Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stay late for Trophy Walleye!

Stay late and get Big Fish!

With the ice fishing season winding down in the southern part of the province, many anglers are making arrangements to try the variety of ice fishing opportunities in the northern part of Manitoba. One thing I would suggest is to stay late. 

At this time of the year you will catch the biggest walleye at first or last light if you are fishing clear or water that has any kind of clarity. It doesn't matter if it is a reservoir or a medium sized lake, it pays huge dividends to fish until a half hour after sunset. Usually the bite dies down at this time but not always. That's why it is important to stay somewhere close by or even on the ice!

So plan your trip this year and I have some friends that choose to stay late at this time of year!

Still the best to come!

Russ with a nice one!
Pike fishing gets really exciting in this part of the world in March and for those of you further up north April as well. In Manitoba, northern pike are one of the most sought after trophy fish for anglers from all over the world. Most prefer to try for them in open water but if you want a really big fish, last ice can be the ticket. On this particular day we were fishing a large reservoir with extensive mud flats which averaged about two metres in depth.
After we arrived at the spot we had chosen to fish, two of my friends took a snow machine, sleigh, and auger to drill twelve holes around the perimeter of the guide shack, about fifty metres away. There was method behind their madness because they knew when fishing this shallow how critical it is to spread out and be quiet once you are setup
Resting against the side of a ice shack, the strong March sun warming me, I heard the unmistakable beep of a tip up going off. That’s right, technology is a wonderful thing and the group of anglers I was fishing with this particular day had all the best equipment in their quest to catch trophy pike. This included a wood shack set up on metal runners which allowed quick relocation to the latest hotspot. Inside that shack, there was a workbench, stove and couch, all to make the experience more memorable. What impressed me the most, though, was the wall of tip-ups, all designed to make ice fishing for trophy northern pike as efficient as possible.
They included the latest model, those that had a battery powered beeper that triggered when the flag was tripped. When I heard that buzzer go off, I knew we were in business!

Yes, at this time of year, the big pike are moving towards the back bays to spawn and shallow water troughs are a key place to find them. As the day wore on we landed and released ten nice pike, the largest forty two inches. All were caught on tip-ups, using either ciscoes or Portuguese sardines rigged to sit upright on ultra sharp quick strike rigs.
In shallow water at this time of the year, the tip-ups were the most effective way to cover water.
There are a variety of different tip-ups out on the market right now.
In cold blowing snow conditions it’s nice to work with those that cover the hole, like a HT Enterprises Polar Therm or the new Frabill Arctic Siren that gives off a big beep when a fish takes the line.

Still variety is good and we also had a number of the Frabill Big Foot Classic models that got the job done. Some tip-ups now have an extension for the tip-up flags so you can see them in deep snow. There will be days when all the fish will come on holes that are covered.
For ease of operations when setting up and storing at the end of long day, tie a snap swivel on the end of your Dacron line. You can open this snap swivel to either rig up or break down your quick-strike rig and leader which should have a heavy duty ball bearing swivel on the end. When storing your quick strike rigs using a round tackle tamer like you would for your walleye spinner rigs. This prevents tangle and keeps sharp hooks out of the way. Setting the tip-ups properly is the key to getting bit. If you are fishing deeper water it’s a good idea to have snap- on weight to quickly find bottom, then a bobber stop to allow you to find that depth again. You can also use a split shot if need be. For a leader I prefer Berkley Sevenstrand, just under a metre in length. A long trace is a must to prevent cutoffs when pike roll in the line.
Home made quick strike rig that positions the bait upright
Spring ice fishing for pike with tip-ups can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Give it a try this year but remember to carefully release all those big fish.

Boyd with another one!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Derby huge success!

could not believe the number of anglers that turned out to their event, with 263 adult anglers and 42 junior anglers come out to fish. The horn to signal the start of fishing blasted at 10:00 AM and the finish horn sounded at 2:00 PM. 

During the 4 hours of fishing, they measured 414 fish in total; 57 Walleye, 122 Northern Pike, and 235 Perch.  According to chair Trevor Maguire the higher than expected revenue brought in should allow them to double the size of the current aeration field located in the northern basin for next winter.  The committee would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of our sponsors and hardworking volunteers. 

For more information on the group visit their website at www.healthylake.ca

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pelican Lake is healthy again!

