Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pine Falls update

For those of us who love to fish late into the fall, the extended weather forecast for this part of the world looks pretty good. Stable temperatures should allow for excellent days on the water. Not only that, but we dodged the snow that has hit other parts of western Canada as well as central and northern Manitoba.
Recent rainfalls though have increased the flow in many of our rivers. The Winnipeg River has some pretty strong current right now which means Lake Winnipeg greenback walleye have moved in to gorge on the abundant food available in the river at this time of the year. You will need to bring a good anchor and some heavier jigs to cope with the situation though.

I made it out on the weekend and the fishing was good, though we didn’t catch any big walleye. The wind was down Sunday morning so we were able to head out to Traverse Bay. We found the walleye to be in be all along the main river channel in 17 to 21 feet of water.  We used the front troll motor to position into the current. Later in the morning when a north wind started to blow, we had to switch around into the wind, which slowed the bite slightly. We did do some trolling on the shallow flats with only one walleye caught. Around noon with a stiff north breeze stirring up some decent white caps, we headed back into the river. We fished only a couple of spots but action was continuous. The walleye seemed to be holding everywhere and all the anglers out there seemed to be catching fish though I didn’t see any big fish landed. Current in the river is strong as mentioned so we ended up using ¾ ounce jigs tipped with shiner minnows.
I would imagine the fishing at Pine Falls will only continue to get better and with a positive long range forecast there should be a few days left on the water.
Dirty water has slowed the walleye bite on the Red River down but there are still some fish in the system.   It’s a very subtle bite as these fish tend to hold onto the bait for a long time before committing. Don’t be afraid to fish shallow in these kind of conditions. The one great thing about the Red is that you never know when you will get that big bite!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Red River is starting to heat up!

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 success for about two weeks, in the last few days with the lousy weather 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”, legendary over the years for their mind numbing catches of green hued walleye.  Over the last few years the run has started a bit later, usually the first week in October. It looks like this year that will be right on the money. 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.  With the Thanksgiving long weekend coming up it should be a busy place.
Make sure you dress warm with cooler temperatures and rain forecast, which should only improve the bite…might be an anchor bite though. Heavy jigs and salted shiners will get the job done.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Waterhen Rivers supply good fall fishing

 Friend Al Beaver with his Manitoba Master Angler!

This great fall weather in southern and central Manitoba recently has been a boon to anglers wanting to get out on the water. On a trip last week to the Waterhen River with a group of friends, we had two days of flat calm and bright sun. Usually this can make the fishing somewhat difficult but with plenty of fast flowing water in both the Waterhen and West Waterhen River the fish were still hungry. Staying at Harvest Lodge, we were only a short drive from both rivers. The lodge is located just south of the town of Waterhen and caters to both anglers and hunters. Having never fished the area, the lodge owner, Jon Warkentin took the time to explain the lay of the land, which included a map of the Waterhen River south. 
Harvest Lodge does rent out boats plus they have two boat launches. 
 Launching just south of the lodge

For larger boats like mine, he recommended that we launch just down the road at another access that he rents for just that purpose. This launch was easy to use with lots of room to park. Navigating the river to avoid some prop damage is another story however.
Jon had warned us about the rocks in the river and after launching it took me about five minutes to hit my first one. This was a valuable lesson early, telling me to just take it easy while travelling. We slowly headed south to mouth of the river, were it empties into Lake Manitoba. Here the main channel was somewhat deeper than the other portions of the river. The current in this section was also very swift, which meant we couldn’t even keep a 3/8 ounce jig to the bottom while anchored. Luckily we could use crankbaits to both cover water and get to the right depth. 
 Don Delorme's Master Angler walleye

We found by trolling Number Seven Flicker Shads into the current, we could get the lure in the fish zone for longer periods of time. Combined with line counter reels, we adjusted the baits so they ran just above the bottom, in this case just over two metres. This was critical in keeping vegetation fouls to a minimum. Bottom bouncers and spinners would also work in this water, as well as drift jigging.
 Tim Reid with a West Waterhen fish
By paying attention to all of these details, we were able to catch a number of beautiful walleye from 60 to 74 centimetres with two fish passing the Master Angler mark from my friends Al Beaver and Don Delorme.  Both were caught on the Golden Shiner pattern that has been a hot lure of mine for four years now. I can remember this lure catching a ton of greenbacks on the Red River three years ago when nothing else was working. 

As the sun slowly dipped, numerous ducks and geese filled the sky in this remote country. Then it was time for some fresh walleye!

