Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Don't put the boat away just yet!

 And yes, it was cold!
I don’t usually put my boat away until the end of October. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen this year. Today I headed out on the mighty Red River with a couple of teachers from Kelvin High School. Jon Romu has been the head football coach at Kelvin for a lot of years, running an extremely successful program. His close friend Corey Brown joined the staff at Kelvin last year and has been helping with the program the last couple of years. Corey also knows a bit about basketball and is helping me coach the varsity boys basketball team this year at Kelvin. So it was a natural deal when the both of them asked me to take them out fishing. Fishing this late on the Red is a bit of a different deal. With cold water flows, the better fishing on the Red tends to be north of Selkirk with reduced flows and a bit deeper water. Having said that after trying a couple of spots we found the fish north of Selkirk but in nine to eleven feet of water. We had pretty much non-stop action in the afternoon on saugers and 15 to 18 inch walleyes with a few bigger fish thrown in for good measure.  Jigs were the ticket, and Berkley finesse minnows helped keep the smaller saugers off. While the bite was pretty good, more action along with bigger fish has occurred closer to the lake. “The Cut” which is located two kilometres north of the “End of Main” is still kicking out good fish.

Might not want to put that boat away just yet as temperatures this weekend are looking very good!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Tobin Lake Monster!

Big walleyes continue to roll!

 Ken Barr with a Tobin Lake monster!
As water temperature continue to plummet, big fish are moving into current areas as part of a real late fall run. The Saskatchewan River at Nipawin is finally turning on big time. Friend Boyd Holmen was out Saturday and his friend caught a beast that measured 89 centimetres which means just over 35 inches. WOW! Now that is a pretty special fish. It was caught on a Clackin Rap, (not a jig and minnow as previously reported) near the mouth as the river empties into the reservoir.  I managed to get out to the Red for two half days this past week. 

On Friday we boated two Master Angler walleye with Hooked Published Kevin Stobbe getting one 28 inches while I managed a good fish that was 29.5 inches. Current flow was stronger Friday, and for the first hour it was dragging my anchor. Now that is not easy, because I have a substantial one. Still it worked out well because it pushed us out in the main river channel by Doc Reeds in 18 feet of water. This is where we caught three of our bigger fish. The stronger current had pushed them out tight to the drops on the channel. We once again used fairly heavy jigs to keep contact with the bottom Water temperature had fallen six degrees Fahrenheit since I fished Monday, with a
temperature of 43.6 Fahrenheit. We found the bite quite a bit slower so I am not sure how much longer it will last. At this time of the year I usually make the extra hour drive and head to Pine Falls. It has been really good this fall and usually gets even better at this time of year!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Go time on the mighty Red!

This fish knew how to eat!
It’s almost a week ago that the walleye starting showing up in numbers on the Red River from the main lake to Lockport. While anglers fishing closer to the lake have been having sporadic success for about a month, in the last week those fish have moved up to the traditional areas closer to the locks. Stretches of river like “Doc Reeds”, the Power Plant and the “Miracle Mile” all have a place in Manitoba fishing folklore, legendary over the years for their mind numbing catches of green hued walleye. Some years the run of fish starts in mid-September and lasts until the middle of October when the federal government would open the gates at Lockport for the annual drawn down of water levels in the City of Winnipeg. After much lobbying by a number of user groups, this has changed over the last few years. Now the gates on the locks are opened gradually, allowing for improved water clarity and vastly improved fishing conditions. The result, a run of fish that usually starts a bit later but also lasts later into the fall. I fish this fall run every year and some are better than others. Lately though, it seems the arrival and departure of the fish lasts only about two weeks. So when you hear the fish have arrived you need to be ready to get the boat in the water. Luckily I have a number of friends who keep in constant contact about how the fishing action has been so when I got the word this past weekend I knew it was time.
Monday saw friend Phil Brake and I arrive at the Selkirk boat launch just before noon. By five p.m. we were loading the boat back on the trailer, having had five hours of nonstop fishing action. While the majority of the fish we caught were small saugers, we also caught enough big fish and 16 inch eater size walleyes to make it one day to remember. One of the most popular articles I have on this site is my tips for catching fall walleye on the Red. There is a reason, these tips work!
We headed out from the launch toward the locks, anchoring the boat in fifteen feet of water on the edge of the main river channel. These channel edges funnel moving fish under your boat on a constant basis. By being on the edge, one angler can fish a bit deeper and the other a bit shallower.  It does help to have two anchors to hold the boat sideways in the current without the boat moving too much. Yesterday we only needed one anchor because of a lack of wind, a relatively low current speed.

