A TIME TO REFLECT
A lot has changed in our world since our last report two weeks ago. Many of us are not working or staying at home to be safe. Some of us are making our ways to the outdoors to self isolate on frozen lakes. It might be one of the safest spots to be, especially if you are out by yourself or a loved one.
With the borders closing to non-essential travel, our friends south of the border will not be coming in the short term to enjoy some of the best fishing of the year. We would like to thank all the hardcore outdoor people who have contributed to this report in trying times.
Here is what has been happening on the ice across central Canada if you are able to get away.
Lake Winnipeg has been good for walleye the last two weeks. Fish are being caught at all depths on a variety of presentations. Guide Todd Longley had been taking out some Canadian clients including friend Roger and Susan Geres. Here is Todd’s report
The fishing is on fire right now. I’m having great success in 20 feet next to an ice ridge. I’m killing it with a few different lures. First up a pink Pelican lures flutter spoons tipped with a minnow. Next up on my dead stick a 1/4oz pink and white flasher with a nice healthy live minnow hooked through the tail and held on with a bait button. If you like to rattle the TN/70 purple and chartreuse Jackall is my best rattle bait tipped with a small minnow.
After their trip to Lake Winnipeg Roger and Sue Geres hit Lake of the Prairies. Here is their report:
Action on Lake of the Prairies is picking up. We were out a couple days ago. We had to move around a bit but on our third spot we had good action until dark. That’s when Sue hooked into a nice burbot.
Roger said the lures of choice were a VMC Tumbler Spoon and a PK Spoon tipped with either a live minnow or dead shiner. They have been fishing in four to 13 feet of water. Some big pike are still biting there. Rogers brother caught a Master Angler that measured 45.25 inches!
Robyn Grant and Robert Karpiak
Call it a burbot, a mariah, eelpout, freshwater ling, with the water temperature starting to “heat up” and today marking the first official day of spring, it’s the perfect time to get out there and target this unique looking fish. With the help of social media, today’s anglers are forming new opinions about targeting burbot, realizing that not only do these fish put up a remarkable fight, they also make for delectable table fare. Another valid point for the marathon weekend angler such as Robyn and myself, burbot feed in the late evening and into the early morning, so you can almost literally fish for 24 hours straight! In Manitoba, there are few better lakes to target this fish other than on Cedar Lake, Manitoba.
CEDAR LAKE, A BURBOT HOTSPOT
Cedar Lake can be easily accessed by snow machine with the help of one of the local lodges on its shores, or you can enter the lake from one of the public launches. Personally, I access through a lodge as they can provide you with guidance and secure parking for your vehicle while you are out enjoying the last few weekends of ice fishing (call ahead, consider accommodation for your trip as well). There is a lot of snow on the lake this year, so there is no truck access!
The burbot spawning season is in full swing and these fish are aggressive! Concentrate your efforts on large humps surrounded by deep waters. The humps should protrude upwards to around 16 feet of water. We will generally fish anywhere from 16 to 30 feet as temperatures can fluctuate from when we make our first trip up to Cedar Lake in early March to early and/or late April. Our setup is different than most anglers because as mentioned above, we prefer to target the bearded fish throughout the evening and into the early morning hours. The best action is typically between 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. but the bite can start as soon as the sun starts to set and carry on until 5:00 a.m. If you have an underwater camera, take advantage of the crystal-clear water and bring it along for some great entertainment!
CHUM THEM UP
Chumming the waters with some bait fish such as suckers in the late afternoon will help to draw fish in before you drop your line down and prepare for a sleepless night. Our lure of choice is the Kamooki Glow Tiger, but you could also use a glow Jigging Rap, or any other glowing lure. Load with salted minnows and drop down to the bottom of the lake, reeling up just the slightest bit (off of the bottom). Put your rod in a holder, clip on some bells, and do you best to close your eyes for a few moments before the bells just don’t stop ringing (it shouldn’t take long).
For those of us who know fishing is therapy, it’s a great time to do what we love and keep a positive frame of mind. Be well, stay safe, and our tag line has never been more beneficial for your health… GO PLAY OUTSIDE!
