Sunday, 20 May 2018

Opening Day 2018

The day couldn't come soon enough and although our initial plans got a little skewed, we made the best of it. Arriving at the waters edge for daybreak it was one degree below zero. The birds were already awake and active with red-winged blackbirds calling and swooping amongst the dead pencil grass. We weren't the first anglers to reach the shore and luckily for us, there was some space upriver from the small crowd. It's been one of the driest springs on record in Manitoba and because of that, an area of marshy shoreline along the river had somehow caught fire in the weeks past opening up a bit more shore space.

The action was fairly steady for most of the morning with a 28.5-inch freshwater drum being the biggest fish landed. Dozens of drum, a catfish, and a carp or two were caught while bait of all kinds, as well as soft plastics, were getting bites. The action was steady, however by lunch time we had a few boats surrounding us and with the added lures and bait in the vicinity we decided to move on scouting other shore spots and the big lake if needed.

With partial ice cover still on the main lake and all available shore spots on the river taken we decided to push to the Assiniboine River. Water levels there were lower than normal and we were able to find a nice back eddy with a noticeable current edge. We were rewarded with good action as well as some needed shade. Juvenile catfish, stonecats, walleye, and goldeye were caught there, with a couple of heavy fish lost.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Moak Lodge, Cross Bay, Cedar Lake Ice Trip

What a weird and wacky winter this one has been. Insanely cold deep freezes, too much wind for anyone's liking, awkward mild spells and barely any snow in the south. The last week of March had us heading up to Moak Lodge on Cross Bay of Cedar Lake in search of trophy, pike, burbot and whitefish. When we arrived we were greeted with more than enough snow, at least four feet of ice on the lake and a pretty good first day of fishing. However the weather took a turn in the days to come, bringing in 30 - 70 kmh winds for most of the duration of our trip.

With the conditions for prospecting and fishing outside basically nil, we decided to rent Chris's tricked out ice shack. With the wood stove raging and quiet gas generator charging the batteries, we had everything we needed. Not to mention a 32 inch flat screen T.V. to hook the camera up to. My wife definitely approved of this set up and was more than willing to put in some time while we all tried our luck. While the weather had seemed to make the fish finicky we still managed to hook into a few good ones, with a couple large pike giving us a run for our money, but none made it ice side.

From the comfort and shelter of the ice shack we saw groups struggle to set up and more than a few pop up shelters were collapsing in on themselves. We even had a group use the ice shack we were in as a wind break. They were even so "kind" as to lift my snowmobile out of their way and set up ten feet from us.

While the weather and fishing left something to be desired, there were a few notable fish caught including my wife's first burbot at 29 inches. (pictured on the right) There was also a nice 23.5 inch whitefish that comes with quite a story .....

This reservoir is known for trophy whitefish and many were seen on the camera throughout our trip, getting them to bite was a different story. Often the whitefish swim by a foot or two off the bottom with minimal interest in lures or bait and they are BIG! These fish don't attain this size by being dumb and many the presentation gets snubbed. Occasionally a feeder cruises by and cleans up the minnow pieces that have fallen off lures, it's then that the best chance to hook into a beastly Cedar Lake whitefish is had. But one needs to be prepared and have a bit of luck on their side ....

Our group had decided to set up a rig for whitefish while fishing in the ice shack and take turns keeping an eye on the rod and camera screen. A small hook was stuffed inside a minnow chunk and dropped to the bottom among a few other pieces. The idea is when a feeding whitefish comes along, the piece with the hook hidden inside gets sucked up and the fight is on. When it was my 15 minute shift at the whitefish rod, no more than five minutes had passed when one showed up. This one was hugging the bottom and eagerly sucked up three pieces of minnow but not the one with the hook. This fish continued to swim around beneath us inspecting lures and sucking up other minnow chunks while completely avoiding the one with the buried hook...

