Monday, 6 March 2017

Run and Gun Short Form

3:30 AM wake up ..... Check!
2 hour drive ....... Check!
Sled out a mile and a half from shore and drill some holes before the sun is up ..... Check!
Don't catch fish ........ Check!
Watch insanely beautiful sunrise ..... Check!
Don't catch fish ....... Check!
Realize upon daylight that you are surrounded by commercial nets in every direction ....... Check!
Commence running and gunning ....... Check!
Catch fish .......... Check!
Continue running and gunning ......... Check!
Pass piles of pike left on the ice to waste ....... Check!
Catch more fish ......... Check!
Release pike back to the water because leaving them on the ice to rot is just plain ignorant .... Check!
Lose fish ......... Check!
Miss fish ......... Check!
Run and gun some more ...... Check!
Watch wind pick up and fog roll in ........ Check!
Hunker down and set up a base camp ......... Check!
Miss a bite ........ Check!
Set up tip ups ....... Check!
Wait for a flag while waiting for a bite ....... Check!
Land a few eater walleye ......... Check!
Miss a good bite ......... Check!
Get a flag seconds after missing a bite and pull up a 25 inch walleye ....... Check!
Let tip up walleye go to hopefully avoid other anglers/nets until spring for the spawn ...... Check!
Spook a few fish with the wrong jigging cadence ....... Check!
Call it a day earlier than we should have due to long drive home and busy week ahead .... Check!
Navigate safely back to the access point before dark ..... Check!
See 6 hawks within 10 miles on the drive home and think to myself "that seems rather early" ....... Check!

Steady fishing on a Sunny Day

Recently I had the pleasure of getting out with a friend who has taken an interest in all things fishing. He's quick to learn and adapt as well as eager to fish for anything and everything. There really is no better species to start someone off through the ice than the yellow perch, so that was where we would start. It's been a wild winter weather wise this season and at the beginning of our last mild spell we hit a well known reservoir to try for some perch. It is not known for trophy sizes but typically makes up for it in numbers.

With temperatures above zero, shelter and heat weren't needed (although sunscreen would have been a good idea). We set up the shack as a home base and I drilled about a dozen holes in an area around it then we got to work jigging up perch. My first drop down and I hooked in to a feisty pike, I spent the next three minutes fighting it only to have the hook catch on the bottom of the ice and the pike escape. The action was consistent all morning and as lunch rolled around it came to a peak. Dozens of perch were landed with about one in ten being worth the time to fillet.

Will was able to jig up his first northern pike and while it was tiny, it will be an easy one to beat. He was happy with a new species and can't wait to get out and target a larger specimen. The weather was stellar, action steady and a new fisherman is well on his way to developing skill and passion for this great sport.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017


The alarm went off at 3:30 AM. It had been a while since I had woken up that early for fishing. With our coffee in hand and Bearcat in tow, we headed north under clear skies. We have had an unusually warm spell for January and after a few days of sustained melting temperatures and sunlight a front was moving in. Our theory was that the fish would sense the incoming system and be putting on the feed. We arrived at the lake with more than enough time to load up the sled and head out to our predetermined area before the crack of dawn.... WAY MORE than enough time. One bite was missed fishing outside in the darkness and we figured with confidence in our chosen spot and plenty of time before sunrise we should set up the shack and hunker down for the morning bite.
As the sun rose, the clouds moved in from the south. The fish moving through weren't as aggressive as we had hoped, but after downsizing Jay was able to bring a reputable walleye above the ice. With the nice weather still around us and a slow bite beneath, we decided to prospect out deeper. After a few kilometers of sled travel and 3 spots tried all we could find was less optimum water clarity and non aggressive fish. Knowing our initial spot had produced some nice fish over the lunch hour on previous trips, we decided to try near a pressure ridge for a few minutes and if it didn't produce we would go back to our starting spot with more than enough time before lunch.
Water clarity was good where we drilled and we both missed a bite within five minutes of dropping a lure. We decided to set up the shack and put out one tip up each within 20 feet of our doors. On previous trips we had been impressed with the pike action while jigging and this would be our first try with tip ups on this lake. It was around 11 AM when the first flag went and over the next five hours we were more than entertained from the action. We were able to jig up a few more eyes and pike on the rod, even a 20 inch white sucker slammed my spoon. Truthfully though it was the pike action that took the prize. The visual aspect of watching for a flag and seeing the line peel off the reel. The primitive hand over hand of retrieving the line once the hook is set. It's you against the fish and one of my favorite methods of fishing. While January might not necessarily be prime tip up time, the bite was on. The biggest pike topped out a half inch under three feet in length and like all but the few we retained, released with vigor to the cold water below.
We had agreed to stay until dark and we might not have been the last folks off the lake but I am sure we were some of the most satisfied. Our drive home was wet and foggy as the further south we went the more rain we came across. It's not the kind of weather that comes to mind for Manitoba in January but the cold weather is on its way back. The first of what I hope will be many more flags this ice fishing season are behind us and I couldn't have asked for a better day!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

