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!

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.