Early Birds on Early Ice

HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa

November is an angling transition month in Manitoba. Open water trips are numbered as the month goes on, with every excursion possibly the last of the season. Ice fishing season enticingly looms on the horizon as frosty mornings become more frequent. Overnight freezing temperatures, for those eagerly awaiting hard water opportunities, are wished for and obsessively monitored. Actual freeze-up varies from year to year, but late November to early December normally sees the first ventures onto safe first ice.

As always, please exercise extreme caution and utilize safety measures whenever venturing onto ice. Conditions can vary drastically from region to region, waterbody to waterbody, and quite often even spot to spot.

Ice fishing has grown massively to become a highly anticipated winter activity in this province. At this time of year, hundreds of enthusiasts will have fully charged ice flashers, necessary cold weather apparel, and an arsenal of ice tackle and gear ready to go at a moments notice. The arrival of colder than normal temperatures this particular November has made the long-awaited transition from open to hard water much earlier. Those early birds who were ready and willing have already hooked into some fantastic first ice catches.

The northern waters of the province are traditionally the first to close up. Targeting a variety of species on the endless smaller lakes and ponds in the Northern Region can provide an early-ice bonanza. This Master Angler rainbow trout caught by Elissa Bogdan was the first ice fishing catch of the year out of Wekusko Falls Lodge. Meanwhile Chad Munro pulled this beauty early ice ‘bow out of Barbe Lake.

The Parkland Region is well-known to have some of the best still water fly-fishing lakes around. These same waters also offer the opportunity to ice various trophy trout species all winter. Setting up along the edges of old weed beds at first ice are great spots to wait out cruising feeders. Sam Hart hooked into this gorgeous brown trout earlier this month. Tiger trout on famous Twin Lake, such as this specimen caught by Josh Mutchler the other day, are just as feisty on first ice as they are during the late fall hot bite.

First ice is one of your best shots at getting a monster greenback topside on the Red River in the Interlake Region. The famous fall run of these Lake Winnipeg lunkers only intensifies into the Red as the water gets colder. The back end of the transition period often has Master Angler-sized walleyes feeding aggressively in the deeper main channel. Hans Hasler had a great first trip out there catching this chunky green. Guyle Sternat has been already been on the river a few times hooking some nice walleyes each trip out.

Whiteshell Provincial Park in the Eastern Region is stacked with smaller lakes that are popular early ice destinations as well. James and Rene Boxhorn have gotten a headstart on the fantastic black crappie fishing in this area during the winter. Systematically working sections nearby or within old weed beds can often result in tracking down schools of slabs at first ice. As the ice gets thicker the bigger fish will begin to drop or suspend over deeper holes nearby.

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