Friday, January 29, 2016

Fish of a lifetime from Lake of the Prairies

 It has been a bit of a different year out on the ice. We didn’t get any decent ice until a recent cold snap, then snow, the warm weather again…yikes. While I have been out on Lake Winnipeg twice in the last week, it is pretty tough to get around in a vehicle out there right now. For true mobility it’s either snowmachine or Sno
 Susan Geres with her trophy
Bear.
Not many will be able to match the story that Susan Geres has been able to tell over the last month since she caught her fish of a lifetime. Geres, and husband Roger are avid anglers, who live in Langenburg, Saskatchewan.  Roger works at the potash mine nearby. Since it is shift work, the two of them spent almost every spare moment fishing. Since they live a reasonable drive from Lake of the Prairies that is their favourite destination. This winter Susan Geres says they were disappointed with the late start to the ice fishing season because of the warm temperatures. She also believes it changed location of the walleye in the reservoir. Many of their traditional spots were not producing so since the cold spell they have spent a lot of time moving around trying to find fish. Finally they found a spot with some fish activity.
 “We were in about 25-26 feet of water using my favourite hooks, (I love PK Flutterfish). We were seeing a little more action on the Marcum LX-7 than normal for this year. We had caught a few that were small but then a big mark showed up”
Geres got that fish to hit but missed it. She quickly reeled up and put another half a minnow on. “I let it down and touched bottom lifted up and bang he's back!”
With this big fish now hooked up on six pound test, Susan called her husband over to help land this monster. When I talked to Roger on the phone, he mentioned that he didn’t want to tell his wife how big the fish really was in case she panicked.
When she finally saw the fish down the hole, she almost fainted. Roger got the fish on the ice though and the rest is history
“We just looked at each other like it wasn't real and I almost started crying I was so happy! We couldn't believe how big it was! We have seen big fish in pictures but this is the biggest we've ever seen in real life.

The fish was caught later in the afternoon when the activity level on the reservoir usually picks up. The fish measured out at 79 centimetres (31 inches) with a weight of 6.12 kilograms or 13.5 pounds. Both Roger and Susan agonized over whether to keep the fish or not. Roger knows how valuable this fish is in the gene pool and he says they always release the large fish. However, with this one as a fish of a lifetime they decided to get it mounted.
I mentioned to Roger the work of Paul Janz at Flexfish. He does some of the best replica work anywhere and I explained I had three replica mounts from him that I use in my school presentations. They are incredibly lifelike and have plastic fins and a soft texture to the skin.
Check them out at www.flexfish.ca

          Cynthia Nerbas, who works for Asessippi Parkland Tourism says it goes down as one of the largest walleye ever caught on the lake. Nerbas says it will help highlight their big ice fishing event to be held February 27th. For more information visit http://f.asessippiparklandtourism.com/ice-derby.html
Last year a 71 centimetre walleye won the first place prize, which this year is $12, 500.

Long-time friend Ken Kansas, who lived for years on the shores of Lake of the Prairies, says a walleye of this size is fairly rare on this body of water, though big female walleye this size have been caught in the past. Kansas is a biologist with Manitoba Fisheries. Kansas says it is nice to see that this particular fish has a good length to girth ratio. For years the bigger walleye in this lake have been long and skinny but an improved forage base is increasing the number of heavier fish. Don Stokotelny, from Dauphin, has guided on the lake for years, and confirms this probably is the largest walleye caught on the reservoir in a long time. He was well aware of the Geres fishing exploits. These two have caught many big fish on the reservoir, most of them pike. In fact Susan has a 47.5 inch pike to her credit.
Roger says those are pretty big benchmarks to try and beat!




Monday, January 18, 2016

Weathering the storm

Ever been caught out on the ice in a storm? Luckily for me it hasn’t happened that often. In thinking back though, some of my biggest fish through the ice have come when snowflakes are swirling around me.
In the summer, we always take into consideration cold and warm fronts and changes in temperature. In the winter, not so much. Upon review, this is a mistake, because fish are still effected tremendously by changes in weather patterns. Snowstorms in our part of the world also usually mean warmer temperatures to accompany the front. Once the storm is over in 24 hours we mostly have blue bird skies and much colder temperatures. If one can fish during the storm and before the skies clear out, ice fishing action can be tremendous. Fish activity level is definitely higher during storms and warmer temperature fronts. Also if the weather remains stable for long periods of time, the fish settle down in distinct feeding patterns. For example, walleye might be more active early and late in the day if we have a lot of sun accompanied with the stability. If it is overcast and warmer, the action can be good all day long.

