Stay Close to Home
Fishing might be one of safest forms of outdoor recreation right now if you take the appropriate precautions. If you are self-isolating with your family right now and everyone is healthy, maybe a short day trip within your province is a good idea. Fresh air and fishing make for mental wellness.
I had been isolating in my house for about three weeks following the Mid Canada Boat Show in Winnipeg. I wasn’t planning on taking any chances that I might have picked something up there. Then both my wife and my son got laid off at work so the three of us where in it together.
Monday, I decided to get out and go for a drive and see if I could catch supper. I headed up Highway #6 towards my favourite perch lake in the world, West Shoal Lake.
As I arrived at the access point on the lake, a few vehicles were parked on the ice. These had trailered ATV’s or snowmobiles in order to make travel easier on the frozen surface. As it turns out, that was a wise move. While there were a few trucks out, the snow was still quite deep on the lake. With a high of plus 4 Celsius forecast, conditions would soften up as the day went on.
I started out on one of the more traveled trails to the south but after about two kilometres the snow deepened, and things got a bit iffy. I decided to back up and turnaround.
I stopped at one spot just to drill a couple of holes to see what the depth was. As it turns out it was not even a metre deep under the ice. I didn’t like my chances with those odds so after 15 minutes and no bites, I hopped back in my SUV and drove off the lake, looking for another possible access point.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any other way on, so I turned around once more and got back on the lake, trying to find an easier route out to deeper water.
ROLL THE DICE!
I found one road that looked promising and put my vehicle in four-wheel drive, slowly working my way out. Suddenly this road just ended, so I stopped to survey the situation. I figured I better back up the way I came, but even then, I sank to the ice and got hung up. Yikes, I was stuck bad and even shovelling couldn’t get me out.
Over the 40 some years I have been ice fishing I have been buried a few times, so panic was not in the equation. Which reminds me of one that seemed worst than the rest. I was heading out to Lake Manitoba a few years back to catch some perch with a couple friends. I had just turned onto the Twin Beaches road in my ¾ ton truck and things looked good. As we got closer the lake, a bit of blowing snow reduced visibility and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a four-foot snowdrift. We could barely get out of the vehicle we were so stuck. Ten minutes later, a miracle happened. A local farmer was out with his front-end loader when he saw our predicament. Soon he arrived to help and even with that kind of firepower, it took us some time to get free. But I digress…
LOTS OF TIME TO THINK
Since I was stuck anyways, I drilled a couple of holes and checked the depth. Okay, it was 4.7 feet, but it looked like I was marking some fish down there. I had one rod with a tungsten jig tipped with a frozen shiner tail. So, I dropped that first, and put it in a rod holder as I started organizing my other rod. No sooner had I moved away, than my rod bent over, threatening to go down the hole. I scrambled over and set the hook on a good fish. Yes, a gorgeous 13-inch perch came out on the ice, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune.
For the next three hours I hunkered down, catching the occasional perch, but just enjoying the sun, the fresh air and living in this great province. I knew one of the anglers coming of off the ice that day would help me out.
Around four o’clock, the vehicle closest to me was driving by when I waved them down. Mackenzie and Sheena Marks agreed to help me out. They have a farm near Balmoral and his ¾ ton diesel got me unstuck. Thanks so much for your assistance.
Everyone stay positive and help each other out where you can during this stressful time. Try and get outdoors, and as most tackle stores are closed, consider supporting your favourite local retailer if you’re going to shop online.
That evening as I cooked my perch, I felt cleansed and happy to be home. Cajun Perch is the family favourite, and as we sat down for a delicious meal, were thankful for what we have.
If you need to read something to take your mind off things, how about some more of my fishing adventures in my new book, The Complete Angler, 40 Years of Fishing With Don Lamont.