HuntFishMB Contributor: Marcel Laferriere
Anglers coming to Lake Winnipeg for ice fishing are spoiled for choice when it comes to lake access. Regardless of what direction you are coming from, there is an access for you. Assuming you are approaching Lake Winnipeg from the South, which, most of us are, there is a hidden gem that lays just a bit further north of some our favourite access points. If you are willing to drive just a bit further to access the lake, a whole new experience sits in front of you waiting in Hecla Provincial Park.
Only about 90 minutes from Winnipeg, Hecla Island sits relatively untouched by the recreational ice angler. With multiple access points onto the lake such as Hecla Village and Gull Harbour, you have your choice of the water you want to explore. Although the multiple access points are great, that isn’t even the best part of the Hecla experience. Manitoba Parks supplies two permanent ice shacks at Hecla Village as well as at Gull Harbour. These ice shacks are fitted with a wood stove and grill, benches, windows, and even stocked with wood. The best part of all this, is that the shacks are free of charge, first come first serve. So, yes, you just show up, walk in, and fish. This experience sounded almost too good to be true, so I decided I had to see it for myself and headed north with my friend Josh McFaddin for a couple days in Hecla Provincial Park.
Hecla Island is also home to Lakeview Hecla Resort which is really convenient for anyone wanting to make a weekend out of it. Josh and I decided to head up Friday after work and spend one night and fish all day Saturday. When we got there, around 7:00pm, we decided to try our luck at some night fishing. The shack was empty and we were starving for some rod bending action, so, why not? We lit a fire in the wood stove and got settled in our shack under the moonlight. The shack we were in had about 15 feet of water beneath the ice, which, was a pleasant surprise given we were only about 30 meters from shore. We fished for an hour or so marking a handful a fish, before all of a sudden a dead stick I had in a rod holder twitched just slightly. I glanced away from my flasher and stared at the rod tip and momentarily froze as we typically do when we wait for a dead stick to get hit again. The rod tip shakes again, this time a bit harder so I quickly grab the rod and set the hook. Fish on. Josh and I, both suddenly ecstatic that there may actually be a night bite, circle the hole like scavengers waiting to see what comes up. Our excitement peaked when we saw a feisty burbot poke its head up the hole. Night bite success.
After our successful night bite in the shack and a teaser of what we would experience the next day, we retired to the resort for the night. One of the best parts of this experience is the resort and everything it has to offer. Due to its exemplary amenities, namely, a restaurant and lounge, large kids pool area including a 3-storey water slide, an 18+ pool area including a mineral bath, hydrotherapy hot tub, hydro-kinetics pool, nordic plunge, and an aroma infused steam room, and to top it all off, a full spa, it has a lot to offer to all types of people. These are just a few of the things they have to offer, so it’s incredibly accommodating whether you’re coming up just with a buddy like I did or if you’re bringing the whole family up and making a weekend out of it. Plus, they also welcome ice anglers of all levels. So, if you don’t own an auger, they will rent you one so you can drill the holes in your shack. That’s pretty cool, because it means theoretically, you can drive up with just a fishing rod and fish out of a heated shack for free. I can’t name anywhere else where you can do that, it’s incredible.
In the morning, we wasted no time getting to the shack, as we wanted to fish in the dark before sunrise for a bit to make the most of the morning bite. We fired up the wood stove with the supplied wood and hunkered in for the day. It took almost no time before it was warm enough to strip right down to a hoodie. Around sunrise, we began to mark fish on a regular basis in the lower third of the water column and they were coming in hot and heavy. Almost every single fish we marked only took a quick rip of a rattle bait or a small jiggle of a minnow before they’d eat. Every once in a while we would mark something in the middle of the water column, and when we reeled up to it and put something in front of it, it was electric how quickly they crushed whatever lure we had on. Just about every single suspended fish we marked absolutely inhaled our bait with no hesitation at all. It was one of those days when you see a suspended mark and you almost jump for joy like it’s Christmas because you just know what’s about to happen.
A handful of times we had double headers when it was clear that a school was going by, and it wasn’t long before we had our limit of walleyes. In fact, I think we had our limit by about 9:00am. We decided to take full advantage of our wood stove and tossed a cast iron pan on top of the grill to cook up some legendary Lake Winnipeg walleye. This was my first time fishing out of a permanent shack on Lake Winnipeg and the whole experience was something I won’t forget for a long time. The fish fry of the walleye we caught that morning was the cherry on the cake to a perfect trip. As we feasted on our fish, we continued to catch all day on rattle baits and minnows.
I was shocked when I heard about these shacks that Manitoba Parks supplies and I’m astonished at how incredible of an experience is only 90 minutes from Winnipeg. We saw one group of ice anglers all day and this is the same Lake Winnipeg that is home to the 15 pounders we all dream of. If you’re looking for some new scenery, a permanent shack experience, and virtually no angling pressure at all, look no further, Hecla is where you need to go.
For more information on fishing for walleye in Manitoba, visit our Walleye page.