Saturday, 20 February 2016

Winter Suckers So Far

Suckers are one of the last species of fish on my mind during the winter season, I will however spend a few days of open water pursuing a couple different species of them. There are tons of other fish that I would rather try to pattern during our long winter. But after a handful of incidental catches on a few different bodies of water I have begun to slowly put together some pieces and I am now seriously considering attempting a day targeting them through the ice. They fight hard on light gear and each time I have fought one I was positive it was a trophy of whatever I was targeting that day. Don't get me wrong there are tons of more practical species and patterns to target in winter, but there are a few good reasons to try for suckers.
Most catches have happened when targeting perch, crappie or trout on mud flats during cloudy days. All but three have come on one form or another of an insect imitation, from small plastics to hair jigs and flies. The other three were on minnow halves. Winter is not prime time for suckers but all fish have to eat at some point right? Up until the other day the only species of sucker I have caught through the ice were White Suckers and all out of lakes. That all changed on the Red River recently while targeting walleye when a Quillback Sucker inhaled my minnow off the bottom.
So why target suckers when there are so many better winter angling opportunities? Firstly, some of these white suckers have been a good size for pike bait on tip ups and for that matter I have considered hooking one on alive after I've caught it when the lake I am fishing permits it. You couldn't buy a live sucker within 100 kilometers of where I live. Secondly, knowledge is power and the more one can learn about the winter habits of fish the better, as they usually all tie together in one way or another. Thirdly I'm not prejudice and honestly appreciate all species of fish bodies of water have to offer.
I put many roughfish on the back burner during our long winter, one species or another is always in the back of my mind however. From rigging to locations there are so many "less desired species" that I plan ahead for with open water. The 18.5 inch quillback was a BIG highlight of this ice season and I can't wait for the next surprise the Red offers up no matter what the season. I hope for many more incidental catches along with eventful multi species days. You never know what you might learn!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Redemption on the Red 2016

30-50 kmh winds with snow can often limit the options of where and how to fish in Manitoba. Again faced with unfavourable weather we agreed that our best option would be the Red River and a chance at a trophy Greenback. With a few spots that had produced well for us in the past we had the confidence we needed for a hunker down kind of day. We have hit other locations and targeted other species this ice season but this seems to be turning into the season of the walleye for me.

The action was steady all morning and thankfully to our surprise the walleye were out numbering the sauger for once. There were plenty of aggressive marks moving through beneath us and convincing a lot of them to bite was as simple as a lift or a rip with a pause and they would slam it. Most fish were on bottom or near to it but occasionally a big cruising mark around ten feet would show itself.

Again the Red would not disappoint as a few bigger girls were caught before 11 AM at 25, 26 and 27 inches. Each one released to fight another day and all equally appreciated. The time was passing extremely slowly, which is a good thing when the fishing is on fire and often agonizing when it is not. Snow still blowing down and wind from the north like it had been all morning and we continued to catch walleye, sauger and goldeye until just after lunch.

Slow, slow, slow. The wind changed from the north to the south around 1 pm and the snow stopped as well. The bite all together basically shut down with any marks being very neutral or even negative. An hour passed with a few fish caught but it wasn't like the morning and many trucks and sleds were packing up for the day. With one fishing partner feeling less than stellar, moving wasn't really an option and we agreed to stick it out for another hour or so. After a few confidence lures had been tried through the lull, I settled on a flasher jig with the biggest minnow from the tub.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have lost plenty of big walleye fishing the Red River, it's one of the reasons I keep going back. Redemption and the Red go hand and hand with me, and I have learned so much from the river and it's inhabitants. You are not just fighting a fish, often the current and ice are equal adversaries and the big girls use this to their advantage. With more than a few pride shattering lost fish over a handful of trips I knew it was only a matter of time that the stars would align. With not much to show for my jig and minnow near the bottom I raised it up to 10 feet and began subtly jigging and pausing. Within ten minutes a big red mark showed up on my Humminbird Ice 55 screen just below my jigs mark and with a raise and a wiggle I felt the thump, set the hook and felt the weight.

It came up to the bottom of the ice quite easily and then took of on a few short drag pulling runs. Back up to the bottom of the ice and the head shaking started, it did not want to come up. After a good minute and a half of give and take I finally had it lined up and ready to come up through the hole in the 30 inches of ice. Onto the landing mat it went, perfectly proportioned I knew it had to be close to 28 inches and couldn't wait to measure it. It came out at 28.25 and after some pictures it took off with vigor down the ice hole. It was calm through the whole process, almost like it had "been there and done that". Redemption! I wouldn't complain if there was another trip to the Red this winter as it has been worth the drive each time and with the annual ice cutting sure to fire up soon that window is closing.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Slow Going on Lake Manitoba

The Day

Over 6 kilometers hiked.
100 plus pounds of equipment pulled.
Countless pressure ridges and ice heaves.
A dozen commercial nets and piles of carcasses passed in travel.
Roughly 35 holes drilled through 3 feet of ice.
A dozen missed bites.
5 pike, 1 walleye and 1 tulibee landed.

Lessons Learned

I'm not getting any younger.
It's time for a snowmobile.
Don't fish near nets if it can be helped.