Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wow,some nice fish!

 The Magician is a happy camper!
It was still dark when we pulled out onto the frozen surface of Lake Winnipeg off the end of Warner Road off the west side. There were two vehicles in front of us lighting the way, the wet surface gleaming in the reflection of their headlights. I was out this day with The Fishin’ Magician as Brent Kruger likes to call himself. A long time guide out of Kenora, Ontario, Brent now resides in Winnipeg. Our plans were to head by snowmobile along the south shore of the big lake towards the mouth of the mighty Red River. There was one problem, and it was not a small one…massive pressure ridges that jutted out everywhere from the surface of this huge body of water. As we unloaded the machine onto the lake, we could see numerous vehicles heading east trying to find a way across these treacherous ridges. It didn’t help that extremely mild temperatures had widened the cracks with open water along these mounds of ice.
It was plus three Celsius as we wended our way along a ridge, trying to find some way across. Finally after about four kilometres of searching we found a ridge that was solid on both sides. Fifteen minutes later we were drilling holes, breathing a huge sigh of relief that we had made it unscathed. Well, we did tip the machine once, but who was counting! I drilled a number of holes over a decent area so we could cover a bit of ground, the auger still able to just make it through without an extension. Meantime behind us, out in deeper water a steady stream of vehicles and snow machines crawled out near our location. Still we pretty much had this location all to ourselves, a small ridge on a sandbar that varied in depth from 10 to 11 and half feet… a bit depth change in this lake that tends to be pretty flat.
Brent had the first two fish caught on a Rattlin Rapla, then five minutes later we had a double header. While Brent landed his fairly quickly, I knew I had on one of those sumos Lake Winnipeg is famous for. Head shaking and pounding down like only these massive fish can do, Brent scrambled to the side of my hole, ready to help. Finally the head of this beautiful fish poked up the hole. Out she came, dropping eggs as I held her up for some quick pictures. While we were fishing outside this day, we didn’t have to worry about freezing any eyes on these fish with a temperature of plus five Celsius.  That beauty was quickly put back down the hole, ready to lay a couple hundred thousand more eggs come spring.
 First fish of the day!
Now The Magician is a pretty competitive guy, and he didn’t like the fact that I had him beat on the size end of things. He worked hard all morning hoping to get a trophy of his own. After the bite ended at nine a.m., we got on the snow machine and started moving around, trying to re contact the school of fish we had been on early.  We would hop about 400 metres at a time, drilling four holes and watching our electronics for activity. If nothing showed up in fifteen minutes it was time to move on. This went on until about noon without one fish landed. We then decided to head back to our first locale to see if there was still some fish around. Sure enough, not ten minutes later while watching my Humminbird Ice 55 I saw a huge red mark below my lure. Now, I was using a perch coloured Lindy Darter fished about three feet off the bottom. This red mark on my flasher was so big, there was no gap now between the bottom and my bait…..truthfully one of the biggest marks I have ever seen on my flasher. Wham!!! This fish just slammed my bait, with line heading out in a steady pull. Man did this fish feel big, but unfortunately a short time later, she was gone. Man, talk about deflated!  Then fifteen minutes later Brent sees a small twitch on his jigging rod. Picking it up off the ice, the rod bends slightly. Seeing the weight on his jig, Brent slams the hook home. Now, we both knew this was a big fish, so he asked me to go find his Go Pro so he could record the moment. While I went to get it, he started to hyperventilate as the fish started up the hole, with me not back there yet. I started to laugh at him when I arrived back. You see, these were eight inch holes, and this walleye was so huge, it was stuck in the top of the hole with no room for movement. I have never seen a walleye fill a hole like that, so there was certainly no danger of losing this fish!

What a way to end the day…and the Magician was happy since his fish was bigger than mine, and the biggest walleye he has ever caught ice fishing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dealing with the Deep freeze!

A nice eater (Gene Collins photo)

Dealing with the Deep freeze!

