So technically not Manitoba Fly Fishing but I am a Manitoban and I was fly fishing, so 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
Every year or every other year we beat the cold, like so many, and go south. Sometimes we do the predictable thing and go to Orlando and theme park it. But most years we go to the 30a area of the Gulf coast portion of Florida.
This is a retiree, snowbird, artsy, all of the above area. So it is quiet. It is also not as warm but always warmer than Winnipeg!
It took me a few trips to figure out the fishing here. My first thought was to target the salt as it was everywhere and easy to access. I also want to get my first salt water fish on any tackle (which I did manage a couple year ago in Bonne Bay N.L.)
Eventually I decided to try for the freshwater fish. The ponds are not as numerous as they are in the Kissimmee area, but they are there. Online research did not reveal much. The 30a, Destin, Sandestin areas are not hot spots for fishing and most of the info was about the bigger lakes where one would need a boat.
But with fly rod in hand I found places that held fish.
The first spot I found was a weird experience for sure. Behind the Destin Commons Mall is two ponds. They have a tonne of Blue gill and the odd bass. What makes it weird is it is right beside the mall with lots shopping traffic. As well, there is a Bass Pro Shop in that mall. So you could go there, buy a licence and go fishing.
All the golf courses have ponds and because the drainage systems are all connected, they all have fish.
I tried Seascape Golf area and got chased off by security. So I accessed the ponds from a mall adjacent to the course and had a grand time. I had it to myself on Christmas Day but it was busy other days. The golfers playing through ranged from the friendly to the offended.
Also in the area is Topsail State park. The fishing there is slow but there are blue gills.
Matter of fact that is what you will always get in these Florida ponds.
We stayed at a different place this year and it was on Little Redfish Lake. I could see fish swirling off a point in that lake. I could see it from my balcony. It happened early morning and late afternoon.
And so readers I caught my first ever Redfish in Redfish lake!
The bass ponds were fished with a 4wt so the Bass gave a good accounting of themselves but the Gills not so much. The blue gill ponds were fished with my 2wt and so all the fish felt nice.
Here are a few of the fish caught over the span of 8 fishing attempts.
Fall is the time many people anticipate with great and positive feelings. Folks who do not like the heat love the cooler temperatures. School based business like my Music School here in Winnipeg look forward to the returning income. Most salient to this blog is the outdoors people who look to make up for lost time (with fishing and hiking) and hunters looking to get started. Instead we we had a very disappointing turn of events.
After a scorching hot and dry summer with record temperatures what followed was an early snow fall in September, followed by below normal temperatures in October.
I managed to brave the +3 on Friday October 12th. I drove to one of the few eastern watersheds that are stocked with trout.
The first thing I found, other than the snow on the ground, was that the picnic table was removed completely.
This picnic table has been the bane of all the boat and float tubers. The shore folks kept moving it on to the boat launch. I guess the six foot walk from tackle box and bait was too much to deal with. Every time I went I had to move it. If I went on a weekend, it would be back there by the time I got off the water (complete with fishers who had no clue what to do when a boat of float tube came in to get off the water). That is why I tend to go on a Friday
Thinking I had to move it to get started I was pleasantly surprised that not only did I not have to move it, it was gone completely.
Anyhow, the air temp was supposed to climb to 5 (it didn’t) the water temp was around 1 and there was a bit of wind. I managed a few fish on a Bead Head Flymph in Brown. I lasted about 5-6 hours before my numb feet forced me off.
The fish were scattered and only a smooth, long, and relatively fast retrieves seem to elicit any action. Once I went this way, I got a lot of strikes and LDR’s as well a 4 fish (2 x Browns and 2 x Bows) The fish were an OK size. Considering the lake winter killed and was just restocked in spring I thought the fishing was pretty good. While I could complain that the Whiteshell Lakes don’t get this kinda love, I am grateful that ANY bodies of water, east of Winnipeg, gets this sort of squeaky wheel favouritism.
While I haven’t done any fishing since getting back from vacation, I have given some casting classes. These are all private lessons and (if needed) I supply the gear. On the 20th I was teaching a fella who is planning on retiring to the B.C. mountains.
A few days later I gave a fly rod casting lesson to a fella who’s van trip to the mountains was thwarted by engine failure.
I went a little earlier so I could shoot some birds.
The next fella was a guy who hasn’t had much success fishing but thought fly fishing was for him.