On day two we headed north just up the highway on Provincial Road 276 to the Skownan First Nation. Here we stopped at the local gas station and paid our $10 fee per angler to access the boat launch on the West Waterhen.  As we arrived at the river, one other boat was getting ready to back in. Striking up a conversation, the two anglers from Swan River offered advice on where to fish, plus a piece of information that turned out to be critical to our safety. They warned that south of the bridge, just upstream, were two pieces of steel and cement used as ice breaks to protect the bridge.  They offered to wait for us to launch and we followed them between these two dangerous obstructions. Thanks guys for that help!  
 Al with a friend
The West Waterhen is deeper than the Waterhen, so we were able to get the boat on plane after that and head out to the start of the river where it empties out of Lake Winnipegosis. Here we found another boat fishing this expansive area.  By trolling upstream and drifting downstream we soon found that the walleye were stacked in this section. I even caught a nice freshwater drum that put up a great battle.  While we only fished a couple sections of the river, the anglers we talked to said the fishing in most sections was very good.  All in all in was a special trip to a section of Manitoba I had never fished. From Winnipeg we had taken Highway # 6 and after turning on Provincial Road #328 we saw numerous black bears along the way. Just a note, if you don’t want to travel 70 kilometres of gravel, take the Highway north from Ste. Rose du Lac, it is paved all the way up to Waterhen.

 A special trip with a bunch of life long friends from across the country!

ANGLERS NOTES:  While Waterhen Lake is commercially fished, it's one of the two freshwater lakes in the world to be Eco certified.  Commercial fishers on the lake only use gill nets during the winter and closely manage their harvest to make it sustainable.

For those anglers looking for a trip a bit closer to home, the Red River has been relatively quiet so far as far as the greenback walleye run is concerned. In the last few years the run has not started until the first week in October which means anytime now! Pine Falls has been providing pretty consistent fishing over the last two weeks.

Boat Inspections become mandatory in Manitoba


- - -

Travel Authorization May Be Required
To Get Boat to Winter Storage

Manitoba boaters and anyone transporting any watercraft in the province are required by law to pull over and stop at aquatic invasive species (AIS) inspection stations, Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox said today.

“As we near the end of open water season, we ask that Manitobans take extra precaution to ensure they are not transporting aquatic invasive species when moving watercrafts,” said Cox.  “The best and most effective measures to reduce the spread of AIS come from Manitobans taking action to clean, drain and dry their watercraft and other vessels, and dispose of water and bait in a way that does not move unwanted invasive species to another water body.”

It is illegal to possess or transport aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels in Manitoba.  Zebra mussels have been found in Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and Cedar Lake north of Lake Winnipegosis.

Highway inspection stations were recently set up at Grand Rapids, Eriksdale, Swan River, The Pas and the RM of St. Clements.  There is also an inspection station with a decontamination unit at Selkirk Park boat launch and an inspection station, but no decontamination unit, at the St. Vital Park boat launch.

Everyone is required to do their part and ensure that before removing any watercraft from the shore of the water body they:
• inspect watercraft and water-related equipment;
• clean and remove any aquatic plants and AIS from the watercraft, trailer and all water-related equipment;
• drain all water from the watercraft including motor, bilge, bait buckets and any compartments; and
• completely dry all water-related equipment and any hard-to-drain compartments that have contacted the water before it is used in any other body of water.

The province recognizes that as people prepare to move their boats to winter storage it may not be possible to find or remove all zebra mussels before leaving the shore.  In that situation, a transportation authorization can be requested, which will allow the movement of a watercraft that may contain AIS.

Extra measures are required for control zones which are areas where AIS have been found or expected to be spread.  All water-related craft or equipment leaving a control zone water body must be decontaminated before being placed into another water body.  Also, before leaving a control zone, all live bait must be disposed of in the trash.

When transporting watercraft on land, remember the drain plug and all other valves or other devices used to drain water must be removed or left open.  It is the law in Manitoba to clean, drain, dry and dispose.

Boaters can get more information on how to obtain a transportation authorization or to find when the watercraft inspection program is operating by visiting www.manitoba.ca/stopais.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“Check this out guys!’ yelled friend Don Delorme. Quickly moving to the side of the boat to see what all the excitement was about, an amazing scene was being played out in the water below us. Don had hooked a Lake of the Prairie walleye and was in the process of bringing it up the water column, when the afternoon sun illuminated the water to a depth of around two metres.

Wow! A school of big walleye could be seen slashing and swirling at the fish that Don was fighting. Tim Reid, who was in the front of the boat, was the only one who had his jig out of the water. Not for long though. Dropping it down, he immediately hooked one of those fish, another double header of walleye the order of the day.  
This scene has played out many times in my mind since that day a few years ago. It is one of the few times in my fishing career that I have actually seen walleye that competitive that they would come to the side of the boat.