Conditions at this time of year can be extremely tough to deal with when temperatures plummet to the -30 Celsius and below range. This year so far, anglers have been able to drive out on Lake Winnipeg with their vehicles. A lack of snow has allowed a pretty free range of access up until one hits an ice ridge. This is where it gets tricky. One angler on Saturday decided to test a soft spot with his foot. When it gave way he lost his balance and plunged into open water up to his armpits. He was able to quickly get out but if he was on his own on a snow machine, there could have been all kinds of complications. That is why you always carry ice picks around your neck, even in mid-winter. And don’t poke at soft ice with your feet!
For those wanting to travel a little farther afield, snowmobile becomes your best option. With a sleigh behind you can cover a lot of ice. Jason Hamilton, who guides on the lake, has a snowmobile plus a Ranger ATV with tracks that is enclosed. When looking after clients this allows mobility within a heated space.
Not a SnoBear but a pretty good option.
Hamilton wrote about how he attacks Lake Winnipeg in the latest edition of Hooked Magazine. Here is an excerpt on how to protect your equipment from the hard knocks that this kind of travel produces:

If it’s inconvenient to move frequently, you created an anchor. The best fishing is usually the last hole you drilled in a given day, since you put the puzzle together.

The auger, especially with an extension is the toughest item to find a home for, but try to keep it all in one piece and in the open. Mounts by Digger, Clam and Koplin offer options for ATV/UTVs and snowmobiles, as do custom fabricated wood and metal units. Ensure the power head is supported to prevent bending the bit.

As I see it the goal is to keep as much of your gear on the vehicle and protected by its suspension. Most icefishing electronics are designed to fit in 2.5 and 5 gallon buckets, which with some padding, make a great way to keep them from rolling around. Action Packers and ATV cargo boxes similarly lined are great options too.

Pulling sleighs and flip over shacks on Lake Winnipeg is a true test of their durability. They bounce, careen and occasionally catch some air on the drifts and ridges. Cheap blue sleeping pads can cushion gear and make a nice mat to keep your feet off the ice. I’ve found that a Big Buddy Heater (with bag) and 20 pound propane tank in a milk crate will wedge between the seats of most two man shacks.”
Check out Jasons blog at

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Recent success on the big lake has been a bit hit or miss. 
 Moving pays off big time with this Lake Winnipeg giant (Gene Collins Photo)
I had two sets of friends out this past Saturday. One group managed to get on a roving school of walleye while the other group never found any large numbers schooled together. That’s why Hamilton and others like him like to drill a bunch of holes until they start marking a lot of baitfish and those big walleye that follow them around!
 Jason and guests in the Ranger!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Great action on the big lake!

It has been a busy week on Lake Winnipeg as anglers take advantage of the warm weather. A couple different groups of friends were out this week, with both reporting excellent action for walleye. Jim Price found a way to get around the pressure ride on the west side near Warner Road to get out to deeper water and away from all the angling pressure. It paid off in spades with a number of nice walleye caught in 13 feet of water. This pattern was repeated yesterday with Gene Collins and friends headed out on snow machine. They landed 30 walleye, the largest 26 inches. Collins says the walleye were jammed full of one inch emerald shiners. Blade baits caught all the bigger fish.


Christmas came a bit early for me last week when I visited with Walter Saganski from Klass Tackle. Walter supplied me with his latest blade baits and given the success Gene Collins had with his….I can hardly wait to start getting into some big fish!
Check out his wild line of blade baits at

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ice reports are rolling in and most are positive!  For those wanting to fish big walleye on Lake Winnipeg, fish are being caught on the west side. Reports seem to indicate things a bit slower on the east side of the lake.
 Sun up on the big lake- Gene Collins Photo!
Ice anglers are driving on at Warner Road, which is just a half mile north of Chalet Beach Road. Conditions are smooth until you get out to the first ice ridge. There are a number of permanent ice shelters out there along the ridge. I was out on Sunday and we had okay success on numbers but no big fish were caught. A week earlier friend Jim Price had caught three master angler walleye.
Those fish didn’t seem to be around a week later. In the morning I caught all my fish except one up high in the water column. I was fishing next to the pressure ride and all the bait fish were high. These walleye would appear on my Humminbird 55 Ice Flasher at about 5 feet over 11 feet of water.  When I saw a little thicker red mark below them, I would reel up my small Rattlin Rapala to their level and give it a couple of subtle twitches. This seemed to do the trick earlier in the morning. When the activity level dropped off, I switched over to a small PK Spoon. Not using any bait, I would trigger bites the same way, just a subtle twitch just above their nose.
 Friend Gene Collins with some big green!

