I (Brett) just crawled in the door at 0:dark:30 last night, fresh off a 5-day trip of chasing greenback walleyes in Manitoba! Had the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30s running the whole time, so there’s a ton of video to go through, but haven’t even unpacked the bags yet lol. Back to regular TW emails again on Friday and will share s’more with you then.
Today’s Top 5
WTHeck is a greenback?!
Gonna take you through this in the order of how it happened, so first: What’s a greenback and how do they get that way?
> Their b-e-a-utiful greenish coloration comes from the limestone-rich waters of the northern basin…or maybe it’s from all that Mountain Dew they chug before making the trek south? lol Either way they’re cool to look at and FUN to catch.
> Every fall, humongous numbers of greenbacks migrate from all over the giant lake (nearly 10,000 sq mi) into its southern basin, and sooner or later swim into the Winnipeg River, Red River and a bunch of other tributaries that feed into the lake.
> The greener those river fish are in color, the “fresher” they are to the rivers. Eventually, and depending which tributary they’re in, the green will fade/blend into a white or gold-ish color:
I met up with Travel Manitoba’s Eric Labaupa to fish for greenbacks — open-water style — at 3 different Lake Winnipeg tributaries: the Red River, Winnipeg River and Bloodvein River.
Eric (great guy!) knows his stuff and refused to let the greenbacks win despite hurricane-like gusts (20-30 mph), frosty temps and rain/sleet. Check his day 1 game face, looking all biz like Floyd Mayweather (what he said!):
Maybe ‘Target Catfish’ should be a new thing??
Our first stop was the Red River smack-dab in the middle of Selkirk, MB. Had a couple hours of daylight left after making the 6-ish hour drive up, but that’s all the time me and the Mrs. needed to land a pile o’ channel cats…including this double of Master Angler (34″+) kittens in the first 5 minutes:
I know this isn’t Target Catfish, but wrasslin’ these massive kitties was one of the coolest bites I’ve ever been on. Had a couple that dang near pulled the rod out the boat while messing around with the camera — luckily Amanda wasn’t shy about catching ’em on someone else’s rod lol.
We were fishing in 15-17′ on the edge of a 10′ flat where it breaks off into the main river channel. Basically just soakin’ a beefed-up Lindy Rig with uncooked shrimp you’d buy at the grocery store. No surprise they didn’t hesitate to slurp it up:
Awesome alternative when the walleye bite gets tough or you wanna switch it up for a few hours. I actually would (and will) make the drive back up just to chase cats! Heard it’s somehow an even hotter bite earlier in the year…it dies off later in fall.
Was surprised to only see a handful of people actually targeting ’em, but 100% of the focus up there switches to greenbacks when the fall run is on, and it’s just starting to fire up. Apparently the secret is out ‘cuz literally hundreds of people were fishing from the bank for walleyes. Couldn’t believe it! Was like a salmon run!
Use flashy jigs and “salties” for giant Red River walleyes.
The Red River isn’t necessarily known for numbers of fish, but the ones you get are usually GIANTS. Most days flash/vibration is key in the stained water. Eric’s top picks are: Northland Thumper Jigs, Whistler Jigs and ReelBait Flasher Jigs…all of which he modifies with bigger Colorado or willow blades and tips with “salties.” Mmmm:
“Salties” are frozen, salted minnows (shiners) you can pick up at dang near any gas station up there…some guys even make their own. Super popular ‘cuz using live bait is banned in many areas/lakes of Manitoba and it can still be a hassle in places where it’s not. Per the regs:
> Those anglers in possession of purchased live bait fish must have a “Live Bait Fish Transfer and Use Receipt” issued by the dealer. Anglers may catch their own bait fish, but must kill them before transporting them away from the water where they were caught.
A lot of guys I talked to said they thought salties worked better than live bait up there thanks to all the scent/flavor in the dirty water. Kind of a live bait/plastic hybrid.
Tough part is the baits like to fall off in the current, so some like to use Bait Buttons (small rubber piece on the hook in the pic above) to help keep ’em on the hook.
We had one full day to hit the Red for greenbacks, but a stiff south wind turned fishing right off. Of course we caught a bunch of fish (small greenbacks, saugers and even a fat saugeye), but not the bigguns the Red River is known for. Even the little ones were flat-out gorgeous though:
Warm weather that day was thanks to a strong south wind, which is exactly what you don’t want this time of year. The mouth of the Red River (where walleyes enter from Lake Winnipeg) is just a couple feet deep when the water is low. Water levels will rise 3-5′ — against the current! — with a strong north wind, and lake fish will move right in.
