Onaman Lake – Tips for Catching Huge Walleyes
To put it bluntly, Onaman Lake is the premier walleye fishery in Ontario. It contains the largest and most prolific walleyes of lakes contained within the province. If you’re fortunate enough to fish it, you’ll be startled by the power and fight of the fish. What follows is a detailed discussion on the location, tackle and techniques as well as the logistics to plan when catching Onaman Lake walleyes.
Size and Depths
The lake is considered big by Northern Ontario standards. Stretching close to 15 miles long and 5 miles wide, it encompasses 27,000 acres. Although the average depth of the lake is 7.5 feet, there is a small area with depths stretching to 60ft. Also, the Onaman River flows from the north end of the lake and meanders its way through some breath taking landscapes before dumping into Lake Nipigon.
Onaman Lake is located in the Nipigon District, Fisheries Management Zone #7. The zone offers liberal limits of walleye and northern pike. You can keep 4 walleyes per Sport License and up to 6 northern pike. Its important to remember Onaman opens to all angling on June 1st, unlike the rest of the lakes in the region. Since the lake is walk-in only, special consideration must be given if you intend to camp or keep fish. We will cover that in the Logistics section. Pasha Lake requires all walleyes over 18″ to be released.
Frequently people ask if they can use their own fishing boat on Onaman Lake. The answer is no. The lake is surrounded by a 1.5 mile “no motorized” zone, meaning its walk-in only. The special regulation prohibits private parties from using an ATV or other means of motored transportation. This includes peddle bikes such as a mountain bike. The Onaman trail head is located at 49°55’34.4″N 87°36’18.6″W. This location has been established as the only access point for the walk-in fisherman.
The big secret to catching Onaman walleyes is using tackle fished at or near the bottom. I recommend using a gold jig tipped with a minnow. I’ve landed thousands of walleyes on Onaman and have done a ton of experimentation. The best colors are gold or chartreuse yellow and orange. If I am fishing less than 10ft of water, I use a ¼ oz jig. If deeper, I beef it up to ⅜ or ½. Since the lake is very large, waves over 2 feet are common. In that situation you’ll want to go with heavier jigs.
Where to Fish
Since most walleyes are caught in less than 10 feet, you’ll have ample opportunity to fish weeds and shallow rock reefs. When not fishing a jig, I switch to #5 shad raps and husky jerks, mainly white and perch colors. Alternatively, I’ve had tremendous luck with similar crankbaits in gold and black . Often times you’ll catch walleyes cruising rock and weed edges by casting and retrieving with a slow, erratic action.
Recently I started experimenting with jigging raps. It’s a great lure if the walleye action is hot. I would not recommend trying to locate fish using this method. I particularly don’t use jigging raps near shorelines with fallen timber. I’ve donated a lot of money in snagged lures testing theses areas.
Special considerations are needed when fishing Onaman. Keeping in mind, the lake access requires a 1.5 mile walk, you’ll want to pack light.
First I use a back pack. Just about everything you need for a day of fishing can fit into, or clip onto, your back pack. You’ll want one with durable zippers and loops you can use to clip or tie gear to the outside. I find having a back pack with 3 cargo areas is sufficient. You can use more, but 3 is a minimum for organizing your gear.
Pocket #1 – Organizing
Inside the back pack I put my essential fishing gear. One smaller tackle box with lures and supporting tackle (swivels, sinkers, bobbers) as well as a knife, extra fishing line and leaders, a needle nose pliers and jaw spreader.
Pocket #2 – Organizing
In another pocket I pack an extra battery for my Garmin ECHOMAP™ Plus 75sv. I also pack alligator clips I might need to clamp wires on to battery terminals. If keeping fish, I include several 1 gallon sealable freezer bags for the fillets. We clean the fish on one of several islands right before we walk out.
Pocket #3 – Organizing
Finally, I pack extra clothing and related gear such as sunglass, bug spray, sun screen and a first aid kit. Since life jackets are a requirement, I use a carabineer to clip my life jacket to the outside of my pack.
A quick word using live bait on Onaman. First, make sure you follow the strict government rules about live bait in Ontario. The penalties for non compliance are very expensive. Second, when using minnows, you’ll need a 5ga bucket to transport your bait to the lake. Once at the trail head, you can dump 95% of the water out, leaving just enough water for the minnows to survive, but greatly reducing the weight. Quickly walk the trail to the lake. Once there, fill the bucket with water or transfer the minnows to a trolling bucket
Onaman Lake is the premier walleye destination in all of Ontario. Its walleyes are among the biggest and most plentiful in the whole province. With careful planning and the right gear, you will experience great success on the lake. Follow the guidelines above, and you’re well on your way to an action packed, fun filled day on Onaman Lake. Enjoy Photos below of some monter walleyes caught on Onaman Lake.
Until next time…