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2012 Rainy Lake Fishing Reports

We will be posting fishing articles until the season opens May 12

For questions or to book a fishing guide you can reach Billy Dougherty

by email: billy@rainylakehouseboats.com or phone 218-324-0115

March 6, 2012

March Crappie Fishing

I went on a day trip on Rainy Lake with fellow fishing guide Ryan Schmidt to fish for Rainy Lake's famous black crappies. Ryan has had pretty good luck in recent times. We had a gorgeous bright blue sky and a warm southerly breeze. We traveled almost 30 miles by snowmobile. We arrived at the area Ryan had been fishing and punched holes in the ice with our power augers.

We used little 1/32 oz. Bro Bud worm jigs. It did not take long to get the first crappie. We were fishing about 25 ft. of water. The crappie came off the bottom following the jig up then plink crappie on! Crappies moved steadily through the area we were fishing, some were active others were hard to get to strike. The less movement of the jig seemed to draw more strikes.

About 10:30 they started to be quite active. It seemed in short order we had our limits then about 11:30 AM they disappeared like willow the wisp! We fished about 45 minutes longer with just small perch hitting. We opted to head home with limits ain tow and a great meal of fresh crappies in store for evening!


February 23, 2012

Springtime Northern Pike Fishing

Rainy Lake northern pike begin spring movements long before the ice goes out.  People fish them with dead baits (suckers or ciscoes) through the ice in late February and March. Most fisherman target mouths of bays that the pike will spawn in during late April and early May.  


May and June fishing for pike will give you the best opportunity to hook up with the elusive 40” plus pike that every fisherman dreams about.  Casting for pike is the single most effective technique during this time period. Let me explain why. Most of the pikes movements occur in or in very close proximity to the spring spawning areas.  They set up on sunken shallow water reefs, points, deep water in the bay basin (5-6 ft. deep), shallow mud flats, dead pencil reed beds, and old cabbage weed patches and wild rice flats.


Morning fishing is usually different than the afternoon bite. Pike like to cruise in the morning actively feeding on whatever prey is available.  The pikes prey accumulates on these structures during the night and remain into the early morning hours. I like to start on the entrance shorelines to the bays. Take a good look at the structures on both sides of the entrances with your polarized sunglasses. Often the best spots are secondary spots not always the most prominent. Pike love points and neck downs this time of the day. There is a common misconception that you use big baits for pike. They like smaller baits. Leave the musky baits home!


I usually start with a somewhat neutral bait ( baits with a tighter wobble) like a Shad Rap and cast it close to the bank and pull it down and pause using this technique all the way back to the boat.  Swim baits like the Impulse Paddle Minnow work very well also. I cast them and reel slow to medium speed with a methodical lift of the rod tip and then a fall, all while reeling in. When I see follows and not bites I switch to inline spinners like the #3 Vibrax or Mepps spinners.


When I enter the bay I like to cast 3/4 oz. Johnson Silver Minnows gold in color tipped with a two or three inch white grub tail. Once again reel them about medium speed just enough to keep them a foot off the bottom.  Pike like to lie in these four to five foot basins waiting for the sun to warm the shallow water.  I fish these basins from the middle working my way towards the edges.


In the afternoon I target the shallow bays. Northern Pike will slide up into 1-3 feet of water.  One of my all time favorite baits is single buzz bait. I like black with either red or silver buzzers. ¼ and 3/8 oz. Northland Buzzard Buzzers in either #38 Blackbird or #3 Bullhead are top colors. If you have not casted these before practice away from the bays first.  A buzzer must be casted and retrieved in this manner: Cast it and as the buzzer starts it’s downward fall to the water start reeling when the bait is several inches above the water. The whole retrieve should be above water, don’t let it below the surface. Learn to retrieve the bait only fast enough to keep the buzzer on top on the water and you will here a methodical clacking of the buzzer blade.  Pike cannot resist this presentation; learn to do it right before you target the pike. Buzzers’ work great in dead pencil reeds, muddy flats and sometimes even in the bay basins.  The strikes can happen anywhere in the retrieve, the strikes are usually violent and startling!


I will continue with more spring time pike fishing during the next article.



February 16, 2012

Slip Bobber Fishing

For many of us our first time fishing may have been with a bobber. It is not only fun but also highly effective.  I use slip bobbers mainly for walleye and crappies but do catch smallmouth and northern pike from time to time. Slip bobbers are much easier to cast than the old style bobbers. 


I often use 1/8 jigs tipped with minnows or leeches underneath my slip bobber.  Setting up a slip bobber is very easy to do. 6 lbs. test monofilament is the best choice for line.  A slip bobber comes in different sizes and shapes. They all have one thing in common; a cylindrical channel runs through the center of the bobber from top to bottom. Along with the bobber you need a bead and a thread or string that is wrapped around a plastic sleeve. The beads and sleeve are often sold separately but in the same section at most tackle shops. Complete picture steps are shown at the end of the article.


I consider shallow water less than ten feet.  To rig your slip bobber slide the plastic sleeve with the thread or string up your line at least eight feet. Now grasp the sleeve and slide the string onto the line towards the rod tip.  Grab the ends of the string and pull tight so the string grasps the line tightly. I even use two forceps or needle nose pliers and snug the string tighter. Next slide the bead up the line, then slide the bobber up the line; very important to push the line through the bobber inserting the line into the smaller hole located on the top, on the bottom of the bobber the hole is large.  Next tie the jig on to the line using an improved clinch not or Palomar knot.


