Nestled in the heart of the Pembina Valley Central Plains Region is a well known little body of water. Mary Jane Reservoir has been a long time favoured destination of avid anglers from across the province. The major draw of this meandering emerald water lake is the fact that it is home to a self-sustaining population of largemouth bass. Another reason to visit Mary Jane is to chase after the healthy population of black crappies that swim in it. Over the years, dozens of Master Angler largies and hundreds of Master Angler crappies have been caught here. These two species have proven to be very popular to target, most likely owing to the fact that they can only be caught in a handful of places in Manitoba.
Mary Jane Reservoir is located in the southern most section of the province. It can be accessed by a 6.5km stretch of gravel road travelling north off of Highway #3 in between the towns of La Riviere and Manitou. Anglers should be aware of lake specific reduced limits in effect for Black Crappie (4), Walleye (4), and Largemouth Bass (0).
Arriving mid-morning on a weekday, we encountered only one other boat of anglers during this excursion. The single public boat launch is located at the western most edge of the lake. Reaching depths of around 28’ or so in the middle of this end, it gradually levels off to shallower basin depth as you go east.
The main focus of this trip was to hook into some largemouth bass. Probing weed lines and pitching to obvious targets such as isolated boulders and wood we were able to catch a bunch of bass right off the bat. Although they weren’t very big, it was still a blast to employ bass tactics and get steady action on the target quarry.
After a big winterkill a few winters ago, it was very encouraging to see several year classes of young bass scattered throughout the lake. Mary Jane figures to be loaded with lunkers once again a short while down the road.
The search for toads that we know still lurk here went on until we couldn’t ignore the schools of marks on the sonar any longer. Dropping lighter tackle to the bottom resulted in instant hookups on black crappie.
The average size of crappie that we caught with our small Fuzz-E-Grubs and micro tubes was around 8 to 10 inches. Not all of the marks would hit which is the constant bane of crappie anglers everywhere I’m sure. There was enough action however to keep everyone busy.
Eventually a switch in tactics to 3” plastic tails and random casting 360 degrees around the boat resulted in us catching significantly larger fish. Several crappies measured in at the 12” (30.5 cm) Master Angler benchmark.
Almost as tall as they are wide, the black crappie can be voracious predators when the bite is on. The plastics and inline spinners we were using to trigger active fish were routinely inhaled aggressively by these feisty panfish.
Hitting up Mary Jane Reservoir, along with similar Lake Minnewasta 35km to the east, is well worth the trip especially for those looking to explore new water.