Fall fishing on Rainy River, along the Minnesota/Ontario border, is considered a legendary North American fishing destination, especially for anglers who favor walleye. From the end of September into early October, millions of emerald shiners begin their run up the Rainy River from Lake of the Woods, and hungry walleye follow in droves. This influx of walleye makes for fun – and productive – days in the boat.
Walleye aren’t the only fish that draw autumn anglers to the Minnesota/Ontario border waters. Lower water levels and cooler temps make it an ideal place to catch feisty northern pike, crappie, perch, swift small mouth bass and huge lake sturgeon. Each fish brings its own bite, fight and challenge to the Rainy River fall fishing experience.
The ancient lake sturgeon cruising the river bottom are one of the most thrilling to catch on the river. The largest species of fish in Minnesota, some have been estimated to be up to 150 years old. Through September 30, anglers can keep one sturgeon within the size limit. October 1 through April is catch-and-release only, although most anglers hunt sturgeon for the sheer thrill of landing a prehistoric monster to brag about for generations. In fact, the Minnesota state record lake sturgeon was caught on Rainy River in 2018. The DNR certified fish was 73 inches long, just an inch over 6 feet!
Rainy River is easy to access, with multiple boat landings as you travel west along Highway 11. Be mindful that because the US/Canadian border is in the middle of Rainy River, it’s important to be aware of your position and prepared with the proper licensing and permits for both sides of the border. If you want to fish freely across the border on Rainy River, the Canada Border Services Agency has details.
The variety of fish, cool temperatures and fewer boats make Rainy River a premier Fall fishing destination. The river is a great spot to take in the changing fall foliage, between bites and to enjoy the beauty of the season.