Like many lakes in Northwestern Ontario Rugby Lake has stained tea-colored water, which many call Walleye Wine. This darker water is the result of the vast amounts of iron embedded in the Canadian Shield Precambrian Rock that forms Rugby Lake and the iron over time dissolves and stains the water along with injecting other mineral such as Mica and Calcium into the food chain. The combination of these mineral helps with the development of healthy bone structure and allows Walleyes to grow faster and bigger. The reason it's called Walleye Wine is the Walleyes love it and it is generally known by people that have experience fishing in the north that this type of water has the best Walleye fishing. It also changes their feeding behavior compared to Walleye fishing in crystal clear water, which is the foundation of the Walleye tips you are about to read because your favorite ways of fishing for Walleye may need to be slightly altered.
In early spring just after ice out the Walleyes are on sandy beaches, sand bars and in feeder creeks and are spawning or just finishing spawning. They will be in water that is 3 feet or less in most cases. Once the spawn is over most of the big females will spend the daylight hours down around 11 or 12 feet deep. They are hiding from the sun; only to return to the shallows when dusk sets in. This is a behavior that stays consistent for the rest of the season on Rugby Lake. The smaller Walleyes up to 4 pounds generally stay shallow all day long to protect the spawning beds.
This time of year the Walleyes are in the shallows. They are extremely aggressive and tend to hit bright colors. Chartreuse, orange, yellow, fire-tiger and white are the best colors. You can troll along the shore with small floating Rapalas, Thundersticks and other shallow-running lures until you hit a hotspot and then turn the motor off and either cast these same lures or start tossing light 1/4 jigs with twistertails matching the colors above. You can add a tiny piece of worm to the jig or you can remove the rubber and tip the jig with a minnow. Generally this time of year the Walleyes are so aggressive you do not need live bait. Some feel the Walleyes are not hitting your lure to feed; rather hitting your lure to defend the spawning beds. During the day if you want to fish deeper for the big female Walleyes live bait is best as the big females are not as aggressive as the smaller males.
When you hit these hot spots close to the shore; position the boat within casting distance from the shore. You can throw lures and jigs at the shore and catch tones of Walleyes up to 4 pounds and on overcast or rainy days you will hit bigger walleyes close to shore. If you want to sacrifice numbers in order to catch a really big Walleye drop a jig straight down from the boat or cast out parallel to the shore and jig the deeper 11 to 12-foot deep water.
The one thing you should know is scented baits do not work well in the far north. If you are going to use rubbers use unscented or salted baits but not the artificial scents. When you clean a Walleye save the belly meat and rub it on your lures. That is a natural scent that will work and greatly increase strikes.
Mid to Late Spring:
Later in the middle of spring the surface of Walleye Wine water heats up faster than clear water but because of less light penetration the deeper water stays cooler. Wind blows this warm surface water towards shore and all the minnows follow it. Now the Walleyes during the day are in the 4 to 6-foot range and will start spreading out along the shore with their greatest concentrations being off rocky points where wave action produces more oxygen. You can use the same colors, lures and baits; you just have to fish a few feet deeper. In early morning and in the evening you can fish a little shallower but in the middle of the day the Walleyes are sitting off if darker water waiting to pick off minnows that wonder away from shore.
Summer is when multiple Walleye techniques and tactics need to be used at different times of the day because the Walleyes change their depth at different times of the day.
Morning & Evening:
In the morning or evening during the heat of the summer the Walleyes will be in the 4 to 10-foot range and concentrated around structure such as rocky points, ridges and rocky shoreline. Here you want to quietly drift past points and let your jig bump off the tops of rocks and if the bottom is sandy let you jig hit bottom. You want to jig slowly and melodically so the up and down motion is soft and smooth. If you make quick sharp jigs that make your jig look like it's darting up and down you will attract Pike and if you are not using a steel leader you will lose all your jigs.
Once you drift past the point or structure that you are fishing and you go out over deeper water drop your jig right down to the bottom. The big trophy Walleyes will be down deeper in the 12 to 14-foot range just off the areas that attract the good eating size Walleyes.
If the Walleyes are hiding in thick weeds than in the morning and evening they will on the outer edge of the weeds. You can cast deeper running Rattl'N Raps and crankbaits along the weeds or jig straight down.
Heat of the Day in the Heat of the Summer:
On a really hot sunny day in the middle of the afternoon is traditionally the worst time for Walleye fishing. That does not seem to be an issue on Rugby Lake. The Walleye fishing seems to be consistent all day long. They may go a little deeper because of increase light penetration so fishing in the 6 to 12-foot range. When they do go deeper sometimes there is less structure so the Walleyes spread out along the shore. In this case trolling parallel to the shore in the 12-foot range with be effective. When you run into a school of Walleyes stop the boat and start jigging.
The Walleyes may hide in the thick weeds. With this you want to drop your jig right in the weeds and let it hit bottom. Jig up and down without retrieving the jig. This way you minimize getting weeds on your line.
There are multiple techniques for trolling deep while safely keeping your bait just off bottom and minimizing snags. You can troll with countdown lures and deep running lures. You can troll with a 3-way swivel rig with a worm harness. You can also use a bottom bouncing floating jig rig, which is explained in the fall fishing section.
During late summer and fall many of the bigger Walleyes go deeper and congregate around shoals and islands while others find deeper rocky ridges off steep shoreline structure or go down to humps on the bottom of the lake. You can still catch them is shallow water but they will not be as concentrated as the spring and summer. You will find the bigger Walleyes get more active as the water cools down but they are deeper. Jigging is still the most popular way to fish for deep Walleyes; you just need heavier jigs. The same color rubbers work as spring and summer, which are mentioned above. Going to a 3/8 jig head and even heavier on windy days lets you get deep faster and spend more time near the bottom, which is where the Walleyes are.
3-Way Swivel Worm Harness Rig:
There are a couple of rigs you may want to try. The first is the 3-way swivel rig with a worm harness. (see diagram below). The 3-way swivel rig with a 1 oz weight will allow you to troll down 14 to 20 feet deep easily. It keeps the worm harness just off bottom. With a 3-way swivel worm harness rig you want to troll as slow as you can. If you are in a boat with a motor bigger than 15hp you might have to back-troll.
Loten Rig - Floating Jig Walleye Rig:
Another effective deep water technique is to troll slowly using a Loten Floating Jig Walleye Rig, which is a modification of the Lindy Rig. The difference between the two rigs is with a Loten Rig you are using a floating jig, a big fat worm injected with air and an extra trailer hook. (see diagram below). First you drop the rig down to the bottom and keep your bail open to let out line. Then you troll until you have a fair amount of line out then close your bail. You want to troll slowly with this rig and even though it's a jig you do not want to jig like you would traditionally. The secret is to slowly pull the rig as close to the boat as you can with your rod and then let it drop down to the bottom. As soon as you feel any resistance set the hook. Most often the Walleyes hit this rig just after it hits bottom.
If you are in a bigger boat you can cast this rig and let it drop down to the bottom. Pull the rig towards you about 2 or three feet and let it drop down to the bottom.
It's an easy rig to put together. The one thing you need to remember is the worm is divided in two by the Clitellum; which many people call the worm's stomach. You need to keep the air in the worm so the half that is injected with air cannot be the same half that you hook or all the air will escape.
Catching Walleyes is easy on Rugby Lake from spring to fall. In the summer and fall the bigger Walleyes will be deeper so fishing deeper will produce bigger fish. There are still lots of good eating size Walleyes along the shore.