My friend, Charlie Simkins and I, have been making an annual trek to Island View Lodge on Rainy Lake with a group of anglers for a number of years. Although Rainy is noted as a quality northern fishery, by the time we get there in mid July, the northern are out of the bays and on the reefs where the walleye are located.

Our group of anglers has always caught northern while we were walleye fishing but never could quite figure out how to get a few more of the toothy critters to bite. We would also catch a few scattered fish on spinnerbaits and crankbaits, but the action was never consistent.

Many times we would find that a group of northern would take up housekeeping on a particular reef where the walleye activity was brisk. On some days, the northern would constantly harass us by hitting our walleye while we were reeling them in.

Although these fish were aggressive, they weren’t stupid. Once they got on the surface and saw our boat, they would always let go. This pattern got Simkins and I thinking about a new strategy.

This last year, we picked up some big sucker minnows on the way to Rainy. Our goal was to take advantage of the aggressive fish hitting our walleye by throwing a delicate and delicious sucker into their midst.

It only took a day for us to locate a reef where the northern were hanging out. On day two, we threw some big minnows and heavy tackle into our boat and headed for the northern reef.

Our strategy was simple. We were going to live bait rig the suckers along the reef in the same vicinity the northern had been the previous day. Hopefully, they would be hungry enough to eat.

It took very little time for us to get some activity. The fish we caught, however, were not of the same stature as the fish that had been slashing our walleye. And then their mood changed.

I guess the bigger fish finally decided it was time to go into action. Just like that, we would have a serious battle on our hands whenever we set the hook.

The northern activity on the reefs was such that our bait didn’t last all that long. Once the big minnows were gone, we reverted back to targeting walleye.

The one thing we did learn about this episode is that it is not a bad idea to purchase a few big minnows when heading to Rainy Lake. When deep reef northern are found during the summer, there is no better way I know of to entice their senses than with big sucker minnows.

Like last year, you can be sure we will be purchasing some suckers for this summer’s adventure. And like last year, we expect to find some serious fish hanging out on the reefs!

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