Monday, July 27, 2015

Big Echo Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park

The year was 1983, my second year guiding for Eagle Nest Lodge on the Winnipeg River. I spent three seasons working at this remote lodge and during that time I made two portages into Big Echo Lake. Eagle Nest had two boats cached in Big Echo when I arrived and I can remember carrying in the third. In my second year I had also taken over as the manager so it was on me to portage a sixteen foot Lund in there down a rocky, windy trail that was just plain nasty. With me were two young students who were working at the lodge part time.
The transom was the heaviest, so they took that end and I the bow. It was one of the most difficult journeys I had ever participated in. After many rest breaks, we did manage to arrive on the shores of this beautiful lake. I can always remember that day and the other two days that I fished in this walleye factory. It was just incredible action, some of the best walleye fishing I have ever had.  I was determined to get back in there one day and as luck would have it two years ago at the Winnipeg Boat Show I convinced Shaun Jackson to fly me in to Big Echo.
Fast forward to last week, and I am on a float plane destined for one of my favourite lakes in the world. Jackson owns a series of fly in camps, and he happens to have the only outpost cabin on this lake. A few years ago he built a beautiful log cabin, with a full kitchen, along with beds to sleep ten people, with five boats ready to take you out to all the hotspots. Many of the guests prefer flying in to this lake, since it’s just a sixteen minute float plane ride from Shaun’s airbase at Lac du Bonnet.

In no time we are touching down on the lake, getting ready for three days of adventure and great fishing. Hooked Publisher Kevin Stobbe had also hired a videographer to record the trip for his website. I will post a link once completed.

DAY ONE: Over the course of the three days fishing we caught so many walleye my hands were a scarred mess. Day one though was the best day, with a cool wind blowing up a substantial walleye chop. This only made the fish hungrier and we found some large walleye on rock/sand ridge that extended off an island into the main lake basin. It was here we caught our largest walleye of the trip, one that measured 69 centimetres. Since this lake is on the east side of Lake Winnipeg it falls in the slot size restricted region of which all walleye between 45 and 70 centimetres must be released. That is also another reason why the population of adult fish remains so high.  We fished out of sixteen foot aluminum boats with 15 horsepower four stroke Yamaha motors. These boats covered the lake at a good rate of speed and were very quiet. I also brought along my Humminbird 899 which had built in GPS. While I couldn’t get it to read at top speed because of the transducer setup, it worked magic out there finding the fish.
One of the top spots we found was a rocky ride off a shoreline point that dropped into 80 feet of water. The bigger walleyes were stacked off the end of the point the first day we found it. We caught and released some of our larger walleye here.

DAY TWO: We kept changing up partners every day, which was fun. I did have a bit of a technical issue on the second day as my portable battery went dead an hour into the fishing day. We had brought in a generator to recharge stuff, but my battery didn’t seem to want to hold much of a charge. This did limit our success a bit, especially when searching for new areas. Still, we managed another solid day on the water.
DAY THREE: With the fish finder back up and running we headed west to try some new areas. We found a great narrowed down area between two islands that had some scattered cabbage weed on a sand bottom. Here we found the walleye in about 22 feet of water. By anchoring, we were able to catch a number of nice fish as they moved through this flush area.

In the afternoon we fished another large flat that extended out to the main lake basin. It had a large area of water in the 18 to 23 foot range. By slowly drifting and back trolling with jigs and live bait rigs, we caught some real nice fish including a jumbo bass that measured 19.5 inches…a great way to finish off the trip.
Big Echo also has a good pike population but we didn’t spend much time looking for them. The walleye were shoreline orientated in three to nine metres of water. The most productive areas were shoreline points and saddle areas between islands. We caught the majority on jigs and leeches or night crawlers
Our three days was over way too soon but it was a trip I would recommend to anyone. It’s very reasonably priced because of the short flight and the fishing is top quality. This outpost is one of the busiest that Shaun owns and booking well in advance is a real good idea. You can check out his website at www.jacksonslodge.com





Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Crappie time in the Whiteshell

Ever fished for crappies in Manitoba?  More and more people are realizing that this species should be added to their list of species to target in this province.
Many lakes in the Whiteshell region of this province are now home to impressive populations of this popular gamefish. 






I can remember vividly to this day the great time we had on Caddy Lake ten years ago when I took my daughter out for a day on the water. She caught a massive 15 inch fish that is still the highlight of her fishing career.

When I got an offer from Robert Howe this spring to fish this chain of lakes I jumped at the chance. Launching at the campground, we had a chance to fish Caddy, as well as North and South Cross Lake, all of which have great populations of this fish. While it took us about three hours to find our fish crappie, when we did it was worth the wait. This fish were staging along weedlines, getting ready to spawn. By throwing small jigs tipped with a small Berkley Gulp or Power Bait, we caught a number of fish, some extremely large. We also caught some bonus pike and walleye, just a really enjoyable day on the water. Spring and fall are usually the easiest time to contact these fish but they can be caught all year long.





Monday, June 8, 2015

Cats on the move!



