The sun was blazing over a fresh carpet of sparkling snow as Hooked Publisher Kevin Stobbe and I arrived in the parking lot of Spruces. It was one of the three access spots on Clear Lake for those wanting to snowmobile. Already waiting for us was Dan Kiazyk, who has been been a registered Manitoba Outfitter for more than 22 years.
While I had heard of Dan and his guide service, Cat Eye Outfitters, it was the first time I got a chance to meet him. He was out to join us for a day of fishing for the abundant whitefish that Clear Lake is famous for. While tough to catch in the open water, the whitefish in Clear Lake roam the flats and rockpiles in the winter from right next to shore out to the deep water and everywhere in between. Kiazyk says one of the keys in the finding the fish is bottom content. If there is some weed growth with perch around you will find whitefish.
Also meeting us out there was the man who organized the trip, Andrew Galloway, who I have known for several years in the tackle trade industry. Andrew works for Canada Pro Agencies, which represents some of the top companies in the fishing world. Garther Chueng arrived a short time later with Andrew and we had our full contingent.
As we headed across the ice, we could already see a few ice anglers spread across the lake. Hooked contributors Robert Karpiak and Robyn Grant were part of the crew of eight anglers Andrew had invited. Andrew called the adventure “Team Canada Pro”, and it sure turned out to be a blast.
Robyn and Robert had walked out earlier from the Lake Audy Road, which parallels the north shore of the lake for a brief stretch. This is the easiest way to get on the lake if you are walking since a lot of the prime whitefish structure is just a short jaunt and you don’t have to haul out a snowmobile. Just load up a sled and head out a short distance.
Kiazyk had put us on fish right away, on marl flat in about 16 feet of water. Using the Vexilar underwater camera we could see scattered clumps of weed and schools of perch. Then whitefish would cruise into the picture, looking at our lures with interest.
Big China (Garther) caught the first fish, so I moved out a little deeper a short distance away. In no time I caught three nice whitefish and lost another three. I caught mine on a couple of different VMC tungsten jigs…I had the most luck with a VMC pink tungsten fly jig, which are perfect imitators of realistic flies and insects. The small profile offers results when the fish are little off, while the power gap hook increases hook rate percentage. Precision balance is amplified by a 90 degree hook eye, ensuring optimal horizontal positioning while maintaining the perfect strike angle. This is critical with the small mouths of the whitefish, combined with power runs from big strong fish.
The second one that caught me fish was the VMC tungsten nymph jig, pre-rigged with a Trigger X Nymph soft bait designed to imitate small insects. Each jig is precision balanced with a 90 degree line tie to keep jig horizontal at all times.
As the sun rose to high noon, the action slowed a bit and we got a chance to walk around and talk fishing with Dan, Robert and Robyn. It was a glorious day out on the lake, with very little wind and plenty of sunshine. We didn’t need to use our portable shelters until later in the day when things cooled a bit.
Kevin had brought along the brand new Eskimo Outbreak 450i, which has the coolest feature I have ever seen on a popup tent, featuring a “trip-proof” full panel door. This extra door panel zips all the way down to the ice and leaves you nothing to step over when entering the shelter, making entry and exit a breeze, with no more stumbling on the door frame. This shelter also has over 75 square feet of fishable area, so not only is it easy to walk into, it’s also very spacious to fish out of. The Insulated 600 Denier IQ™ fabric will keep you warm and dry even in the nastiest of storms.
Andrew had an Otter XTH Pro Lodge popup as well which had plenty of room as well as insulation. The Otter website also has some cool video on how to set one of these shelters up in less than 30 seconds, You have to see this video to believe it….and to think of all the times I have set up a popup and the time I have wasted!
Kiazyk, who guides on Lake Winnipeg in the winter has the most portable of setups with a beautiful and expensive Clam X300 PRO THERMAL. Built to comfortably fish three anglers, the X300 Pro Thermal rounds out their popular X-series of flip-over fish houses. With three removable deluxe swivel seats, the X300 has plenty of room for three anglers and all their gear. Constructed with their heaviest skin — 1800 Denier fabric — The X300 Pro Thermal retains the heat and reduces condensation. As one of the toughest shelters on the market, the X300 was designed to outperform, and meet the needs of the most demanding ice anglers who fish in extreme conditions. Includes light bar, travel cover, runner kit, and battery bracket.
As the sun slowly sank in the west the fish activity started to increase toward sunset. As the fish became more active then the Live Target Golden Shiner came out like gangbusters. Robyn and Robert caught several big whitefish and a bonus big pike on the GS 50, the new small version of this fish catching machine. It will be in retail stores in January and it will become one of the hottest ice products of the year.
Here is a sneak peak.
We topped off the day with some delicious whitefish cooked in a coat of cornmeal. What a day! Thanks to Andrew for organizing such a special adventure and for Dan for being a true professional.
Anglers Notes: We stopped at Elkhorn Resort to buy a one day angling license. I usually buy the National Park yearly license but this was my first visit to the park this year. The one day is $9.80 and the yearly license is $34.30. You can also get a one day park pass at the Elkhorn. You cannot posses lead lures while fishing in national parks but with the popularity of tungsten now, this does not present a problem. We only use artificial baits, no minnow parts or leeches are allowed for bait. The park wardens are very active at Riding Mountain so it does pay to make sure you follow all the rules that can be found on the Riding Mountain National Park website.