 Pelican Lake, in southwestern Manitoba used to be a Mecca for ice anglers from Manitoba and the northern United States. Jumbo perch were in abundance along with the occasional walleye and pike thrown in for good measure.
PK Predtor
Then around 2005 the lake started to winter kill on a regular basis and all that changed. Residents were concerned about their lake and for years have been trying to figure out the best way to help the lake back to health. A number of different groups were formed over the years with mixed results. Lately though the lake has staged a comeback and anglers are once again flocking to its frozen surface this winter to enjoy some excellent fishing. Many anglers have been accessing the lake at Manhattan Beach which is on the northeastern side of the lake. Jim Price says access is for 4 x4 or snowmobile only. He has been fishing on the end of a point in about 2.7 metres of water. While he has been catching nice perch in the 25 to 27 centimetre range, there has been a few walleye caught as well. Price says dead sticks are not producing at all and suggests sticking to one rod with a small jigging spoon. He says the key is to trigger the bite by working the fish up the water column. He uses a Hummingbird Ice 55 to watch the activity below the ice.   The PK Predator along with the PK Spoon have been producing well, triggering those inactive fish to bite.

A bonus trophy pike from Pelican!

The Pelican Lake Healthy Water and Fish Committee (also called The Healthy Lake Committee) was formed in the fall 2012. One of the group’s main goals was (and is) to determine the most efficient and effective ways to improve the health of Pelican Lake. The lake is not small (7000 acres) but only has an average depth of three metres. In recent years, as mentioned, it has suffered blue green algae blooms, as well as significant fish die-offs. Both of these events have had significant economic impact on the region, thus the formation of the committee. 
Getting the pumps ready for action!

AERATION: After consulting with professionals and doing plenty of research, the group decided aeration of the lake was the best option. With this in mind over the last two years the group has installed a micro-bubbler aeration system consisting of many individual bubbler heads that sit on the bottom of the lake and are connected to an on-shore air supply.  They started out running 8 micro-bubblers through the winter of 2012/2013.  For the winter 2013/2014 they have increased the number of micro-bubblers to 26.   This system will now operate year round, with even further expansion as soon as funding will allow. Through the addition of oxygen with aeration, fewer nutrients will be available for algae blooms. In addition, during the winter months the oxygen added through aeration will help to prevent fish die offs.
Bubbler Units
Trevor McGuire, who chairs this group, is one of the driving forces behind the lake restoration, having spent thousands of hours and dollars to make this initiative a reality. After much time spent on the internet he found a company out of Alberta that specialized in the micro bubbler system. While not designed for such a big lake as Pelican, Maguire says with some experimentation and failures at first, this type of aeration seems to be the answer. A combination of smaller compressors makes the likelihood of a massive failure remote. He says also that the method of dispersion along the floor of the lake, allows for increased oxygen input along with a breakdown of decaying matter on the lake bottom, thus helping to increase water quality. Maguire says it also doesn't hurt that this year the lake has been higher than normal and that the snow cover is a lot less than other parts of the province. All of this has allowed for decent light penetration and increased oxygen levels all over the lake.
Right now all the aeration is taking place on the northern end of the lake but the group hopes to expand the aeration to the southern half of the lake as well, through the formation of a couple more volunteer committees.
Anglers Notes:  The Healthy Lake Committee is holding an ice fishing derby in the northern basin of Pelican Lake on Saturday, March 8. Registration will begin at 8:00 am in the parking lot of Terry Fox Park in Ninette, and fishing will be from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm with prizes to be awarded after that.  Entry fee is $20, and kids 15 and under are free.  For more information about the group and their work visit their website at www.healthylake.ca

Trevor getting ready to lay some pipe

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pointe du Bois is a great destination!

Current accommodations
 Nestled on a small bay at the start of the Winnipeg River at Pointe du Bois, Trail End Camp is a favourite destination by anglers in the know. Not only is the fishing great but the place is affordable, allowing anglers to spend money on bait and boat gas instead of accommodation and frills. And travel you will, with some 60 kilometres of river open to check out and navigate, all of it prime fishing waters as you headquarter out of this extremely comfortable and friendly lodge owned and operated by Vance and Maureen Hrechkosy. Now get this, you are less than two hours to the doorstep of the fishing mecca by vehicle from Winnipeg!
Anybody who has ever visited Pointe du Bois and fished the river above the dam will attest to its rugged and wild nature of both the river and the landscape itself.
 Exploring the river again in 2006

 It’s an area more and more Winnipeggers are becoming aware of.  Once visited and fished, most are back for many more trips to come. There’s only one drawback to this area; most of the angling is from boat.  You don’t have one? Well your in luck, because Trail End Camp will rent you a one or if you want to splurge for a day to get a feel for the river you can hire a seasoned guide to show you the hot spots and cook you a delicious shore lunch.It was in the early 1980’s that I had spent three years navigating this same water as a guide at Eagle Nest Lodge, one of three lodges on the stretch of water above Lamprey to the Ontario border.
Family holiday in 2002!
While known for an abundant walleye population, there are a myriad of back bays on this section of the Winnipeg River. Pretty much all of them hold northern pike at one time of the year. Given the diversity of forage and the amount of cover for these fish, they get big, very big! 

