Monday, April 18, 2016

Three Ways to Catch Fish

THREE WAY RIGS, A POOR MANS DOWNRIGGER
BY DON LAMONT
Finding springtime walleye can be somewhat of a challenge depending on the kind of weather conditions we get in this part of the world when the season opens. Moving water is always a great equalizer as it attracts fish for a variety of reasons. The size of the creek or river you are fishing will also dictate how you might want to present your bait to be the most effective. On larger rivers, with strong current flow, a three way rig is a very effective way to go. This is a simple setup and one that can be extremely productive. The first thing you do is attach your main line to one of the eyes of the three way swivel. On the bottom swivel eye you will tie a short piece of mono, about a foot in length. Onto this tie on a relatively heavy jig rigged with some kind of soft plastic, like a boot tail. On the top swivel eye tie a longer leader, say about 30 inches. Onto the end of this you can add a nice light jig, say 1/16 of an ounce. In heavier current this jig will ride up off the bottom. Dress this small jig with a lot smaller, lower profile plastic like a Berkley Finesse Minnow. 

They key is to get a heavy enough jig on the lower line to get it down bouncing along the bottom. In heavier current, this will be the bait that gets the fish. In a bit lighter current, it will be the top trailer that will be the most productive. 
What’s great about this setup is that you can cover water. In almost all cases you will troll up stream with this, working the current seams along the sides of the stream or river. Walleye like to hold on the seams, out of the heavier water flow. It takes a lot less energy to hold out of heavy flow and allows them to capture prey on the edges of the current stream. This style of presentation is also great in the fall time on the Red and Winnipeg rivers when you are dealing with heavier current flows. Some of the top anglers will keep the heavy jig on the bottom and switch over to a crankbait on the top line. In the fall I also like to use a bottom bouncer in combination with a floating crankbait to get down to the edges of the main river channel, again trolling into the current. 
When trolling upstream, slower is better than faster when the water is cold. I like to sweep my rod forward and then drop backward as we move forward. 
As mentioned earlier, heavier flows will keep the fish closer to bottom and with reduced flows and clearer water, most of your bites will come on the top hook.
It also helps to have good electronics so you can spot those fish hugging the bottom. I use a Humminbird 899 and it gets the job done for me.
The first time I saw this presentation in action was more than 20 years ago when I was fishing with Al Lindner on the Winnipeg River in Ontario. It was April and the previous day Al and I had jigged up a bunch of big walleye using heavy jigs and large live minnows. Al bet me that night at the hotel he would catch more walleye than I the next day using the three way swivel set up with a floating # 13 Rapala than I and a friend would, using jigs and minnows.
As it turns out not only did he win, he annihilated us, catching five walleye to our one, a valuable lesson that I have kept with me over the years. In this case he used a plain drop weight off the bottom line and the #13 Rapala on the top swivel with about a three foot lead. This allowed him to contour troll and cover a large area looking for active fish. Since that time I have used a three way swivel to catch a wide variety of fish including some huge lake trout from Selwyn Lake. It was summer time and we needed to get our lures down to 80 feet were the fish were holding. I added a three ounce weight to the drop line and put on a huge gold Canoe spoon off the back. The wide wobble of this huge spoon turned the trick on some monster fish.  Once again a three way allowed me to get down to the correct depth. Give this system a try this year and you won’t be disappointed.

Anglers Notes: The opening of the fishing season in southern Manitoba occurs on May 14th this year. With a return to more seasonal temperatures this week, we should be good to go on that date. Water flows are bit lower in many rivers and tributaries due a slower melt in the southern half of the province. One of the great options we have in this province are our stocked trout waters. Last spring I visited the Duck Mountains in west Central Manitoba to enjoy some excellent success for large brown trout. Laurie Lake in the central section of the park, is a beautiful spot with trophy splake to go with along with the brown trout with some bonus lake trout thrown in for good measure. On the first day we caught them long line trolling floating Rapala’s then on day two I fished with Ryan Suffron of Alpine Country Outfitters. This time we were fly fishing with equally good success. That’s the great thing about angling, there are so many ways to successfully catch your target species.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

STREAM FLY FISHING THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

 A deadly looking crew!

STREAM FLY FISHING THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

NOTE: I recently found out we would be going back to the mountains this year so I put together this chronological account of our ten day trip there two years ago in late July. It brings back some great memories.