Jeff Gustafson had a truck breakdown on is way home from the United States so friend and guide Dave Bennett filled in. Here’s his report.
Mid to Late March is one of my favorite times of year to fish Lake of the Woods and many of the smaller lakes in Northwestern Ontario. Travel conditions are ideal for snowmobiles right now, with some areas accessible by truck, and, if we continue to have negative degree Celsius nights the snow cover on the ice should last through the end of the month. A quick word of caution; higher than normal outflows have kept ice thickness less than normal in the main lake area of Lake of the Woods. Ice conditions can change rapidly at this time of year, especially in current areas and along shorelines.
Longer periods of light are starting to trigger fish movements. Now is the time of year to be mobile and versatile in your fishing. Some walleyes remain on classic points and offshore humps while others are beginning to move to main shore bays in anticipation of the spawn. These fish seem to go through wide swings in activity where they feed aggressively or very sparingly. One day they will attack an aggressive lure and the next need to be teased with a tiny morsel. Live Target rattle baits and large flutter spoons will take care of the willing biters. A #5 Northland puppet minnow, jigging rap or 1/4 oz buckshot spoon will get most of the rest but I will keep a small panfish sized tube or 1/16oz spoon close at hand to drop on a stubborn fish. I have caught some of my biggest walleyes through the ice on these tiny lures!
KEY PIKE LOCATIONS
Look for the weeds to find the pike at this time of year, I’m fishing the first break to deep water right now but will be right up in the weeds by the end of the month. Rattle baits and spoons get the call for a jigging rod and you will catch some nice fish on these moving lures but the biggest fish always seem to fall for a dead bait set on a tip-up. Lakers are still roaming open water but will make runs up into the shallows to feed on minnows, crayfish and small perch. Don’t be surprised to tangle with a big trout while fishing for other species. It’s a fun time to be fishing in the Lake of the Woods area. Be safe and enjoy!
Dave has been guiding on the lake for over 25 years so if you want to enjoy what this area has to offer with a top level guide drop Dave a line at www.davebennettoutdoors.com or give him a call at (807) 466-2140.
VERMILLION BAY AND AREA
GLENN AND KYLA MCDONALD AND FAMILY
As crisis erupts around us, and the world, one thing that we can still do in relative seclusion is fish. In Northwestern Ontario most of us are close to lakes that offer great fishing. In this troubled time it may be one activity we can do with our immediate family in safety. I urge everyone to enjoy some family time, with spouse and kids out on the hard water. Fresh air is good for the soul.
The past few weeks have been fantastic for ice fishing in our region. The ‘laker’ bite has been great, with many anglers reporting catching personal best fish or close to it. Hot lures have continued to be white tube jigs, tipped with minnows or frozen sucker meat. Northland Tackle Rattln’ inner tube jig with Impulse tube and the all new Drop Tine Tackle ‘Hunger Strike’ tube have been great choices.
My last trip out was south of Eagle Lake for lakers, along with my brother in law, Richard Madussi. We tried a couple new to us lakes and found some great ‘eating’ size lakers. No tanks on this trip, but we managed a couple limits and some catch and release.
Speaking of absolute tanks, friend and owner of Andy Meyer’s Lodge, Julian Kalka is no stranger to large fish, but his son Calix is turning into quite the angler himself. Just recently Calix was out fishing and caught the kind of fish most anglers dream about. In total he caught three lakers and a couple gators that would make anyone smile.
Julian informed me both species were caught on white tube jig tipped with Dace minnow. Notice the trend there?
March and April is the time of giant Pike in Northwestern Ontario, they start to move into the shallows for the spawning period and many huge pike are caught this time of year. The Northland quick strike rig and a large sucker minnow is a sure fire way to attract a hunger gator.
Walleye fishing throughout the region has been average for this time of year, good numbers and some large fish being caught. Unsettled weather patterns have led to hot and cold bite periods, with walleye being affected by the change in pressure with weather changes. Jigs and minnows, forage minnow spoons and the new Eye-Ball spoon from Northland have been proven lures. The next month leading to the closure of the hard water season for walleye on April 15th should prove to be the best fishing yet.
