Fishing a remote lake is amazing, especially one you have flown into for a week. Generally you are in for some of the best fishing of your life, especially if you are like my group and spent your formative fishing years on pressured, busy cottage lakes near major cities. I will however caution that assuming the fish will be everywhere and easy to catch can be a mistake. We made the fatal error on our second fly in and then we had to scramble to put together a game plan facing multiple fronts with only one depth map between 3 boats – not smart. Once bitten, twice shy we refined our process and generally have standard game plan to attack.
Know Your Quarry
While not all walleye follow the “book” generally speaking there are typical seasonal movements from spawn to winter. Doing a bit of reading and game planning based on typical patterns for the type of lake you are fishing, based on the time of year goes a long way. Our group has always done our trips between mid-August to early September. Generally walleye are holding mid depth range, moving up onto shallower structure during low light or when wind/wave action moves bait there.
Research, Research, Research
Sherlock Holmes I ain’t! But I can work google, a phone and forums like a madman! Seriously prior to hitting your lake do a bit of digging. Unlike busy cottage lakes generally fisherman are open to chat about remote fly in lakes. Search google, check your favorite forums (check my links for more https://www.northernjacks.com/links) and if offered make a few phone calls. Having a good idea of where others have caught fish builds confidence, helps make a maze of fishy looking areas easier to navigate and saves on time. I am sure this one is common sense but talk to your outfitter and ideally get them to send you a marked up map ahead of time. No one should be more vested in you and your group catching fish than your outfitter, use that to your advantage. I have tried to document my process a few times – here is a link. Scout it Out
Start with the Known
I posted a while back on my favorite “walleye magnets” My Top 3 Walleye Spots Rather than re hash the post I will say that if I am looking at a map (like I am for our upcoming Miniss Trip) I am looking for typical walleye spots relatively close to the cabin. For example within a quick ride from our cabin I can see a river outlet, two offshore humps surrounded by relatively deep water and a cluster of islands with good depth. I want to start there with our group. Confirm our hypothesis, take the “catch a fish” edge off and build up some confidence.
Use Confidence Baits
My top 5 list of walleye lures for fly in’s contains no hidden secrets – I think if you compared my list to anyone else you would probably get a 80% match rate. Sure there are other new and interesting baits (lipless cranks ad ice fishing jigs anyone) but these lures would be considered tried and true for a reason My Top 5 For my group bottom bouncing holds a special place. Most times I check out a new spot its my go to presentation. I like to start off the deep side of whatever structure and work my way up and around keeping a careful eye on the fish finder. If I hit a pod of fishing I will either enter a waypoint or drop a marker buoy, finish my pass and then go back and jug the area – either still or with a slow drift.
Bring a Fish Finder
I can already hear the “you don’t need a fish finder on a fly in crew” baying for my blood. But I whole heartedly disagree. Maybe if you are on a tiny lake with uniform depth and a very good depth map – but to me a depth finder is a must have tool for me. I don’t think you need the latest in side imaging or 360 views or even a fancy GPS and data chip – something that shows depth is enough. I have two portable fish finders that are at least 15 years old. They run on 8 AA batteries and are basic – but they are worth their weight in gold (or beer) on our trips. Sure they help for prospecting but I also think they really help define a pattern. If I got back through my memory of our trips I am amazed on how many times we found walleye relating to a specific depth – Pickle Lake was 15 feet, Ogoki was between 17 and 19 and so on.
So – that’s my short list. For trip veterans it may seem redundant but I think (and hope) that for those who are just venturing out on their first or second trip or those jumping from a small lake to a massive lake it should help. Our trip to Miniss will be our 8th trip and 5th fly in but we still use this process every time
Another shamless plug for the new Northen Jacks merchandise Shop Now Its one way to try to support the site without turning it into a eyesore of adds.