It was five thirty in the morning when the moving house that was to be our home for the next ten days pulled up to the driveway. Soon we were on the road for our ten day fly fishing adventure to southern Alberta. Six of us were heading out to explore the rivers and streams that dot the landscape near the Crowsnest Pass region. Our first stop was the Castle Falls Campground located on the shores of the Castle River, a glacial feed stream that holds cutthroat trout, whitefish and a few rainbow thrown in for good measure. Friend Phil Brake had been fishing this part of Alberta since 2001, a semi-annual pilgrimage that went back to his childhood. Growing up in southern California, he learned to fly fish at an early age, hiking the mountains near his home in Fresno. When he invited me along I figured why not revisit this part of the world. During my days filming The Complete Angler television series, I had shot three different shows in this region. Two of them were with Vic Berman, the co-owner of the Crowsnest Pass fly fishing shop. Vic is also a top guide in the region and he agreed to be a guest on the show. Our first show was shot on the scenic Crowsnest River down east of the town of Bellevue. Then Vic loaded up his drift boat and headed south of the dam of the Oldman River near Lethbridge. Both trips proved productive and we put together two of my favourite shows in the Complete Anglers series.
CASTLE CREEK CAMPGROUND
 Castle Falls

Booking a camping spot in the back country can be a bit of an accomplishment since you need to do it online. That doesn’t help you if you have no cell service and you were unaware of this little twist before arrival. While we found the person who was responsible for maintenance of the campground, he was unable to take bookings. He did have a cell booster though and we were able to get a spot paid for after much trial and effort. So keep that in mind if you plan on booking a camp spot in remote areas.
With a beautiful site located right beside the river, we were ready to branch out to some different water over the course of the next three day. Len had brought a vehicle along behind the motorhome, which allowed us the mobility we needed to accomplish this.
ON THE WATER
While my stream fly fishing skills were a little rusty, friend Phil had me back in the saddle right away. One of the first things I learned how to do was to tie on a dropper rig, in this case an Emerger fly that floated with a nymph tied off as the dropper. Our first fish was caught right in front of the campground. Phil and I headed downstream while Bruce and Len went upstream towards the falls. As we were to find out later, there were some huge bull trout hanging in the deep pool below these spectacular falls.
Phil quickly caught a couple of small whitefish and a cutthroat while I was shut out. Switching over to a Prince nymph on the dropper rig, I caught my first cutthroat on a small side pool next to the fast water.  That was just the start of some great fishing the next nine days. We fished for another three hours before calling it a day. That evening we enjoyed the campfire as we listened to the water rushing past us just below.


DAY TWO:
On day two of our trip, we headed over a nearby mountain pass to fish the Carbondale River. Access to this steep sided smaller river was somewhat difficult. We ended up finding an old access bridge and walking down the bank near a busy campground. Phil and I stared fishing a deep pool but I quickly decided to work on taking both still pictures and videos with my new Nikon AW1. This rugged camera is shock proof and waterproof to 49 feet.
 Carbondale is a beautiful river, but access can be difficult
In other words, a camera that might be able survive the rough beating that crunched my last DLR. It’s a mid-priced make but still takes very good photos and did survive some drops and submerging in ice cold water. All the photos on this trip were taken with it, so you be the judge. As the day wore on, very few fish were caught, a major disappointment to Phil and the rest of the crew who had high expectations for this river. After four hours with a only a couple small whitefish to show for it we decided to pack it in and head back to the campground for supper.
DAY THREE ON THE CASTLE RIVER
While the Castle River is one of the more popular in the region, it can, like most rivers, be tough to fish. On our third day we headed southwest from Castle Falls on Road 774 past the Castle Mountain ski resort. This is rugged country and four wheel drive is recommended if you are going to access stretches of the river off road. Not only that, but you have to be prepared to do some work to get to different sections of the river. There is fallen timber everywhere, which means you can only access short stretches of the river before you have to go overland. This section was good to me, as I landed my biggest cutthroat of the trip out of an undercut bank. I saw the fish come out to my Prince nymph and engulf it, one of the coolest sites in the world. I had a hard fought battle on my hands in the relatively heavy current but I did manage to land this beautiful specimen.
 My biggest cutthroat of the trip on the Upper Castle, home to some large fish!