With these classes I use 6wt rods (which I feel are a good 1st outfit for Manitoba Waters) a real leader and real flies (with the points off so no one gets a hook in them)
All of these folks couldn’t cast even a little but by the end of the hour they had the skills that could get them fish!
I had been fishing since I got back from my trip to Newfoundland (where I fished a lot!). One because I was quite busy with gigs (playing music) two, we had some brutally hot weather and three, I was giving my music school a bit of a make-over.
But this date was booked way back and I was kinda needing to get back out there.
Because it was the Sunday of the last long weekend of the summer I could not take him to all my spots. Luckily I have a few spots that are less known.
We caught trout, pike and perch and missed out on bass which are pretty likely and walleye that are almost impossible this time of year for wading fishers.
The client was from Italy and marveled at all our wild spaces and so much open areas. Italy has almost twice the population of Canada but could fit comfortably inside our province.
Ironically, we happen to be planning a family vacation to Italy next year and my client this day has offered not only tourist advice, but to set up some fishing opportunities!
Funny how things work out.
After 2 years the stocking map is now current!
What is nice is to see they are getting fish into the eastern lakes. Hopefully this is backed up by stocking to offset mortality rates due to predators and such.
The first fish I ever caught on a fly rod was a small-mouth bass in a southern Ontario stream. That fish and fight hooked me on fly fishing and I love to return to that regularly. I thought that, after good rains followed by steady weather, today would make a prime time to try. We went to Big Creek Manitoba. This is a big creek that feeds into the Winnipeg river system inside the Whiteshell Provincial Park. We launched our float tubes and and went at it. I found active fish pretty early.
The first fish was my first bass of the year (not counting Florida) and was nice at just under 18″.
I called to my fishing partner to come over as there were plenty of active fish in this inlet.
The next fish might have been the best of season and maybe my best bass.You can hear and see it on the video at the end of this article
After that there was numerous hits tugs and struggles. I worked the area, where I lost that fish, pretty hard and but only got one more bass and pike to hand.
My partner caught 5 smallies and zero pike.
Here is the full video (at least until the battery died).
The storm clouds you can see in the background of the photos and videos, finally caught up to us and we got off the water.
We were craving a burger from the Nite Hawk Cafe so we drove to the south east part of the park. If that seems like a long drive to you, you’ve never had one of their burgers!
As we were in the area, we thought we’d take a look at the Whiteshell creek after the disappointment of June 8th’s trip
Apparently there was supposed to be a tour ending with a stocking on the 9th. Our thinking being, 2 weeks might have given the fish time to acclimate.
There were no fish.
I don’t know if they stocking was so small as to be meaningless, the stocking didn’t happen, the mergansers picked them off or what. But no trout but also no native fish or fish sign at all.
The head waters are in trouble and maybe all of this is the after math of the stream ‘improvements’ and the bridge reconstruction. Maybe it will rebound in a few years. Maybe not at all
ON Friday myself and a friend hit a few spots along the Whiteshell River.
This Manitoba river winds through the park from McDougall’s landing to the Nutimik portion of the Winnipeg River. There are a handful of places where the river is accessible from road points without too much hiking.
We hit a few of these
We found mostly 12″ pike and the odd perch.
We found this very unusual. Typically the pike would be bigger and there could be more variety in species, but this has been a bizarre spring and the fish patterns are WAY off!
We also found it unsatisfying, so we headed down to the stocked portion of the river. This is usually stocked, stocked early and often
Not a sniff. We did read that they were going to make a big deal out the stocking the next day at the end of some tours ad presentations.
We are suspecting that the lack of stocking over all and the not publishing of reports for 2 years is to hide from the public how bad things are. Particularly how bad stocking is for non politically motivated lakes and streams.
There was some work done to create more fish habitat but someone put the ‘dead fall’ in backwards. A tree that falls into a river does not fall roots first.
I am not sure the logic. On one hand the roots will provide under water micro habitat for minnows and fingerlings. On the other hand they look hideous and unnatural. They are also going to be line and fly snaggers.
I am hoping this spring levels out and a normal summer leads to a great fall but right now the warm water fly fishing is weird and the stocked trout fishing is in precarious need of fixing, particularly in the fairness department.
Headed out to my formerly favorite lake, Lyon’s.
I say former because changes in focus on the delivery of services by the hatchery have changed this lake from being the jewel of the stocking program to an also ran.
The drive is still not bad, the launch is easy and the scenery is stunning.
