Walleye, northern pike

This enormous fish factory covers some 320,000 acres in northern Minnesota, then sprawls into Canada for another 600,000 acres. “The lake kind of splits personalities at the border,” says state large-lake biologist Tom Heinrich. “On our side, it’s walleye and northern pike water. In Ontario, it’s classic Canadian Shield stuff with muskies and smallmouth bass.”

Walleyes are king here. The most popular bite comes during their annual spawning run up the Rainy River. “That fishery is unique because you could catch the walleye of a lifetime, then have to release it,” Heinrich says, noting that special regulations protect all spawning walleyes over 19 inches. Walleye enthusiasts continue to chase their fish after the return to the lake. In the process, they ignore a stellar pike population. “Outside of tip-up fishing in winter, not many people are serious about pike here, and I’ve seen northerns up to 45 inches.”

Sweet Spots: Four-Mile Bay, Pine Island, and Elm Point
What’s Hot: Rapalas, Shad Raps, and ThunderSticks
Local Advice: For large pike in the winter, Heinrich suggests using “ciscoes from 8 to 12 inches long, rigged on a tip-up. You’ll target bigger northerns, and you can eat the bait you don’t use.”
Prime Time: Late March to mid-April for walleyes in the Rainy River. March through June for pike
**More Info: **Arnesen’s Rocky Point Resort, 800-535-7585;