Friend Phil Brake was also able to wade over and get some shots before releasing this fish. On almost all sections of the rivers in this region, its catch and release fishing only, which has allowed the fishery to thrive. On the way out of the stream that evening we were crossing over a bridge by the ski resort when we saw a huge cutthroat rising to take mayflies off the surface. This was the first visible signs of a hatch and we went to take many more fish this trip on dry flies.
DAY FOUR
The next day we try and access the south Castle River but are stopped by some washed out sections of the access road. Instead we stay relatively close to home and fish the forks of the south and west Castle. Some beautiful pools make this short section attractive but Phil hooks the only rainbow of the trip on a big brown Wooly Bugger fished in a straight section of the river.
 The only rainbow of the trip

Meantime in the pool below I land two cutthroat back to back before we call it a day. That’s because it’s moving day, when we head up north through the Crowsnest. First though we have to stop and visit the two great fly shops that our on our way. 

At the Crowsnest Angler, friend Vic Bergman has a day off, so we head up to visit Susan Douglas-Murray at the Crowsnest Café & Fly Shop in Coleman. Here we get the latest information on the rivers and streams we are about to fish and Susan hand picks the flies we need. These would hold us in good stead and dramatically increase our success ratio the rest of the way.


Part Two of our Adventure to southern Alberta:
From Coleman we head north on Highway # 40 to the Racehorse Creek campground which is to be our home for the next five days. This beautiful campground is centrally located to where we want to fish. From here we have access to a multitude of different small rivers, creeks and larger rivers including the Oldman. 
 Roughing it
After setting up camp we decide to head out to the stream that the campground was named after, Racehorse Creek. This little stream, while small in stature provide us with some great evening angling over the next two days. On the second evening out by myself, I landed four nice cutthroat in two different pools, all on a Pale Morning Dun fly, commonly called among fly fishers, a PMD. Meantime Gerald Conrad, had the same fly on with similar results. Gerald and his partner Ron Enns have now been with us two days.
THE LVINGSTONE

While we spent the evening fishing Racehorse Creek the next three days are spent fishing the Livingstone River during the day. There are many side roads that lead to the riverside, but this destination is very popular among fly fisherman. The first two days we don’t have too much trouble finding a stretch of river to fish, but come Friday things are crowded.
On our first day on the Livingstone, Len Penner has a great day, landing nearly 20 fish. Lime Sally was the fly of the day. Phil and I catch some fish but don't have near that kind of success. Next day we made sure to have on a variety of dry flies and things turn for the better.
 Len checking out the action on a section of the Livingstone

Thursday: our best day on the Livingstone in a middle section of the river. Phil lands nine fish out of one pool and sees big bull trout. He catches most of them on black ant that he tied the night before! I manage to land a number of nice fish as well, and see some huge cutthroat refuse my big stonefly presentation. Still, most of the fish I caught on my little yellow and white mayfly dry fly.

 Upper Livingstone was a beautiful section


After a great day of fishing we head into Bellevue to pick up more dry flies and have dinner. We also tune into the Bomber/Edmonton game (that didn’t turn out so well.)
Friday- we fish upper Livingstone and have a nice time with myself landing four fish.  Unfortunately we could only find one small stretch of river that did not other anglers on it. After looking over a number of different sections we decide to pack in early and get ready for a new river on Saturday.

 Catching some nice cutthroat on the upper Livingstone






















OLDMAN RIVER-LAST DAY

On our last full day, we decide to head down the foothills to the Oldman River, on a section near Highway 22. Since there was six of us fishing, we decided to break up and head to different sections. Len and decided to head downstream and as luck would have it, I found small little pool that was holding a good number of fish. 


I could see some fish rising a long cast across the pool to a back eddy along the far shore. I started with some short casts to see if there any fish closer and as luck would have it, there was! I caught two cutthroats right away using a Terranasty along with a Prince Nymph dropper. After catching the closer fish, I wade into the river a bit deeper so I can get my fly to other shoreline. Sure enough, on the second drift another fish takes the big dry fly. Len comes back to my pool to see what all the commotion is about and takes a couple pictures of me with my fish. He then heads upstream about a thousand yards and lands a big fat cutthroat. After a couple of hours we both head up to our rendezvous point. It is a huge deep pool with multiple structures. Two of our group are working the other side of the pool and Len and I stay out of their way. With an hour to go I notice some fish starting to rise to a hatch. Quickly tying on a dry, I catch two beautiful trout on a Royal Coachman on what was the best fish catching day of the trip for me.
I had so much fun on this trip, I will be going back with Phil, Len and company this July.





