Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 3

Day 3 had a solid morning of pike and burbot action however in the afternoon they seemed to shut down and had things to do and places to go. They were fairly tight lipped if we were lucky enough to have them inspect our lures. Our host had invited us for some moose burgers that evening so we decided against prospecting and called it a day in time to get back to camp by 630. The food was stellar and company top notch, jokes and stories were shared over the rest of the evening. Jay and I decided against heading back out to fish late so we could get up early and scout new grounds in pursuit of whatever would bite.



Day 4 our plan was to scout out new tree lines and rock piles. Our first spot wasn't too eventful with a few burbot and pike along with a single walleye. So after 40 minutes of fishing our group of four split into pairs and hunted out some new grounds. After a move of a few hundred yards and some more prospecting, Jay and I found an active area. Tom and Dave were off in search of big pike and whitefish about a mile away while we found some deep water adjacent to a winding treeline, lots of rubble and some mudflats. After catching a few fish we thought it best to finally try out our new Otter XT Lodge. The bite was on, camera set up and action consistent! We caught upwards of 40-50 burbot and a few pike with a 3 footer being the biggest.

VERY LARGE whitefish were seen cruising the bottom and circling our offerings. I'm talking like 2 foot plus humpbacked sharks! But getting them to bite would present its own challenges. Jay did hook into one on the trip but lost it on the bottom of the ice. They can be elusive on this lake but have been caught hook and line. There are only so many rods you can have handy when ice fishing for multi species, especially when you are repeatedly landing squirming burbot and the occasional pike over 30 inches. More often than not, by the time my whitefish lures were dropped, they were already gone and the burbot or pike returned.

Part 4 of this adventure will surely make its way to this blog in the future, but that's all for now folks ....

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 2

Day 2 of the trip brought an early rise, quick breakfast and right off the hop,phenomenal fishing. We started right where we left off and it was on fire! Chris brought out a 30 inch TV for the camera and powered it with a battery and generator. It made for some of the most exciting fishing ever! This allowed Jay to use my Marcum camera and boy were we set. We were seeing tons of burbot and the occasional pike roaming through, when early on a big pike showed up on both our screens and without hesitation, smashed Jay's rattle bait. The fight was on and I reeled my line up quickly so as not to get tangled. After about 3 or 4 minutes of fight Chris exclaimed he was pretty sure it was mid 40's and after another 3 minutes of fight, we were absolutely positive it was. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and after one chance at landing it, she bit through the line and was gone.

That's how it goes some times and when you are up at Cedar there is always a chance at a 40 plus inch pike. The camera and water clarity often allow for a good oportunity to judge the size of the fish when close to the lure. Coincidentally we had 4 more chances at excessively large pike through the day all resulting in bite offs. It was a heart wrenching reality. Pictured above is the second tube I lost on the bottom of the lake to the same trophy pike. Her and a friend hung out near by and beneath us for over 10 minutes. We wouldn't see anymore pike over 40 inches on the camera this trip but one member of the group did get on some nice ones in a back bay over the weekend.



We pounded burbot with unbelievable action all day and as the evening approached a nasty white out storm rolled in. As the front of the storm flew over the permie, the wind picked up and the snow began. It was then that I hooked into and caught a nice burbot over 31 inches that made my day. Lucky for us I had our path back to camp plotted on my handheld GPS or we would have had to leave 30 minutes before the big girls came to play to avoid the storm. We again fished well into the night, catching and releasing plenty of burbot while keeping enough for a few meals. The ride back to camp was slow and steady through the winds and snow and by the end of the storm 7 cm of fresh snow had landed. This would make for a treacherous stretch of drive for the rest of the group coming up the next day, but smooth travel on the lake for sleds.


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 1

The time had arrived for what I believe will become an annual trek up to Moak Lodge at Cedar Lake. Just North of the 53rd parallel, it is one of Manitoba's best drive-to fishing destinations and one of my favorite areas to ice fish. Large northern pike, walleye, burbot and whitefish are all found in this flooded reservoir and I had high expectations for getting on some bots.

Our story starts a day before heading north. We acquired a brand new Otter XT Lodge and spent from 4:30 PM to 11:30 PM putting it together, which turns out is quite a process. Pre-drilling holes, installing runners and brackets, bars and arms, fabric, bench and hitch took a lot of time. We also had to run 3 or 4 last minute errands in between said tasks. It was a handful and we agreed we may be leaving a little later than expected. Sleep did not come easy that night as I had been looking forward to our trip for months.

Day 1 involved some more strategic packing and we were on the road shortly before 9 AM with a roughly 5 1/2 hour drive ahead of us. We left the melting snow and flooding ditches in our rear views in eager anticipation of fresh snow in the North. With a stop or two for fuel and trailer checks we arrived at Moak Lodge and Campground by about 3:30 in the afternoon. We were greeted by the owner Chris and he let us know the fish were biting and that he was on his way to move his permies. We unloaded the sleds and vehicle of all our supplies, grabbed a quick snack and headed out to meet up with Chris.

He offered us the use of his heated (luxury) permie and we gladly obliged as it was sitting on some great grounds. He had it set up on the edge of the flooded forest along some rubble and rocks. It was ample fishy structure and with a few prospecting holes and a minor re-positioning of the shack we were on the fish. When we dropped the camera down below we were all very excited with what was directly beneath us on the screen. A spawning ball of burbot, 6 or 7 at least all swirling around in an embrace like I've never seen. These sights are rare I'm sure and with confidence Chris exclaimed we were about to light them up and boy did we ever. A flurry ensued with a handful of burbot landed right off the hop. Their mottled pattern and streamline body is a work of beauty and their ability to coil and curl back down the ice hole makes for an added challenge to land them. Every so often a pair or small pack of pike would emerge from the sunken forest like wolves, they too were almost always eager to bite the lure or the camera.


We were on the fish and had no intentions of heading in until we were out right exhausted. We started fishing at 5 pm and ended up staying until right around midnight and when it was to dark for the camera to work anymore, I switched over to the Humminbird 55. We were consistently marking fish but the bite was a little less aggressive then when the sun was up.

Northern lights danced across the sky from east to west after the darkness took hold and dozens of shooting stars flew by in the south. We had cracked the code for day and night burbot and location was definitely half the battle. I couldn't thank Chris enough for his generosity. Sleep came easy that night and dreams were filled with burbot TV.



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

Flag!!!!


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!