 A number of Master Angler pike are landed during the open water season with some truly monster pike registered in the hard water period, fish in excess of thirty pound or 14 kilograms. Vance Hrechkosy says one of the best times of the year to catch the true monsters of the Winnipeg river is late August when the trophy pike target mooneye as their main forage, using a Mepps Cyclops in a silver pattern. He targets steep banks that drop off into the main river channel and casts and trolls for the monster pike that are trying to corral mooneye in these areas and drive them up against the sharp drop-offs.
 Nice pike are there to be caught
 Another big pike pattern comes to mind at this time of year. Back when guiding at Eagle Nest as the nights cooled off in late August, big pike would also move in bays with deep water in the middle and some deep cabbage growth. They would hunt mooneyes and other forage in these spots as well and an early morning venture into these bays using spoons, buzz baits and big Mepps spinners would produce some tackle busters.  
You can dock your boat!

In comparison to other camps on the river, Hrechkosy says road accessibility really helps cut costs. That, combined with a philosophy that says it’s better to be more affordable and have the camp full all the time. Trail End Camp offers light housekeeping packages where the customers takes care of themselves or if you want a full service package which include all the meals, boats, motors, guides and accommodations. Maureen and Vance have   11 full service cabins, done in pine, with all the comforts of home. Vance started working on the river full time in 1986 and then spent some time in Northern Ontario, returning to the Winnipeg River in 1990 after his family purchased Trails End
 If you can’t afford to own a cottage and you want to go to a remote area of Manitoba head up to Pointe du Bois and give the Winnipeg River a try. Operations like Trail End serve to give the consumer a chance at a first class experience while keeping price in line. Visit them online at www.trailendcamp.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Attracting visitors to enjoy Manitoba's great fishing opportunities!

I had the opportunity to attend the Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Conference last month in Winnipeg to listen to a panel headed by the Manitoba of Chamber President and CEO Chuck Davidson titled “ Getting Tourism on the government’s radar.”  Having worked in the past as Outdoor Product manager for Travel Manitoba even I was surprised at the small amount the province reinvests to promote tourism. Travel Manitoba has a budget in the neighborhood of $7 million a year; a drop in the bucket considering tourism brings in more than 1.4 billion a year. Davidson is advocating more of a reinvestment of this money to reverse the declining number of tourists that come to this province every year. He says that for every dollar spent promoting, the province receives at least $10 in return on investment. Davidson is encouraged by a new tourism campaign announced last month by Travel Manitoba. Colin Ferguson, the organizations President says they will launch the new brand this month, that, he says, should “ inspire a sense of awe in our target audiences and pride in the hearts of all Manitobans. The tourism industry's new catchphrase is "Manitoba: Canada's Heart Beats."

 Davidson says the Chambers job is to work with different stakeholder groups to provide a clear plan to government on how it should reinvest.
Paul Turenne, Executive Director of Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Association, says the influx of anglers  to Manitoba Lodges has a ripple effect on rural communities all over Manitoba and agrees with Davidson that more of a reinvestment would greatly benefit the province overall. We have a number of angling stakeholder groups in Manitoba and it’s time to get these organizations around the table again, so we can be part of the solution.
In conversation with a number of lodge owners over the last two years it’s been Canadian anglers who are now making up a large portion of their clientele, covering for the loss of U.S. business. While not the case for every lodge operator, it seems to be the way of the future. Research verifies that more and more people are coming to fish Manitoba from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. Certainly, I know a lot of people from Winnipeg who book a fly in fishing trip at least once a year.

Angler Notes: I would like to remind everyone that you still have time to nominate Manitoba’s official provincial fish. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity  to nominate a fish you think best represents Manitoba’s fisheries resource to the rest of the world.  We have over 80 native fish species found throughout the province that inhabit our many lakes and rivers.
As chair person of the volunteer committee that will review nominations, I really want to see the votes pour in from all over the province.   The selected fish will be recommended for official adoption as an amendment to The Coat of Arms, Emblems and the Manitoba Tartan Act.
To date, the top 5 fish nominations in no particular order are Lake Sturgeon, Goldeye, Walleye (pickerel), Northern Pike, and Channel Catfish.     
To nominate a fish, please visit www.manitobafisheries.com and provide us with a short fish story on why you think your fish should be Manitoba`s official provincial fish. Nomination deadline is February 1, 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I have received a lot of requests for a shot of the Salmo Chubby Darter setup which I wrote about in one of my Winnipeg Free Press columns.
In keeping with the holiday season I have tried to capture this setup on film with little success.
They keys are using the same size lure and just hooks on the bottom lure....don't jig to hard and you shouldn't have too many tangles...
All the best in 2014!
p.s. don't be afraid to experiment with other lipless crankbaits!
You are only limited by your imagination and your wallet.