With the holiday season here, tight schedules can force us anglers to overextend ourselves in order to sneak in some much needed ice fishing time. This was the case for Robyn and I this past weekend with my big Ukrainian family Christmas planned for Sunday. Given we only had Saturday to fish and wanting to continue our trout chase, our destination of choice was Patterson Lake. Stocked with brown and rainbow trout, Patterson is situated on the south side of Riding Mountain. It is just north of Shoal Lake, approximately 3-1/2 hours from Winnipeg. We have also heard the lake has come down with a sucker problem and we saw this for ourselves when we fished the lake a couple of weeks ago.
Wanting to be set up with lines in the water by sun up, the 2:30 a.m. alarm gets us motivated, loaded, and on the road by 3:00 a.m. Apparently Mother Nature had different plans, giving us freezing rain which covered the windshield and massive snow drifts blowing across the highway. You could say it was a bit of a white knuckle drive, but fortunately we still made good time and arrive at our destination as planned. On the plus side and to our benefit, the mini storm left a fresh blanket of snow on the ice and we are ready to make tracks towards a point we scoped out on our last trip.
With the snowmobile loaded, I head to our spot to drop off the first load of gear. As I am on my way back to the truck for another round of supplies, another vehicle pulls up and out come two fellow “diehard” fishermen. We have a courteous exchange and discuss set up tactics ensuring we will not be stepping on each other’s toes out on the lake. As we are talking, one of the fishermen who introduced himself as Kellum Cooke, realizes we have met before. A few years ago I offered to give a stranded fisherman (Kellum) a hand when his sled broke down at this very same lake. After a quick reminisce, a more formal introduction, and the constant reminder of how small this world can be sometimes, I assisted Kellum and his fishing partner across the lake towards the point where we both intended to set up.
Prairie sunrise casting a warm glow on the freshly fallen snow.
With the sun now peeking over the horizon, we see a number of brown trout rapidly pass through the sight hole. The browns moved sporadically and didn’t seem to know if they were coming, going, hungry or scared! A few larger fish came close to our lures but were clearly not enthused by what we were offering for breakfast. The “show” carried on this way for about two hours!
View of the sight hole and a finicky trout not interested in our presentation.
Our fishing neighbour Kellum wasn’t seeing any action where he was set up, so he came over to chat and check on our luck. He also let us know he was potentially contemplating a big move to the other side of the lake. As Kellum points to other areas of the lake he is considering moving to, I look over to see one of his dead sticks take a dive towards the snow covered ice. He quickly spins around and makes a mad dash to his rod. After a clean hook set and a quick fight, Kellum pulls out a vibrant thick rainbow trout, marking the first successful catch of the day between our two tents. After we take a measurement photo and action shot, the beautiful “bow” is returned back into the water for future anglers to enjoy.
With the day getting on, we know it’s getting close to lunch time. We are hungry and the fish sightings have slowed down significantly. Having not seen any trout for a few hours, we decide to have some lunch and contemplate a move to a shoreline on the backside of the lake we fished last year.
I make an executive decision and jump on the snowmobile to drill a new sight hole in case we decide to make a move later in the day. When I get back to the tent, I ask Robyn if she saw any fish and she told me she must have seen 20 suckers! The slow moving bottom feeders would come in casually, sometimes in groups of 2 or 3, make a snail’s pace pass through the sight window searching for food on the bottom of the lake. A few smaller trout passed through but the suckers outnumbered them 10 to 1 at this point. Without too much effort, I manage to position my lure right in front of a sucker and hook onto my first fish of the day. At that moment I thought to myself, “Maybe we start chasing master suckers instead of trout!”
Another Master Trout for Robyn!
Not wanting to make a move just yet, given there were still fish passing through the sight hole, we decide to stick it out where we are for now. Sitting in silence jigging away, Robyn suddenly blurts out “bells!” She reels up her line, jumps out of her chair, and fumbles anxiously with the tent zipper. Having not heard the sound of bells myself, I was confused by what was going on. Apparently Robyn was so determined to catch a master she forgot it was my turn on bells and also didn’t realize I had moved the snowmobile to the other side of the tent. A quick bounce off the backside of the sled barely caused her to lose a step and she manages to successfully set the hook on her first ever brown trout. Lucky for her the beautiful brown just happens to be a qualifying master measuring 22.5”.
Robyn “showing off” her first master brown trout. Look at those speckles!
Once all of the excitement has passed, Robyn informs me the lovely lady master brown marks her tenth fish species caught, earning her the gold badge through the Manitoba Master Angler Awards Program. Impressed by Robyn’s tenacity, I make peace with the fact that she took my turn and congratulations were in order.
With cloud cover rolling over us, the rest of the afternoon slows down drastically with only one fish hitting a dead stick outside the tent. We were slightly disappointed with the lack of bites on the day but quickly reminded ourselves we came here to catch a master and we achieved our goal!
After a quick pack up we are on the road heading home just after sundown. The visibility on the drive home was even worse than the drive out and I am pretty sure the only thing keeping Robyn going was knowing she would be feasting on my mom’s homemade perogies and cabbage rolls the next day!
Happy Holidays everyone! Enjoy and go play outside with your family and friends!