Normally my summer vacation is based on going away during the hottest parts of our Manitoba summer. Since we are doing a reset on our vacations, to allow for a winter trip, we stayed close to home. That meant borrowing a friend’s trailer and a week on a spot at West Hawk Lake. One of the things I was looking forward to was fishing the last 2-3 hours of daylight without the 3-4 hour round trip.
Day One August 7th:
Decided a quick trip to the river was in order. armed with just a tenkara rod and a box of flies.
Nothing. Not a sniff. at first I chalked it up to me wearing a white shirt. Then I lost most of my leader and at the same time realized that I left my leader spools in the car. OK too much minimalism is a thing too.
Day Two August 8th:
Wanting a redo on the day before, I donned a neutral shirt and was very ready with leader spools. Nothing. Not a sniff. Not only that, I didn’t see any fish sign. No risers, no swirls, nothing. On top of that there were no hatches going on and very little mosquito action. The water was a good flow and its usual gin clear.
I have been fishing this river for 17 Years and I know the spots. My best flies on the best spots didn’t work. Hell I even tried the “pellet pool”
The month before it fished well. The only major difference was the bridge construction up stream. I mean, it looked good, but maybe there was a spill that wiped out the fish and insects or at least encouraged them to move downstream to the lake.
Day Three August 10th:
Ok, time for some lake fishing. So I hit Lyon’s Lake. I have fished this lake more than any body of water. To say I know this lake is an understatement. Nothing but a few perch! Not trout. I waited till the magic hour when even the summer skulkers come up. Nothing. For many years I have been able to get trout in the summer but the fish-ability and over all quality of this lake (and Hunt Lake as well) has declined. If you look at the numbers 13,000 rainbow trout since 2014 seems like a lot. I don’t know if the number (in 2001 they dropped 13,000 fish alone in there and that was followed by some years of great stockings and great fishing) or size of the fish needs to be increased to help them out compete the the perch or stay out of predators’ mouths, but the last few years have been real crappy.
Day Four August 11th:
This time Hunt Lake. This used to be a near perfect lake for brook trout. But it got lost in the shuffle by trying to things differently. So, a once idyllic brook trout lake was made into a splake hell hole (don’t worry you won’t find splake on the stocking list for this lake but I have caught these slinky lifeless hybrids). There have been only 6,000 Brookie stocking since 2014 (compare that to the 13000 fish they put in 2001) but over 100 brood browns. Maybe they were put in to control the perch but we know they also like brook trout fingerlings. Anyways the spring summer and fall fishing on this lake is pretty terrible right now and has been the last few years coinciding with the decline in stocking
Together with McHugh, I have been fishing these 3 lakes for 17 years and this is the worst they have been. Even in spring and fall.
The stocking is tax payer paid for and should create a fishery that works. It used to work year round and it can again if we can get back on track. Hunt for brookies, Lyons for Rainbows and McHugh for browns, all in proper numbers. In the years of the supposed ‘over stocking’ we never saw die offs due to starvation and the fishing was great for shore anglers and boat anglers alike. Of course I say this as stocking levels drop, ‘Parkland’ lakes seem to get the lions share of the fish and the hatchery is getting out of having their own brood stock.
As usual, there are some photo ops as well.
In baseball, hitting for the cycle is hitting a single, double , triple and a home run in the same game. For me it was getting one each of our major warm water fish. A bass, a pike a walleye and a perch. The perch didn’t stick around for a photo but there is film to come!
I was happy to get the ‘hat trick’ (which is 3 goals in a hockey game) at my first location but the 4 species is nice. It was strange that the pike was the elusive one as in Manitoba, the pike is everywhere. Most of the fish fell for a #6 Muddle variant with the last one falling for a deer hair slider
Hit my favourite stocked trout stream on the last day of June. This place has been my salve over the 17 years I have lived here. When I tire of lake fishing, trash fishing (places full of trash) warm water fishing, etc. coming here has been the cure. On this day the hatches where good the mosquitoes bad and the hits a plenty. There was even loads of Hex husks! (Who says it is pointless to fish during the hex hatch.
