Monday, May 11, 2015

Persse Lake Part Three

It was noon when Ryan Suffron and I decided to load up the boat from Laurie and head west back towards the edge of the Duck Mountains to Persse Lake. Located just to the east of Twin Lakes, the 132 acre lake was fully developed in 2010 to include a road, parking lot, launch area and hydro right of way. An aerator building is on site and this equipment keeps the lake alive during the long Manitoba winters.
This lake has a large population of both brown and brook trout. According to Suffron, because of a massive forage base, fish in this lake sometimes get lockjaw.
 Ryan working the shoreline
One thing he has learnt over the last three years fishing here is to fish a little deeper than most people would normally try. He says that’s because this lake has some great structure that will hold large pockets of fish.
 Ryan's box of flies...simple but effective
This is an electric motor only lake and only one fish can be kept and it must be under 18 inches. After launching the boat, we started to shoreline cast to a couple of fish we saw rising in amongst the flooded timber. Unfortunately Ryan broke off a big fish right after we got there, a bad omen for the afternoon.
On our second drift in a bit deeper water, a nice brown trout took my blue leech pattern. It was out in about 14 feet of water on the edge of a transition line between hard and soft bottom. After working the east shoreline for a couple of hours we moved over to a mud flat on the western side to try for brook trout. Immediately the fish finder lit up with large schools of fish holding from 11 to 17 feet on the side of the huge flat. We were out of the wind in this spot so Ryan slowly moved us in and out along the break with his back troll motor. We tried working all sections of the water column, but couldn’t land a fish. By four p.m a huge storm was seen on the horizon. We knew it  was time to leave.
 The deptfinder shows fish, now to catch them.
Persse Lake can be a tough puzzle to unlock, both with a large forage base and stained water. Managed by FLIPPR it should be a trophy lake for years to come.

Ryan rigging for the afternoon

To visit the FLIPPR website and information on Persse, click on

 Tools of the trade

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Duck Mountain Trophy Browns

Laurie Lake- Part Two

I had deliberately delayed my ride home a day so I could get a chance to fish with Ryan Suffron of Alpine Country Outfitters. Working out of his home south of Benito at the base of the Duck Mountains has allowed Ryan to become an expert on the different trout species that exist out his back door.  Funny, but on this day, he too wanted a crack at the big brown trout that exist in Laurie Lake. In fact the Manitoba length record brown of 31 inches comes from this beautiful lake.
Ryan fishes out of 16 foot aluminum boat that will launch into most of the lakes in the region. It’s also equipped with front and back troll motors which allow him to make sure to abide by the electric only rules that apply to a number of lakes in the region. So when you hire Ryan, you know that you will be fishing in comfort.
What impressed me as the day went along was how Ryan read the water and controlled his boat in the wind and with the wind. When the fish are in shallow he likes to cast but when the fish are along the first drop off like they were on this day, he uses a reverse drift to present our dropper fly rigs to the deeper fish. On this day we marked most of the fish along a 12 foot transition line from harder to softer bottom. By letting our flies drift down behind the boat we were able to cover all depth ranges with a very subtle presentation.

As luck would have it, I had on the first brown of the day, a large fished that wallowed to the surface from 14 feet before throwing the hook. Not to be discouraged Ryan quickly got the boat back up to the top of the drift and this time I made no mistake, hooking and landing a beautiful 22 inch brown.

After a couple more drifts with no takes Ryan took us into a flush area between the mainland and an island. On the one side of the island Ryan backed us into the wind.  Tick, tick, wham was the bite on Ryan’s small back fly, a blue leech pattern.
Another big brown was on the end of the line, with Ryan guiding the fish from side to side during the fight with his 10 foot fly rod.  Around and around the boat this fish went, finally sliding into the waiting net. Another trophy brown was in the boat, a classic story from the Duck Mountians.
For more information on Ryan and his fly fishing guide service, visit his website at:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Master Browns Part One
Yours truly with a chunky brown

It had been a number of years since my last visit to the Duck Mountains in west central Manitoba. This past week that all changed when I spent five days in the region. I was on a speaking tour to six schools in the Swan Valley region as part of a Stewards for the Resource program sponsored by Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement Inc.  I travelled up from Winnipeg on the Saturday to participate in their annual banquet and fish fry in the community centre in Swan River. The next morning it was a day fishing with friend Duane Whyte and local angler Brian Hunter.  Both these individuals spend a lot of time chasing the trophy fish that exist in this region of the world.  The day previous Brian had caught some Master Angler brown trout from Laurie Lake, so it was an easy decision to return. I had never fished Laurie so I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the boat launch. 
This was a lot of fun!

