Big Echo Fly-in

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The year was 1983, my second year guiding for Eagle Nest Lodge on the Winnipeg River. I spent three seasons working at this remote lodge and during that time I made two portages into Big Echo Lake. Eagle Nest had two boats cached in Big Echo when I arrived and I can remember carrying in the third. In my second year I had also taken over as the manager so it was on me to portage a sixteen foot Lund in there down a rocky, windy trail that was just plain nasty. With me were two young students who were working at the lodge part time. The transom was the heaviest, so they took that end and I the bow. It was one of the most difficult journeys I had ever participated in. After many rest breaks, we did manage to arrive on the shores of this beautiful lake. I can always remember that day and the other two days that I fished in this walleye factory. It was just incredible action, some of the best walleye fishing I have ever had.  I was determined to get back in there one day and as luck would have it two years ago at the Winnipeg Boat Show I convinced Shaun Jackson to fly me in to Big Echo.

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Fast forward to last week, and I am on a float plane destined for one of my favourite lakes in the world. Jackson owns a series of fly in camps, and he happens to have the only outpost cabin on this lake. A few years ago he built a beautiful log cabin, with a full kitchen, along with beds to sleep ten people, with five boats ready to take you out to all the hotspots. Many of the guests prefer flying in to this lake, since it’s just a sixteen minute float plane ride from Shaun’s airbase at Lac du Bonnet.

In no time we are touching down on the lake, getting ready for three days of adventure and great fishing.

DAY ONE: Over the course of the three days fishing we caught so many walleye my hands were a scarred mess. Day one though was the best day, with a cool wind blowing up a substantial walleye chop. This only made the fish hungrier and we found some large walleye on rock/sand ridge that extended off an island into the main lake basin. It was here we caught our largest walleye of the trip, one that measured 69 centimetres. Since this lake is on the east side of Lake Winnipeg it falls in the slot size restricted region of which all walleye between 45 and 70 centimetres must be released. That is also another reason why the population of adult fish remains so high.  We fished out of sixteen foot aluminum boats with 15 horsepower four stroke Yamaha motors. These boats covered the lake at a good rate of speed and were very quiet. I also brought along my Humminbird 899 which had built in GPS. While I couldn’t get it to read at top speed because of the transducer setup, it worked magic out there finding the fish.

One of the top spots we found was a rocky ridge off a shoreline point that dropped into 80 feet of water. The bigger walleyes were stacked off the end of the point the first day we found it. We caught and released some of our larger walleye here.

DAY TWO: We kept changing up partners every day, which was fun. I did have a bit of a technical issue on the second day as my portable battery went dead an hour into the fishing day. We had brought in a generator to recharge stuff, but my battery didn’t seem to want to hold much of a charge. This did limit our success a bit, especially when searching for new areas. Still, we managed another solid day on the water.

DAY THREE: With the fish finder back up and running we headed west to try some new areas. We found a great narrowed down area between two islands that had some scattered cabbage weed on a sand bottom. Here we found the walleye in about 22 feet of water. By anchoring, we were able to catch a number of nice fish as they moved through this flush area. In the afternoon we fished another large flat that extended out to the main lake basin. It had a large area of water in the 18 to 23 foot range. By slowly drifting and back trolling with jigs and live bait rigs, we caught some real nice fish including a jumbo bass that measured 19.5 inches…a great way to finish off the trip. This lake has lots of jumbo bass and is worth a trip just for them!

Big Echo also has a good pike population but we didn’t spend much time looking for them. The walleye were shoreline orientated in three to nine metres of water. The most productive areas were shoreline points and saddle areas between islands. We caught the majority on jigs and leeches or night crawlers

Our three days was over way too soon but it was a trip I would recommend to anyone. It’s very reasonably priced because of the short flight and the fishing is top quality. This outpost is one of the busiest that Shaun owns and booking well in advance is a real good idea. You can check out his website at www.jacksonslodge.com. n

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Don Lamont - The Complete Angler Don Lamont has been a full time professional angler for 34 years, hosting and producing the award winning “The Complete Angler” television series for fifteen of those. Don has received several awards for his commitment to public education and the future of recreational fishing in Canada. Those include a 2000 Canadian Recreational Fisheries Award for his work with Manitoba’s Urban Angling Partnership. In 2003 he received a Manitoba Tourism Award for his promotion of Manitoba and western Canada. In 2004 he was a finalist at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada National Award for Tourism Excellence, presented by The Globe and Mail. Don has been a regular fishing columnist in the Winnipeg Free Press since 1992 and is currently editor of Hooked Magazine.

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