Monday, February 22, 2016

March is Whitefish time!

Looking for a little different angling experience to end off the ice fishing season?  Then maybe you should consider trying your luck for Lake Whitefish. In Manitoba, we have a number of lakes that hold large populations of this great sportfish. Not to be overlooked, whitefish are also great table fare. I love my whitefish baked in an oven with just butter, salt and pepper. Cook at 425F for about 11 minutes, then get some fresh parsley and lemon zest on the top.
For shore lunch, dip in egg and flour and some corn flake crumbs. Cook quickly in some sunflower oil over a hot fire or cook stove. I sometimes like to add some Cajun spice to flavour it up a bit.
Cleaning these fish can be a bit tricky for the novice. First take off the anal fins, then slice up the middle from the anal cavity to the head. Cut down to start taking the fillets off, then work your sharp knife over the ribs bones as you take the fillets off. Whitefish have a Y bone like a pike, so make that diamond cut at the top of the fillet just like a pike. You also want to remove the red bloodline along their lateral line. This can give the fillets a bit of a fishy taste. Take your time and work this out and you will have some great firm white flesh that tastes great when cooked properly. Friend Jeff Gustafson shows how it’s done on one of his television shows. Check it out on YouTube

TREMENDOUS SPORTFISH:
Lake Whitefish could be the most spectacular ice fishing quarry that we have access to in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Preferring cool clear water lakes with water depths in the twenty to fifty metre range, the lakes of the Canadian Shield make for prime habitat. These aggressive winter predators, though, are also more adaptable than the lake trout, tolerant to warmer water temperatures. This expands their range to a wide variety of lakes in this part of the world. Hard to catch? Not in the least, as long as you keep a few certain rules in mind.
MANITOBA WHITEFISH LAKES: North Steeprock Lake in the Porcupine Hills is absolutely loaded with Lake Whitefish. Westhawk and Falcon lakes have abundant populations as does the entire Winnipeg River system, especially the Nutimik Lake section.
In the Duck Mountains many a master angler whitefish has come through an ice hole in March from Gull Lake. Cross Bay up at Grand Rapids, has huge lake whitefish which can grow to size of thirty inches or better, a challenge to any ice anglers equipment. Don’t forget Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, a spectacular lake whitefish fishery. My first experience for this game fish occurred on this lake in a raging blizzard. While fishing conditions were tough, these fish were aggressive and the action was constant.

On this particular day we keyed in on two different areas. One was an extended point off a main lake island that dropped into deep water. Whitefish love transition spots between hard and soft bottom, preferring to feed off either insect larvae or small minnows in the winter. Mid lake shoals and extended soft bottom flats also provide forage opportunities for these fish.  
Since that time, a lot of my trips for whitefish have been to Shoal Lake, Ontario.  Unfortunately, a huge downturn in the smelt population on this lake has scattered the fish, making locating large schools of these fish extremely difficult.
 LURE SELECTION: Small silver spoons like the Williams Ice Jig, and the Northlands Eye-Dropper work well. Small jigs with Berkley one inch power tubes or two inch power grubs are also excellent producers.   A small jigging Rapala can also be deadly along with Cicada’s. An aggressive jigging action with artificial lures will call whitefish in from a distance, important considering that they can be scattered over a fairly large area.
If the fish do get finicky, rigging up a small hook below a couple of split shots with a dead shiner minnow can get you some jumbos as well.
The use of a hydrographic map, if available, will allow you to find in advance areas that are likely to hold whitefish. Since larger whitefish are usually very aggressive in the winter time, it won’t take long to determine if there are fish in the vicinity.
As the days get longer in March, whitefish tend to get into larger schools with fifty to hundred fish days a real possibility.




