Located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, the Bay of Quinte is a trophy walleye destination, pure and simple. If you enjoy catching big walleyes or still have a 10-pounder on your bucket list, then this is the place for you, where walleyes that have gorged on Lake Ontario’s plenty, follow baitfish in for falltime feasting. It’s a great icefishing destination, too.
In fact, the area offers four seasons of activities for vacationers who like the outdoors. Whether you are a camper, angler or hiker you’ll find something to keep you busy here throughout the year.
During the summer, many anglers target salmon, heading out into the open waters of Lake Ontario. The protected waters of the bay also boast great fisheries for both largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Walleye fishing is, well, fair during the months of July and August, too. But it is the latter part of the year when many anglers travel from the midwest states of Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan is search of behemoth wallhanger ’eyes. The top time is primarily October and November, and, if no ice has formed, part of December. As the days grow shorter, Quinte walleyes might not get a
second look from experienced bay anglers unless they weigh in at better than 12 pounds.
My first trip to the Bay of Quinte was in November of 2006 with my tournament fishing partner, Steve Velte, and Lake Erie walleye guide Ross Robertson (bigwaterfishing.com). What we experienced on the very first day was memorable to say the least. We caught 20 walleyes and 16 of them pulled the scale down past 10 pounds. Our largest was just shy of 14 pounds, and the “peanut” weighed a mere 71/2 pounds.
Now, we’re a pretty salty group of Lake Erie guys and we’ve all caught our share of big ’eyes. But this was truly eye-popping (and that pun was intended! ).
Our program was not much different than what we would fish on Erie, but these walleyes, overall, were consistently deeper in the water column. We spooled our Okuma Convector reels with 10-pound braided line to achieve the maximum depth from our Reef Runner 800 series crankbaits—big sticks, 7 inches long from lip tip to tail. Off Shore OR 12 inline planer boards allowed us to spread baits away from the boat and stagger them vertically in the water column, targeting fish 20 to 40 feet down.
We did notice a number of these fish on our graph coming up to attack our offerings. While our trip was successful (to say the least!) it became clear to us that we could do something different to target those deeper, bigger fish. With water depths in excess of 150 feet and plenty of bait and fish in the 40- to 70-foot depths, we almost became obsessed with a good delivery method to target those deep eyeballs.
After that trip, I became acquainted with fishing engineer Matthew Sawrie of Torpedo Divers, an on-line weight system designed to take lures to specific depths. They’ve been catching on fast in the salmon world. These torpedo-shaped weights offer a stealthy way of getting your baits to a desired depth with little drag on your rod, reel or inline planer board. As a fishing guide and tournament angler I have used the Torpedo Divers with success, but mostly while pursuing summer steelhead out of the ports of Wheatley and Erieau in Ontario. I used them at the MWC Dunkirk, New York walleye tournament in2008, during the practice days before the contest. With a year of constant wind changes the thermocline did not get established and the walleyes were way deep. The Torpedoes allowed me to get my baits deeper with less line out than with diver disks. I hate to lose a fish next to the boat and less line out mean less line to reel in.
Last fall, Sawrie and Scott Walcott of West Lake Willows Resort (westlakewillows.com) invited me over to try the Torpedoes on Quinte’s deep water walleye bite.
The Torpedo Divers can be worked with a number of lures that include both deep diving and shallow running crankbaits, such as our favorite Reef Runners. Torpedo Divers work like tra- ditional snap weights, but go deeper because they are so hydrodynamically efficient.
A common set-up is the 50/50 system, which worked well for us. After letting our crankbait out 50 feet, we attached a 21 /2-ounce, Snapper-size Torpedo and let out another 50 feet of line before attaching the planer board. The water here is clear and walleyes seem to favor natural colored baits so my top choices have been Grey Ghost, Barbie, Eriedescent or Emerald Shiner. Keep an eye on your graph to see where the fish and baitfish are and position your lures to intercept active walleyes.
Like any other fishing location, replicate what works to produce more fish. Using the tools you have, such as line-counter reels, the “Precision Trolling Guide” and your GPS to establish the proper speed, depth and location. Some of the more popular locations you’ll hear about include Keith Shoal, the Bat Cave and The Reach, the last located just before the power plant at the opening of Lake Ontario. Keep in mind that you are allowed to use two rods per person when you are east of the Glenora ferry and only one when you are west of the ferry. Big walleyes also lurk in Picton Bay and Hay Bay, but many walleye trollers will put the odds in their favor by fishing east of Glenora where they can use two rods.
Quinte is not a large open body of water, but a sort of natural channel that is about 3 miles wide and, from the opening of Lake Ontario to Picton Harbor, about 15 miles long. The area is well protected with high cliffs on the south side (these colorful formations make a nice background to your fishing photos). This is a late fall bite and it almost goes without saying that you should dress for cold weather with layers. You’ll see many of the Canadians wearing orange or red floatation suits for safety.
The Bay of Quinte is truly a unique and great fishery. If you’re after your walleye of a lifetime, it’s a fantastic fall place to go.