Just a note, from all reports, the action seems to be better in the afternoon. Friends Jim and Jan Collins managed to get over the ice ridge on snow machines a week ago and landed some nice fish, especially later in the day. They were using lipless crankbaits as well, including the Clackin Rap.

I have also been getting good reports from my friends from Carrot River about Tobin
 Boyd Holmen with Tobin Lake eye!
Lake. The walleye fishing has been real good on the big lake in 14 to 22 feet of water. Ice conditions are also good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


 STRYKR Jacket and a big Tobin Lake walleye!

For years I have been searching for raingear that would actually keep me dry. As editor of Hooked Magazine, I have to research new product that I can tell our readership about. I also like to test things out so when I checked the ICAST Awards for this year, I saw that a company I had never heard about won the award for the Best Technical Apparel: Stormr Fusion Bib
 Stormr has experienced exponential growth in the fishing markets over the past two years, owing to its comfort level, impenetrability and feature-rich design. While the original jackets and bibs have quickly found a devoted following among thousands of anglers, the company been inundated with requests for products which harness that same quality, but for use in warmer weather. In response to those requests, STORMR announced the introduction of the Fusion Series Rain-gear. Since I fish in a lot of cold weather conditions I also ordered the original, most weather resistant gear they have.
The STRYKR Jacket is designed to withstand the harshest weather and working environments. It utilizes abrasion-resistant material in high contact areas, along with a fleece lining and PU welded splash proof pockets. The wrists, waist and hood are all adjustable, and internal neoprene cuffs and the form-fitting design make this jacket provide maximum comfort without inhibiting mobility at all. A water-repellent exterior shell, 3M reflective graphics and nearly five pounds of positive buoyancy make this jacket the first choice in foul weather gear for all hard core outdoorsmen who don’t sit by the fire when the nastiest elements prevail.
I had an opportunity to see just how good this gear on my trip to Tobin Lake this fall. I wore it as a base layer under my floater jacket and it proved very comfortable. It kept the warmth in but there was no sweat build up. This product does breathe and with the fleece lining it is warm.
I must warn you though, it takes a little getting used to because of the Neoprene outside shell but this is what makes the product so good. While not inexpensive, this would make any hard core angler or hunter a great Christmas gift.
 Fusion rain gear jacket



STORMR® products use Neoprene Core Technology™ and Fusion VAPR Technology to adapt the benefits generations of divers and surfers have used to defy the elements to land-based and amphibious activities. If you hunt, fish in freshwater or salt, or participate in any outdoor activity that requires superior mobility in harsh environments, no other gear will allow you to remain as flexible in tough conditions as STORMR’s outerwear. Each element of this complete lineup of foul-weather gear provides maximum comfort and maneuverability, as well as huge thermal benefits in a thin, soft, flexible, windproof and waterproof shell. There’s nothing else like them on the market today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ice fishing season is in full swing up north!