When the wind did pick up mid-afternoon for a bit, I put down my back troll motor and put it on low. By pointing it out to deeper water, I was able to hold the back of the boat perfectly stationary. This is pretty key if you want to put more fish the boat. Why?  It allows you to present your jig straight behind the boat and fish the jig just off and back to the bottom. How important is that?  Well, it makes the difference between catching a lot of fish and just a few. Also, these big fish on the Red like a heavy jig pounded on the bottom, then lifted up six inches. For whatever reason, it really makes them mad and they just slam the jig. Yesterday, I was using a half ounce Fireball jig hooked with two salted shiner minnows when I caught the biggest fish of the day. It was probably the fattest walleye I have ever caught in my life, with a girth that almost matched its length. I didn’t weigh the fish, but it was heavy!  With the forecast for a bit of rain, then sun and warmer temperatures later in the week, it should be good for a while longer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wrapup at Tobin

 Jim starts the day off with a 32 inch fish
DAY THREE:  With a forecast for heavy winds from the north, we knew we would be in tough on the main lake. So we decided to fish some protected areas.
As it turns out it was a great day with some real nice walleye caught, Jim and friend Jered landed two walleye that measure 32 inches. My largest was 29.5 inches, all caught on jigs tipped with both nightcrawlers and leeches.

It was a satisfying way to end another open water season on Tobin Lake.
Here are some shots from the day.
 Dale catches a beauty on a Shiver Minnow

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The calm before the storm!

 Jimmy bumps up the size later in the day

DAY TWO:  The forecast was for light winds and sunshine on the second day of our trip. As we headed out in the morning, the wind was actually fairly brisk from the northeast, not the best wind on this reservoir.  It certainly seemed to also affect fish activity levels. By noon we had not caught a walleye, though I put a huge Super Shad Rap off the back of my bottom bouncer in order to see if I could catch something large. We were trolling along in about 30 feet of water when I noticed two large marks on the side of the drop. I had been working lure about ten feet up off the bottom for suspended fish, but when I saw those marks I dropped down.
Five seconds later I had a vicious strike and the fight was on. Judging by the way it was fighting I knew it was a decent pike.  Sure enough, the first fish of the day was landed, a decent sized fish that had some damage on its tail. A little while later we Jim hooked up a walleye and I landed another pike in our first doubleheader.
You have to remember on the big reservoir there are still a lot of sunken lumber with standing trees scattered everywhere. It is pretty tough to fish without hooking up and losing gear.
 Captain Boyd with a nice one!

With a bottom bouncer and spinner, if you get hooked up on a tree, you can almost always get it back if you turn the boat around and go back over the snag the other way. Also if three guys are fishing in the boat, the guy in the front has to use a heavier bouncer than the guys in the back to prevent tangling.
Jim with a bit of a tangle!
It is one of the keys in successful trolling for these fish. As the wind dropped in the afternoon and the sun shone, these fish became way more active and we had a real solid finish to the day.

Tomorrow, we find the big fish!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Boyds Tobin Lake Trophy