High, fast, dirty water along with some cold temperatures this past weekend might have scared some anglers away from the Red River, but it didn’t stop the mighty channel catfish to go on a feeding frenzy. Jeff and Nicolas Connelly had arrived in town Friday to go after these tremendous sportfish with me on Saturday and a little cold weather wasn’t going to spoil the party. Jeff had arranged the trip to celebrate Nicolas turning sixteen years of age and a day catfishing with me was one of the presents. Neither had caught a catfish before so this was to be a special day. As we arrived to launch the boat at Selkirk Park Conservation staff were there with one of the Zebra Mussel decontamination units.  After a quick discussion we told them we looked forward to getting the boat sprayed down after our day on the water. Unfortunately when we got off the water at 4 p.m. they had already left for the day. Jeff, who is the President of the Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement Group, and myself were both surprised and disappointed that they would have packed up and left when the majority of the anglers were still on the water. This will not help stop the spread of Zebra Mussels, who have been found under a dock in Selkirk.

NON STOP ACTION
As we headed upriver towards Lockport Jeff and Nicolas were impressed with the beautiful homes that dotted the shoreline. On our first two stops we caught one catfish, then headed up close to the locks themselves. After anchoring and checking out the action around us, Jeff and Nicolas both noticed a number of carp and catfish surfacing in one small area about one hundred yards away. That was the trigger for me to move the boat over and anchor just up from the main activity so we could get our baits back to these fish. As we anchored we noticed that the current speed was slower than any spot we had tried previous. As it turned out we were on the edge of the little back eddy, were two different streams of current came together behind us. Bingo, we had found the money hole. For the rest of the day we caught trophy catfish after trophy catfish all on pieces of cut up sucker meat. We had started with five ounces of weight and this particular area we could downsize to four ounces. We also could lengthen our snells a bit, from about 10 inches to 12 inches. We also did not lose one weight to snags, and I can’t remember the last time that happened.

As the day wore on the sun warmed the air and the catfish just continued to get more active. After it was all said and done, Nicolas and Jeff had a trip they won’t soon forget. So get out there, the catfish are biting!
Part Four- Minnitaki Lake
Our final half day in Sioux Lookout was to be spent trolling in hopes of catching a trophy lake trout.  Ben Beattie really enjoys this challenge, knowing that on a good day, one or two fish is tops. We boated away from the main dock at Moosehorn Lodge at 7:14 that morning across Lost Lake to the entrance of Minnitaki Lake. This large body of water has a myriad of bays plus some large stretches of main lake basin, ideal habitat for lake trout to grow big.
This lake also holds some good smallmouth bass and a great population of walleye. As Ben pulled up to shoreline point, we started get our gear ready. On the inside rod, he hooked up a blue and white # 13 jointed Rapala. Jim Price got the middle rod going with a #7 Flicker Shad. Meantime I decided to go with a deep diver, a Rebel red headed woodpecker. Ben and I both used side planners to get our baits away from the boat. After four and a half hours of fishing we landed two pike and one walleye, but none of the big lake trout we were after. We did have one bite though that was probably a laker. Still when you are hunting trophy fish this is what you can expect.

IN SUMMARY:  Jim and I really enjoyed our five days this country. We were amazed with the amount of water available in one small area. It would take a life time to explore all of this water. In talking to Ben Beattie, he explained that is why he moved here from a high pressure job in southern Ontario.

Moosehorn Lodge is one of two lodges in the region that supply full time guides. And these guys are good, some of the best guides I have ever talked to. They fish full time, are knowledgeable and passionate. These guys will get you on fish or point you in the right direction.
The food and accommodation was also outstanding. Moosehorn has nine standalone cabins that accommodate any size of party. They also have top quality rental equipment if you want to strike out on your own.

For more information contact them at www.canadafish.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lost Lake smallmouth with Ben Beattie

Part Three, Ben Beattie and Lost Lake

 Ben with a nice walleye caught dead sticking
Day four finally saw us meet up with Ben Beattie, muskie fisherman extraordinaire and a darn good outdoor writer. Ben has been guiding out of Moosehorn Lodge for seven years, with a waiting clientele to book his services. We arranged this trip so we could work around Ben’s schedule but unfortunately none when the muskie season was open. So on this day we were going to try our luck on walleye, bass and pike on Lost Lake, a small body of water just south of Lac Seul but connected by water. The day started out dead flat calm, not the best conditions for catching walleye, or most fish for that matter. After a slow morning, Jim and I convinced Ben we should try for some smallmouth bass. We headed back to a shallow bay, a spawning area for the smallies.
 Jim with first jumbo
After working a couple shoreline points we had two smallmouth in the boat, not an overly productive pattern so far. We then tried pike fishing for a bit, with just a couple small fish to show. Ben was scratching his head a bit, trying to figure out the next move when the wind started to blow in earnest. Both Jim and I knew that given the direction, those fish in that back bay might start to go now that a good chop was blowing in along the shoreline were we had caught the smallmouth and some small walleye. As soon as we got there, I knew the conditions were right!
I was pitching a 1/16 ounce plain lead head jig tipped with an Impulse brown ribbon jig leech, tipped with a medium live minnow. While I caught a few fish on the straight jig leech, the addition of a live minnow really got the bite on the go.
We started pitching our jigs right next to shore, hooking fish after fish including jumbo smallies, some decent walleye and a few pike for good measure.

