As winter drags on in frozen Manitoba, if you want to fish in this part of the world, it will probably be through an ice hole.
Many anglers from southern Manitoba have been making the trip up to northern Manitoba to fish as the season in most sections of the province remains open until May 1.
If you're planning a trip to Cedar Lake or Reed Lake, you better bring a snowmobile and friends in case of mechanical breakdowns. It's still winter up north with lots of snow on the ice and tough conditions to get around. Clearwater Lake at The Pas has been very good for lake trout this month and is always a fun trip at this time of the year.
Stocked trout water remains open all year round and in past years, we have always included a one-day excursion to Barbe Lake as part of the tour. Walleye fishing on the Saskatchewan River should also be included as part of the tour.
Winter conditions prevailed as we headed out to Northwestern Ontario last Friday in search of whitefish. Shoal Lake was still frozen solid, but warm days the previous week had produced a lot of slush under a hard upper crust of snow. Luckily we fished on a day that did not get above zero and the crust remained hard, allowing us fairly smooth travel.
The major ice road was still in decent shape, so we were able to drive five kilometres out onto the lake. After unloading the snow machine and other equipment, my GPS got us pointed south toward the main body of this huge lake. In the past, we have the best luck for whitefish out toward the main basin and the myriad of islands that dot the entrance to it. After another five-kilometre trek south, we started fishing a shoreline drop off in 12 metres of water. I managed one beautiful whitefish in the first ten minutes, but after that things got quite awful on our flashers, so we quickly packed up and moved down the lake to an area we had fished in the past. Finding 17 metres of water, I quickly had on another whitefish, this one racing off the bottom to swallow my Lindy Techni-Glo Flyer. For the next couple of hours, the action was consistent, with fish showing constantly on our flashers.
Pete Hiebert had switched over to a small, white glow jig tipped with a pearl two-inch Gulp grub. He would drop the 1/8-ounce jig to the bottom and raise it slightly. If he saw a fish come up off the bottom, he would keep reeling it up to see if the fish would chase. The whitefish would usually take the small jig six metres off the bottom.
I tried a variety of different techniques, but the arrival of a cold front and snow really turned down the activity level of the fish. We fished into the evening but had virtually no bites the last three hours of the day. While it was one of the slower ice fishing days we have had on this lake, it was certainly the most peaceful. We had the whole lake to ourselves other than three seagulls and four eagles keeping an eye on us. The stillness and lack of noise was special.