HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa
February is winding down and we are on the cusp of what we like to call ‘March Madness’ here in Manitoba. That of course refers to the crazy hot bite that occurs throughout many of the province’s frozen bodies of water during the latter part of the ice season. We spoke with a handful of hard-core ice anglers from around the province to get their latest ice fishing reports and also what to look forward to in the coming weeks as far as their favourite hardwater spots are concerned.
Steve Sasaki has been on top of what he described as an “unseasonably good” bite on the river this February. The Red River north generally is a solid bet during early ice then gradually tapers off walleye wise as the season progresses. This season however has seen regular reports of monster greenback catches right up to now. “There are two areas that have been producing recently: the Netley area to the north and the ‘steam plant’ area to the south,” shared the Rapala Manitoba ProStaff member “They have started the annual ice cutting project north of Netley Creek in the last few days though so be aware of their progress if you are fishing in that area.” He mentioned that the shallower sections of the river have been good for numbers of saugers and smaller walleye but the Master Angler-sized giants have been more consistent at the 30’ plus depth areas and targeted suspended in the water column. The greenback numbers in the river are high right now and don’t appear to waning anytime soon making the Red as good a place as any to drop a line as March rolls in.
Big Whiteshell Lake
“The snow is deep!” was the first thing avid angler Sam Hart exclaimed when asked about the conditions on Big Whiteshell. Much like most of the province, the snow cover on lakes in the Eastern Region has been substantial making them track vehicle access only for the most part. “Or by foot if you want to put some miles on your boots,” which Hart has no problem doing if that means getting to the right spot “On this lake you want to get in that 21’ plus depth and you’re set for some big ‘ol tullibee action.” Big White is also known for being home to bruiser yellow perch which are often caught in the same areas as the lake’s high-flying trophy ciscos. “As far as presentations, I always use tungsten jigs with tiny plastics. On my most recent trip there Hyperglide lures also helped put some decent numbers on the ice,” he shared. Deep snow or not, if you head out this way in the next few weeks there is a good chance you will run into Sam as he chases March Master Anglers on one of his favourite lakes.
Jason Hildebrand, owner of Pembina Sharpening Service in Winkler gave us the rundown on the lakes in his area from the last few weeks. “Stephenfield Lake near Carman has been slow for northern pike compared to most years at this time. The perch bite has been steady but the average size is small at 6”-8”. Lake Minnewasta has been hot for crappies with average sizes in the 8”-10” range with larger ones mixed in as well. Fish are being found in the 20’-30’ depths and caught mostly suspended around 10’-15’. Access onto the lake is no issue with 4×4,” Hildebrand also noted that there have been several huge northern pike caught there this winter as well. Mary Jane Reservoir on the other hand has been a tougher bite but has been producing larger sized black crappies, “The average size here has been 11” with many Master Anglers caught as well. They have been hitting tiny spoons and small tungsten jigs with rubber bodies.” Access is great at the moment we were told as a derby the previous weekend groomed a wide trail at the main area of the lake otherwise it’s difficult truck travel beyond it.
The lake trout action on Athapap has been up and down in February. When they are on though it has been spectacular. Brett Baynton operator of Baker’s Narrows Lodge shared that they have been targeting lakers on the bottom in 70’-80’ of water. Their other go-to spots have been in 100’ plus depths with their lures suspended at 40’-60’ or 70’-80’. “Walleye and northerns have just been average but things really turn on in March around here for the heavies. We have been catching lots and lots and lots of burbot large and small. This burbot bite will only continue to get better as they go into their spawn mode in the coming weeks.”
We reached out to Phil Paczkowski, owner of Patch’s Bait and Tackle in Roblin, for an update on the bite in the Parkland Region, “Lake of the Prairies has been slow the last few weeks for walleye and pike. That being said there still has been some huge walleyes caught lately with a few going over 30 inches. The majority of the fish have been small and caught in the deeper channels.” Phil said that the action will pick up significantly in the next few weeks with longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures, “Huge pike that Lake of the Prairies is known for will start to get active very soon. Shallower edges around 12’ and places near islands and creek mouths are the best place to drop bait and tip-up rigs.” In the meantime, Paczkowski suggested that the best bet for action in the region right now is the stocked trout lakes, “East Goose lake has been on fire this winter with plenty of good-sized rainbow trout, perch, and the odd walleye coming out.”
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