ice season so far

Well it's a few weeks into 2017 and after what felt like forever, winter arrived about six weeks ago. There has been no shortage of snow coming into the new year with a whole winters worth dumped in December over three blizzards. By the middle of December some near by lakes had safe enough ice for walking out so our first trip was to the local lake to shake the cobwebs, test new gear and hopefully catch some fish. I hate to admit it but I hadn't been fishing for over a month at that point. I just wanted to feel a bite on the end of my line and after setting up in the sub zero conditions my first drop of the lure produced my first bite and landed fish of the 2016/17 ice season in Manitoba. It was an average afternoon without anything really picture worthy except for the hilarity of the pack up and trek up the snow covered hill in -30 Celsius.

We were all eager for some walleye fishing with the bonus of a fresh feed or two of fish and it was decided that the Red River would be our next destination. It was to be cold and windy, but that wasn't about to stop us and our insulated shack, two heaters and countless layers of winter clothes. Our plan was to get there early, head to one of our spots, set up and hunker down. When we arrived it was clear the landscape would dictate where we would fish that day. As we walked out past evidence of previous days fishing we came upon some ragged and jagged ice, stretching across the river and no end in sight. After a few hundred feet of it we came across an area not so jagged just big enough to set up on so we drilled through the foot of ice and did just that.

The first few hours the bites were relatively aggressive and action steady however the current was a little stronger than we were used to in this area. Sauger, walleye and goldeye were biting and as the day wore on there were fewer aggressive fish and more tentative or subtle biters. The wind had picked up and somehow it managed to get colder over the lunch hour and into the afternoon with a windchill hovering around -40. We all managed a few nice keepers and were able to release a few greenbacks over two feet in length as well. (We did a repeat of that journey roughly a week later to the same area and found the current to be twice as strong and fishing extremely tough. The amount of debris and dirt in the ice did a number on our auger blades and we agreed that was the last Red River trip for this ice season.)

The most recent two trips were out in search of redemption on Lake Manitoba. After last years lack of success and knowing the capabilities of the lake, there was no better time to haul out the Bearcat and hunt down some fish. Success came with relative ease although the weather and temperatures prevented us from exploring out from our initial spot, it seemed we picked a good one. A few pike were landed off the hop and after a lure change I was able to entice a near by walleye to smash it without warning on the flasher screen. Fish were moving through beneath us and with a bit of convincing more often than not they would bite. We weren't going home hungry ....

Our second time out was similar weather and fishing conditions although the ice had increased by half a foot. (next trip out we will need the extension). We were set up about 20 minutes earlier than the previous trip and were rewarded with 5 nice eyes on the ice within the first hour. A few mid twenty inch fish were caught and released over the lunch hour followed by a couple pike in the early afternoon. We had to head home sooner that we would have liked do to someone who shall remain nameless coming down with food poisoning .....  The fishing wasn't easy but definitely rewarding and it was a pleasure to be out on such a vast frozen lake.

With around 10 weeks to go in the southern division ice season, I think the majority of it will be spent exploring Lake Manitoba in pursuit of the many different species it can offer up with the occasional trip elsewhere for exploring and diversity.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Something to write home about (part 2)

The second nights sleep wasn't filled with trout breaches and epic battles like the previous night and I woke up multiple times in a nightmarish sweat. Day three was a write off as far as fishing was concerned and with an insurance claim filed and the vehicle retrieved the only thing left to do was secure a way home. After explaining our predicament to a good friend back home and making him an offer he couldn't refuse, we had a ride lined up for late in the afternoon on what was to be our fourth and last day on the trip. The sense of relief my wife and I both felt was indescribable to say the least. After a hike through town for some food, the rest of the day was spent in the motel room recovering from the previous days events and trying to get over the shock. Sleep didn't come easy that night and definitely wasn't pleasant, but within 24 hours we were to be home in our own bed.

The next morning was as windy as the previous three, the sky grey and air cool. We still had eight or 9 hours to go before getting picked up and there was no way I could sit in the motel lobby knowing that just over a mile away were trophy trout swimming about. My wife on the other hand was in no mood to sit on shore and quite content to stay behind with her laptop. I packed up a rod, some basic tackle, a few drinks and snacks, layered up in some winter clothes, grabbed a net, kissed my wife and headed off on foot towards the lake, determined as I had ever been to catch a trophy trout.

The following four and a half hours of fishing were nothing short of legendary. A true fisherman's tale unfolded that no one would believe if I told them. I shared the lake with two pairs of herons and a few pairs of ducks but besides that there wasn't a soul around, except those lurking beneath the water. Just me, my fishing rod, some trusted tackle and a net. After catching and releasing two 15 inch rainbows within ten minutes of arriving, I had a feeling I was in for a treat, and boy was I ever! Had the stars had aligned? Was the water temperature just right? Was a shift in the weather on it's way?