Monday, February 15, 2016

Taking the Whiteshell by Storm

It seems every time I head out ice fishing in the last month, the snow starts to come down. First it was a trip to Lake Winnipeg to fish with Dustin Byfuglien for a day, then it was last week on a trip out to the Winnipeg River. Friend Kevin Stobbe and I were to meet up with Matt Cornell, who grew up along the shores of Barrier Bay on the Winnipeg River. Cornell is well known in angling circles across North America as a man who knows how to catch fish. I have met Matt at a number of events in the last year and we talked about getting out for a day on the ice. As it turns out we were able to get our schedules together finally to make it happen.
After hooking up a trailer loaded with a couple of new Polaris snowmobiles from Rond’s Marine (thanks Tyler) we headed to Barrier Bay Resort, our first stop on this two day excursion. DJ and Erica Seales took over ownership of the resort four years ago and have made it into a couple’s destination. They also have one chalet that Matt Cornell likes to use to accommodate anglers that come up to fish with him. The cabins at this resort are spotless with hot tubs, decks and an incredible view of the Winnipeg River. Both DJ and Erica grew up playing competitive volleyball in Winnipeg but decided a life style change was needed to get away from the bustle of a big city. Erica says they are loving the change, especially with the people they get to meet in their new business.



After checking in, we drove up the back lane to Matt Cornell’s cottage just a short distance away. Matt grew up spending his summers in this cabin with his parents and his uncle, who always took him fishing and hunting. Cornell says he has always loved the lifestyle in the country, so to become a hunting and fishing guide, was natural for him. He has guided for the last 20 years but a couple of years ago he decided to come back home and work out of the Whiteshell Provincial Park. Previous to that he had been a guide at Scott Lake Lodge in northern Saskatchewan. While he guided there for a number of years, he also spent time in the spring guiding bear hunters, then waterfowl and big game in the fall. He says the total days a year guiding started to take its toll. That’s when he decided to take a year off and refocus his efforts closer to home. So for the last year he was been guiding anglers on the Winnipeg River and areas closer to the family cottage.

As we found out this evening around the kitchen table, Matt is a pretty good cook, who also knows a bit or two about wine and the finer things of life. In his years at Scott Lake he learned how to deal with his customers both on and off the water. Cornell has had many high end clients as well as those on the other end of the spectrum. He loves to educate, especially young people. 

On this trip Cornell was going to take us on a snowmobile tour of the backcountry to fish for one of the many species that are available in this beautiful Canadian Shield country. Off we went early the next morning and headed down a back trail in the middle part of the park.

The Whiteshell River starts out at Caddy Lake, and ends up in the Winnipeg River at Nutimik Lake. It has been a major canoe route for thousands of years, allowing people access from Lake Superior to Lake Winnipeg. In recent years it’s become a popular destination for anglers who want a back country experience. This is especially the case in the winter time, with snowmobile trails crisscrossing the park. It’s also increased angling pressure on black crappies, a species that established a presence in this water system for a few years back. Cornell, who loves to fish for this tasty panfish, is concerned that the increased angling pressure will cause a collapse in the population, especially in the trophy fish that swim in the many lakes in the system. He would like to see a reduced limit to four, with all fish over 11 inches or 28 centimetres released. To register a Master Angler fish with Travel Manitoba, it must be 30.5 centimetres or 12 inches.

GREAT DAY ON THE ICEOn this particular day, while we decided to fish for black crappies, we were also committed to one hundred per cent release of fish. It’s usually not a problem on this system because the depth we were fishing was relatively shallow, about 4.5 metres or 15 feet. We consistently caught fish during the day, though the fish were most active in the morning, with more of a finesse bite in the afternoon. I started off using a Mini Rippin Rap from Rapala.  Crappies tend to like pink as well as glow and this lure fit the bill perfectly, until I lost it, that is, to a big fish. Later in the day both Kevin Stobbe and Matt Cornell caught bigger fish on small jigs.  Matt was using a 1/32- 1/16oz Clam Drop Jig (tungsten) tipped with either a Clam Maki Plastic , Maki Worm or White Berkley Euro Larvae.  Rods were light action with two kilogram braid (five pound) to a 1.5 kilogram fluorocarbon tippet. 