First off a trip to the Whiteshell is not complete without a stop at the Nitehawk Cafe!
The lake was busy with kayaks and canoes as well as some shore fishing.
After launch I made sure I had the essentials!
It didn’t bode well as I got a fish on the first cast!
I was to go on catching a few of these. Clones is the best word as they were all the same size. These would be the most recent stockings.
When I started the clouds and light rain boded well but the the sun came out. It got hot fast and the fishing slowed down. But then come the perch that have always been in the lake.
It picked up a bit when the sun dipped.
I fished from 2-9:15 and caught a handful of trout fresh from the hatchery (7 in total). Saw one bigger fish work the shallows but that was it.
This used to a great lake. Back when a lot less lakes in the province were stocked, this lake got lots of fish. When the attention shifted to making then stocking the aerated lakes in the west, there were less fish to stock. Then the number of lakes in the west boomed. This (and the other Whiteshell Lakes) got zero fish for 2-3 years. The new director, who was clearly more focused on the western lakes, claimed the eastern lakes were ‘over stocked’ for years and used this as a basis for denying these lakes fish. That is when the fishing declined and has stayed pretty crappy and forgettable to this day. Even when the stocking returned (at seriously reduced levels) the lake has never been the same. Now we sit with crappy lakes in the east and a domino of failing aerators and bucket biologists in the west. There are still some good lakes in the west. But a system dependent on pot hole lakes not freezing during our long and cold winter and aerators to prevent winter kill seem precarious at best.
The economic benefits of these trout aquariums has been proven to be a reasonable return on the money via tourism, so there is definitely a need to continue the program. The problem maybe is every reeve and mayor wants a piece of this action and squeaky wheel politics is putting too much emphasis on the west.
I have lost count of all the new stocked trout lakes that have popped up in the west. Some I only hear about because it winter killed when the electricity was off for a few days or some reeve or mayor swapped out a working aerator for one with cost benefits etc.
You know how many new lakes there have been developed in the east in the last 20 years?
And that one is really (you guessed it) an aerated lake that just winter killed this year.
I am not against the western lakes as they have proven their worth but the Whiteshell lakes have clearly been the ones to suffer. These lakes just need fish. They don’t need aerators and the associated maintenance. They just need fish. The budgets are cut and they don’t have gas for the stocking truck but 2 of these lakes are seconds from the hatchery.
|Eastern Lakes||Western Lakes|
|Distance from main population/ international airport||Close||Far (except for Anton’s Lake)|
|Resource needs other than stocking||Needs no aeration||Needs aeration|
The western lakes provide economic benefit and grow big fish while the east grows smaller fish and the Whiteshell doesn’t need the help. But is that the only reason to stock the water, so you get more tourism?
How about stocking lakes based on the benefit of ALL Manitobans?
Got a last minute call to guide a visitor from Ontario. He had a trip with friends planned but that got cancelled.
Gave him the choices and he picked Anton’s Lake just west of Minnedosa
The client got in the water an took off to be left to his own devices (after having me choose a fly and nix the bobber…err…strike indicator.
He decided to go to the enticing back bay that never seems to have fish and I went to where the wind was pounding the shore.
Experimenting with a floating line and a weighted leech pattern and a sinking line with a minnow patter, I got my first fish. A recently stocked rainbow fell to a black muddler.
More experimenting got me a nice fat 23″ brown trout on a Sparkly Nymph pattern of my own Design.
I called the client over after this fish and got him to work the same shore line. As the wind was constant the main trick was to keep kicking into the wind while casting to shore where the fish would tend to be feeding. Even stopping your kicking to fix your gear or tie on a new fly would push you into the weeds and spook the fish. As this was his first time in a float tube, he still managed to get a couple of bows one in the 16″ range. As he was content to be off on his own I did not get any pictures of them. I did manage one more brown.
While this was not a classic day on Anton’s we still out fished the trolling gears guys who report anything from 0-1 fish caught.
Every spring, on the last day of the general season, we head up to the only open water in the province. Fairford river is 2 hours north of Winnipeg. Because of the drop it never freezes along a short distance from the dam on highway 6 on its way to Lake St. Martin. The species caught can vary widely but this year is was just Lake Cisco (locally know and tulibee) This is the first year I did not attend for non weather reasons. Any kind of weather can happen at this time of year. While some years have been beautiful this year was more like its normal self with a daytime high of -7