The lake was surrounded by pine trees, with water the colour of the Caribbean, a beautiful aqua marine. Man, I thought even if we don’t catch a fish this was going to be fun. After launching Brian’s small aluminum boat we headed down the shore line to the east. Duane Whyte had the first hit a short time later but the fish didn’t stick around. 

 Duane with the first brown trout of the day

Ten minutes later Whytey  had the first fish to the boat, a small lake trout that was kept for supper. We then fished a small bay that had some wind blowing into it. This was going to prove the hotspot, producing both brown and lake trout. While we tried other spots, this shallow bay with two extended points held the active fish this day. While Duane caught the first three fish, including a 20.5 inch brown, I got hot later in the day with a 24.5, 22.5 brown along with a nice lake trout.  All in all we boated seven fish, a productive day on this tough to fish lake. All were caught on a #9 black and white floating Rapala that dove to about six feet with a 100 feet of line out. All the fish were caught along shallow shorelines. Special thanks to Brian Hunter who did a great job controlling the boat in tough windy conditions.  Hunter guided us all day without a line in the water, just the kind of unselfish guy he is…much appreciated Brian!
 Brian Hunter cradles a beautiful 27 inch fish he caught the next day

That was not going to be the case when I returned to the lake three days later.

More in Part Two!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shore Fishing!

Shore fishing 101!!!
Part One
By Don Lamont

How did you get your fishing start!  Was it out of a boat?  Chances are pretty good that it wasn’t but rather from shore. Did you know that the majority of anglers that fish in North America fish from shore? In a recent interview with James Lindner from the Angling Edge television show, he told me that 52 per cent of the angling effort in this hemisphere is indeed along the shoreline. Lindner is just developing a pilot series that will highlight this huge part of the industry. Brent Jakobson, who manages the Fishin Hole in Winnipeg, is one of those in the sport fishing industry who understands what drives sales in his store. He says the majority don’t own a boat and are constantly on the lookout for equipment and information that will help them be successful without the necessity of actually being out on the water.
As a youngster, one of my most memorable experiences came fishing for perch from a dock in the Turtle Mountains. I was mesmerized by the huge schools of small striped creatures that swam in the crystal clear water below. But it wasn't until 18 years later that I had the chance to again feel that excitement.
My next start in fishing came from shore near to the Diefenbaker Bridge in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. My apartment was situated on the south shore of this incredible river but the best fishing, with the least snags, was on the sandbar on the north side of the river, just east of the bridge. So every morning before I went to work, I would grab my pail and fishing rod to head across the bridge to try my luck. It was the second year in my stay in this northern Saskatchewan community that things changed for ever. I had read fishing magazines all winter, evening subscribing to Fishing Facts, an American publication. A weight, called a Gapen Bait Walker had arrived, and teamed up with a pickerel rig, it was to change my destiny. It was the opening day of fishing season, 1980, when my life changed for ever. On the third cast my pickerel rig stopped dead in the water as I tried to bring it back to shore. Suddenly this snag moved, and I knew I had something very large on the end of the line. As I waded into the water up to the top of my rubber boats, I suddenly saw the fish. It was a huge walleye!! I nearly had a heart attack and being by myself, I was not sure how I was going to land it. Luckily this fish was tired out and I was able to ease it to shore.
From that day forward, my goal in life was to make fishing a profession. So if you don’t own a boat, do not despair, there are a number of great angling opportunities out there for you.
EQUIPMENT:   Since the majority of customers for Brent Jakobson are shore anglers his inventory in the store reflects that. He has a number of different length rods in all price ranges. He says one of his best sellers is the Berkley Glow Stick that comes in lengths that range from seven to 12 feet in length. He says they are especially popular among shore anglers who fish at night. There are two lights inside the blank that can be turned on to illuminate during low light. They are also composite, which means they can handle heavy loads from big fish or heavy weights. Jakobson also recommends monofilament line for the shore angler. Mono is more abrasion resistant than braid, has more stretch to cushion the shock of big fish and is easier to get off of snags. He recommends Berkley Big Game in HI Vis Green as a top choice.  He also sells a number of combination rigs that already come spooled with line.  Last but not least, he still has one big spincast combo for those who prefer the push button.
Of course if you fish from shore you need rod holders. His store carries five different ones, the most expensive the Berkley Shore angler holder that retails for $21.