 Jim Price fools a Lake Winnipeg fish on a spoon
At the start of every ice fishing season anglers are looking for information that will help them be more successful. The funny thing about all of this, is that in my years in the business, there are many things that have been tried and forgotten only to be reinvented. I can remember fishing for stocked trout on a small gravel pit with a light flutter spoon some 25 years ago.
 Here is that rainbow from the archives!
The slow flutter and drop of this light spoon was a great trigger for these aggressive rainbow trout. Tipped with just a small power egg for scent, these rainbows could not get enough. While this type of presentation doesn’t work at all times, it really comes into its own when fish are on the hunt over large areas, including sand bars and extensive mud flats. It can also be deadly along weed lines. The flash and drop of a light spoon will call fish in from a long distance and even if the fish that come to it don’t commit, they will stay in the area for a little bit. This allows you to catch them on something more subtle, like a stationary bait. That is the beauty of the two rod system allowed during the hard water season which has officially arrived.
 Ruby Eye Wiggler doesn't only catch pike!
This system is also especially effective on Lake Winnipeg. Walleye on the lake tend to be in shallow water early and late in the day, moving to deeper water during the middle daylight hours. Friend Jim Price has been using a light pike spoon for years on Lake Winnipeg with excellent results. You must remember that most of the time on the big lake in the south basin, you are fishing two to five metres of water. A heavy flutter spoon would sink to the bottom too fast, not allowing the fish as much time to track it down. Shape of the flutter spoon can also be a factor as can colour. Silver is always great on Lake Winnipeg and on clear water lakes with high protein forage like ciscoes and tullibees. More and more lure manufactures though are using glow and UV finishes. This can really shine in thick ice conditions or low light conditions early and late in the day.
Put some light flutter spoons in your tackle pack this year and you won’t be disappointed! By the way, they work for all species of fish including lake trout, rainbow, walleye and pike.

 "Bro" and Gussy tell it like it is at the St. Paul Show!
Ice fishing has experienced the biggest growth of any part of the sport fishing industry over the last ten years. I had an opportunity last week to experience just how much as I headed down to the St Paul Ice Fishing Show. That’s right, a fully dedicated show with hundreds of booths just for the ice angler. Given that here in Manitoba, we have some of the best ice fishing on the planet, we might do a little bit more to promote and service this incredible opportunity. I recently had an opportunity to talk to Jason Hamilton, who is a full time ice fishing guide on Lake Winnipeg.  A member of the CLAM Pro Staff team, this American company has been sending clients his way for years. He is one of a growing group of ambitious anglers that are exploring the opportunities year round. During the summer Jason manages Scott Lake Lodge in northern Saskatchewan. You can find out more about Jason Hamilton on his website at

 Jason Hamilton having some fun!
Hamilton was one of the guest speakers at the St. Paul show, a testament to his knowledge about Lake Winnipeg and the growth of the ice fishing industry in this part of the world.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Angling heaven- late season green!

 Pete with a nice one!
When I saw the weather forecast for Thursday this week, I knew I had to get out to Traverse Bay for some greenback walleye. Word on the street had anglers heading up from as far away as South Dakota to get in on a late season bite. Friend Pete Hiebert and I arrived at the boat launch just after 8:30 in the morning and there were already a number of boats launched. As we had driven up that morning the wind was gusting from the northwest, the worst possible direction for Traverse Bay. Once on the river though, the wind had already diminished, the forecast were for light winds until evening. So away we went, arriving ten minutes later at the mouth of the river as it enters Lake Winnipeg. This was my first trip to Pine Falls and area this year but I have been fishing the system for close to 40 years. A friend of mine had indicated that the majority of the walleye were being caught in about 12-14 feet of water along the main river channel as it heads out in the bay. Slowly driving the boat out through the mouth we started to notice a marked difference in water clarity the further out in the bay we went. I told Pete we needed to head back to clearer water to check out if we could mark some fish. Sure enough has we headed a bit back south, we started to mark large schools of baitfish in 15 feet of water. There was only one other boat in this year area and while they were catching fish nonstop, they were all small, less than eighteen inches from what we could tell.  We had anchored about 400 yards from them on a little extended point on the side flat of the channel. In no time we started to catch fish after fish, the largest a chunky 28 incher
that Pete brought to the boat. I had caught two red zone fish early and that continued on for the next couple of hours. Pete also lost two really good fish, stubborn headshaking walleye that managed to shake the hook. We were both vertical jigging with nice salted shiners from Nate’s Baits.
It sure made a difference in our size of fish caught. We were using large to extra large salted shiners and these big fish were just hammering them.
 Now this is fun!

As is usually the case activity level changed during the day. By eleven o’clock we were still catching fish but I landed eight in a row using the rod holder. All the bites in this time frame were non existant. You knew you had a fish on when the rod tip didn’t come back up after as dip with the wave action. Around one o’clock that bite changed again and Pete started catching them on a bit heavier jig with an aggressive lift and drop. I don’t know about you but I love catching walleye this way and it turned out to be a great day on the water!