Talk about a tough start to the fishing season here in southern Manitoba. A number of lakes were still frozen when the season opened. Some of the big lakes still are.
I was scheduled to go on my first adventure the last two days of the long weekend. Heavy rain and strong winds forced that adventure to be cancelled, but luckily I was able to get out with some friends this past week on Lake of the Woods. While water temperatures in the main lake averaged about 5 C, the back bays were warmer. Since water temperature and current flow is key at this time of year, we looked for areas that had those two criteria. We were rewarded with some post-spawn walleye, some big smallmouth bass and a lot of hungry pike with an accidental lake trout thrown in for good measure.
We patterned mud-bottom bays in two to four metres of water for the walleye during the day but in the evening hit a current area. This proved to be a bonanza, as we landed a number of big walleye on five-inch swim baits, white being the preferred colour. We found the pike staging at the mouths of big bays in about 2.5 metres of water. We had good luck throwing lipless crankbaits for the active fish. Once the action slowed, we went over to swim baits for some bonus fish.
We found the jumbo smallmouth in two to three metres off of rock shorelines adjacent to shallow flats and deeper water. I couldn't believe these fish were taking a five-inch Berkeley Hollow Belly swim bait with a paddle tail.
This is also a great time of year to catch lake trout as they roam the water column looking for food. Most anglers would be surprised how shallow these fish are at this time of year and make the mistake of fishing too deep. One technique overlooked by many anglers is the use of a lipless crankbait like a Rapala Rattlin Rap to search shallow rock piles and flats for scattered schools of fish. Another great option is to use a crankbait that runs in the two-metre range. One that does not have rattles is sometime preferred. I like to use a small Berkley Flicker Shad to cover water and locate schools of shallow fish.
Despite heavy current flows, plenty of channel catfish have been caught in the Red River near Lockport. One of keys to finding and catching these fish is to find slack water areas close to shore. The fish like to get out of the heaviest current to feed.
Despite a tough start to the open water angling season, various groups, schools and clubs in the province have been learning about the sport of fishing at several workshops and outings. The Miles Macdonnell Angling Club will be holding their windup outing on May 30.