HuntFishMB Contributor: Marcel Laferriere
The Eastern Region of Manitoba features several lakes with a very targetable range of Northern Pike. Year after year one lake, just off the Trans-Canada Highway, always seems to produce giant gators and grow them big at that. Falcon Lake is home to a community spot weed line at the far Western corner of the lake. This weed line, famous for producing countless Master Angler Pike, is also home to the Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off, which is one of the biggest ice fishing derbies in all of Canada.
PC -Jay Siemans
I look forward to this massive fishing event every year and with the derby quickly approaching on Saturday March 17, I went out to Falcon Lake for a one-day pre-fish to see if I could hook myself what could be a $15,000 fish on derby day. I hit the ice with my friend Ian Young and my girlfriend Andrea. She loves this event because she basically sees the derby as a realistic chance of cashing in a lottery ticket due to how much money and prizes are up for grabs. Ian is the Tournament Director and on this particular day, was also tagging three more pike for his Falcon Lake Tagged Fish Contest. A separate event altogether from the derby, Ian has now tagged six pike and three bass that have a total combined value of $12,000! One pike that was tagged last year worth $1,000 was caught, and the angler who caught it was entered in the contest so he was paid $1,000 for his catch. So, the way I see it, fishing Falcon Lake is basically like working. I don’t recommend quitting your day job, but it sure is a good excuse to go fishing for some big pike. So, that’s what we did.
We fished with a common technique of using tip-ups and quick-strike or predator rigs with bait. Basically any bait will do the job; a cisco, sucker, or even some good old shiners. Once we dropped all of our lines and set our flags, it took almost no time before I heard the first shout, “Flag! Flag!”. The chaos begins. With my hopes high and my hands shaking already, we all leaped to a run to the upturned tip-up flag. When we got there, the spool was spinning a million miles an hour and I jumped on the prime opportunity to set the hook. Fish on. My first fish of the day and boy it felt heavy. Right from the hookset, the weight was there and head shakes were violent. We have a big fish on.
One of the best parts of tip-up fishing in my opinion, is weirdly, how often you lose fish. It might sound crazy, but no matter how good you think you are at tip-up fishing, you will lose fish and there will be heartbreakers. Why is this fun? Because every time you set the hook and feel that weight, you know every shake and every run is crucial and on the edge. A battle from a big pike on a tip-up is one of the most adrenaline-packed fishing experiences I have ever had and this fish was no exception. After a couple minute fight, we finally saw a big green mouth of teeth emerge from the hole from the infamous weed line. Success. Not the giant I was hoping for, but nonetheless a beautiful Northern Pike right at the derby site. After unhooking and a quick photo, I made sure to whisper in his ear that I’ll split the earnings if he bites my line again on March 17th. I hope he takes the deal.
We caught a handful of fish that day including a couple nice mid 30-inchers. Although this was already a fantastic day on the ice, the best part about fishing Falcon Lake is the opportunities that Ian has created for anglers looking for a new experience. Being able to participate in a year-round fishing competition with $12,000 up for grabs is unbelievable. He’s even tagging another three smallmouth bass on opening day this year to bring the total up to $15,000! That’s a lot of cash swimming around! To add to his extra incentive, the famous weed line that so many of these pike hangout in, is a very easy walk from the parking lot. I walked out, pulling my toboggan with all my gear and it was no struggle at all. No truck needed and you can chase giant pike with a chance to make a bunch of cash in the process.
For more information and tickets for the Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off or the Falcon Lake Tagged Fish Contest, visit their website at winterfishoff.com