Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/9/2017 (1404 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Record warm temperatures were forecast as three friends and I headed to the West Waterhen River in central Manitoba last week. It was our annual fall fishing trip and anticipation was high after hearing how good the fishing had been on this river all summer long.
Our accommodation was once again at Harvest Lodge, located just south of the community of Waterhen, beside the East Waterhen River. We had a great trip last September and my friends from Saskatchewan and British Columbia wanted to return.
Upon arrival, we were happy to see that our cabin from the previous year had been totally remodelled on the inside. This made our stay even better. Temperatures near 30 C also helped make our trip enjoyable. After talking to lodge owner Jon Warkentin, we were convinced that the West Waterhen was our best option. Jon said the east river hadn’t been nearly as productive as past years. That was a bit of a disappointment for us, since last year we had caught two Master Angler walleye there in a short evening of fishing.
After paying our access fee to the Skownan First Nation at the local gas station the next morning, we launched our boat in the fast-moving river. This was going to be a day for exploration, since on our last trip we had just fished the mouth of the river. We started in that area first, with one Master Angler drum on our initial trolling run. This was going to set the tone for the day, as my friends were totally impressed with these hard-fighting fish.
The drum ended up making the trip even more special. In fact, the quality of freshwater drum we caught rivalled that of the Whitemud River. We did catch lots of walleye as well by trolling crankbaits and drift jigging with quarter-ounce jigs. We used #7 Flicker Shads and Minnows trolled into the current and jigs tipped with a variety of different plastic or frozen shiners on the drift downstream.
There is a fair amount of weed growth in this area, so we had to control our drift and troll to keep out of the heavier patches. The main channel in this area gets to a depth of four metres, but a lot of the bigger walleye were on the edges of the channel in about two metres, on the very outside edge of weed clumps.
About 1 p.m., after a sandwich for lunch, it was time to put the boat in gear and head south, down the river towards Waterhen Lake.
This river is fairly safe to navigate, with an average depth of about four metres. We actually did find one stretch of about seven metres, but it didn’t hold any fish. We ended up exploring down a side channel into another tributary that flowed parallel to the west channel. While narrower, the current flow was even more restricted, which meant increased flow. Here we found few walleye, but big freshwater drum in abundance. My friends were really enjoying the experience, never having caught these amazing fish before. All were a good size and given the heavy current, the battles on medium-action jigging rods were a thrill. After non-stop action for about an hour, my friends begged for mercy.
We ended up in Waterhen Lake, but the water was extremely shallow and weedy. We headed back up the main channel after stopping at a few different spots to try our luck. We ended the day where we started, catching walleye and freshwater drum as a hot September breeze blew down the river. A supper of fresh walleye that evening made for another memorable day of fishing in Manitoba.
Last year, I had a conversation with University of Winnipeg ecology professor Scott Forbes about freshwater drum. He told me a huge drum can be up to 100 years old — a figure that blew me away. I was so impressed with that number that I asked him to tell me more. Forbes also said big drum are one of the few fish that can actually eat zebra mussels. While a small drum is actually pretty good to eat when prepared properly, just like most species it really pays to release the larger fish. Drum make up an important part of our sport fishery in this province and more and more people are actually targeting these worthy sport fish.
Red River and Pine Falls: every year at this time, I get a number of emails asking about the fall run of walleye in these two rivers. As far as I know, with limited current — especially in the Red River — and warm water, the action has been pretty darn slow.