The Fall Run On The Rainy River, Q & A

 Oct 26th, 2016 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Oct 26th, 2016 at 12:00 AM

This fall is shaping up to be one of the best in years regarding the numbers of walleyes in the Rainy River.  The number of walleyes that decide to move into the river from Lake of the Woods is very dependent upon the shiner run up the river.  The shiners bring with them a lot of attention from a variety of fish and birds as they are a desired food source for both.  The walleyes also attract a lot of attention, especially from fall anglers.  Check out a recent episode of Midwest Outdoors shot during the fall run on the Rainy River.

What causes shiners to run in the fall?  Nobody knows for sure.  Some think the shiners are spawning, but this isn’t the case as the shiners spawn on shallow sand usually in June.  In chatting with DNR biologists, the guess is something related to food being available in the river this time of year.  Even that is an educated guess and nobody knows for sure.


Net of shiners

Does current in the river help?  It appears to help, yes.  In years there has been very little current, the run up the river for both shiners and walleyes has been sparse.  Years like this year when there is a fair amount of current, bait dealers and resorts who capture the shiners for future bait are finding bait.  Fishing is excellent up and down the river and has been for weeks.  The pattern shows fishing in the river only to get better.

What spots are holding walleyes?  It seems like water 15-25′ is holding the most fish.  Just like other river systems, go to spots are current breaks and seams, edges, points, and occasional rock piles.  These walleyes moving up the river seem to be transient.  They move a lot.  Anchor up on an edge and jig over the side of the boat, often times good things will happen.  Most anglers suggest trying a handful of spots until you find fish and then get it done!

What are most anglers using to catch walleyes?  Very simply, a jig and minnow.  Shiners, both frozen and live are the desired minnow for obvious reasons.  Many anglers use a stinger hook which is a small treble hook attached to a short piece of line.  One end attaches to your jig and the small treble is hooked just in front of the minnow tail.  This allows you to catch the walleyes that grab just the tail or back end of the minnow.

What section of river seems to be doing the best?  There have been good reports from the mouth of the river out in front of the many resorts that line the mouth near Wheeler’s Point all the way to Birchdale.  That tells us there are a lot of walleyes in the river.

Are other fish being caught in the river as well?  Yes, besides walleyes of all sizes, saugers, bass, perch, crappies, and big sturgeon are being caught by walleye anglers.

Are fish still being caught in the lake?  Absolutely.  Many anglers are still fishing the lake with excellent results.  When the walleyes run in the river, not all of the walleyes run.  Lots of fish still stay in the lake with plenty of bait to keep them there.

How long will this bite last?  The walleye run will last until ice up.  Often times, we hear about some of the largest walleyes being caught during deer hunting season when many are in a tree.  Not good timing for outdoors folks who like to deer hunt in addition to catch big walleyes but good news for the big walleyes.

How big of a boat is needed?  The Rainy River is a relatively narrow portion of water that stretches for about 40 miles of navigable water.  Even when the wind blows, the river never gets too crazy.  Some fish it out of as small as a 14′ boat, most use 16-20′ boats.  Much of this answer is what is comfortable to you.  The fact is, the Rainy River is not big water.   In many cases, you can fish right in front of your resort.  Most important, be safe.


Are there charter boats and guides available?  Yes.  Some of the larger resorts will keep charters in the water just into November.  The answer to this is dependent upon weather.  There are also opportunities to fish out of a smaller boat with a guide.  As these boats do not have to be left in the water, they can go until ice up.  If you desire to still use a charter or even a guide with a smaller boat, contact your favorite resort.


This is an excellent time to get out fishing.  There are still weeks of good fishing available.  Dress for the weather, grab a pot of coffee anchor up and jig over the side of the boat and make some great fall memories.  Life is short, get out and enjoy it.  If you have never experienced Rainy River fishing in the fall, give one of our resorts a call, they will be happy to get you started.

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