Wind switched just right as we had to leave (of course) which Eric said should set things up for a hot bite near the mouth within a couple of days. He was right.
Saw several giants posted to Manitoba fishing forums the last couple days — guys fishing the same stretch we were — including these 28″ and 30.25″ slobs caught outta Jeffrey Ching’s boat:
Awesome fish guys!
Hit the Winnipeg River for both numbers and quality.
Next step on our journey was 1 hour northeast to Pine Falls, MB where the Winnipeg River dumps into Lake Winnipeg — a place known for both quantity and quality.
It was a breezy couple of days which limited us to the river, but the greenbacks cooperated. We boated 50 fish with most running 17-19″ and a handful of “overs.”
Here’s a glimpse of the different colors of greenbacks — these were all pulled from the same couple mile stretch of river. Plus a bonus 14.5″ Master Angler bullhead lol:
We were fishing the same type of program as on the Red River, only this time Amanda busted out a JB Lures Gold Strobe Jig and put on a clinic. Didn’t know the name of it at the time, so we called it “the disco ball jig” since it brought fish to the party…or maybe ‘cuz it looks like this:
Usually, early in the fall run we’d want to be fishing outside the river in Traverse Bay…more towards the main lake. But this time that just wasn’t doable, or fun, thanks to the high winds and surfer-sized swells.
Cool thing about all the rivers/creeks/ditches that dump into Winnipeg is there’s always somewhere to hide out of the wind, and those somewheres still hold fish.
A fly-in destination you can drive to??
Yup, that’s a real thing, and it’s called Bloodvein River Lodge on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. A brand-new dirt road was put in just a couple years ago, which is cool because before that you could only get to it by plane, boat or waiting until Lake Winnipeg froze over and trucking across the ice.
Was a little nervous about the drive up at first since the Google machinez said it was a 3.5-hr drive…on a dirt road…with no gas stations…but you can’t believe everything you read on the interwebz. Took 1/4 tank of gas and about 2 hours to get there from Pine Falls, MB, with a little more than half the drive being on gravel.
Those dirt roads were smoother than Manitoba’s highways lol. We were able to go 40-60 mph on ’em all the way up to where we met the owner, William Young, at the access. A quick 5-minute boat ride and we made it to the lodge:
Tough to sleep knowing you’re on an island surrounded by walleyes and that you get to fish for ’em in the morning, so of course I had to catch one off the dock (before Eric lol) — on a #6 “chartreuse shad” Rapala Rippin’ Rap — that evening before bed.
It was raining and windy at spot #1 the next morning, but having multiple doubles within the first few casts is for sure worth it. Hadn’t hardly dropped a line in yet when I looked up and saw this chunky pair of goldbacks:
The resident walleyes (ones that live in the Bloodvein River year-round) are gold. Even being 10-12 miles upriver, we caught a couple of emerald greenbacks. Would’ve seen more of ’em if we had fished closer to the mouth, but 30-mph gusts sent us back upstream.
William and his nephew were vertical-jigging gold and white Northland Whistler Jigs and spankin’ the walleyes. I have a tough time sitting still and always like trying something different, so I started playing with other baits.
I’m convinced that a 1/4-oz VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig paired up with a plastic is a universal walleye killer — and proved itself again many hours north of anywhere I’ve ever chucked one. Fav combo this trip was pairing one up with a “fire ice white” BFishN Tackle Moxi. #Works
One day there wasn’t nearly enough. The place has a wood stove, satellite TV, strong WiFi, ridiculous walleye fishing — what more does a walleye guy (or gal) need?
Was finally able to find a few hours to put together a Vlog of our late-fall trip to Bloodvein River Lodge in Manitoba (east side of Lake Winnipeg).
Heads up: First 3 minutes of the vid includes some bonus catfish footage (fish up to 35″!) from a few hours of fishing on the Red River near Selkirk. That’s for sure worth the trip up alone — thanks much for watching!
Commence with the whacking:
News, fishing tips and all the rest will be back next issue!
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Brett McComas is the main man for Target Walleye/Ice. He was discovered in Brainerd, MN after years of wondering how in the heck people break into the fishing biz. He’s in it now, but still can’t answer that question…. Brett is one of those guys who majored in marketing, only because there was no such thing as a “fishing degree” at the time…. Get him at email@example.com
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