Three Can’t-miss Early Season Drive-to Fishing Hot Spots in Manitoba

HuntFishMB – Eric Labaupa

The long-awaited chance to fish open water in Manitoba is excruciatingly close at hand. In anticipation of the start of a new year, we’ve compiled a list of drive-to fishing destinations that are tried and true early season go-to fisheries that the whole family can enjoy.

MB Fishing Season Opener Dates

General angling in the Southern Division of the province gets the go ahead first on Saturday, May 11. It might be tight time-wise for some lakes as to whether or not they will be totally ice free this spring, but all recent reports point to there being open water on even the most notorious late-melters such as Falcon and West Hawk Lakes.

The North Central and Northwest Divisions’ general season begins on May 17, while the remote Northeast Division is generally open to angling all year.

Lake Winnipeg at Hecla Island – Greenback Walleye

PC - Eric Labaupa

One of the most sought-after ice fishing target species are still very much catchable after the season closure period. It can be argued that the weeks following opening day in May are indeed the best time of the entire calendar year to catch staggering numbers in all sizes of these migrating walleyes.

Regardless of the progression of the southern basin and surrounding watershed’s melt, massive schools of greenbacks will be in transit at this time of year. The later the spring, the greater the number that will still be making their way north, some from as far as the furthest reaches of the lake’s many tributaries. To get to the north basin there are only a couple relatively narrow paths for the fish to go and that includes the section of water that flows by Hecla Island Provincial Park.

PC - Eric Labaupa

The boat launch and pier at Hecla Village is a popular early season drive-to fishing spot for anglers fishing out of watercraft and off-shore alike. Hungry schools of walleyes cruise by one after another tight to the deeper shorelines in this area. The south shore of Black Island across the way is another feeding ground to target, as is dropping bigger jigs in the deep heavy current in the middle of the straight between Hecla and Black. Master Angler class fish abound although they will be noticeably thinner being primarily post-spawn fish.

Red River at Lockport – Channel Catfish

PC - Eric Labaupa

There is no other fishery in the province that compares to the trophy channel catfish angling thriving on the Red River North. As bankable a big fish bite that exists in Manitoba, targeting these monster cats for your first drive-to fishing trip of the year is one way to ensure you start the season with a bang.

Most years the mighty Red River will have subsided from its swollen spring run-off version by the time opening day rolls around in May. Even during a later spring, such as the case this year, the locks at Lockport can be counted on to be productive water for hungry channel cats. As the only barrier that spans the width of the Red in Manitoba, it created the focal point for the river’s forage and in turn a trophy-class catfish population, and in turn one of the premiere places for anglers to target these fish in the world.

Theo Loewen MA channel catfish

Whether from anchored boat or still fishing from shore, successfully hooking and landing a huge catfish is a thrill that needs to be experienced. As much as the pure number of catches by anglers everyday will point out, there is still very much some know-how and use of proper equipment involved. Heavy gear and tackle for example are a must to ensure that battles with Master Angler calibre fish don’t endure for too long endangering the fish’s health. Another is using enough weight to keep your bait on the bottom as strong current conditions can require as much as 8oz to do the job.

Experienced Red River catfish enthusiasts will attest that having a variety of different bait on hand goes a long way to ultimately having success. One of either shrimp, cut sucker, cut goldeye, chicken hearts, squid, and such, more often than not proves to be more popular seemingly day-to-day. Not having the right bait of the day has been the downfall of much too many trophy catfish seekers in the past.

Whitemud River at Lake Manitoba – Freshwater Drum and Common Carp

Sam Hart MA freshwater drum

For two unheralded sport fish amongst Manitoba’s many, there are hundreds of anglers from far and wide who descend on the Whitemud River to target this water’s trophy freshwater drum and common carp. While not a big body of water at all, the Whitemud empties into massive Lake Manitoba which is a big fish factory for all manner of species including the two mentioned.

The early season is ideal to visit the Whitemud as it will be chock full of fish and big ones at that. Some of the largest freshwater drum on record through Master Angler have been caught here including several 32inch monsters caught in 2017 during the month of May. 22-26inch behemoths are a given here with the chance of hooking into a true sewer plate specimen of 27inches or more a very real possibility.

Trevor Hominick MA common carp

You never know what you’ll hook into next on the Whitemud as every rod buckling tug on the line can be a record fish of any number of species on the other end. Some of the longest common carp ever caught in the province have been from this very river. Hooking into a mid-30’s beast of a carp is very possible and every bit as hard to land as any other sport fish around.

Sportsman’s Corner is a popular campground and park situated on the Whitemud River near where it empties into Lake Manitoba. An ideal drive-to fishing location, anglers can launch boats, smaller watercraft such as kayaks and canoes, or fish from shore.

For more information about Drive-to fishing opportunities in Manitoba, visit our Drive-To Fishing page.

*Protect Manitoba’s water and resources. Stop aquatic invasive species. For more information on how to do your part visit the Sustainable Development AIS page.