The weather was cool as we wended our way by snowmachine across the Winnipeg River from Trail End Camp. We were headed out into the Whiteshell Provincial Park, a winter playground. I was fishing with Vance Hrechkosy, whom I have known for a number of years. Vance just started guiding for Eagle Nest Lodge after I left there in 1986 after three years. A few years later Vance and Maureen bought and expanded Trail End Camp to become one of the best drive-to operations in the province. I usually make it out to this part of the world about once every three years. When I saw Vance at the Manitoba Outdoor Show, he invited me along for an ice fishing expedition.
The plan was to head into a number of back country lakes, one of which was stocked with tiger trout. Along for the trip was his friend Chris Atkin and regional biologist Derek Kroeker, who wanted to test oxygen levels on the stocked trout lake. It was a relaxing ride that first morning, just a short distance from camp. Upon arrival Chris 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.
Chris was using a small pink jig rigged with a salted shiner. I had been trying my little Nitro orange tube jig from Berkley. What I quickly learned that was that these fish were eating minnows not freshwater shrimp. So after falling behind three nothing to Chris 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 17 inches. 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 fish in 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 19 inches.
The next day Vance, Chris 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 like Vance and Chris to lead the way.
On our first spot, we found lake trout in about 60 feet of water. We 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 30 feet. 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 feet below my lure. Twitching the tube and reeling up five feet solicited a vicious strike and nice five pound laker was 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 a bit 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 back country.
Vance offers ice fishing packages in March every year but you need to book early. This is a very popular part of the operation. Check out their website at www.trailendcamp.com