Heavy snowfall over the last week has changed access for anglers hoping to go ice fishing on the lakes and rivers of southern Manitoba. In last week's column, I talked about the great access to Lake Manitoba for vehicles, even those with two-wheel drive.
That has all changed with the snow and north wind. Most anglers are using snowmobiles now to get out to the great perch fishing that is available. Four-wheel-drive access is also possible to some degree.
Some of the best walleye fishing in the province has been taking place up on Lake Dauphin. Don Stoknotelny says there has been excellent angling success at the mouths of the Ochre and Valley rivers. Don offers ice-shack rentals on the lake and you can find him through Sticky's Tackle in Dauphin or drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sticky's also has live bait available -- not a bad option when the bite slows a bit.
One of the best ways to trigger inactive fish is to tail-hook a big, live chub. I have personally seen Stoknotelny use this technique with excellent results on Lake Dauphin. I can also remember another successful technique from a trip there 20 years ago to film a episode of The Complete Angler. Bill Griffin caught a couple of larger walleye during the filming using a Rattln' Rap. It wasn't until three years ago while fishing with friend Murray Olfason up at Hecla that I saw once again how deadly this presentation can be through the ice. Murray used the lure almost exclusively that late-March day to catch a number of Lake Winnipeg walleye, including the largest of the day, a massive fish that must have been close to 13 pounds.
The Rattlin' Rap and other lipless crankbaits, like the Salmo Chubby Darter, also work on other species, including some awfully big lake trout. While Murray was using the Rattlin' Rap, I had to improvise because none were to be found at the time in my tackle. Quickly tying on a Chubby Darter, I caught many fish on that presentation, a technique that triggers big, aggressive fish to bite. Sometimes the aggressive flash of a lipless crankbait or jigging spoon will attract fish from a distance.
Though they might not bite this offering, a salted shiner on a small jig on your dead stick might be just the ticket. That's why, when ice fishing, it usually pays to work one rod and let your second line sit. If you can set up your electronics in a portable tent to see both lines, then you can even trigger more bites. That's because if you see a fish come in on your still line, you might be able to trigger a bite by taking it out of the rod holder and give it a twitch.
Speaking of Lake Winnipeg, the water is becoming clear in the main basin. Anglers are starting to pour out all over the lake in anticipation of another great ice-fishing season on the hottest walleye ice-fishing lake in North America.
For those looking to venture out on Lake Winnipeg, I would suggest you try to keep up to date on road conditions at Warner and other access points by surfing the local fishing boards. This is usually a day-to-day problem based on weather and wind, so anglers sharing this type of information becomes vital.
CAJUN PERCH: After cleaning a load of perch last week with my electric knife (yes, it is faster than a regular filleting knife), I cooked up my favourite fish dish.
I coated the perch fillets completely with Club House Cajun fish batter, along with some extra Cajun spice and chili powder. While the sunflower oil was heating on the fry pan with medium-high heat, I let the fillets sit so the batter would set. Dropping in five fillets at a time, I made sure they were golden brown before turning. My family likes them slightly crispy, so I made sure I gave them just a little extra time. Talk about delicious; my mouth waters as I write this.