both the open water and fishing are progressing.
3 Boat Ramps are Open
Despite a cold week of weather which included snow and freezing temps, open water on the river has made good progress. It started out with the Nelson Park boat ramp opening up in Birchdale, MN. This is a nice ramp that is appropriate for boats of all sizes. The ramp is a good one with ample water depth.
The second ramp that opened as the open water line makes it’s way west is Frontier. Again, a very nice boat ramp. Please know in the spring, docks are not in yet which means boats will come to shore to drop off people to pick up trucks and trailers, etc. With ice still in the area, docks could be damaged if put in too early.
The third ramp that opened up this week was the Vidas Landing. This public boat ramp is just to the east of Clementson, MN where the Rapid River enters the Rainy River. Many know this as the Clementson Rapids, with the river flowing under highway 11. You can see the rapids when you drive over the bridge. Some will stop and take pics of the rapids throughout the year.
The next boat ramp that will open and is still iced in as of April 7th is the Timbermill Park boat ramp in Baudette. This is a beautiful ramp with good parking, etc.
The spring walleye season
If you haven’t experienced it, some might ask the question, what makes spring fishing on the Rainy River so special? First off, it is one of the few areas in Minnesota that you can legally fish for walleyes. The season for walleyes and saugers on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River goes through April 14th.
Please note, on Four Mile Bay (which is at the mouth of the Rainy River before you go through the Lighthouse or Morris Point Gaps to enter Lake of the Woods) and the Rainy River are catch and release only for walleyes and saugers. That doesn’t deter most from the spring fishing tradition as most aren’t coming up to catch a couple of walleyes.
Most are coming up to get their boat in the water for the first time, have a chance at a trophy walleye or numbers of them if you hit it right. It is also tradition for many. The first open water trip of the year. On some days it could be snowing. Other days it might be in the 50’s and sunny. It’s all part of the allure.
Jigging is by far the most common technique for catching walleyes out of the ice cold waters of the Rainy River. Using a jig with a plastic or minnow is usually really effective.
Another technique not to be overlooked is trolling crankbaits. It is very cold water so trolling upstream at about 1.0 – 1.4 mph combined with the speed of the current gives your lures plenty of action and also allows the spring walleyes to react to your offering.
Some will troll a crankbait staying in a range of water so the crankbait selected will be close to the bottom where most spring walleyes are hanging out.
Other anglers will use a three way rig for trolling. Basically, this is a three way swivel with one part connected to the line of your rod and reel, the second part being a 6 foot leader made of mono or fluorocarbon line with a shallow diving crankbait and the third part going to a two foot dropper with a 2 ounce sinker attached. Basically, while trolling, simply keep the sinker not dragging the bottom but touching the bottom from time to time and your lure will be in perfect position to be eaten.
There have been a lot of sturgeon caught and released this spring and fishing will only get better. In a nutshell, find a deeper hole in the river and anchor up. Use a sturgeon rig attached to a heavier rod and reel with about 60 lb. test is the ideal set up.
A sturgeon rig is an 18″ leader of about 60 lb test tied to a 3/0 – 5/0 circle hook. The short lead is so it doesn’t move around too much in the current, allowing the sturgeon, which are bottom feeders, to follow the scent trail upstream and eat the offering.
Most use about a 3 ounce no roll sinker. You may go lighter or heavier based on current. A no roll sinker is a flat sinker that stays pinned to the bottom and doesn’t get pushed around too easy by the current.
Some make their own sturgeon rigs, but others will simply purchase them up at Lake of the Woods as most bait shops carry this and other equipment made for sturgeon fishing. Tom’s Tackle, a local tackle manufacturer based out of Baudette, MN, makes the sturgeon rigs which are distributed in this area.
Sturgeon season dates
Oct 1 – April 23, 2022… Catch and Release only, no tag needed
April 24 – May 7, 2022… 1 per calendar year. Fish must be 45″-50″ inclusive or over 75″. Fish must be immediately tagged and registered within 48 hours. No tag needed for catch and release
May 8 – May 15, 2022… Catch and Release only, no tag needed
May 16 – June 30… Sturgeon fishing closed
Spring is a magical time to come fishing up on the Rainy River. It is small water, meaning even on windy days, a small boat will do well. There is always a bend or stretch of river that is more out of the wind than another if it is a windy day.
By the time you hear they are biting, it is often too late. The best thing to do is plan dates once the river is open and just go. Regardless of the weather, the chance for Rainy River magic is always there. Normally, some good things happen which make the spring season special for many.