Most anglers don’t come to Big Sand Lake for the walleye fishing but for the massive lake trout and pike that swim in its pristine water. On this day Edward and Mark believe the ice has moved out enough for us to access the north end of the Big Sand and the massive bays there that hold some real trophy pike, one called Buskers Bay.
8:05 A.M. As we leave the main dock in front of the lodge, the sun is shining and optimism high. We know if we can get past the ice to the north end we will probably be in for some spectacular fishing. Edward decides that he and the other guide boat will stop at the rapids near the lodge to catch some walleye before heading north. As we are to find out later, this strategy is to cost us dearly. Mark, meantime has pulled into a bay before the rapids and asks if we want to try for pike. I am up for that and on my first three casts with the fly rod, I hook and land three pike. Nice way to start the day. After the action slows, we head around the corner and join the other boats in front of the fast water. I get Mark to situate the boat so I can take some action shots of Larry and his group catching walleye. We then drop back to the end of the pool where we have caught walleye in the past. Mark has a depth finder on this boat and it pays dividends.
9:00 A.M. With our walleye lunch guaranteed, we head north. As we swing out in the main lake, the water looks good. After about ten minutes we turn a corner of the lake and are confronted once again with ice. Oh no! is the collective thought. Mark takes the south side of the shoreline to see if we can get through. Another guide boat is trapped in a bay around the corner, the ice having moved in after a change in wind direction. Since the boats were equipped with two way radios, we checked to see if they were all right. No problem, said the guide, they would wait it out. Another guide boat then pulled in beside us, also extremely disappointed that we were to be denied this section of the lake once again. As we were to find out later, the boats that had headed straight north right away in the morning had hammered big fish in the Busters Bay all day long. Our guides were also extremely frustrated at this turn of events. Cutting our losses we started fishing for lake trout along another sand beach, the boat behind us hooking and landing a thirty eight inch laker. Our luck or lack of continued as we could not get a lake trout to hit one of our baits.
12 Noon It is a subdued crew that gets together for our last shore lunch. We were all bummed out not to get to the famous Buskers Bay. In talking to another guest that had been to the lodge three previous times, he related a day in Buskers when he caught and released seven pike over forty one inches. Watching a couple seagulls balance on a spruce tree perked me up a bit. Then of course we had as much walleye as we could handle, the conversation becoming less animated as we sat content in the boats with bellies full. Life wasn’t so bad after all.
1 P.M. Back on the water we tried trolling for trout for another hour and half with the same result NADA! What do we do now, was the question. We decided to head back and fish around the lodge for pike
4:30 P.M. Enough is enough for the day. Mark steers the boat back towards the main lodge and guess what? The wind has switched back the south blocking our access once again. Yikes what else could go wrong. So it’s back to Airport Bay and another long trek back to the lodge. This time though we take the sand esker ridge trail that overlooks the lake. A spectacular view and good conversation make it all worthwhile.
7 P.M. Steak is on the menu tonight and it is cooked to perfection. Everyone is in a great mood as we all head out together for one last evening of walleye fishing on Katimiwi. As we crowd in the three boats I take the opportunity to go with Edward to find out more about this quiet man who has been such a tremendous guide. Edward had been guiding on the lake for fourteen years while Mark was in his third season. This night Edward recounts the story of a forty eight inch lake trout one of his guests had caught a few years previous. Edwards’s guest fought the fish for forty five minutes and when it was finally boated, this behemoth weighed almost sixty pounds. On a normal year at Big Sand the trophy board is jammed full of trophy size fish. This year is anything but normal for Big Sand with only three weeks booked for fishing guests with a summer that is three weeks late in arriving. Owned by the South Indian Band this lodge provides vital employment for the community. Edward Soulier is concerned for his livelihood. He has a large family and though he traps in the winter, he relies on his guiding to provide part of the income. There is no doubt times are changing in the lodge industry in Manitoba and across the country. A global recession combined with a weakening U.S. dollar has contributed to the decline. All I know is that this is one incredible facility, built atop a huge sand esker overlooking a lake that stretches for seventy miles; big water with big fish. The large spacious cabins stretch on either side of the massive main lodge, built of logs with a deck that snakes down the lake itself. This lodge has a long history of success with the guests like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. We hope it will be around for another twenty years.