Riege: Oak Lake Slack Water Eyes’

Published 8:01 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I flipped my jig in to a little eddy that was caused by the tip of the waterfall. As the jig carried the fathead minnow to the bottom I felt a familiar tick on the line. I set the hook immediately and the pull on the other end of the line told me that I probably had a walleye. With a little fight from the fish and some from the current I landed a nice 26” walleye.

I know that you are thinking how can a lake have slack water? Well Oak Lake has a number of waterfalls that allow the English river to flow into it. Oak Lake is about an hour flight out of Vermillion Bay, Ontario. So, one of the areas that my wife Ginny and I decided to fish this past August was the big falls where the river entered the lake.

The key to locating walleyes in the river in the fall and early winter starts with locating a series of obstacles and then allowing your bait or lure to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from behind the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into the slack water area to digest his meal and await another.

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A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their lives. Therefore, the walleyes in the rivers have adapted to be in areas that offer current breaks so they don’t have to fight the current all of the time. These current breaks are anything that diverts the current and allows slack water. The slack water areas are found below the falls where the water being drawn over the falls forms an eddy and rushing downstream causes a slack water area on each side of the falls. Other obstructions that cause slack water might be behind rocks, a depression in the floor of the river, a stump or fallen tree.

Rushing water causes the turbidity of the water to subside and walleyes are more visually stimulated as they see food floating by in the slack water areas. This is not to say that all walleyes see their food before they strike and in some cases they strike more out of vibration and smell than they do from visual identification.

One reason that I like to use jigs while fishing for walleyes in a river system is the control an angler has. Vertically jigging for walleyes gets my blood pumping and you don’t have to contend with a number of hooks only one when jig fishing.

With the proper head design and weight, jigs are the most versatile of all river techniques, from the shallowest flooded cover to the deepest, fastest current. The majority of river fishing with jigs involves either slipping the current or drift fishing the current breaks. The presentation is a simple lift-drop-pause method of jigging, raising the jig some 3 to 6 “ as you slip downstream. The jigs that I prefer to use are Northland Fireball jigs because of the rounded head. The rounded head allows the jig to bump along the bottom and not get hung up in snags or brush. If you are as vertical as possible the jig will stand up allowing the hook to be exposed away from the floor of the river. When you tip the jig with a minnow the minnow stands up and looks like it is trying to pick up the jig. As the minnow struggles against the weight of the jig it sends out wounded signals and the natural scent attracts the walleyes and allows them to hang on just that much longer.

Colors of the jigs should be bright in dingy water. Colors such as fluorescent orange, chartreuse and my all time favorite gold are great for fishing those fall walleyes. Anytime that you can bring attention to your bait it will help you up your odds for catching those fall walleyes.

Weights may range from 1/8 to 1/2 ounces, but usually stay with the weight that is the lightest so you have contact with the bottom. River walleyes have a tendency not to suspend as much as the walleyes in the lake and you don’t have to worry about missing a strike zone that is in the fish column. I will tip my jig with some plastic if I want to slow down the rate of fall, but current usually fights gravity faster and defeats the purpose of vertical jigging.

Slack water fish can also be found by pitching Northland Fireball jigs of 1/16 to 1/8 ounce to shoreline or cover like flooded wood or boulders. The angler in this situation should use a lift drop retrieve to slip or quarter the jig downstream as it is retrieved back to the boat. This is a super tactic for fishing eddies, wing dams or shallow mid river shoals.

Believe me it you want to catch trophy walleyes you need to get to Oak Lake Lodge and fish the slack water areas. The Lodge, the scenery, the wildlife are second to none, but the fishing is spectacular.

John and May Naimian own Oak Lake Lodge. The Lodge is located on the western end of Oak Lake and it has some of the very best fishing for walleyes, northern, smallmouth bass, and an occasional musky as well. You can choose to have a guided day or venture out on your own. The accommodations are five star with carpeted cabins, fireplaces, refrigerators, flush toilets and all the comforts of home. The boats are late model Lund boats with Honda outboards and they are in great shape. Meals are some of the best I have eaten at a fly-in lodge, and if you want to have shore lunch all you have to do is join one that is happening in a couple of spots daily. The staff is professional and service oriented to your needs. This is the very best lodge to bring your clients, family or a bunch of your fishing buddies to.

For more information about fishing Oak Lake contact John on his website at www.oaklakelodge.com. Or contact him at the toll free number 1-800-248-4666 or direct at 1-807-768-4086. The Winter address for Oak Lake is: Oak Lake Lodge, PO Box 23104, County Fair Postal Outlet, Thunder Bay, ON P781KO, Canada.