While we are practicing ‘social distancing’ fishing is a great way to get out with your family and enjoy the great outdoors. Please be safe out there, and let’s be mindful for the safety of the employee’s at gas, bait and tackle shops. As long as they remain open please be respectful of changing policies they may have regarding the Covid-19 outbreak.
Spring ice fishing is a great time of year, and I hope most of you get a chance to get out. I hope everyone remains healthy through this crisis and if fishing can give us a small break with our families, I’m all for that.
TOM ARMSTRONG-THUNDER BAY
At a time like this, I kind of wish I had an ice hut. Something large and luxurious, the perfect spot for self isolation! What better place to get away from it all, and follow the social distancing rules than sitting in your ice hut, hiding from the world! I do love my portable shelter, and the flexibility it offers, but it may get a little chilly overnight.
Here in Northwestern Ontario, despite some mild weather we are experiencing, there are still plenty of ice fishing opportunities! There is lots of snow, and lots of ice, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. We may not be fishing late into April like I did last season, but there are definitely atleast a few weeks of quality ice fishing season yet. And what better time than last ice, when you generally see warm weather, no frozen holes, and active fish. It almost seems wrong, there is almost no suffering involved!
STAYING CLOSE TO HOME!
I haven’t been out as much as I may like as of late, although we’ve made several journeys out close to home. With a little one at home now, I’m exploring close to home fishing destinations, looking for somewhere good to take her for a short little trip, or somewhere that we can fish without being gone for an extended period of time. I recently explored a local whitefish lake, one that I’ve never heard of ice anglers targeting, but one I knew held whitefish. It was not exactly an epic day, but with low expectations going into it, I consider it a giant success – I caught a nice whitefish! I explored the lake, marked a few fish, then managed to catch a chunky whitefish. Definitely enough excitement to get me back again.
We’ve also been fishing Lake Superior as of late, mainly targeting whitefish and lake trout. We are lucky to have several access points not far from town, that can offer decent ice fishing opportunities. Ice on Superior was limited this year, and some locations that typically freeze over did not. There are still some spots with good ice, but on Superior it can vanish quickly. At one local conservation area, people were ice fishing one week on a foot of ice, and this past week it’s wide open water. Superior is a big, powerful piece of water, and at this time of year you need to be careful. We were last out there a couple weeks ago, my wife and I got out fishing with her brother and his 3 kids. It was a beautiful sunny day, the trout were hungry, and the kids had an absolute blast.
While I may steer clear of Superior from now on, inland lakes still have plenty of ice. I recently spent an afternoon at camp doing some work, and drilled a couple holes to see if I could find an obliging splake or two during a break from work. Ice conditions were perfect, with no slush, and at least 20 inches of ice, and we even found a few hungry fish. Most inland lakes around here will likely have good ice for weeks yet.
WES DAVID-FISHING THE WILD WEST TELEVISION SHOW
Unfortunately, with the craziness of COVID-19, ice fishing might not be the first thing on people’s minds. However, maybe the safest place to be is on the ice with a couple close friends waiting for your ice rod to bow-over. The walleye and northern pike are starting to stage in their spawning locations and my first stop for Self-isolation will be at Gull Lake near the walleye spawning beds. Male walleye will be moving into the spawning areas in anticipation of the up-coming spawn and I will be waiting for them. Like any male species ready to mate, they will be worked up and aggressive. But best of all, they will be willing to feed on a Big Sky Jig tipped with soft plastics or a frozen minnow.
The bite is good on Rafferty with lots of good size perch are being caught. Small jigs tipped with meal worms,maggots ,or minnow head are working the best. Start in about 25 feet of water, moving out or in to get on to them. Walleyes are biting as well but more towards evening. Access is good everything because of the recent cold weather. Pike are starting to move to the shallows in six to ten feet of water. Tip-ups with big herrings have been very good for bigger fish. Boundary Dam still slow on the ice fishing end but on the part with open water. the walleye bite has been good with the odd largemouth bass thrown in as a bonus.
Ice fishing for pike at south end has been pretty good. Tip ups with herring for bait just off the old river are producing lots five to eight pound fish.
Only couple weeks left in season. Be careful watch for changing ice conditions. Best of luck to everyone!