It’s Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. and I am sitting in my truck with my silver lab Ava, anxiously waiting for my partner Robyn to get home so we can finish loading up and start our five and half our drive to Twin Lakes. This will be our fourth trip to the stocked trout lake nestled in the foothills of the Duck Mountain, part of Manitoba’s Parkland region.
Our goal this weekend is for each of us to catch enough master tiger trout to achieve our specialist badges in the species through the Travel Manitoba Master Angler Program. I’m going into the weekend with 4 masters in my pocket and Robyn with 3. A tiger trout must be 20″ long in order to qualify as a “master”.
We arrive at midnight and consider ourselves lucky it’s only -5º C outside with virtually no wind. We know we will have to push ourselves to set up camp before we can get some shut-eye. Securing our prime spot scouted the weekend before, and knowing we won’t have to deal with the set up in the morning is enough to keep us going. After turning on the heat, a change of clothes and a snack, we finally climbed into bed at 2:30 a.m.
As fellow anglers started to join us on the lake, the sound of augers could be heard in the distance, acting as our alarm clock. We knew it was time to start fishing! With our “weekend home” being functional but not exactly roomy, I gear up first, head outside to prep the dead-sticks, and boil water for morning coffee.
Holes were drilled approximately 6 to 10 feet from the cat tails on the winter shoreline with the intention of fishing different depths to find the fish. The presentation of the dead-sticks was a number 10 treble hook encased in Berkeley Power Bait Trout Dough of various colours. Pinching a split shot weight onto the line 6″ below the hook allows the “trout ball” to sit just above the weed bed.
With one set up finished, I start walking to the next hole. Just as the second hook was dropped into the water, the bells clipped onto the first set up started ringing. First fish of the day, a master female tiger measuring 20″ on the button. Within minutes of releasing the first fish, the other dead-stick starts to jingle, yielding another master tiger trout. This time our catch was a stalky, orange bellied male measuring 20″, consistent with our last catch.
With the two dead-sticks being reset, Robyn and I headed into the shack to jig for trout using the big screen to sized sight hole drilled the night before. This has to be Robyn’s favourite way to fish and she gets so excited about every fish that swims through, even if it’s just a little one.
Robyn’s presentation for jigging is a pink and white number 8 flasher jig, with a pink trout dough “body” on the shank and a small “tail” trailing past the bend of the hook. I opted for a small black jig pierced through the nose of a Berkley Gulp Cricket. One of the most awesome benefits of sight fishing, is learning how all of the different lures act in the water and how the fish respond to them.
Jigging about 4 inches from the layer of weeds on the bottom, a couple of smaller trout took a look at Robyn’s jig but no bites. Our usually practice is to jig somewhat vigorously, relying on flash and movement, to draw the fish into the sight hole. We then stop the motion, letting the trout sense the lure and decide whether to bite. From our experience fishing trout, a lot of them tend to get skittish when they get close to the lure. This is not to say they are never aggressive! After about thirty minutes of jigging, a thick 24.75″ female tiger chomped on Robyn’s hook. I looked away from the hole for a minute and all i remember hearing was Robyn whisper “oh my goodness”, before the fish took off for a long run under the ice.
With a shallow lake like Twin, there is always a chance the fish will run into the weeds, challenging any angler when trying to land the fish as quickly as possible. Robyn was able to successfully net this fish for her personal best tiger trout. The size difference between the masters caught earlier in the day compared to the 24.75″ was unreal! Not much in length, but the girth and bellies of the 20″ masters compared to the 24.75″ tank Robyn landed is extremely noticeable in the pictures. It’s such a quick moment after you catch a fish, and you want to get them back into the water as soon as possible, it’s so great to be able to capture these special moments and look back on them often. With only one more master tiger trout required, we are confident we will complete our mission by lunchtime.
Sure enough, a decent sized male with a dark orange belly and noticeable kype swims into the sight window. Robyn stops jigging her pink and white flasher jig, and without fail, he took the hook! This time we weren’t as lucky as he dives straight into the weeds snagging up the line. We gave him some slack in hopes he would free himself. Unfortunately with no tension on the line, the head shake motion of the fish set him free. Fortunately for us in the same moment, one of the dead-stick rods started to bend towards the ice and we cleanly landed another 20″ female master.
We both feel extremely grateful to have such beautiful healthy resources available for us enjoy. The fact we can come out to a lake like Twin, catch 11 masters, multiple smaller fish, and generally see a lot of fish, speaks volumes about the time and resources invested by multiple organizations. For that we say thank you!
Now, time to figure out which species to target next! Go play outside Manitoba, our backyard is yours to explore.
For more information on the Manitoba master angler program, visit anglers.travelmanitoba.com