All in all, it was a spectacular outing in a pristine setting. For more information on a day fishing with Matt Cornell check out his website at www.bruinoutfitting.com.
For more information on Barrier Bay Resort, visit them online at www.barrierbay.com









Friday, January 29, 2016

Fish of a lifetime from Lake of the Prairies

 It has been a bit of a different year out on the ice. We didn’t get any decent ice until a recent cold snap, then snow, the warm weather again…yikes. While I have been out on Lake Winnipeg twice in the last week, it is pretty tough to get around in a vehicle out there right now. For true mobility it’s either snowmachine or Sno
 Susan Geres with her trophy
Bear.
Not many will be able to match the story that Susan Geres has been able to tell over the last month since she caught her fish of a lifetime. Geres, and husband Roger are avid anglers, who live in Langenburg, Saskatchewan.  Roger works at the potash mine nearby. Since it is shift work, the two of them spent almost every spare moment fishing. Since they live a reasonable drive from Lake of the Prairies that is their favourite destination. This winter Susan Geres says they were disappointed with the late start to the ice fishing season because of the warm temperatures. She also believes it changed location of the walleye in the reservoir. Many of their traditional spots were not producing so since the cold spell they have spent a lot of time moving around trying to find fish. Finally they found a spot with some fish activity.
 “We were in about 25-26 feet of water using my favourite hooks, (I love PK Flutterfish). We were seeing a little more action on the Marcum LX-7 than normal for this year. We had caught a few that were small but then a big mark showed up”
Geres got that fish to hit but missed it. She quickly reeled up and put another half a minnow on. “I let it down and touched bottom lifted up and bang he's back!”
With this big fish now hooked up on six pound test, Susan called her husband over to help land this monster. When I talked to Roger on the phone, he mentioned that he didn’t want to tell his wife how big the fish really was in case she panicked.
When she finally saw the fish down the hole, she almost fainted. Roger got the fish on the ice though and the rest is history
“We just looked at each other like it wasn't real and I almost started crying I was so happy! We couldn't believe how big it was! We have seen big fish in pictures but this is the biggest we've ever seen in real life.

The fish was caught later in the afternoon when the activity level on the reservoir usually picks up. The fish measured out at 79 centimetres (31 inches) with a weight of 6.12 kilograms or 13.5 pounds. Both Roger and Susan agonized over whether to keep the fish or not. Roger knows how valuable this fish is in the gene pool and he says they always release the large fish. However, with this one as a fish of a lifetime they decided to get it mounted.
I mentioned to Roger the work of Paul Janz at Flexfish. He does some of the best replica work anywhere and I explained I had three replica mounts from him that I use in my school presentations. They are incredibly lifelike and have plastic fins and a soft texture to the skin.
Check them out at www.flexfish.ca

          Cynthia Nerbas, who works for Asessippi Parkland Tourism says it goes down as one of the largest walleye ever caught on the lake. Nerbas says it will help highlight their big ice fishing event to be held February 27th. For more information visit http://f.asessippiparklandtourism.com/ice-derby.html
Last year a 71 centimetre walleye won the first place prize, which this year is $12, 500.

Long-time friend Ken Kansas, who lived for years on the shores of Lake of the Prairies, says a walleye of this size is fairly rare on this body of water, though big female walleye this size have been caught in the past. Kansas is a biologist with Manitoba Fisheries. Kansas says it is nice to see that this particular fish has a good length to girth ratio. For years the bigger walleye in this lake have been long and skinny but an improved forage base is increasing the number of heavier fish. Don Stokotelny, from Dauphin, has guided on the lake for years, and confirms this probably is the largest walleye caught on the reservoir in a long time. He was well aware of the Geres fishing exploits. These two have caught many big fish on the reservoir, most of them pike. In fact Susan has a 47.5 inch pike to her credit.
Roger says those are pretty big benchmarks to try and beat!




Monday, January 18, 2016

Weathering the storm

Ever been caught out on the ice in a storm? Luckily for me it hasn’t happened that often. In thinking back though, some of my biggest fish through the ice have come when snowflakes are swirling around me.
In the summer, we always take into consideration cold and warm fronts and changes in temperature. In the winter, not so much. Upon review, this is a mistake, because fish are still effected tremendously by changes in weather patterns. Snowstorms in our part of the world also usually mean warmer temperatures to accompany the front. Once the storm is over in 24 hours we mostly have blue bird skies and much colder temperatures. If one can fish during the storm and before the skies clear out, ice fishing action can be tremendous. Fish activity level is definitely higher during storms and warmer temperature fronts. Also if the weather remains stable for long periods of time, the fish settle down in distinct feeding patterns. For example, walleye might be more active early and late in the day if we have a lot of sun accompanied with the stability. If it is overcast and warmer, the action can be good all day long.

