Known for its wildlife, great golf course and scenery, Riding Mountain National Park is also an angler’s paradise. The gem of all the lakes within the park though, is Clear Lake. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada, most people that launch their boats use it for watersports such as tubing and water skiing.
The Lamont family has a long history with this region, having made the Wasgaming town site a summer destination from the early 1950’s. My dad grew up on a farm near Margaret, Manitoba so Clear Lake was the number one resort destination for people in southwestern Manitoba. I have a picture of my relatives visiting there in 1946. I spend some early days there camping with my family as a child. One of my best memories occurred during the summer of 1970 when I spent a week up there camping on my own. I wanted a place to train in preparation for a university basketball career. Every day I ran miles and miles along the back roads around the lake. In the evening, I would wonder down to the town site to roller skate at the outdoor park or take in an outdoor movie at the drive-in theatre. It was a great place for both solitude and interaction with a myriad of young people who flocked there (and still do!)
I first fished Clear Lake in 1985 but a storm limited my experience on the lake. Ten years ago I returned a second time with friend Jim Price. It was a beautiful summer day and we had a great outing. Both Jim and I caught many large walleye that day along deep weed edges, far from the maddening crowd. Ever since then I try and make it back at least once every two years.
THE FOURTH GENERATION
When my cousin, Peter Lamont from Oakville, started returning with his family ten years ago, it was a must to keep the tradition going. This past July Peter had his grandchildren along, a fourth generation of people returning to the park and another generation of people to enjoy this incredible destination. Peter’s grandson, Jake, had a burning desire to catch a fish. His dad, Chris Betts, had taken him out in a canoe, but Jake was still to land a fish. I had agreed to bring my boat along on this week long family vacation so I could get Jake his first fish. Which, of course, meant the pressure was on. Finally the day arrived, we had agreed to head out the second afternoon after arrival. After an inspection for Zebra Mussels, we launched the boat at the east end near the golf course. My original plan was to fish for walleye but after watching Jake struggle with a rod, I knew that probably wasn’t the best idea if we were going to catch fish. So off we went to the west end of the lake and a huge rocky reef that held a ton of northern pike, a fish usually ready to bite a crankbait. I had fished this pattern a number of times in the past and it didn’t let me down this time either. No sooner had I got the lures out behind the boat, that we had our first bite, a vicious strike that doubled my rod over in the holder. To make a long story short, Jake had his first fish, and the pressure was off. Over the course of the next hour and a half we lost some fish, landed some and good times were had by all. It was the last fish of the day, though that really punctuated a great afternoon. Jake had been reeling in another fish, when his mom Kelly, who was reeling in the other line yelled that she had a fish on too! What was so unusual about this double header was the pike had grabbed both lures at almost the same time. Now that is a greedy fish, but of course pike are noted for that. What a way to end the day.
Over the years as I mentioned earlier, I have also had good success catching walleye in Clear Lake. It really pays to keep an open mind when looking for places that will hold fish in this clear body of water. Depending on time of year, I have caught fish in five to thirty feet of water in all sections of the lake. In the summertime during the day the fish tend to use a couple of different areas. These are secondary drop-offs near deeper water, anywhere from twenty to thirty feet. By slowly moving around with an eye on your depth finder, you should be able to easily spot the fish. Any change from hard to soft bottom or deep weed edges will concentrate fish. There are numerous places on the lake where you will find sand grass out to 22 feet. These are excellent spots to catch both walleye and pike as the baitfish tend to concentrate here as well to escape the hungry predators that are everywhere!
On the second outing last summer with Jake and now sister Julia, I was fooling around with my second depth finder to get my GPS working properly when I glanced over at my other unit. My new Humminbird 899 was lighting up like a Christmas tree! We were in 21 feet of water and it was showing some weed growth, but it was also lit up with baitfish and big marks all over the place. Wow, and I mean wow!! This was four minutes from the boat launch and the crankbaits were going down. In two hours of fishing we had four doubleheaders and landed too many fish to remember. It was some of the most intense action I have had and what a thrill for the kids. Unfortunately they will probably be spoiled for ever. Our biggest fish landed was close to 40 inches, a nice solid pike that put up a memorable battle.
After getting everyone safely back to the cabin, the grandkids spent the next three hours painting pictures of their great afternoon. Here is what they painted. This is why you need to take a kid fishing! More on staying at Clear lake It can be awful tough to find accommodation during in the summer at Clear Lake. Most cabins and resorts are booked at least a year in advance. Most of the resorts also like you to book in a week at a time. Another great option is the beautiful campground located right in the town site of Wasagaming. It has Yurts and Tent accommodations. Rather than describe these fixed wall accommodations go the Riding Mountain National Park website. Here you will also find all the information on angling in the park. One thing you must be aware of is there a lead ban for fishing and you need to get your boat inspected for Zebra Mussels and other Aquatic Invasive Species before launching.