I was hoping for a trout hat trick but caught 4 of the hatchery’s products with a rock bass thrown in for good measure.
Nice to see them treating this stretch of river the way it was intended, as a C&R recreational fishery giving people a feeling of what it is like to fish (preferably fly fish) a typical trout stream. In years gone by we’ve had the water shut off at the behest of the cottage owners, zero stocking, weird stocking, etc.
I tell it is nice to fish a few stretches of water and get uncountable hits and landed fish.
I started with nymphs, switched to drys (for more flying fish and less hook ups) and back to nymphs. Nothing big just big fun.
On May 26th I took a Father Son duo fishing. They were both from Brasil. The elder was very experienced with the fly rod but spoke little English and the son spoke excellent English but knew little about fly fishing.
Worked out fine. Dad needed no monitoring, could cast and fish. Could read water and choose flies. This allowed me to help the son.
Over all they were looking to catch some fish and take in some wilderness scenery. The weather and the scenery cooperated, the fish, not so much.
First stop was a hydro dam along the Winnipeg river. Except for the dam, the scenery is great. This place is usually good for a few fish, but on this day, after a couple of hours, we got none.
Down the road to the next stop. Where we did get some action in the form of hits and a couple of fish.
One small rainbow trout and one medium tiger trout.
Off again to get some pike and maybe a walleye or bass.
First stop was a launching area where we got some hits and landed on small pike.
Next (and last) was a favorite area of mine. Rare for Manitoba, in that that is more than a few feet of wade-able river.
The elder got 6-7 pike. I even took off my guiding hat and caught a couple as well.
As we had been at it for 10 hours we headed home. On the way we saw a bear in the ditch.
Here is the (short ) film of our day.
So I took a Friday (May 19th) and hit a couple of lakes in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. originally I was only going to go to Barren Lake.
But the fishing was real slow. Got an 18″ pike off the top and then nothing for hours. 3 fish in 3 hours is slow for me.
I did manage a couple of nice loon shots on my Nikon D70.
So Off to the Night Hawk Cafe for a Burger and Fries (ask for the BBBB)
While I got few fish at Barren, I got many at Lyon’s. Those fish were all recent stockings and I couldn’t keep them or the perch off my hook. Between me and the Gulls, Terns, Loons, Osprey and Mergansers, we had a field day!
Here is the video of some of the fun.
And of course another loon shot.
After my final perch I went back to the launch and headed home. But one final goodbye!
Anton’s Lake is another pothole type prairie lake and considered the closest of the so called “Parkland” lakes. It is located 202 kilometers from the western edge of Winnipeg. Located at the junction of highways 10 and 16, this lake had an aerator install and has been stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout for a number of years. This week marked the beginning of the Manitoba general fishing season. I’ll never know why but the opener is always on the same weekend as Mother’s Day. As I teach all day Saturdays I have a hard time getting out on this particular Sunday. So I went trout fishing (trout lakes are legal all year round) on the Friday before. The wind was a steady ‘ill wind’. That is to say an easterly wind. When this happens fishing the shores and points the wind has been hammering doesn’t always produce fish they way an predominant NW wind does. What actually happened was the fish were feeding in their normal spots but that driving wind made positioning, casting and stealth, a real challenge!
My opening fly was a weighted muddler. On the bench a brown tailed orange winged muddler with a burnished brown diamond dub body seemed the perfect fit.
Fished the whole lake with that thing trying to beat its weight AND that wind. My shoulder was a aching.
Now I did see some active fish slashing minnows in the weeds but they did not seem to find this muddler enticing.
What did end up working was a golden flash-a-bou nymph pattern.
Here are the 2 fish I got on that fly.
Afterwards, the the wind died and the BP changed. The active fish stopped showing and nary a hook up to finish my time.
I did risk taking my Nikon D70 and got good bird captures from the boat.