I can remember fishing for lake trout in
northwest Ontario during a mini blizzard when I landed my largest lake trout ever. This fish was suspended in 10 metres of water over 30 metres. I barely saw the flash on my Humminbird fish finder as this trout raced in to just smash my jig. Activity level that day was extremely high and the fish were just cruising looking for food. My best perch day ever came a couple of years ago when the lake was shrouded in fog from melting snow and ice. Air temperatures were increasing and the fish were on mission to eat as much as they could. Time of the year can also be a factor, with walleye in natural lakes becoming more inactive during long cold February days, then picking up again from the middle of March onward.
I find this to be a similar cast for lake trout as activity level in early January is high, then slows during February. Lake Winnipeg though, seems to have its own set of rules, though frontal systems definitely have an effect.
I caught my biggest walleye ever through the ice last year when we had unseasonably warm weather in January. A friend and  I were fishing on the south end of the lake in plus two Celsius. The forecast though called for a huge cold front to roll in over the next two days. Both of us knew it was a great time to be out and the fishing didn’t disappoint. Both of us caught our personal best walleye through the ice along with some other really nice walleye. We had been out at first light and packed up to go home at noon before the weather changed too dramatically.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lake Winnipeg Update

Paul Turenne with a diminishing year class walleye
The past three weeks have been close to the busiest and most interesting of my professional career and none of it involved the physical act of fishing. As editor of Hooked Magazine, I was trying to put the finishing touches on some editorial content submitted by some of the most committed anglers and conservationists in this part of the world. This while I was trying to get ready for another ice fishing season.  Other issues were demanding my attention, none bigger than the future of Lake Winnipeg. Like many Manitobans, large lakes in this province hold a special place in our hearts. These include Lake Dauphin (near Dauphin of course,)  Lake Winnipegosis a little further north, Clearwater Lake at The Pas, Lake Manitoba and finally Lake Winnipeg. All have played a vital part in the vibrant history of our province. Unfortunately all of these lakes have faced and will continue to be challenged about sustainability. In a column ten weeks ago I expressed my concern about the skinny walleye I was catching in the Saskatchewan River at Grand Rapids. Since that time a clear picture is finally starting to emerge on how much trouble Lake Winnipeg actually is in. Brian Parker from Manitoba Fisheries stated last week at the Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Conference that the commercial catch on the north end of the lake is down forty per cent. Those are pretty substantial numbers, fueled by the fact that the rainbow smelt population has collapsed in this section of the lake. Smelt, a high protein forage, sustained this massive population of walleye for years. Nobody knows what the end result with be.
The south basin of Lake Winnipeg has a very diverse forage base, so walleye populations have not dropped as dramatically. Still, Brian Parker related at the conference that ice anglers over the last two years have harvested close to 250,000 kilograms of walleye. What it means is that commercial fishing activity along with a dramatic increase in harvest by anglers, has put these walleye stocks in jeopardy.
Part of the problem, relates Parker, is that a number of year classes on the lake are missing because of poor spawning conditions. Right now the future of the walleye fishery in Lake Winnipeg is based almost entirely on the 2011 year class. In a story in today's Winnipeg Free Press Bartley Kives brings us up to date on the latest regarding eco-certification. Check it out at

www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/push-to-eco-certify-big-three-lakes-362756361.html

Our stocked trout lakes have enough safe ice for the most part and with the wild weather it is winter wonderland to be outside. Lake Dauphin has been good at the mouth of the incoming rivers. Up north near Thompson anglers have a bit of ice, enough to angle while walking. Anglers have also been out on the Red River near Selkirk for the last two weeks and they have been catching some nice fish.
St Paul Ice Fishing Show
For the second year in a row I had a chance to head down to the St Paul Ice Fishing show with friend Kevin Stobbe. As usual we were blown away by the new products that cater to ice anglers and the crowds that were on hand to check them out. One of the most impressive new products that I saw was the Eskimo Evo 2 ice fishing tent. It was light, portable and extremely easy to set up. It easily held two anglers, but for me it is the ultimate one person setup.
I also must admit, that I really like the Ion electric auger. This is the future.
Also congratulations to Paul Turenne for running another great MLOA Convention last week. I want to wish everyone a very safe holiday season on the ice and may the big fish bite! Speaking of which, I really want to thank Jeff Gustafson for getting me the biggest largemouth bass of my career this fall. It was the highlight of an outstanding year.