Originally Published on Northern Ontario Travel

By Gord Pyzer

The good luck toast, “Here is mud in your eye“, has many different interpretations.

Some suggest it is a reference to the Bible, when Jesus spat in the dirt, rubbed the mud in the eyes of a blind man and cured him.  Others attribute it to horse racing when the winning thoroughbred on a muddy track, kicks mud in the faces of the ponies trailing behind.  Still others, however, insist the expression dates back to the First World War, when soldiers in the muddy trenches of France and Belgium would toast each others before and after battle.

Well, I am here to tell you there is a fourth interpretation.  Especially if you’re a walleye angler in Northern Ontario because you know that the fish have now started to pull out onto the mud flats where they’re gorging on mayfly larvae and crustaceans.

At least, that is what the horde of Sunset Country walleyes my grandson Liam and I caught on the weekend were doing.  We kept a couple of the smaller 14- and 15-inch fish that we caught for shorelunch among the close to one-hundred that we landed and carefully released, and when we cleaned them they had the tell-tale signs of black mud in their stomachs.

To be honest, I am certain that most of the black muddy gumbo is the digestive remnants of the insects and crustaceans, but I don’t doubt, in the least, that when the walleyes suck the bugs up from the bottom that they also ingest a little bit of the dark detritus.

Regardless, when you spot the sludge in their stomachs, it is a sure sign where you’re going to find the majority of walleyes right now and what they’re eating.  It is also a sign of something else for me: it is one of my favourite times of the year because the fishing is so easy.

I say, “easy”, because when walleyes associate with hard bottomed structures like rocky points, boulder reefs and mid-lake rock piles, as they so often do, you can spend as much time trying to free your jig, sinker or lure from the bottom as you do fishing.  But it is not the case right now, when the fish from Lake Nipissing to Lake of the Woods and everywhere else in between in Northern Ontario are frequenting the soft mud flats and presentation becomes so painless and uncomplicated.

Indeed, before I even wet a line, I like to turn on the Humminbird sonar unit that sits on my boat’s console and then slowly cruise over flat bottoms scoping out the 10- to 25-foot depth range.  The best flats right now, by the way, are the ones reasonably close to where the fish spawned a month or so ago.

When I am slowly running the boat over a large flat and start marking walleyes, I’ll waypoint the densest grouping, but I’ll also pay attention to whether the fish are widely spread out along the bottom or tightly bunched up.  It makes a huge difference in terms of the presentation I choose.

On the weekend, for example, the majority of fish that Liam and I found were nicely spread out over fairly large areas.  I say “nicely” because my favourite fishing buddy loves to pull spinner rigs attached to bottom bouncers.

And because we found the walleyes so relatively shallow – frequenting mud flats in the 8- to 12-foot zone – we needed only to use light 1-, 1 1/2- and 2-ounce bouncers.  We also tipped the smaller version of our Mepps Trolling Rigs with a medium size nightcrawler.

By the way, I am certain the Slow-Death method that I have outlined in the past would also have been a great method to catch these fish, but they were so full of spunk that the spinner rigs with their #3 French blades were a faster, flashier and more appealing presentation.

Several times, too, when we were slow trolling our crawler adorned rigs we marked tight knit groups of walleyes resembling ripe grapes ready to be picked on the sonar screen up front.

We tossed out a marker buoy each time we saw an large cluster, especially when several of the fish were suspended a foot or so up off the bottom – a clear indication they were active – then turned off the electric trolling motor, reeled in our spinner rigs and cast 1/4-ounce ReelBait Flasher jigs – the ones with the tiny spinner beneath the head – tipped with half a crawler.

It was oh, so much, fun.

But, there is another method I’ll tell you about next week to catch these walleyes, which, if you’re just starting out or fishing from shore, is guaranteed lights out action for walleye.

Until then, however, here is mud in your eye.

Photo courtesy of Gord Pyzer