It was during the second day of our week long stay at Island View Lodge on Rainy Lake that we started to notice something was different about the summer reef fishing. It had nothing to do with the quantity of fish or their location. It was more about the size.

For some reason, we seemed to be hooking a higher number fish that were over 20 inches. Actually, many of them were over 23 inches. When we would set the hook on these quality eyes, we knew there was going to be a battle.

A lot of anglers believe walleyes are not very good fighters. Someone forgot to tell that to the fish on Rainy. They wanted nothing to do with coming to the surface. Instead, they made every effort to stay as deep as possible.

Once we did lead these beautiful fish to the net, it was imperative that we handled them gently and returned them to the water as quickly as possible. During our week, we did not have a single fish that didn’t eagerly return to the bottom.

As the week went on, we did an informal tally of the big fish that were caught. At final count, we had numerous 27s, a couple of 28s and one over 29.

Our technique was not any different than normal. We played the wind and scoured the numerous reefs and islands for fish. We did not drop a line until fish were showing up on our sonar. You can’t catch fish that are not there.

Once fish are marked, it is important to put an icon on the location. We find the Rainy Lake walleyes tend to use the same spots year after year.

Although we do some jigging, our most productive presentation continues to be live bait rigs. Crawlers, leeches and minnows all produce fish. Some years, one bait is better than the others. In fact, the preferred bait can change from day to day. We always carry all three in the boat.

The tricky part about live bait rigging is avoiding the rocky snags. To help reduce the snagging dilemma, we utilize some type of pencil sinker that will stand upright and keep us out of the rocks.

We also are careful to lift our weight slightly off of the bottom so we are not dragging the weight through the snags. Five to six foot fluorocarbon leaders and light wire hooks round out the package.

Slow Death is another presentation that is very popular with our group. This style of fishing allows us to cover water more quickly and is ideal for walleyes that are somewhat scattered. Two ounce bottom bouncers, 20 pound braid, baitcasting reels and long rods are all part of the equation that works for us.

Rainy Lake is an incredible fishery that offers a Canadian like fishing experience without crossing the border. Although quality fishing is available all summer, our group of anglers prefers the midsummer period when the eyes are on the reefs.

We especially enjoy the numerous big fish that show up in the deep water. These thumpers are always a special treat!