Since that trip, Lake of the Prairies has had its ups and downs. Over the last three years fishing has been “tough” by the lakes usual high standards, with lots of small walleye less than fifteen inches being caught. Constant winter drawdowns have had a negative impact on walleye spawning success. 

Many of our other lakes, rivers and reservoirs have still been producing some great fishing.  Almost all of our rivers in Manitoba continue to be very productive, including the Red and Winnipeg Rivers in the fall time along with the Assiniboine River plus the Whitemud and Saskatchewan.   

Why are rivers so productive in the fall?

 If there is any amount of current flow, many of our baitfish species are attracted. So, for example, there could be a huge run of shiner minnows up from Lake Winnipeg into the Red and Winnipeg rivers, followed by ciscoes, tullibees, and the more and more prevalent lake whitefish. Big walleye, pike, and other top of the line predators like catfish, gorge on these species. Goldeye and mooneye also enter into the equation. The quality of the fall run of greenback walleye is then predicated on the number of forage fish in the system. If there is a lot, then fishing becomes incredible.  For the Red River, there are a couple of other factors that come into play. One is water clarity and the other is current speed. If you have the right combination of both (not too dirty and not too fast) then you some have fishing that is usually lights out. Wind direction also plays a factor in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg. A big north wind for more than one day can pile up water and baitfish in both of these rivers. At mouth of the Winnipeg River in Traverse Bay, you want to be out on this body of water after the wind subsides after long periods of north winds. Out on the shallow rocks piles walleyes will be slashing into huge schools of forage fish that have become disorientated from these winds. I have had many incredible fishing days like this trolling crankbaits in the two metres of water on these rocks.  This is a fall pattern worth noting for almost any body of water that you fish on.

Not all anglers have the equipment or experience to have success trolling but that is not necessary for success. When the fish are scattered certainly trolling helps but in many cases if the angler can find a spot that funnels fish like a river mouth, then anchoring can be the most effective method to present your lure. I have had many great days in the Red and Traverse Bay just jigging behind the boat. This is especially important when it is windy and boat control becomes an issue. Having a really good anchor though is critical to success in bigger water. Traverse Bay can be an extremely tough place to hold anchor when you get on mud bottom. .

Many of our trout stocked trout waters have been dealing with perch and pike infestations lately. Those include Perse, Tokaryk and Pybus in the Parkland region. The fishing for brown trout in Perse is still good though and on Tokaryk you have to deal with both perch and pike. For those interested in big rainbows, West Goose is still solid for brown and rainbow trout while West Blue Lake in the Duck Mountains has been producing brook trout in excess of 61 centimetres. Laurie Lake, a tough lake to fish in the summer, should start to get hot once the weather cools. It holds big brown trout, lake trout and splake.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fall time is mooneye time!

 Ryan Suffron shows how it's done!
As summer starts to wind down fishing usually tends to slow a bit. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year in a number of our lakes, rivers and reservoirs. High water in many parts of our province, including the Whiteshell Provincial Park, has kept many of our freshwater game species in shallower water than usual. In high water years there are some key spots to find species like walleye, smallmouth bass and pike. One of my favourite fishing locations involves two key elements, weed edges and current. When you combine those two, fish will congregate in large numbers. In hot weather both of these provide much needed oxygen for the fish along with some temperature relief. These fish can be using water depths of two to five metres of water and will hit jigs flipped along the edges. It’s a fun way to fish but requires some boat control along with concentration to present your lure properly. When the weather is really warm I love to troll crankbaits into the current areas. This can be incredibly effective in many of our rivers in the province like the Winnipeg River, and the Saskatchewan River at Grand Rapids.  In most cases, fish are not necessarily deep. I can usually get away with a # 7 Flicker Shad either in white or fire tiger colours.
 Grand Rapids walleye
The nice thing about this presentation is the control you have with your lures. By pointing the bow into the current you can work current seams and edges, keeping your lure in the zone for longer periods of time. Many time the fish will either turn to grab the lure or swim up behind. When this happens your lure will get pushed forward before you feel weight.  By presenting your lure this way, you are also reducing snags, especially in areas that have a lot of boulders. With the bill of the crankbait digging down in the current, it will bounce erratically off the rocks, triggering strikes from even inactive fish.
While walleye, pike and bass are the main target species for much of the year, mooneye come into their own from mid-August to mid-September. They are an incredibly fun fish to catch on light tackle or a fly rod.
 Hungry mooneye swallows a leech pattern
These fish are in extremely abundant numbers on the Winnipeg River and I can remember spectacular days catching them when I guided out of Eagle Nest Lodge. Most of the places you find mooneye are not far off of the same areas I have just talked about for walleye and bass. These fish love to form huge schools off the edge of current breaks and back eddies. They will also use bays next to heavy current, especially if the bottom is mud. It’s here you will get a late season caddis fly hatch, a preferred food of these veracious predators. Ever looked into the mouth of the mooneye, or goldeye for that matter, an impressive set of teeth for sure!
One of the best ways to find these fish is by using your eyes. If there is a hatch happening you will see them swirling on the surface, eating as much as possible in the shortest period of time. To avoid breaking up the school, keep your boat a distance away and drift a slip float on the fish rigged with small hook, split shot and piece of crawler. You can also use a small Mepps spinner or small jig rigged with a one inch power grub.  If you are more ambitious yet, try fly fishing for them.
Guide and expert fly fisher Ryan Suffron says be prepared to change depths when the fish are a little more inactive. Perfect conditions include a bright sun, and rising temperatures that trigger a hatch.
If using a fly rod bring two different reels, one with floating line and the other with a sink tip if you need to go deeper to dig them out. I have caught many crappies as well this way by using a fly weighted with a small piece of lead on the head. Try and use a fly that has some marabou on it, so it ripples in the current. One of my favourite looks like a miniature version of jig fly.
Mooneye are spectacular fare to eat when smoked. If you don’t plan on keeping the fish when caught make sure to leave them in the water to release. They are a delicate fish when handled and this will reduce mortality substantially. Mooneye do not have a gold eye, so this is the obvious difference between its cousin, the goldeye.

