With spring still hiding in this part of the world, if you want to fish, it will probably be on hard water. Hardcore anglers from southern Manitoba have been making the trip up to northern Manitoba to fish, as the season in most sections other than the south remains open until May 1.
It's still winter up north, with lots of snow on the ice and tough conditions to get around. Clearwater Lake at The Pas is always a fun trip at this time of the year. On my last trip there, three years ago in late March, I was fishing a shallow bay off the main lake with friend Rick Hubbs. He had great success in this location in past years and attributed it to the wide variety of shallow forage available to marauding lake trout.
We did concentrate, though, on what structure was available -- in this case a shallow reef. We caught lake trout using a variety of techniques, including stationary lines and jigging small spoons tipped with minnows. The lake trout season does not close in Manitoba, and with plenty of ice on the lake, anglers still probably have at least a month to try their luck on Clearwater -- as scary as that sounds!
Another favourite trip of mine at this time of year is to head to Shoal Lake, Ont., to enjoy catching lake whitefish. Over the past few years, we have had the best luck for whitefish out towards the main lake and the myriad of islands that dot the entrance to the main body of water. One of the keys to success is to find areas that drop fairly sharply to deep water; the preferred depth range is around 17 metres. While to some anglers, this might seem fairly deep, it's not to the whitefish. They love to roam the entire water column. Vital to this type of fishing is to use your portable electronics. My Humminbird Ice 55 will show me if there is any activity throughout the water column. Whitefish have no trouble spotting a lure anywhere. I have seen them race up to a lure 10 metres above them. I have also seen them suddenly race down from just under the ice to chase a lure to the bottom. It's dynamic, active fishing that will keep you coming back for more.
Lure selection is not complicated. Pick something with flash when the fish are active and something with finesse when they slow down just a bit. My favourite jigging spoons include a Northland Buckshot Rattle in the quarter-ounce size. If the jigging spoon is not working, a small jig tipped with a small Berkely Power Grub usually gets the job done. Just experiment with presentation and you can usually trigger a bite by getting the fish to chase the bait up the water column. I prefer using a medium-action, 28-inch ice rod spooled with 10-pound test crystal Fireline. I tie on small swivel then add a metre-long piece of fluorocarbon line before adding the lure.
Anglers Notes: Stocked trout water remains open year round, and many anglers have been trying their luck in the Whiteshell on Lyons and Hunt lakes.