All were gorging themselves on mayfly larvae that had been moving to shallow water because of the hot weather. This shallow pattern for the second day in a row, once again provided some great springtime fishing action.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Big Vermillion Lake

Sioux Narrows Part Two

Day three promised more great weather, but this time the wind was to be a factor in fishing success and location.  After some discussion with the guides at Moosehorn Lodge, Jim and I decided we would trailer the boat to Big Vermillion Lake. This was only a short hop from the lodge, one of many lakes in the region that hold multi species. On this particular day we wanted to try for the lake trout that swim everywhere in this relatively large and deep body of water. Since the surface water temperature was only about 46 Fahrenheit in the main lake we figured the trout would be at all depths. Still, we wanted to let the fish tell us what they wanted so we started out shallow, working bays next to deeper water.

Jim was long lining a #7 Flicker Shad in the minnow colour and I was using a side planner which behind trailed a # 9 original floating Rapala, also in the minnow colour. It didn’t take long before we had our first fish, this time on Jim’s rod.
Our next fish hit on a rocky shoreline point, but unfortunately I was in the middle of a bathroom break and couldn’t react in time. As we headed to a set of narrows that accessed the main lake, Jim started marking quite a few fish in 22 feet.  We decided to start trolling the back side of the narrows, an area that was seeing some nice current flush from a strengthening west wind. Bam, a bigger fish had just slammed my lure again, and this time it stayed hooked up.  Okay, Jim it’s one/one!  We spent a half hour in this area, with two more decent sized lakers landed.


As we wended our way through the narrows, the wind continued to increase in intensity until we were dealing with a 40 kilometre an hour breeze. As it turns out, this wind was to be our friend. We had decided to try fishing a long narrow, shallow bay on the south end of the lake. We had been told from the guides that this bay held a ton of smallmouth at certain times of the year. As we headed into the start of the bay, we continued to troll but I had changed over to the new Shadow Rap from Rapala.
 Shadow Rap caught everything
This was the first time I had tried the lure, and it wasn’t in the water two minutes before it caught a fish. Surprise, surprise it was a beautiful lake trout caught in seven feet of water! Talk about fight, this thing ran all over the place in the shallow water. This was to be the start of a great pattern as we landed seven lake trout from this bay, all in water less than eight feet. With the wind howling, these fish were not spooked by the boat and many of the fish hit with a short 50 feet of line out. We also managed a perch and two healthy pike from this area but nary a smallmouth to be found. No matter, this incredible lake trout fishing more than made up for it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sioux Lookout Part One

In my 36 years in the sport fishing industry I have sampled a lot of water and heard about a lot of great fisheries. So when Hooked Magazine contributor and guide Ben Beattie talked to me about coming and fishing Lac Seul and area I  didn’t have to think twice before I agreed. Lac Seul is noted for its gargantuan muskies, some of the largest in the world. Linda Rice owns the record for the largest muskie ever caught by a woman, an incredible 57 inch fish that was estimated to be 57 pounds.
 Linda Rice with the replica of her record setting catch
She also happens to own Moosehorn Lodge on the shores of Pelican Lake, with the town of Sioux Narrows a five minute boat ride away. When friend Jim Price I arrived Thursday afternoon after the five hour drive from Winnipeg, we were greeted by a friendly staff who immediately got us checked into one of the nine guest cabins on the property. Down below was a long dock that housed the camp boats and one house boat. Soon Jim and I were unpacked and launching the boat for a tour around Pelican Lake itself. This was to be the first of five lakes we were to fish in the next four days of our visit.


 Getting ready to trail to Hudson and a day on Lac Suel
Day Two of our journey saw us trailering the boat down to Hudson to launch and head up to Bear Narrows, situated at the very northeast corner of massive Lac Seul. It was a thirty five mile boat ride that took us through back channels, current areas and expanses of open water. Our guide for the day, Dan, was a veteran of 25 years on this lake, so we had no problem finding our way up to the area we wanted to fish. Bear Narrows and area was close to the major spawning grounds of the Lac Seul walleye and most of the camp boats in the area were to fish this section during the last two weeks in May. We headed to a sandbar that jutted out into the lake off of one of the many islands in this section. Lac Seul is a reservoir that stretches some 614 kilometres, big water with some big fish.
We started out by drifting the bar, just to cover some area to see were the largest concentration of fish might be. Once we caught more than one fish, we would drop anchor and fan cast the area in water from four to 12 feet in depth. Using light jigs tipped with lively minnows, we spent almost five hours working this one area with pretty much nonstop action.
Dan landed the longest fish, probably about 27 inches, while Jim caught one pretty close to that. In order to give our jigging arms a rest we headed to shore and enjoyed some fresh walleye for lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day so after lunch we once again dropped anchor to enjoy the fast walleye action that Lac Seul is noted for. All too soon it was time to head back down lake.