Changes At the Hatchery
So we are down to one hatchery location. This isn’t news but it is relevant. In reaction to, or in anticipation of actions of the newly elected government, the hatcheries has started on some austerity methods.
Those of you who are in the know who might think they are cutting back on
- Stocking back country lakes most can’t access
- Stocking ‘put and boil in the summer heat’ ponds
- Making hybrids that use the same amount of resources but produce less fish
Well you’d be wrong.
Other than a hiring freeze, that seems to date back to well before the election, they are cutting out the rainbow trout (and possibly brown trout) brood stock program. Instead having fish on hand to harvest eggs and milt, they are buying pre-fertilized eggs. The reasons are sound for going in this direction. Apparently hatchery fish take longer to spawn than in the wild. But gone are the days when you could accidentally catch a 24″ trout in an unlikely location. And gone is the security of making your own fish reared in your own water.
Another strange development is the addition of Albino Trout???
I guess they where giving away these fish from the “Trout Lodge” to their new best customers here in Manitoba so all tax payers were paying for was the rearing of eyed eggs to swim and the truck to the stocking locations around the province.
I am not sure the value of these fish beyond that. As one person put it “They look like someone threw a light bulb in the water”. Glow in the dark pink-eyed hatchery fish should prove no match for the loons, mergansers, and other piscivorous species out there let alone the trout that have been in these waters for a few years.
Better to save these fish for the ornamental ponds the were probably designed for.
Your Tax Money.
That stamp on your fishing licence, that became a permanent print on the licence, that was supposed to be only for fish enhancement, is now for fish AND wildlife enhancement. That means the fisher (who out number the hunters) will be footing the bill for all things outdoors and not just fish as intended.
Many years ago and many times since, it has been suggested that some of these aerated lakes with tax payer fish in them, should maybe have a ice fishing ban placed on them. Not all but maybe the ones that had special fish in them that don’t take well in other stocking locations. Two reasons have been given against any such change.
- That banning a form of fishing is seen as a form of favoritism to fly fishing. This is bunk, we have bait bans and motor boat bans all over the place based on biological reasons. (Even though keeping the gut hooking, grip and grin, photo op, eyeball freezing ice holes off a couple of sensitive lakes can easily been seen as biological. So we could have ice fishing bans on lakes LIKE EVERY OTHER PROVINCE IN CANADA AND EVERY NATIONAL PARK IN CANADA.
- That, if we did ban ice fishing on any lake whatsoever, that some locals would ruin them by illegally stocking them.
Well guess what. Pike, perch and even catfish have been introduce to many of the aerated stocked trout lakes. Some can be blamed on overland flooding but most are a direct result of the so-called “White Pail Biologists”
The worst of both worlds. We could enact a law for fear of someone breaking a different law and sat back while they broke that law anyways.
So we still have no 20th century regulations in place outside of barb-less hooks. and the can and cannot fish regs, designed to be simple. are a joke.
- Complete closure on all fishing except on stocked trout lakes (that now have closed season fish in them) April to mid May.
- We can net for suckers during that time but not angle for them
- We can angle on lake trout water in the presence of pike, bass and walleye
- We can’t angle for pike (like we can across the Ontario border) anywhere
- As fly fishers we can only use 2 hooks as each fly counts as 1 lure but we can throw a 3 treble (9 hook) plug.
- We have no C&R season for any fish
- We have almost no C&R water
Afraid of change much?
The other stretch of secret creek is becoming a series of beaver dams. Sure the fish are there but it is more like pond fishing. Very few wading stretches. On top of it the land is flooded so gettin between those ponds is hard to impassable. So I broke out my back roads maps and Google Earth and found a new stretch. Wider, less tangled, no beavers, one dam that you can fish and walk around. Fewer fish but a better fly fishing experience.
Don’t ask where because I will not tell you.
A little eastern Fly Fishing For Stocked fish. Its was cold and windy for this Easter Fishing but 3 fish were caught before skedaddling back to Winnipeg for Easter dinner