With the aftermath of Trout season opener in southern Ontario behind us, it’s off to the next big day in the south O’s fishing schedule, the opening of Walleye on the world-famous Bay of Quinte.
It happens annually on the first Saturday of May. This is arguably the second most crowded opening day in the entire province (with the aforementioned Trout being first).
Ontario actually has three opening Walleye seasons, Quinte (zone 20), the remainder of southern Ontario (second Saturday of May), and northern Ontario (third Saturday of May).
Both the southern opener (second Saturday of May) and then the northern opener (third Saturday of May) draw from a relatively small population base with a huge geographic foot print and hundreds if not thousands of fishable lakes, these anglers for the most part are spread out.
Quinte, however, is only one body of water with thousands of walleye anglers.
It is a large “bay” if you will, but it has a limited amount of boat launches available to access this Walleye factory. Again, it is the crowding at these congregation areas that is of dire concern to the municipalities and the province.
Due to this concern, from what we heard, every boat launch that could be accessed by the public was closed.
That said, people did hit the water this opener (through private launches, access,etc.) and indeed experienced “less than normal” opening day crowds.
From what we heard, Trenton was the most crowded spot.
Normally, the mouth of the Trent River in Trenton is ram-jammed-packed-full of anticipating Walleye anglers. Starting at midnight (Friday night/Saturday morn) the jigs are dropped and the cranks and spinners are trolled. Honestly, it’s pretty much mayhem.
I’ve actually fished the Trent on the opener and it’s one of the craziest places I’ve ever experienced. A good number of giant migratory Walleye trek up the river to spawn and then return to the bay and eventually the lake but the real drawing card here is the healthy population of average-sized local Walleye that most anglers limit out on. With a huge population of Canada’s most popular game fish, comes a large population of anglers.
Once daybreak allows for a visual picture of the Trent opener, it’s quite the sight. Boat after boat after boat. Hundreds of boats are either anchored, drifting or trolling the relatively small area of water.
As I said earlier, this seemed to be the area of the highest concentration of anglers. While looking at a Quinte fishing message board, I saw a few posts:
- There were as many boats fishing the Trent river this morning like any other opener, counted 38 at 9 am.
- Guy next door also out early. He said: “Musta been 40 Boats at the mouth of River in Trenton.”
- 20 -30 boats in mouth of the Trent this morn (10 am) – no idea how they were doing – no MNR or OPP boats seen – great morning to be out on the water!
- Well, the fishing did not disappoint on the Trent river. I caught my fill and it was great to be on the boat after all this isolation crap. Not once did I come close to any other boater or person. Everyone maintained social distancing.
PICTON HARBOUR INN
I talked to Scott Walcott who owns Picton Harbour Inn and Bay Of Quinte Charters on Saturday morning and normally he and his brother are out guiding on Quinte (usually I’m out there as well) and he wasn’t even at the inn where his boats are docked. With everything shut down, he was taking care of his other property at West Lake. For the Walcott boys (Scott and brother Dave) to miss an opening day, you know things have been drastically changed.
Scott did hear from friends and fellow guides that a small number of boats were dotted throughout the bay but only a tiny fraction of what’s normally seen out there.
MERLAND PARK COTTAGES
I recently talked to Kevin Lavers of Merland Park Cottages and his report went as follows:
“Sunday morning I launched my boat on my personal launch at Merland Park because all the public launches are closed & I only saw one other boat trolling out around Glen Island. I caught two walleye casting perch tail dancers over dead weeds & rock points in 8-10 feet of water. One was 5-6 lbs and the other was 11lbs. The big one was a male and I released him. It was great to get out on the water and see the fish are still biting”.
A report from one of the most popular boat launches along the bay at Deseronto said:
- A visual we’ll probably never again see …. the Deseronto boat launch, empty, on opening Walleye. Also only 3 boats at the Narrows at 9 PM (not sure if he meant AM)
I used to fish the Telegraph Narrows every opening day and although things have changed over the years, it was (and still may be) one of the most popular areas on the bay to fish. Back in the day, it was literally boat to boat. There was no way you could make a straight drift. You always had to avoid others, but, there were lots of fish there too.
Belleville Ontario is the largest city on the Bay of Quinte and has easy access for anglers to hit the water. It also has the Moira River which runs directly through the city and empties into the bay. It, like the Trent and Napanee rivers, is a major spawning tributary.
I couldn’t find much about Belleville online however a buddy of mine from around the area said there were lots of people out there fishing and there were lots of fish caught. I’m not sure what “lots of guys” means as far as numbers and I’m inquisitive as to where they put their rigs in. It might have been mostly small boats that could be put anywhere there’s shoreline access? Not sure.
I didn’t get a Walleye report from Lake O but I did get word that the Pike fishing was ok but still needed a bit more time to warm up. The water temps were still frigid and the only Pike that were caught were in the afternoon and on small baits.
As predicted, the Zone 20/Bay of Quinte opening day Walleye was only a sliver of what it was in the past and hopefully will be but a memory in the openers to come.
It’s a fishing fix that I really do look forward to each season, and I don’t want to miss another!