What separates some angling destinations in this part of the world from the rest of the crowd? That’s a complicated question, one that people in the Tourism Industry have been dealing with for many years.
Priorities, based on my personal experience, vary with individuals and groups, depending on what they believe is an experience worth having. For many, it is ease of access with a chance to have a quality angling experience along with the chance to catch a trophy fish. The big fish part of the equation comes with experience and expectations from years of hardcore fishing.
TICKING OFF THE BOXES
I have fished full time for thirty-five years, travelling across different parts of North America, coming to fully appreciate what we have in this part of the world. My choice of destinations has also been refined during that time, along with expectations. In recent years one of the more pleasurable surprises in my travels has been two visits to the Waterhen area of central Manitoba. On both trips with a group of friends, we had a combination of great fishing, some big fish along with excellent accommodation and access. It didn’t hurt that the weather was spectacular both times.
BIG FISH ARE ALWAYS A CONSIDERATION
Another favourite destination in Manitoba would be Cross Bay on mighty Cedar Lake. One travels up Highway # 6 to the town of Grand Rapids. Then it’s a quick drive on gravel road to one of the lodges located on the eastern shore of Cross Bay itself. On my last two visits we stayed at Moak Lodge, run by Lodge owner Chris McCuddon and his wife. They run an excellent lodge and the accommodation is top notch, another key factor to some when coming to a remote area. While on the three fall trips we have had, I would have to say if you want to catch walleye, you a better off with a summer trip. For big pike though, and there are plenty, spring and fall are more consistent, at least on my trips.
One destination that is on my list every year is Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan. I first experienced this reservoirs fishing potential in 1980 when I was working in Prince Albert. A friend and I had travelled out for a day of angling in early fall and it was a day I will never forget. Big walleye and sauger where everywhere. Though it was the early days of this fishery, the flooded reservoir was about to become one of the most popular angling destinations, not only in Saskatchewan but probably the world. Since that day, I have been back too many times to count, never coming home disappointed.
We did get awful cold one year when we headed up at Halloween. The warmest day that year was minus three Celsius. Since then we have moved the trip up to the middle of October. This year didn’t disappoint, except that we never got to fish the main lake of the reservoir.
On the Thursday, the warmest day, we had incredible fishing. I landed the biggest walleye of the whole trip just ten minutes into dropping a line. This among six hard core anglers. It weighed just under twelve pounds and was the second year in a row that I won the bragging rights for the big fish of the week. It was close though, many walleye over ten pounds were landed on the first two days between the two boats. On day three the fish shut off, and no big fish were caught.
The lure of choice was just a jig and salted shiner minnow, fished in anywhere from 15 to 27 feet of water. Being aggressive and moving around a lot is important in any fishing situation. At this time of the year if you find the fish, they will usually bite, as simple as that.
While we tried night fishing as we always do, this trip it didn’t pay off.
SUMMER VERSUS FALL
A lot has changed on Tobin Lake since that first trip in 1980. The river has changed dramatically from years of flooding and high-water flow, ripping out habitat and scrapping the river clean of vegetation and natural obstructions. In the U.S to combat such stress, the government builds wing dams that allow current flow to be deflected, lessening the impact on the river’s critical habitat. It has meant a substantial drop in quality of angling in the river at certain times. This has brought more angling attention to the lake itself.
I have fished the big lake twice during the summer in recent years during late July. Both times I had some of the best walleye fishing of my career. An abundance of forage, mainly cisco, allows both the pike and walleye to grow to huge proportions. There is one main problem though, if the wind blows, conditions get tough on both equipment and anglers.