I can remember fishing for lake trout in
northwest Ontario during a mini blizzard when I landed my largest lake trout ever. This fish was suspended in 10 metres of water over 30 metres. I barely saw the flash on my Humminbird fish finder as this trout raced in to just smash my jig. Activity level that day was extremely high and the fish were just cruising looking for food. My best perch day ever came a couple of years ago when the lake was shrouded in fog from melting snow and ice. Air temperatures were increasing and the fish were on mission to eat as much as they could. Time of the year can also be a factor, with walleye in natural lakes becoming more inactive during long cold February days, then picking up again from the middle of March onward.
I find this to be a similar cast for lake trout as activity level in early January is high, then slows during February. Lake Winnipeg though, seems to have its own set of rules, though frontal systems definitely have an effect.
I caught my biggest walleye ever through the ice last year when we had unseasonably warm weather in January. A friend and  I were fishing on the south end of the lake in plus two Celsius. The forecast though called for a huge cold front to roll in over the next two days. Both of us knew it was a great time to be out and the fishing didn’t disappoint. Both of us caught our personal best walleye through the ice along with some other really nice walleye. We had been out at first light and packed up to go home at noon before the weather changed too dramatically.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lake Winnipeg Update

Paul Turenne with a diminishing year class walleye
The past three weeks have been close to the busiest and most interesting of my professional career and none of it involved the physical act of fishing. As editor of Hooked Magazine, I was trying to put the finishing touches on some editorial content submitted by some of the most committed anglers and conservationists in this part of the world. This while I was trying to get ready for another ice fishing season.  Other issues were demanding my attention, none bigger than the future of Lake Winnipeg. Like many Manitobans, large lakes in this province hold a special place in our hearts. These include Lake Dauphin (near Dauphin of course,)  Lake Winnipegosis a little further north, Clearwater Lake at The Pas, Lake Manitoba and finally Lake Winnipeg. All have played a vital part in the vibrant history of our province. Unfortunately all of these lakes have faced and will continue to be challenged about sustainability. In a column ten weeks ago I expressed my concern about the skinny walleye I was catching in the Saskatchewan River at Grand Rapids. Since that time a clear picture is finally starting to emerge on how much trouble Lake Winnipeg actually is in. Brian Parker from Manitoba Fisheries stated last week at the Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Conference that the commercial catch on the north end of the lake is down forty per cent. Those are pretty substantial numbers, fueled by the fact that the rainbow smelt population has collapsed in this section of the lake. Smelt, a high protein forage, sustained this massive population of walleye for years. Nobody knows what the end result with be.
The south basin of Lake Winnipeg has a very diverse forage base, so walleye populations have not dropped as dramatically. Still, Brian Parker related at the conference that ice anglers over the last two years have harvested close to 250,000 kilograms of walleye. What it means is that commercial fishing activity along with a dramatic increase in harvest by anglers, has put these walleye stocks in jeopardy.
Part of the problem, relates Parker, is that a number of year classes on the lake are missing because of poor spawning conditions. Right now the future of the walleye fishery in Lake Winnipeg is based almost entirely on the 2011 year class. In a story in today's Winnipeg Free Press Bartley Kives brings us up to date on the latest regarding eco-certification. Check it out at

www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/push-to-eco-certify-big-three-lakes-362756361.html

Our stocked trout lakes have enough safe ice for the most part and with the wild weather it is winter wonderland to be outside. Lake Dauphin has been good at the mouth of the incoming rivers. Up north near Thompson anglers have a bit of ice, enough to angle while walking. Anglers have also been out on the Red River near Selkirk for the last two weeks and they have been catching some nice fish.
St Paul Ice Fishing Show
For the second year in a row I had a chance to head down to the St Paul Ice Fishing show with friend Kevin Stobbe. As usual we were blown away by the new products that cater to ice anglers and the crowds that were on hand to check them out. One of the most impressive new products that I saw was the Eskimo Evo 2 ice fishing tent. It was light, portable and extremely easy to set up. It easily held two anglers, but for me it is the ultimate one person setup.
I also must admit, that I really like the Ion electric auger. This is the future.
Also congratulations to Paul Turenne for running another great MLOA Convention last week. I want to wish everyone a very safe holiday season on the ice and may the big fish bite! Speaking of which, I really want to thank Jeff Gustafson for getting me the biggest largemouth bass of my career this fall. It was the highlight of an outstanding year.


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