Hard to imagine a nicer fall than the one we have enjoyed in western Canada this year! Every fall in late October friend Jim Price and I head up to fish Tobin Lake in northern Saskatchewan.  This past year we moved the date to the middle of the month. A few years back we didn’t make it until the first week of November and that was a disaster. The warmest day on the water that year was minus three Celsius. We all agreed that we would do everything in our power to make it a way more enjoyable. So when we arrived October 14th to fish for three days, the forecast was for light winds and highs in the mid-teens. Now that’s more like it!
 This is more like it!
DAY ONE:   We did have some concerns that if we came earlier we might not get a big run of river fish. Well, as it turns out, that was the case. Luckily, with light winds for the most part, we were able to get out to the big lake. Jim and I fish with friend Boyd Holmen and his new Yar-Craft is a treat to fish out. Boyd is a tremendous angler who knows the lake like the back of his hand. We always seem to find fish, no matter where they try to hide. After a twenty minute boat ride we were fishing for walleye out on the north shore of Tobin. While we marked some fish, and had two bites none came to the boat. Our next spot was better but water quality was an issue. While we only caught two walleye, Boyd hooked into a trophy pike, which ran him around in circles for a while.
 Waiting for the bite
We were all  using bottom bouncers and spinners, so Boyd had to be careful not to put too much pressure on this beast. Finally,  I got a net under him. Carefully taking the hook out with the fish in the net in the water, I moved over so Boyd could hold him up for a quick picture and measure. With a solid set of shoulders and big girth this gorgeous fish measured out at 41 inches.  That really was the highlight of our morning!
 Boyd with his trophy pike
Later in the afternoon we found a good school of active walleye in 26 feet of water. By using chartreuse Colorado blades off the back of 2 ounce bottom bouncers we managed to boat a number of solid fish, a great way to end another fun day on Tobin Lake.
 Jim with a solid Tobin Lake walleye

Tomorrow- more walleye and pike action

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Update on Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg Walleye at Risk
How much trouble is Lake Winnipeg really in? I don’t know about you but I have been pretty concerned lately on a number of fronts. First it was provincial fisheries officials telling us that the walleye population is in trouble. Then it was recent reports on the explosion of Zebra Mussels.
 A slim walleye caught at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River and Lake Winnipeg
Let me back up a bit though to last weekend while fishing up at Grand Rapids in the Saskatchewan River as it empties into Lake Winnipeg. What concerned me here was not the number of walleye we caught, which was just crazy by the way, but the shape of the fish. Most all the walleye we caught were very slim, almost like they were starving. I don’t know about you, but in the last 30 years of catching walleye from this lake, fat fish would be the norm. So chunky in fact that there heads were small in proportion to the rest of their body. What has happened to the forage base? What have blue green algae blooms done to affect baitfish populations? It seems in talking to various experts involved with the big lake is that for the north end, rainbow smelt populations have collapsed. A major forage base for these fish is not there anymore and the walleye population in that section of the lake is paying the price. Overall commercial catch numbers have also dropped off the map. Norway House commercial catches are down by 300,000 pounds! In the south basin, whitefish have been moving south to compete for available forage. Whitefish are choking commercial nets and given their only half as valuable as walleye, that’s not a good thing.
Zebra mussels on eye-bolt and rope removed from Lake Winnipeg's south basin.In an effort to prevent the Lake Winnipeg/Red River walleye population from getting depressed, provincial fisheries officials have decided to conduct a sustainability review, which is expected to be completed sometime next year. Bill Galbraith, the commercial fisheries manager for Manitoba, is working on the review in order to establish target mortality rates in order to determine what action, if any, needs to be taken. Mortality rates on the big lake (50%) have many groups concerned about the dramatic downturn in the numbers of walleye available both commercially and to the sport angler. This has not only been caused by commercial fishing but a dramatic increase in sport fishing, especially through the ice. Lake Winnipeg has become known as one of the top places in the world to catch trophy walleye ice fishing, and that pressure is starting to have an impact. Many of my friends who spent countless days on the ice have noticed a marked difference in catch rates based on the decline in numbers over the last two years. Part of the issue also stems from the end of the two major year classes of walleye that sustained the numbers for a long time, the 2001 and 2005 classes. Fisheries officials are hoping a strong 2011 year class can help bring the fishery back.

Now throw in Zebra Mussels and things become pretty crazy. There has been a huge explosion in the population as major colonies are turning up along the beaches on both the west and east side of the lake as well as the Red River and into the north basin.
New studies show that Zebra Mussels will not save Lake Winnipeg from blue-green algae blooms. In fact the opposite is true. Apparently new studies indicate that these little creatures are selective in the kind of algae they eat, spitting out the blue-green, creating even more algae blooms of this toxin.