Sunday, August 7, 2016



We are well into summer now and by all accounts the fishing in most parts has been pretty darn good. I had a busy month with a lot of travel and some awesome angling. This despite unstable weather, rain, wind and intense thunderstorms.
The fish, for the most part, seem unbothered and ready hit anything that might arouse interest.

 Boyds ;spinner blade box!
HOT SUMMER PRESENTATION:   It’s still almost impossible to beat a bottom bouncer and spinner rig for summer walleye and even huge pike. On a recent trip to Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan, friend Boyd Holmen and I caught numerous walleye using this setup. We found the fish on a six metre sand flat scattered with a bit of sand grass and some sunken timber. By using spinners with floats and shorter snells we were able to prevent snags and get the bait in the strike window. The fishing was so good, in one area we had a fish on almost all the time. This presentation allows the angler to cover water, finding the most productive areas. I highly recommend this presentation for the novice anglers as well. It allows you to cover water efficiently and effectively with a minimum of hang ups.  While not as effective when fish are tight on small pieces of structure, it can’t be beat when fishing weedlines, long sand flats, rocky points and other places fish like to hang out when the water gets warmer. It pays to vary trolling speed and size of the spinner blade you might use. I like to use a double hook setup rigged with either a big nightcrawler or one ribbon leech per hook. Use a bottom bouncer heavy enough to keep the bait at a 45 degree angle. Then get ready to hang on for some great summer action.
 Boyd with a nice one!
Over the last few summers more and more anglers are starting to use lures normally found in their ice fishing boxes.  Many are using of a Jigging Rapala for open water fishing. Jeff Gustafson mentioned that the top pros had been using this lure on the walleye circuit for years when nothing else would catch fish. Since that time lots of videos and articles have been written on the subject but I don’t think a lot of anglers in this part of the world have bought in yet. My friends in Saskatchewan have been using a similar lure, the Shiver Minnow, on Last Mountain Lake in the summer and fall to catch big walleye and lots of them. These types of lures work best on sand or gravel bottom which means you won’t be snagging them in rocky boulders all the time.
 Pike like to get in on the action too!

-         In the summer using these lures most of the fish will be in the five to nine metre mark. This also allows you to watch your lure on the depthfinder. It won’t take long to determine if those fish will bite or not.
-         Fish the bait away from the boat at a 60 degree angle
-         Sweep the bait forward two to four feet at a time, then let it nosedive down to the bottom
-         You can cast and retrieve up and down drop-offs as long as there aren’t too many snags
-         It is a reaction bite and fish won’t hit them all the time but when they do you better hold on.
-         Use monofilament line, the stretch factor is needed so the fish don’t shake the hook.
-         Also must have an in-line barrel swivel a couple of feet up from the lure to prevent line twist
-         Lures come in various sizes but a size #7 will get you down to the bottom pretty quick.

I must mention thought, that the right rod is critical in using these type of lures. You want a longer rod, maybe seven feet in length with a soft tip and a medium action. This allows you to keep the fish on once hooked. While the hooks on these lures are super sharp, fish have a tendency to throw the hooks if you put too much pressure on them.