Well... there’s only one thing to do when its 30 below zero and the soft water has turned hard! Yes! It’s that time of the year to get out and rustle up some big Canadian fatties! Lake Winnipeg is one of the premier trophy walleye fisheries in the world. Here, every time you venture out on to the ice, you stand a serious chance of hauling up a walleye in the teens...and I’m not talkin’ inches! That’s right, It isn’t uncommon for thirteen and fourteen pound fish to be caught here throughout the ice fishing season. Sure, the December through February months can give you some great action, but to be honest, during these months the bite is really just warming up for what the lake has in store for you in March!
As spring approaches the big walleye typically school up heavily in the shallow, sandy bays for the spring ritual of spawning. It’s at this particular time of the year that the true giants come down from the north basin to mingle with the local fish! These huge emerald walleye are nicknamed “greenbacks” because of their unique color and can be fished this time of year often by drilling through 6 feet of ice to fish 3 feet of water.
A wide variety of presentations work at this time of the year, some of which are traditional and some just downright crazy, out of this world methods! I’m not sure there is another place on the planet that has made using summer plugs in winter more popular. In fact, bass rattlers and various other cranks baits are commonly fine-tuned or redesigned by anglers with repainting and other specializations specifically for ice fishing action. I’ve commonly used Extra split rings, salted minnows wrapped carefully around the rear trebles, and another salty added to the two-foot trailer which is attached to the mono. To top it off, I use Mustads new drop-shot hook to seal the deal. In this set-up, the built-in swivel prevents line twist and sets you up for some serious Greenback potential.
The boys that fish the lake regularly understand that noise, as well as scent are the key points to success when targeting Lake Winnipeg Greenbacks. In my days out on the ice, I’ve learned that Pro-Cure trophy walleye scent is the best on the market, and I really like their garlic product. I have had the opportunity to shoot many TV shows on the ice and I can confidently tell you that I would not venture out without my Pro-cure! “Hawg calling,” as we like to call it...involves ripping the traditional bass lipless crank up and down making tons of noise...this method brings in the curious walleyes like a magnet to check out what’s going on! We have been doing this on the lake for about 10 years. Like many of you reading this, at first, many anglers thought we were nuts...until they saw what we were catching. Through the promotion of this tactic within various local fishing clubs “Hawg Calling” has revolutionized ice fishing as we know it today. And believe me, walleye aren’t the only species crazy about the Hawg Call...We take pike, lake trout, and even winter musky as well by using this method!
A Fisherman once wrote an article on my buddy Roger Stearns and his use of the Live Target Shad Rattle Traps for ice fishing. The Funny thing is... I catch as many fish on my LUND rattle trap promotional lure as any other, summer or winter! The colors I use vary from firetiger, to the natural black when fishing with this setup. But without a doubt, I have had the most luck with good old fashion silver! Spoons of any shape and size also work well with this type of fishing. Rattle spoons made by Northland are giant killers. I took my biggest fish three years ago at a whopping 15 pounds and 4 oz on that baby! Trust me, she hit like a Mac truck and when I set the hook I couldn’t even move her off the bottom! After a 10 minute heart wrenching battle, she got stuck in a 10 inch hole 2 feet from the surface. My buddy Jay stuck his arm in the water to bring the monster up for a picture. Nothing like posing with a 34 inch walleye!
Understand that an average 28 inch walleye should tip the scales at 8 pounds...an average 28 inch Lake Winnipeg fish, however, will tip the scale at 10 pounds! Typically, the fish around here are built as follows: 29 inches = 11 lbs… A 30 incher =12lbs… and at 31 inches=13 lbs. That’s how big and fat these tanks get!
When looking to pull up one of these pigs to the surface, it’s imperative to remember that the fish move with the currents, so it is important to be mobile. A great general rule of thumb that I like to use is to fish shallow (6-8 feet) early in the morning and move to deeper water (12-16 feet) in early afternoon. Then, later in the day, move back to shallow water for the evening bite! Don’t let me forget to tell you, A March full moon will put more fish on the ice than any other time of year!
When you finally decide to give this a try for yourself, remember to have the right gear and to hire a guide before you venture out. Believe it or not, the conditions on the lake can turn nasty quickly and I have seen many a day go from crystal clear conditions to a total white out within an hour! GPS is also a must, and sleds are great to have to get around the desolate landscape more efficiently. If u hire a guide, most have trucks that are equipped with snow-tracks that can allow you to navigate to places that most others wouldn’t bother with.
With the average size of 22 inches, and a scale tipping 4.5 pounds, I love catching those babies. If you know what you’re doing and you hit the right spot, you could easily have a 100 fish day! If you want to arrange a trip with lodging let me know and I would be happy to make your trip north the best ever...cause that’s how we roll!
One of the most important pieces of equipment for any avid ice fisherman is a portable fryer. Nothing beats fresh Greenback!
To begin planning your next Canadian excursion, visit our Adventure Match to find the perfect lodge to suit your personal fishing or hunting preferences.
Today Craig is known as one of the top Muskie anglers in Canada - Loudly and boisterously commanding and navigating throughout the Manitoba and Ontario lakes. He hosts seminars across Canada and throughout the USA on Muskie fishing. He has hosted several TV shows both in open and hard water and is featured as one of Lund Boats “Pro Staff”. Tournament founder, philanthropist, outdoors writer and outdoor expert, Craig simply can’t get enough of the great outdoors. Craig was selected to fish for Team Canada, one of 30 pro anglers from across the country to compete in a Canada vs. USA challenge. Find out more at www.staponoutdoors.com
A Must Read: Canadian Trips Cheaper than you Ever Thought Possible
Top Article: Perfecting Your Shore Lunch!
Fishing Tips From One Rugged Dude!