Jakobson also tries to get his customers to try slip bobber fishing. He says this is an extremely effective way to catch fish without getting snagged on the bottom. His top recommendation is one called:

“Bobber with a Brain”
Works Any Depth! *** Bobber automatically releases line until the sinker strikes bottom. Then the bobber pivots, locking the line. Baits above the sinker never touch bottom! Bait suspended perfectly for Catfish and Walleye!
Resets! *** As you reel in the bobber, your baits raise with the sinker toward the surface. Stop reeling and your baits are reset of the bottom.  

 Trolling Action! *** Just reeling the bobber in slowly allows your baits to glide along the bottom as if you are trolling from a boat! The faster you reel the further from the bottom you are trolling. Fun, with results when mastered! This method is fantastic for bank fishing, also when anchored or boat drift fishing!  
Vertical Jigging! *** Just a light whipping motion on the rod tip causes the bobber to pivot, thus giving a "dancing and jigging" motion to all baits near bottom. This can be done at any time from the original cat all the way back to shore! Baits will actually jig up and down several inches. Light jig head presentation gives quicker dropping and rising movement to all baits, making even plastic baits look livelier!  
No Line Stopper Needed! *** Only slip bobber that has patented magnetic locking mechanism inside it's chamber. Self pivoting, self locking, it's automatic! This also makes night fishing with a light stick a breeze!
Bonus: When reeling in this bobber, bait and sinker rise quickly toward the surface, this feature makes snags nearly obsolete.

In our next segment, we gather more information to to make you a better shore angler.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Harrop Lake Outpost- Spring is just around the corner!

Hard to believe but in 32 years of full time fishing, including the making of a 156 episodes of The Complete Angler television show I had never been to a fly-in outpost camp. I guess call me spoiled but when we did our visits it was always the American plan five star plan. So when I agreed to host a trip for five people to Harrop Lake Outpost as part of a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause, I had no idea what to expect. Owned by Jacksons Lodges and Outposts, this camp was an hour and fifteen minute float plane ride from the docks of Adventure Air at Lac du Bonnet. Located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, Harrop Lake is part of the Pigeon River system, a fact that contributes to the excellent fishing for pike and walleye all season long. I have done a lot of work with Shaun Jackson over the years, including visiting his lodge on Amphibian Lake a few years back.

Shaun and his father Bob have been involved in the lodge industry for a number of years now and have steadily built a mini empire. While Bob prefers to stay and host anglers at Harrop Lake these days, Shaun is busy flying and dealing with a myriad of guests that visit one of the 20 outpost camps they now run.
Since I really had no idea of what to expect upon arrival I had done some homework in advance. Trina, who runs the bookings let me know what the camp had and didn’t have. This is important for novice trip goers to these remote locations to understand. First of all, most camps do not have fish finders on their boats. Packed on this trip was my Humminbird and portable battery pack and charger. Second, I made sure to bring along a portable rod holder to make trolling a much easier proposition. Ever tried holding your rod, handling a tiller motor in wind while netting your buddies fish? Well if you have, you’ll know what I am talking about. Most of the other stuff is common sense but if you value your rods and reels, make sure you have cases for both!
THE TRIP:   After quickly loading the Turbo Otter, we were off on our three day adventure. Most of the guys had been on a fly in trip before, but the excitement of new water always turns on the juices. As we swooped into the dock, we were met by Warren who quickly had us to our big luxurious cabin that slept eight.

We were a bit overwhelmed by the accommodations. This cabin had a built-in deck with dining table, as well as a huge dining table in the main building plus a deck with two barbeques and a deep fryer.  Since at an outpost you are responsible for your own meals, we were amazed how well equipped the kitchen was. It had every pot, pan and utensil needed plus a few more. There were two fridges and a freezer full of bagged ice. Not only that but the generator that powered the camp ran 24 hours…and believe me that is relatively rare even at five star camps. This was the lap of luxury, plus you could make up your schedule and fish as long as you wanted.
Speaking of which, in no time flat I was down to my 16 foot Lund getting it set up to my liking. We only had to fish two to a boat which meant lots of room and didn’t over tax the 15 horsepower four stroke Yamaha outboard.

