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.