Get ready for open water!

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It’s getting close to that time! The open water season is almost upon us. Unfortunately, cooler temperatures have slowed the melt of lake ice in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario. Despite that there soon should be plenty of options

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Our season in southern Manitoba opens on May 11th this year. Don’t forget to purchase your angling license for the new year and check any regulation changes that might have occurred.

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Finding early season hot spots

I was on the water on Lake of the Woods on April 30th two years ago. While it was a cool day, the sun was shining, and the fish seemed hungry after a long winter. We found fish concentrated in small flush areas between islands in the lake. A north wind was generating current between these narrowed down sections. The fish were relating to current edges on the back side of these islands. I put my front troll motor down in spot lock and we proceeded to fan cast the area with small jigs tipped with salted shiners. Our best success came when by slowly dragging our jig back to the boat along the bottom. This would allow the fish to find the jig and pick it up very slowly. With cold water temperatures this is a key to catching early season fish of all species. We had a mixed bag, including one massive lake whitefish that put up one heck of a fight. When you head out this opening day, look for areas that have the warmest water. Other key areas include ones with current flow, especially if that flow is bringing in warmer water!  I really like mud bottom bays, with some shallow scattered weeds or anything that might hold hungry fish. Go quietly, make long casts to shallow fish and work the lures slowly.

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Cover water to find early season fish!

Another great option to cover water early season is by trolling shallow diving crankbaits. To cover more water and to allow you to get your lure away from the boat use planer boards.  Shallow fish will move to the side of the boat, so this is a great way to overcome that.

That was our second choice that day, a huge shallow bay. With only two of us in the boat, we decided we didn’t need to use the boards, just letting out a bit more line than usual behind the boat. For the pike we caught, it didn’t seem to matter. They were just smashing the Rapala Husky Jerk shallow running lures we were using. I love these lures for this application, and I have a box full of them, all different colours and sizes. One key though, is make sure you don’t troll too fast. One mile an hour is plenty fast enough. If you find fish concentrated, just anchor or hit spot lock on your troll motor and cast all around the boat. Once an area is worked over, continue on until you find another pod of shallow fish.

If you find fish on shallow sand, dragging a jig on a slow troll also work. As in all fishing situations you are only limited by your imagination! All this should lead to a successful opening day of the fishing season.

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About Author

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Don Lamont - The Complete Angler Don Lamont has been a full time professional angler for 34 years, hosting and producing the award winning “The Complete Angler” television series for fifteen of those. Don has received several awards for his commitment to public education and the future of recreational fishing in Canada. Those include a 2000 Canadian Recreational Fisheries Award for his work with Manitoba’s Urban Angling Partnership. In 2003 he received a Manitoba Tourism Award for his promotion of Manitoba and western Canada. In 2004 he was a finalist at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada National Award for Tourism Excellence, presented by The Globe and Mail. Don has been a regular fishing columnist in the Winnipeg Free Press since 1992 and is currently editor of Hooked Magazine.

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