I can't remember a winter when access to our lakes and rivers has been so difficult. Even if you have a snowmobile, access is not always guaranteed.
There are a number of stories of stranded anglers and stuck vehicles, so it really pays this winter to exercise real caution out there. Despite all this, there are fish to be caught. If you can find a mode of transportation that works, anglers are catching walleye on Lake Winnipeg near the mouth of the Red River.
A little further afield, those venturing out on Lake Dauphin are experiencing some tremendous walleye action.
Don (Sticky) Stoknotenly is one of the true fishing legends in the province and dropped me an email last week to bring me up to date on fishing in his region.
Sticky says it's the best ice fishing he has seen ever with all river mouth locations producing some nice-sized walleye.
Anglers are just using a jig and live fathead to entice this aggressive fish to bite. Sticky says if you don't get bite in 10 minutes, just move a few hundred metres.
Pressure cracks across the entire lake are causing problems, and with all the snow, it's tracked vehicles only, with an auger extension a must. You can get a hold of Don for an update on fishing information in the Dauphin region at email@example.com.
For those who do not have a snow machine, there are fish to be caught at Lockport, especially the abundant sauger.
Further afield to the east, winter roads are allowing anglers access to most section of the lake. Many Manitoba anglers have headed that way this winter because of the access issues.
Kevin Siemen spends about 20 days each winter chasing down lake trout on a variety of different lakes in northwestern Ontario.
The biggest laker he has landed so far measured 99 centimetres and was caught on a Buzz Bomb fished very aggressively.
Kevin said the fish just smoked off the bottom and smashed the lure halfway up the water column. Even with a heavy line spooled on a level wind lure, he was in for a tremendous battle. That's the thing about Kevin: he is organized and fishes with the right equipment, so those fish are very releasable.
For three years now, Kevin has been using big baits to attract lakers, then a more natural presentation like a white tube jig to get the fish to bite.
He particularly likes oversized tube jigs made by Musky Innovations. The big one is a 14" walleye model while the smaller ones are 11" walleye and golden tail sucker models. Here are Kevin's comments on why he started using these lures.
"I use these with both a vertical and horizontal presentation. Vertical presentation while jigged triggers a more aggressive response from trout while the horizontal presentation is meant to hang on a dead stick to draw in the attention of more lethargic fish. This bait is mainly used as a "decoy". I use this bait in tandem with a 4" tube or a small jigging spoon hung slightly above the Jimmy to trigger the bite. The bite at this point is usually hard and fast from a "hot" fish.
"I discovered this method during an outing when I caught a small walleye. As I was reeling up the walleye, a laker rocketed up from the bottom and slammed the walleye. As I was scrambling, I reeled up my tube jig to the depth of the laker on my Vexilar and caught the 37.5" laker.
"I thought about the whole experience on the drive home and used a musky lure on my next outing that resembled a small walleye, and duplicated the experience.
"This has been a very successful though unorthodox method for me to catch lakers on LOTW, and I always have one tied on my rod."