When my time was up at the whitefish rod, I quickly dropped down a minnow piece with a hook buried in it tied on to my ultra light rod with two pound test line. I had the rod along in case we were going for tulibee, which Cedar is also known to crank out trophies of. I wouldn't recommend using such a light set up for these giant whitefish but I had landed a few upper 30's incidental pike while perch fishing in the past so I had the confidence needed if I was to hook up. My minnow piece slowly sunk down through the water column, each second of descent feeling like an eternity. Luckily the whitefish was still around and right as my minnow piece hit the bottom, the fish zoomed over and sucked it up. The fight was on and the battle that followed was one I won't soon forget. The fish had weight and tenacity, pulling drag at will and after a few minutes I was able to get the upper hand. After some tense moments right under the ice, I was able to guide it up the hole and Frodo landed it with care.

With a cabin booked up that way for the end of June, it looks like the next crack at Cedar Lake will be in the open water season. There are still a few weeks left of ice fishing up north but it looks like schedules and life might not allow me one more chance on the ice this season.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Bees in the Shack

One of my favorite winter destinations in Manitoba is the Whiteshell Provincial Park in our eastern region. With a plethora of lakes to fish and species to target, one could never get bored. We found ourselves out that way braving the cold recently in search of tulibee and were rewarded with a day of stellar action and trophy class fish.

The sky was dark and littered with stars and the roads were bare and empty. It was 3:30 in the morning and we were on our way northeast for a day of fishing. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful moon rise as well as some faint northern lights and although the wake up was early, it already seemed worth it. After a cold start with the snowmobiles, we were on our way to our predetermined spot and were the first anglers out on the lake.

The first hour of daylight provided us with steady action. The small offerings tied to our lines were not easily refused at first and the fights that followed on the ultra lite rod and 4 lbs test line were treasured. The biggest bee to the ice came out at 19 inches and the smallest was around 15. A few were retained for meals and the smoker but many more were released to fight another day. While the weather wasn't ideal for running and gunning and seeking out other species, we had put ourselves in a productive area and did not need to change location all day. The bite slowed down over the lunch hour and into the afternoon but we were still lucky enough to mark plenty of fish and entice a few of them to bite.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

It has begun!

November 19th marked our first day on the ice for the 2017/18 ice fishing season and what a start it was... We made it to the edge of the frozen lake with tons of time before daybreak, loaded our sled with gear and began to hike out. We found varying ice thickness ranging from 5 to 12 inches and were fishing with 45 minutes to go before sunrise. It was a quiet and chilly morning with no one in sight and fishing line was icing up within minutes. My beard was well on its way to a beardcicle so after missing a few bites and marking some good fish we decided this was as good a spot as any to set up shop.

The shack was up, heater running and our one tip up each were placed within sight and walking distance. It was time to jig in comfort and keep an eye on the flags, it was good to be back on the hard water again! Jays first fish on the ice was a snot rocket of a juvenile pike and I then proceeded to miss a few more bites due to my drag loosening with the warmth of the shack. After fixing that up, it was game on! My first three fish of the ice season were some nice eater sized walleye as a small school moved through and a few of them could not resist my spoon and minnow.

About 90 minutes after sunrise the flags slowly began to trip. The first two fish dropped the bait after the initial take but the third time was the charm. As I felt weight and heaved up, the fish was hooked and it didn't feel like a pike. There was no real run and after some head shakes and twists, up came a nice burbot! Tasty!! We wondered if the previous two fish could have been burbot as not a lot of line was taken. While checking the tip ups for bait and chipping out the holes Jay was able to trigger a few bites on the tip ups as well. This was some excellent positive reinforcement for frequent bait checks and hole clearing.

The pike action picked up over lunch followed by more walleye, a few of which had some nasty dermal sarcoma. The pike came on both tip ups and jigging rods, with the biggest being a little over 30 inches. Things slowed down for the afternoon and though we desired to stick it out for the "evening bite" we packed it in with 2 hours to go before sunset. Food for the table, a few good marks and ample space for exploration all sparked desires for a return trip, that I hope won't be too far off.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Thanksfishing Weekend Part 2

We awoke to more wind than anyone would desire to fish in and throughout the day it would blow a steady 40 - 70 kmh. These winds were to continue for the duration of our trip but we were determined to make the best of it. Most spots we tried were a bust in the Duck Mountains and it was down right miserable when fishing out in the open. Luckily the scenery is stellar this time of year and between it and some wildlife sightings it slightly made up for the poor fishing conditions.

