*The current weather swings have resulted in widely varying ice conditions on various bodies of water. Always ensure you take all precautions before venturing out onto the ice. Scroll down for more information on early-season ice safety.
Stocked Trout – An Early Season Favorite
Stocked trout are a common favourite as the first hardwater trip of the year. The lakes and ponds stocked with trout are typically smaller and provide the first opportunity to venture onto the ice when all safety precautions are taken.
Since trout thrive in cooler waters, brown trout, rainbow trout or tiger trout can be an exhilarating start to the season. These fish are sure to shake off the dust from those ice rods with the countless drag-peeling runs and frantic headshakes.
Manitoba offers a variety of well-known stocked trout lakes throughout the various regions such as Twin Lakes, Patterson Lake and Bower Lake in the Western and Parkland Regions. Barbe Lake and Foot Print Lake are in the Northern Region and McHugh Lake, Lyons Lake and Hunt Lake are in the Eastern Region of the Province.
Walleye – Prairie Gold and Greenbacks
Likely the most popular fish to target for many anglers is the Walleye. Whether it’s the well-known greenback or the prairie gold, the walleye grow big and early season can be your best shot at one of these giants!
Lake of the Prairies is well known to produce giant walleye and large numbers of smaller walleye.
Larger bodies of water such as Lake Winnipeg take a longer time to freeze up and will be greatly affected by winds shifting the ice sheet. Lake Winnipeg currently has a wide area of open water and is not yet accessible for those looking to chase some Greenbacks.
Black Crappie – Hardwater Slabs
Crappie is a well-sought-after species during the hardwater months. There are few moments quite like that of when you stumble upon a stacked school of black crappie and you drop down, watching them all race for your bait.
The Canadian Shield lakes of Manitoba’s Eastern Region regularly produce crappie in the 40.64 cm / 16 in. plus range. These giants draw in anglers all season as they try to reel in their new personal best slabs. These fish tend to roam deeper basins during the cold months of winter so using electronics can provide an advantage when looking for some schools of crappies.
Ice Safety – Know Before You Go
The most important part of getting on the ice is being able to safely get off at the end of the day. Early season ice can be notoriously unpredictable and if you do end up venturing out onto the hardwater, here are some quick tips to help mitigate the hazards of thin ice.
The Lifesaving Society Manitoba recommends a minimum of 10.00 cm / 4.00 in. of clear blue ice for ice fishing. Review the ice thickness chart below to understand the ice thickness minimum required for winter activities on the hard water.
Each body of water can vary in ice thickness. Variables such as moving water, natural springs, and marshes can vary the water temperature and negatively affect the thickness and quality of ice. Other variables such as snow on top can act as an insulator causing thinner ice beneath.
- Always bring an ice chisel to test the ice thickness ahead before stepping onto it.
- In a “break through” situation, wearing a hardwater suit with floatation and having a good set of ice picks can make a big difference in the chances of survival.
- Avoid going onto early ice alone to ensure you have immediate help in an emergency situation and bring a rope to assist in a rescue if required.
- Take extreme caution around pressure ridges as these can pose a hazard any time of the year due to the shifting ice sheets.
For more information on winter and ice safety, visit the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba website
Winter Fish Handling – Ice Fishing Report Quick Tip
With a world-class fishery comes the duty to ensure that we can continue to enjoy it for many generations. Practicing catch and release is vital to protect our water bodies and with winter comes a new responsibility.
Frigid temperatures with a brisk wind can quickly freeze the eyes of a fish affecting the survival rate. To help prevent this, keep the fish in the water until you are ready to take a picture or try to take photos in an ice shelter during cooler days. Ensure minimal time out of the water to maximize survival rate.
A Look Into December
As the cooler temperatures settle in the upcoming weeks, new opportunities will open across various bodies of water. The well-rested greenbacks of Lake Winnipeg and the Red River will be in the sights of many anglers. Deeper bodies of water that typically hold Lake Trout will be late to freeze and don’t see much traffic until January. Stay tuned for the next ice fishing report for all the amazing opportunities across the province this winter!
Written by: Petro Hrynda