As the cold snap eases slightly in this part of the world, time to put on your explorer’s cap and head into the backcountry of Manitoba for some world class crappie fishing.
The whole Caddy Lake chain made up of North and South Cross Lake, Sailing Lake and Caddy itself can kick out some awfully nice fish. There are other areas though that will start to produce for those willing to do the work. Places like the Pinawa Channel, Big Whiteshell Lake all have trophy fish. Populations of these fish are ever expanding and down the road the Winnipeg River chain is going to consistently produce some excellent catches of these dynamic sport fish.
A couple of years ago we did some backcountry exploring with Manitoba fishing and hunting guide Matt Cornell. It was a cold February day as we unloaded the snow machines and headed overland in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. Matt has grown up fishing all the lakes in the region and he would put us on fish.
Cornell has done a number of television fishing shows including one with Jason Mitchell that you can see here
One thing I keyed in on from Matt on this day was to down size presentation depending on the reaction you get from the fish once you drop a lure by them. If Cornell sees fish disappear from his flasher when he puts a bait down, he will change over to smaller presentation until he can get the fish to stay on the screen. Once that happens you can usually get a fish to bite.
MOBILITY IS THE KEY
When fishing a new area, you need to look for the fish in order to catch them. Don’t expect crappies to move long distances during the day so work is required to get on top of them. This means one person drilling holes and another following behind with the electronics. Most of the time a few crappies will be suspended about six feet above the bottom. With a good flasher you will also be able to see fish close to bottom as well. Crappies tend to rise up in the water column as the day goes on then go back tight to bottom later in the day. Make sure you put the lure just above the fish, and work your lure with by twitching the bait. Long up and down strokes don’t work very well with crappies.
Also don’t always assume that the fish will be located in the deepest water in the lake. I have found the few times I have fished for crappies in this region, they were relating to the lip of the holes, on the edge of the drop-offs. There is usually a reason for this. Edges tend to hold more insect larvae in the bottom, so if that is their primary food source, that’s where the fish will be.
We consistently caught fish during the day, though the fish were most active in the morning, with more of a finesse bite in the afternoon. I started off using a Mini Rippin Rap from Rapala. Crappies tend to like pink as well as glow and this lure fit the bill perfectly, until I lost it, that is, to a big fish. Matt was using a 1/32- 1/16oz Clam Drop Jig (tungsten) tipped with either a Clam Maki Plastic , Maki Worm or White Berkley Euro Larvae. Rods were light action with two kilogram braid (five pound) to a 1.5 kilogram fluorocarbon tippet.
CATCH AND RELEASING LARGER FISH is essential to maintaining this fishery. Crappie are great to eat but fish over 13 inches should be released to maintain the health of this population.