We finished our day on the same lakes we started at the previous evening with mixed results. My first cast of a faithful spoon produced a rainbow trout over 20 inches in length and near it's adipose fin was a green tag covered in algae with number 087 on it. It was one of the "Markosky" rainbows stocked this spring! A different strain than the hatchery rainbows that grow faster and larger than their counterpart. A few browns and bows were landed with a spectacularly coloured male brown trout being a highlight of the trip.

Our last full day of fishing was again windy and cold. My wife and I tried a few different lakes in the morning both losing a tiger trout at Twin Lakes and missing a brown trout at another lake near by. She spent the afternoon at the motel, while I met up with a good fishing bud. He proceeded to put on a clinic landing a few browns and rainbows of reputable size, out-fishing me 5-2 with the fly rod. If it wasn't so windy, I had planned for a lesson or two and my first dabble in fly fishing. However the thought of a steady stream of doomed casting attempts in 50 kmh winds didn't appeal to me. I have tons of respect for Justin's skills, knowledge and ability when it comes to fly fishing and can't wait for the time and better conditions to get a lesson or two from him.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Thanksfishing Weekend Part 1

Another year and another trip to the Duck Mountains area of Manitoba has passed. My wife and I were two of the many Canadians on the road over a busy holiday weekend, although we weren't travelling to see family. The sun was shining and wind minimal as we drove the four plus hours northwest through the rolling hills and along side the last of the crops getting harvested. Autumn had arrived and with it come hungry trout....

We arrived at our accommodations for the weekend with a few hours to spare before dark and wasted little time unpacking so as to get to the waters edge as soon as possible. Rainbow and brown trout would be our target for the first session with the two closest lakes being known for cranking out trophies of both. This is due in part to the efforts of many parties, through stocking, aeration, regulation and promotion.

The weather warm and leaves falling all around us, we were greeted with a bit of a foul stench coming from the water which was slightly concerning. The aeration was running as well which I found weird as that is usually only activated in winter. Before we could rig our rods and cast out, we saw two reputable sized trout breach within casting distance. The water was smelly, but at least we knew there were fish around. My first hit came after roughly ten casts of a small Len Thompson spoon and fairly close to shore I might add. Breaching almost instantaneously in the shallow water, it thrashed and dug down only to breach again and shake the hook. It was a brown trout and looked over two feet in length and I was furious as I had it in my head that the fish I just lost was clearly not going to bite again.

My wife was able to bring the first fish of the trip to shore and I got it in our over-sized net with ease. This net makes an excellent "live well" for hook extraction and being able to keep the fish in the water before pictures. A rainbow trout measuring out over 20 inches in length sat in our net and we agreed against pictures as it seemed lethargic and tired from the battle. After a good bit of recuperation it swam off slowly, which is not how trout usually release this time of year.

Shortly after releasing the rainbow I hooked into a decent brown trout that put my gear and I through the gauntlet. It smacked my spoon close to shore like the previous one and peeled off towards the weeds only to rocket out of the water and change course. It was doing everything in it's power to shake the hook loose and I was maintaining tension as best I could. The battle continued with a few more heart stopping breaches and once it was near shore and got sight of the net, off it went again, charging to the depths. It looked a little smaller than the one I lost but still well over 20 inches and after another run, I had her in the net. She measured out at 23 inches and was clearly well fed.

With 2 hours of sunlight to go, we fished on, with many bites and takes missed and a few more trout landed. My wife caught some more feisty rainbow trout and I was able to bring another female brown trout to shore over 20 inches in length. She fought as furiously as the previous one and although light conditions were not ideal for photos, her colours were beautiful. Our first session was a success however the weather was about to change, surely leading to tougher fishing conditions. With two and a half more days to fish, we weren't deterred and formulated a plan to scout around some other lakes the next day.