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Walleyes: A look back at 2017

Kevin Kerkvliet holds up a nice Rainy River walleye caught on an outing in 2017 with the article's author, Mike Frisch. (Submitted photo)

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel across the Midwest sampling some of the good walleye fishing this region offers.

This past summer, I got in on several good bites. Here is a look back at some of those trips. These walleye destinations might be places anglers want to consider visiting and fishing in 2018.

Rainy River

Last spring, a friend from Minneapolis, Kevin Kerkvliet, met me at the Rainy River on the Minnesota-Canada border for the spring walleye run that occurs there each spring.

Some springs are better than others with factors like water clarity, run off, and others affecting the bite. A good spring day on the Rainy might be 25-30 walleyes, with a great day being an unheard-of number of fish caught in comparison to most walleye bites.

Kevin and I fished in early April and experienced one of those good days, not great, but very good! We used the anchoring feature on my trolling motor to hold us in place in a productive area in the river and fished virtually the same spot for several hours, catching walleyes at a regular rate. Some of the fish were your typical 15-18-inch long variety, but several others were fish over 20 inches.

We jigged mostly with the new Current Cutter Jigs in 3/8-ounce sizes and a variety of bright color patterns. If you have never sampled the Rainy River in spring, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. There are lots of places to stay in the Baudette/Rainy River area that cater to anglers.

Lake Sakakawea

In August, I traveled to Indian Hills Resort to fish with my buddy, Jason Foss.

Foss lives in Garrison, ND and is an outstanding fisherman who loves Lake Sakakawea and all the walleyes it has!

We started our day pulling the new Butterfly Rigs tipped with nightcrawlers behind bottom bouncers and put over two dozen good walleyes in the boat in a half day's fishing. The Butterfly Rigs spin at very slow speeds and provide flash and sonic vibration that really trigger walleyes into biting. In fact, these rigs produced walleyes in good numbers every place I fished them this past year.

Foss and I took a mid-day break and then, for a change of pace, went back on the water late afternoon and trolled crankbaits on lead-core line. A bunch more chunky walleyes ate our crankbaits, as well.

That evening we had a meal of fresh walleyes prepared by Kelly at Indian Hills Resort and enjoyed the most scenic "wild west" sunset you could imagine overlooking beautiful Lake Sakakawea. If you want a great place to stay that certainly caters to walleye anglers and has great walleye fishing, check out Indian Hills at www.fishindianhills.com.

Western Minnesota

I live in western Minnesota so it's not really a destination for me. However, it does rate as one of my favorite walleye areas!

Early season this past year, I had good fishing pulling shiner minnows on slip-sinker live bait rigs on Ottertail Lake and a couple other smaller lakes.

Mid-summer and fall was all about bottom bouncers and crawlers pulled on Butterfly Rigs and plain snells, and also crankbaits trolled on lead-core.

Most of my time was spent on lakes in the Alexandria area employing these methods. Lakes like Reno, Ida, Miltona and Minnewaska are some of my favorites and produced well again this past year. However, several other smaller bodies of water in this part of Minnesota certainly have good walleye populations and provided good fishing too.

Last year was certainly a fun walleye year, and I can't wait to get in a boat again.

If you are looking for good fishing destinations for 2018, consider some of the places just mentioned. I think you'll like what you find!

Mike Frisch is co-host of Fishing of the Midwest TV and a multi-species Minnesota fishing guide, view the website: wwwfishingthemidwest.com for more information.

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