Ice Fishing for Big Walleye on Big Windy - Manitoba Hot Bite
It is no secret that some of the largest walleyes in North America call Lake Winnipeg home.
HuntFishMB - Eric Labaupa
As such, ice fishing for trophy greenbacks on this Manitoba inland ocean is a pursuit that thousands of anglers will attempt this hardwater season. From the earliest days of safe ice to the very last hours of the walleye angling season in the spring, the possibility of hooking into a monster exists. More often than not on this amazing body of water, putting in your time on the ice can result in big fish rewards.
The famed south basin sees the highest concentration of recreational ice angling. The entire span of the southern edge is the site of hundreds of Master Angler catches every winter. Access points dot the shoreline on the west and east sides. Aside from extreme snow cover and/or ice conditions, every manner of transport is doable on the lake from passenger vehicles to ATVs to towable fish houses. High percentage fishable water is merely walking distance from shore, particularly during early and late ice when vehicle use can be limited.
There is no particular ‘best time’ to aim for when planning a trip here. Safe ice for walking onto the big lake is generally mid to late December. The end of the general angling season in the Southern portion of the province is around the first few days of April. Big walleye are caught throughout the winter with the deep freeze days of January and February actually slightly better for size the last few years.
We went on a hawg hunting trip to ‘Big Windy’ late last winter that you can view highlights of in the video below. The area that we honed in on was near the mouth of the Red River in shallow water less than 7 feet under the ice. Previous trips in the days before had us starting in deeper water and making moves until we found consistent action. This led us to eventually drilling holes over water as skinny as 4 feet deep. Tracking down a pod of fish can be done during a day’s fishing if you are mobile enough and have a bit of luck. During a span of consecutive days however, it is very achievable with some effort to get on top of and stay on a school.
Deciding what to tie on won’t necessarily make or break you on Lake Winnipeg. A wide variety of ice lures will fool a greenback into inhaling your offering. Trial and error using a collection of ice rods for efficiency and noting the activity on your electronics will tell you what they want best which can frustratingly vary by the day. Tried and true presentations such as jig and bait, lipless cranks, and swimming jigs are never bad choices. On this day we had the most confidence in smaller profile jigging spoons tipped with a salted minnow as these were getting hit the hardest.
Local anglers will attest that the best water to hit for early ice walleye action is actually on the Red River. The big fish opportunities on the stretch of water from Lockport Dam all the way downstream to the ‘End of Main’ is as bankable a bite as there is in Manitoba in December. Ice angling on the river consists mainly of hanging bait in current although lures will also get action especially when the water is running clearer. Trying different depths can quickly narrow down the most productive water. The bigger fish here tend to be suspended higher in the water column so working different depths in this other sense can payoff as well.