Harrop is a medium sized lake which meant we could explore almost every corner fairly quickly. I don’t know about you, but this is maximum adrenaline time, when you first head out on new water!
Two other American anglers had flown in with us so I struck up a conversation with them. It turns out they had been to Harrop on three previous trips. They quickly passed out some tips on where to start fishing, which happened to be just five minutes from camp As it turns out it took us a little bit of time to find some fish, and then a bit more to get them to bite. We ended up in a small river that was connecting a huge shallow bay to the main lake. As I motored along, I found some deeper holes at the corners, water in the 12 foot range. Sure enough, I started marking fish on my depth finder. Putting the boat in neutral my partner and I started getting hits, then landing fish, mostly walleye.

Lo and behold this boat also had a good anchor! Now, again this is somewhat of a rarity and speaks of the attention to detail that Bob and Shaun Jackson put it into their camps. Soon all three boats were fishing in the same area, catching enough fish to make things exciting. Over the course of the next three days we caught a variety of fish, including a massive tullibee caught while jigging for walleye and fat yellow perch. Northern pike were everywhere while the walleye were using narrowed down areas that had rock rip rap bottom. This would make sense given that they were just in the process of spawning.

The biggest pike of the trip was caught tight to shore using a small yellow and red Williams Wabler but a lot of the northerns were grouped in among the walleye so you never knew what you would end up with on your line. Overall it was a great trip, at a camp that had all the feel of a full American plan lodge.

For more information on the different lakes you can try with Jacksons visit their website at

Saturday, March 21, 2015

SnoBear Migration 2015

An incredibly strong March sun was beaming down on the frozen surface of Lake Winnipeg as hundreds of vehicles streamed out to experience some of the best angling for trophy walleye in the world. Watching all of this and standing beside me was Bob Izumi, Canada’s most famous angler. We were taking part in an event called the “SnoBear Migration”. Izumi was totally impressed by the angling effort that was taking place before his very eyes. With easy access onto the lake via Warner Road on the southwest corner, many anglers were in four wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles or All-Terrain Vehicles.  Not Bob and I though, we were going to hop in one of the 35 SnoBears that had made the trip here from all over North America.
 Bob and Don getting ready for a great day of fishing
While Izumi owns his own machine, I was going join Mario Nozzarella, the head of distribution out of Fargo, North Dakota. I had first met Nozzarella at the St Paul Ice Fishing Show before Christmas. He was sitting in his Special Edition SnoBear, outlining the improvements his production team had made to these recreational vehicles over the last couple of years. They were first introduced in 2006 and since that time, these machines have grown steadily in popularity, despite a fairly hefty price tag.  Friend Kevin Stobbe and I spent an hour talking to him at that show about these unique vehicles. Mario also invited us to the Migration, held out of the community of Gimli, the middle of March. Now the day had come and we were looking forward to this adventure first hand.
We got a bit of late start that morning as Nozzarella lined up a number of the SnoBears for a group photo, an impressive sight to say the least. Soon SnoBears were heading out to their fishing spots in all directions. In our group was SnoBear owner Ron Balzer in his custom 2016 model.  Painted like a tiger in orange and white with a head on the front cover, this was easily the most distinguishable vehicle on the lake.  Balzer, a long-time owner of a SnoBear had decided to buy the company in 2011 and move it the next level. Balzer is from Regina, Saskatchewan and he also looks after the Canadian distribution.

Heading north from Warner Road, we had to find a place to get across a huge pressure ridge that limited access for those anglers in traditional vehicles. Not so for a SnoBear. We just eased over the ice ridge on our way to the middle of the lake. Nozzarella had also put me in the driver’s seat of his $100,000 vehicle, a totally amazing experience.  The day before I had been out on the lake with a couple of friends in a big four wheel drive truck. While we were able to get around somewhat, we got stuck once, and access to many areas was not guaranteed.
Not so with SnoBear, which just glided over snow ridges and large areas of slush with ease. With a cruising speed of 33 kilometres an hour it didn’t take long to get to our fishing area, a distance of about 15 kilometres from the landing.  We also didn’t have to worry about straying off course, even with me driving, because a huge GPS Map by Hummingbird was mounted on the dash.  Nozzarella was relating to me how this unit had saved him more than once on the big lake when gale force winds had whipped up the snow to an almost complete whiteout.  That’s why the SnoBear group loves coming to Lake Winnipeg. Its huge expanse allows the machines to shine. Really, this is the ultimate ice fishing machine, which allows you mobility and comfort in minus forty degree weather and whiteouts.
As we pulled up to our ice fishing destination Mario instructed me to put the nose of the machine into the sun. He says this allows the heat of the sun to penetrate the cab, adding a degree of radiant heat. All these units, though, have a forced air propane heater along with a thermostat to control interior temperature.
One question I always had with these machines is how to you drill the holes in the ice to line up with the four holes in the bottom of the floor of the machine. With Nozzarella now in the driver’s seat, he shifted the machine in low gear, lowered the hydraulic suspension and drove back and forth in a straight line to make marks with his tracks. Taking off the plastic hole covers, he then back the machine over the area he wanted to fish, marking the  four holes with a bit of his soft drink.  He then drove the machine forward and got out to drill the holes. Once completed, he then drove the machine back over the holes until they lined up. Finally, in order to keep the heat in, he inserted white plastic tubes down the holes of the machine to the augered ice holes. Talk about slick!  In each corner of the vehicle he had mounted a flasher unit. Once set up he dropped down the transducers into two of the holes and he was ready to fish.  And catch fish this man could. Not five minute later he hooked into the first of many walleye caught that day.

Ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg has become a multi-million dollar industry and many locals have begun to offer guided services to the thousands of anglers who are making their way here to have the chance to catch a trophy walleye.

Unless you have experienced it first hand, it’s tough to comprehend the interest there is in this trophy fishery. On the Friday we fished before the Migration, we talked to three guys who had come from Devils Lake North Dakota on their first trip here. They had already caught eight trophy walleye in one day of fishing. All mentioned that while their home lake is noted for its walleye fishing, they knew very few places in the world can offer what we have in our backyard. Let’s enjoy it while we have it and protect it has best we can.

Jumbo Perch in the Shoal Lakes of Manitoba

It was five years ago that I first heard about the fantastic fishing for jumbo perch on this shallow prairie lake. Having to check it out for myself the first perch I caught on East Shoal measured 38.10 centimetres or 15 inches.
I had never seen a perch this big before, never mind landed one.  I knew right away that this was a special lake and since that time the fishing has gone down a bit as more and more anglers make the trip. The important part in all of this is to remember to release those trophy fish. A perch that size is old, probably about ten years of age.
Yellow perch spawn once a year in spring using large schools and shallow areas of a lake or low-current tributary streams. They do not build a redd or nest. Spawning typically takes place at night or in the early morning. Females have the potential to spawn up to eight times in their lifetimes. While East Shoal Lake is relatively shallow, flooding over the last ten years has allowed the perch and pike to thrive and has prevented winter kill because of the improved water levels. North Shoal Lake and West Shoal Lake also have perch, pike and some stocked walleye. All of these lakes can be fished in the summer but access is not easy. A small boat is recommended.

PERCH WATERS; For years East Angling Lake in the Duck Mountains was the place for jumbo perch. The largest perch registered on the all-time Master Angler list is now 42.42 centimetres or 16.7 inches. It was caught by Kate Upton ice fishing in West Shoal Lake which lies a short distance away. All my trips over the last five years have been to East Shoal with access off of Highway 415. There are at least a couple of different ways to get on the lake but this has worked the best for me.

In some bodies of water, spoons and minnow parts work best for perch and in other bodies of water, especially prairie lakes, real small jigs tipped with bloodworms, maggots and shrimp work best. This is a forage preference. Perch in our prairie lakes fatten up on scuds or freshwater shrimp.
On recent trips I have been targeting those fish eating shrimp. Most have been in water less than nine feet so the use of my small tungsten1/16 G-WHOPPER JIG from Bentley fishing has been a perfect fit. It’s molded in the shape of an ice cube and has a “Swarvoski” crystal on the top of its head. This crystal provides a unique flash as it drops weight forward to the bottom. The square shape also allows the jig to rest on the bottom with the hook up. Tipped with a small orange power maggot from Berkley it proved to be deadly in getting big fish to bite.

When fish are scattered, calling them in from a distance can be the key. For that reason I like to use the Lindy Rattl’N Flyer jig. It has a sideways glide action and when dropped will disturb sediment on the bottom. This cloud will attract perch who think other perch are feeding on the bottom. On the last trip I would jig aggressively with five or six drops then hold the jig just off the bottom about a foot. Once I marked a fish I would twitch the bait and lift it to see the reaction of the fish on the Humminbird Ice 55 Flasher. On this day there was no hesitation, that jumbo perch would come up and inhale the bait.