I hook a live minnow through the back or lips.  Be careful when you cast, make sure the minnow stays on the hook! Your bobber will lie flat or sideways until the jig pulls the bobber upright.  I like the jig to ride one to two feet off of the bottom.  How do I know if it is set right? If your bobber is pulled upright reel it in and slide the string knot up in one-foot increments until the bobber lies on its side. Once this happens reel it in and slide the knot down a foot, add your minnow or leech and cast it to your spot. The sliding knot allows you to change depths easily.  Generally speaking when you are fishing in 3-10 feet of water the jig cab be set from 6 inches to 2 feet of the bottom. When ever you slide the up or down keep track of how far you slide it either way.


I like to fish structure that is visible with your most important piece of equipment-polarized sunglasses, amber in color. Cast to edges, out from and around the structure. I like to fish the side that the wind is blowing into.


Earlier in the article I suggest moving the string up eight feet on the line and then slide the string off.  The reason for this is simple, if you tighten the string two feet up you have to slide the knot, the knot will become loose and slide on the line when going through the rod guides.


Setting the hook on a strike is easy with a slip bobber. When you see the bobber going down start to reel the slack line keeping your rod tip close to the surface of the water, set the hook with an upward motion and reel at same time and the fight should be on!


Crappies are just a little bit different.  I still like a slip bobber but the jig is only set about 18 inches under the bobber. This is different from the technique above. I like four lbs. test line and 1/16 or 1/32 oz. jigs. The assembly of the slip bobber is the same as walleye fishing except the jig will be much closer to the bobber and the plastic sleeve will be removed just two feet from the end of the line. I sometimes tip jigs with a crappie minnow but find the most effective jig to be a small colorful tube jig. Crappies are found along the shallow rock piles, pencil reeds, dead heads and 6Minnesota side of Rainy Lake.  Cast the jig and bobber to the edges of the rock piles keeping close a eye on the bobber it should float upright, sometimes crappies will swim with the bobber and it does not go down, it moves side ways or only goes down part ways.  When you see this pick up the slack and set!


Plastic sleeve and string                                                        String slid off sleeve towards rod tip


String pulled tight on line and trim tag ends                        Slide bead on line below string knot

Slide bobber on line thru top of bobber                     Tie Jig on!

The needed components: sleeve, string, and beads are sold in packages.


How To Fish Impulse Swim'n Grubs

Open water is on the horizon on Rainy Lake. I am going to write some how to’s to help your fishing on Rainy Lake. Both live and artificial bait are very good presentations. I love to fish plastics; they work extremely well during spring and throughout the summer months.

I will discuss Northland Tackles new Impulse Swim’n Grubs. They are a new scent impregnated plastic grub that comes in 2”, 3” and 4” lengths. Scented plastics have been around for a few years, the Impulse series blows Gulp and other scented products out of the water. I had the opportunity to test these grubs and other offerings in the Impulse series during August 2011. Normally warm water times are not as effective as cold water for scented plastics. Impulse’s claim is fish hold the bait much longer than the other leading brands. It is absolutely true in my book. I would feel strikes, not set the hook, wait five seconds and then reel up slack and the fish would still be there. The other huge advantage is the excellent action and durability; I caught many fish on one single grub.

I love to cast grubs into shallow structure, big points, small points, inside turns, beside boulders or any cover that fish can ambush from. Polarized glasses are a must; they are the cheapest depth finder you will ever find. Seeing the structure is the most important factor when casting artificial baits. I like amber colored lenses. You will see where the brown colored water changes to darker or blue colored. After awhile you will see the subtle changes in water color enabling you to see the underwater extensions, inside turns, weeds, boulders, off shore reefs that are huge fish attractors. Polarized sunglasses cost as little as $15 on up to the big bucked glasses, they all work! Don’t leave home without them.

Below is a summer craw Swim’n grub, Gumball Jig on left, Vegas jig below, and Eye-Ball Jig on right. I am not particular about jig head color. One thing I know for sure plain lead color will never hurt you.


I use three main jig heads when fishing grubs; all Northland jigs; Slurp Jig Heads, Gum-Ball Jigs, Eye-Ball Jigs and Vegas Jigs. They all have bait keeper barbs on the hook shank. I really like the wire bait keepers. When I am fishing 2-6 feet of water I use 6 lbs. test monofilament and a 1’8 oz. jig head. Grubs don’t need a lot of action. You can straight reel them reel at a pace that lets the jig get down in the water column. At the beginning keep your rod tip pointed to 11:00 on a clock face, as you see your line approach the darker water lower your rod tip and slow your retrieve. Expect to get snagged in the beginning; adjust your retrieve accordingly. If the water deepens quicker or the point or rocks break sharply I go to a ¼ oz. jig and often switch to an 8 or 10 lbs. test mono line. The jig falls slower with the heavier line but lets you penetrate the deeper breaks.

Other excellent techniques to try is sharp short sideway jerks with your Impulse Swim’n Grub. The jig will fall when your jerk ends; this is when the fish often strike, I use this action all the way back to the boat. You can be the judge on how fast to reel, I keep my hand off of the reel handle during the jerk and just spin the handle a few turns to pick up the slack then jerk again. Practice makes perfect. Instead of jerking you can use a rise and fall action by lifting rod tip then dropping during your retrieve. Remember it is not a race to get the jig back to the boat. You will figure this out; you should get snagged once in awhile if you don’t you are reeling to fast. I like to lift with the rod tip, let it drop and then pick up the slack and lift again.
During the spring I start in the bays and work the islands, small bays or any structure that you see that may hold fish. Our houseboats all have detailed charts that are color coded for depth. 1-6 ft is darker blue and 6-11ft. is darker blue. Concentrate on these areas from opening day way into June.  Fishing reports will be provided to you in our office upon arrival. Read them and take advantage.

Questions or topics you would like covered? you can reach Billy Dougherty by email or phone.

billy@rainylakehouseboats.com or 218-324-0115


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