As ice fishing in this part of the world becomes more popular among all ages, operators in Manitoba that offer winter fishing packages are becoming a lot busier.
At the recent Manitoba Outdoor Show, I ran into a couple of old friends, Vance and Maureen Hrechkosy, who I have known for a number of years. In fact, Vance Hrechkosy just started guiding for Eagle Nest Lodge after I left there in 1986 after three years.
A few years later, the Hrechkosys bought and expanded Trail End Camp at Pointe du Bois to become one of the best drive-to operations in the province. They had a booth at the show and we ended up talking about old times.
Fifteen years ago, I spent a day on the ice with Vance Hrechkosy, fishing for pike along the Winnipeg River system. At the time, he was just starting to winterize some of his cabins at Trail End Camp. He thought by offering ice fishing packages during March he could make up for some of his down time during the winter.
Little did he know that this part of the business would later be in such demand, so much so that he is totally booked in March with anglers from all over North America. Hrechkosy was planning a scouting mission the following week to some backcountry lakes in advance of his guests arriving and I was fortunate enough to be invited along.
We were going to fish with his friend Chris Atkin and regional biologist Derek Kroeker, who wanted to test oxygen levels of the one lake stocked with trout. It was a relaxing ride that first morning, just a short distance from camp.
Upon arrival Atkin hooked three tiger trout in a row, landing two of them. While not large, they were certainly colourful, a very dark red with the wild stripes.
Atkin was using a small pink jig rigged with a salted shiner. Meanwhile, I had been trying my little Nitro orange tube jig from Berkley.
What I quickly learned was that these fish were eating minnows, not freshwater shrimp.
So, after falling behind 3-0 to Atkin, I made the necessary adjustments. In fact, at the end of the day, I ended up having a large fish on, only to lose after a hard fought battle. In total we iced eight fish, all released, the largest about 43 centimetres.
I am not sure there are any master angler fish yet in this lake, but it was a fun day. Catch and release of most of the fish is recommended on this finite population. Oxygen results showed that the lake should survive the winter without any winter kill problems. There have been two year classes stocked and the upper-size limit seems to be about in the 48-cm range.
After a fun day on the ice, Hrechkosy cooked up a wild game dinner fit for a king.
Hrechkosy has worked extremely hard all his life in the lodge business, guiding for waterfowl, big game, as well as fish.
Recently he expanded his business by purchasing Kendall Pointe Lodge, 20 kilometers up river from Trail End. One of the most memorable days occurred when a tornado ripped across eastern Manitoba in the summer of 2006 and smashed into Kendall Pointe in all its fury.
Winds were in excess of 300 km/hr and cabins and boats were sent flying. People at the lodge were injured and my friend Jim Price, an emergency room doctor, was staying with Hrechkosy at the time at Trail End. When Hrechkosy heard of the injuries, he grabbed Price and they headed up river in the middle of the night to help.
Just recently the lodge came up for sale and Hrechkosy decided to once again expand his operation.
Day two on the ice
The next day Hrechkosy, Atkin and I headed into Forbes Lake. This is a fair hike with a snowmobile and it took us about 25 minutes before we started fishing.
When heading out into new country it always helps to have a couple of experienced travelers such as Hrechkosy and Atkin to lead the way.
On our first spot, we found the lake trout in about 25 metres of water. We soon caught a couple of fish, none very large.
About half an hour in, I had a hit on my stationary tube jig, which was set at about 14 metres. I moved over to the hole and grabbed my rod. While the fish was not hooked, I could still see him on my flasher five below my lure. Twitching the tube and reeling up two metres solicited a vicious strike and a nice five-pound laker was soon on the ice.
I managed three lake trout for the day, two caught on a white tube jig and one on a PK Spoon. Three other trout were caught but though we marked fish all day, the fish were off this particular day and it took hard work to get them to bite.
Thanks again, Vance, for the hospitality and a chance to fish some new lakes in Manitoba’s backcountry.
You can visit him online at trailendcamp.com
Angler’s notes: Come down and say hello today at the Mid Canada Boat Show at the RBC Convention Centre. I will be at the Hooked Magazine booth. It promises to be another great event!