Species: Bass, Crappie
Season: Fall: October
Location: Borders Minnesota and Ontario
Surface area: 890 square kilometres
Hottest spot: Northwest Bay
Why we chose it
In 2012, ranked #36 in all-time hot spots
In 2000, we picked northwestern Ontario’s Rainy Lake as Canada’s hottest spot for trophy smallmouth, and it remained high on our annual ranking for the following few years. Today, Rainy is still a premier bronzeback destination, but last year our own Gord Pyzer crowned it as Canada’s best crappie lake, boasting fat, sassy fish up to 17 inches in length. As a bonus, it also has some of Ontario’s best drive-to fishing for pike and walleye.
In 2011, Best for black crappie
One of the first features I wrote for Outdoor Canada more than 25 years ago was about Ontario’s phenomenal, yet virtually unknown black crappie fishing. Rainy was at the top of my guarded list of secret crappie lakes back then, but it no longer flies under the radar. Even still, the lake’s crappie fishing has never been better.
Just two years ago, in fact, I landed my biggest-ever Rainy Lake crappie, an enormous slab measuring almost 17 inches in length and weighing more than two and a half pounds.
One of the reasons Rainy produces such splendid crappies is the immense number of shallow weed- and reed-filled bays that warm up quickly in the spring and offer superior spawning habitat. Then during the open-water season and throughout the winter, the fish grow fat and sassy on the classic 30- to 40-foot-deep flats that crappies find ideal. So instead of offering only short seasonal windows of limited good fishing, as is the case with most Canadian crappie lakes, you can always find the fish biting on Rainy.
That is, of course, if you can pull yourself away from the phenomenal walleye and northern pike angling. When it comes to better-than-average, bragging-sized fish, Rainy Lake offers some of Ontario’s best drive-to walleye and pike fishing.
Hot lure: White 1/8-ounce Reel Bait Flasher jig and 2 1/2-inch Gulp! Minnow
Hot fly: Mickey Finn
Learn more: Camp Narrows Lodge