You can sum up the fishing conditions in Manitoba this week in two sets of two words - Lake Winnipeg and Giant Walleyes.
Indeed, if your New Years resolution includes catching a bunch of walleyes and/or the biggest walleye of your life, the giant inland sea just a cast north of the city of Winnipeg is the place to accomplish your goal. It is a lush, productive, walleye factory. The lushest and most productive winter walleye lake on earth.
(Roger Stearns is one of the hottest sticks on Lake Winnipeg, where he makes icing big trophy walleyes seem so easy.)
As a matter of fact, I don't believe I've spent a day ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg - it is the tenth largest lake in the world - when at least one member of our small three or four man party didn't land at least one double digit walleye. Many days we've iced multiple trophy size fish.
That is why I've always described Lake Winnipeg as offering fly-in quality walleye fishing without the time, effort, expensive or hassle of flying in. Most days you can drive your truck, snowmachine or ATV right out to your fishing spot. And the action the last week or two has been nothing short of superb.
How good, you ask?
My buddy Roger Stearns caught 30 walleyes the other afternoon fishing with small Live Target lipless crankbaits and Thumper Jigs concentrating on areas situated in 9 to 14 feet of water. Roger reports that the water clarity is improving daily and that the big fish are biting better when the sun is shining.
Lee Nolden's a friend of Rogers and quite possibly the most famous ice fishing guide on the big lake. In fact, I am willing to bet that legendary Lee has guided more winter walleye anglers to the biggest fish of their lives than any other guide in Canada. If you'd like to get in on the action you can phone Lee at (204) 738-2342, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him via his Facebook page facebook.com/lakewinnipegicefishing.
Like Roger, Lee started out the week experiencing a strong morning bite fishing in 9 to 12 of water and his guests landed a goodly number of 30-inch / ten pound plus walleyes fishing with Live Target lures.
(Here is a guarantee you can take to the bank. You will never see Roger Stearns ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg without at least one rod rigged with his pet Live Target lipless crankbait.)
By the way, while Lee and Roger report excellent (16 to 24 inch) ice conditions they both point out that some "frazzle spots" have started showing up, so pay attention if you're driving around on the lake. Also, keep an eye out for the ice ridges and cracks that are forming when there are strong north winds.
Good buddy and fellow LUND Pro Staffer, Todd Langley, has also been catching the heck out of big walleyes during the last week. Todd runs City Cats Guide Service (204) 955-2744 and his motto is Not Your Average Guiding Service!
Let me tell you, like Lee and Roger, Todd works his butt off, putting his guests on big walleyes, like the trophies he caught at Matlock this week. Interestingly, Todd was fishing considerably shallower water than Roger and Lee, catching both numbers and trophy size fish only ten feet down.
Todd confirmed that there is not much snow on the big lake right now so getting around in a vehicle is easy. The two feet of ice covering the lake is also black and strong, and not dirty as is often the case on Lake Winnipeg.
So, boys and girls, what are the magical words this week for Manitoba? You got it - Lake Winnipeg and Trophy Walleyes. Talk about an unbeatable combination.
Congratulations go out to Shane Osborne-Richards who landed this mammoth walleye the other day on Lake Winnipeg. Shane caught her jigging a Chubby Darter four feet off the bottom. To his credit, Shane kept the fish submerged in the water to prevent any damage in the frigid -27 C temperature. Then he held her up for a quick photo before releasing the biggest walleye of his life. As Shane said, "I got her back in the hole and away she went no worse for wear. I'll never forget that moment as she slipped back down the hole. It was definitely the fish I have dreamed of catching my whole life."