Whatever the case, I ended up catching and releasing well over a dozen trout, with five rainbow trout to shore over 20 inches in length. The biggest of those measured a whopping 27 inches and the fight will be forever burned in my memory. The battle went on for a few minutes with multiple breaches throughout as it twisted and thrashed all the way to the net. Ice cold to the touch, after a measurement and a few pictures in the net, it released with vigor back to the weed line. Countless other rainbow trout under 20 inches were caught and released over the session, with more missed takes and lost fish than anyone would believe.

It was one of the hardest bites to walk away from that I have ever experienced, but our ride was near and I had a mile to walk back to the motel. The air was sweeter and the walk almost effortless as I made my way back, thankful to be alive and beyond content with the few hours of steady action and the handful of trophy rainbow trout caught and released.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Something to write home about (part 1)

It was time for my wife and I to finally get away for our annual autumn trout excursion. With family thanksgiving obligations out of the way, we headed northwest an hour before the sun was to rise. We were off to the Duck Mountains and Parklands region of Manitoba for four days of fishing and relaxing and we couldn't wait to get up there. After the beautiful prairie sunrise was behind us, there were plenty of sights along the drive as we watched thousands of geese heading south overhead and dozens of hawks perched on hydro poles or bare trees. The highlight of the wildlife sightings was a young bull moose by the road. We kept our distance, but took more than a few pictures. The traffic was reasonable for a holiday weekend and we arrived at our destination shortly before lunch, ready to fish.

Our plan was to meet up with a friend and do some shore fishing from multiple lakes for the many different species of stocked trout this part of the province offers. Over the 30 minutes of fishing before he arrived, my wife managed to catch and release two rainbow trout under 20 inches in length. The occasional trout would breach in the area we were fishing, so when Justin showed up we agreed to give it an hours fish. With minimal activity over the next 60 minutes and only so many hours of daylight left, we decided to push on to our next destination in pursuit of tiger trout.

Within an hour of fishing the lake my wife and I each hooked into and lost a tiger trout. Both equally acrobatic and wily, they ran for cover and weeds, jumped and thrashed and both managed to get free. Hers clearly dwarfed mine in comparison and appeared to be over two feet in length when it breached the surface. "You gotta lose a couple," was Justin's response to my frustration and I quickly tried to adopt that attitude and got right back to fishing. Justin managed to bring one to shore on the fly and it was a true treat to see a tiger trout again. Knowing we had a few days up that way and had plans to put more time in on the lake in the days ahead, we decided to head off while still having enough daylight to check out a few more lakes.

Trying two more lakes with minimal success (Justin landed a brown trout), we ended up at a lake known for big trout of a few different species. With 45 minutes before dark and the wind in our favour, it was prime time and someone was bound to hook up with a fish. That someone ended up being me. The fish smashed my spoon on the second cast, pulling line with relative ease. My knees were week and excitement was peaking as I worked the fish towards the shore, when we saw it was a pike. Out of all the fish in the lake and the multiple species of trout, a pike had to be the one to hit, I could not believe it.

With darkness on it's way, we took a glance over the weather forecast and a plan was formulated for the following days fishing. As the sun dipped below the horizon, my wife and I headed off to our motel to warm up, eat and get some rest. Sleep came with relative ease, as trout of all different species filled my dreams and expectations were high for the days to come.

Day two began with a similar plan of attack. The weather wasn't to favourable, but with enough layers of clothes we would be fine. A few rainbows were landed in the morning before we headed off to try other lakes with my wife getting a 23.5 inch rainbow trout as the biggest. This area of the province has so many different lakes within relatively close proximity to each other with some having more shore access than others and we were willing to put the time in where and when we could to learn and experiment while trying to land trout of a few different species.
We met up with Justin again and with some driving and hiking, we covered a few lakes and spots, with not much to show for ourselves as far as trophy trout landed. Again I was able to land another pike of all things that had my heart racing as hard as the fight the night before ... until it showed itself. If those pike were trout of any species and similar in length, I would have been ecstatic. Soon after the weather quickly took a turn for the worse and as the temperature hung around zero, some snow had moved in from the north. Before we knew it, the surrounding area was covered in a few inches and it was time to make the long trek back to the vehicles through the forest before the weather got any worse.

We agreed I would get my wife back to the motel and then Justin and I would spend the remainder of the day fishing the local trout lake in town. It's known for big rainbows and browns and a little snow wasn't going to keep me from trying to land a few trophy bows, or was it...
With wet snow still coming down and road conditions deteriorating, we left the lake ten minutes ahead of Justin, it wasn't long after that when our vacation led us somewhere we had not planned. I will spare the details of the accident and just say that we are lucky to be alive and relatively unharmed! Vehicles are replaceable, lives are not. Lucky for us Justin wasn't too far behind and was able to get us and our fishing gear back to our motel safely. With the fishing plans for the next few days now out of the picture, we were just glad to be alive and somewhere safe. Now we had to figure out retrieving the vehicle and finding a way back home, 450 kms away.