It was a peaceful late February morning as we headed north through the community of Macdonald in south central Manitoba. Located at the start of the Yellowhead Highway this small town sits below mighty Lake Manitoba. Turning on to Centre Street we followed the bend in the road as it turned in Road 44 W. I was riding with Jim Price and another friend from Portage La Prairie. We were heading out to see if we could catch some of the yellow perch this lake was famous for. Road 44 W was to lead us to the lake, blending in to Road 80 N. Driving another mile we came upon Road 45 W which led into a farmer’s field and out into another field that had been flooded this spring. Frozen now, this field provides access to the lake itself, one of the few places anglers could drive a vehicle on Lake Manitoba. Commerical fisherman in bombardiers had marked the location with a couple of flags so they could find their way off the lake. Christmas trees had also been put up out on the lake itself, however a huge pressure ridge with open water had changed things. Once on the lake we had to drive almost straight west to where the ridge Y’d to get by it. Once past the pressure ridge we headed east just north of the ridge to circumvent some rough ice that made driving uncomfortable. After heading two miles back, we then headed another five miles straight north on the lake to a spot friends of Jim’s had found a week earlier. Jim had marked the spot on his GPS and if we did not have that waypoint along it would have been like finding a needle in the haystack. Was the trip worth it?
If you have never caught nice sized perch on ultra light equipment it would be hard to appreciate the day we had out on the big lake Monday. The sun was shining out of a cloudless sky and temperature hovered around 4 celsius on the ice. In other words, pretty special. While the perch were reluctant to bite , there was enough action to make it a thoroughly enjoyable. When we left at two that afternoon, we had managed a half a pail of nice sized perch, many over the ten inch mark with the largest at 12 ½ inches.
TACTICS: Jim and his friends from Portage have been fishing Lake Manitoba for perch in the winter time for a long long time. Some winters are better than others but all would agree that the fishing is not as good as it once was. When you look on your electronics and see all the fish marking around your hook, you know it is not because the fish population has declined. In fact, everywhere we stopped and drill holes, we marked lots of fish. Commercial anglers believe it is because the lake is jammed with food for the perch and other species like walleye. Judging by my two days fishing this past week I would have to agree. In the end we tried a number of different techniques to get some fish to bite. The first day we caught the majority of the fish on a small jig with a half salted shiner threaded over the hook.
The second time, this was not working at all so I started experimenting with all the different power baits that I had brought along. In the end we started getting the fish to commit on Power honey worms, which I had received a few years back from Berkley. I had them in two colours, white and chartreuse, and both seemed to work.
If you could find any meal worms or euro larvae at your local tackle store you would be in business as well. We also found that both days the fish really started biting around 11 a.m to about 12:30 p.m. By 2 p.m the action was over and we headed home. I was using both two and four pound mono as well as four pound Berkley Nanofil and all worked well. Jim Price was using mono as well. Water depth was fifteen feet and a little bit of stretch in the line didn’t hurt. All the fish we caught were on bottom and you could tease a few to come up and bite the hook a couple feet off the bottom but that was a rarity rather than an exception.
At the end of the second day, I used a small Northlands Buckshot rattle jig tipped with a honey worm to catch some nice perch. Funny thing about all of this, is that they would not hit the bait while jigging but after letting it stand stationary in the rod holder. It just goes to show, that each fishing adventure is different and it pays to experiment to see what will be successful.