Ice fishing is a big deal in southern MB. After all, what else are we going to do in the dead of winter? Not Fish?
If you’re like me, you hit the hardwater to get your fishing fix and enjoy some peace and quiet. The latter can be a bit tough with every weekend warrior and their dog ripping augers left and right. Every year, crowds congregate at the usual spots in Selkirk and Lake Winnipeg, and face it—the fishing isn’t always the best.
I’m here to challenge you to try new spots, far and away from the villages. I go fishing to see fish, not people, so here’s a list of spots where you can skip the crowds. It’s worth mentioning that I drive a Toyota Camry, so these spots are walk-on friendly and accessible.
Barren Lake is one of the first lakes you reach when you enter Whiteshell Provincial Park. Last winter I drove the old Camry on to the ice here and got into some fish almost immediately. The lake is known for its open-water smallmouth bass fishing and offers the usual walleye, pike and perch action that most Whiteshell lakes do, but I haven’t seen too many people hitting the hardwater here.
I’ve found the average size of perch here to be pretty darn good, and there are crappie to be caught here too. Bonus points if you can piss off a smallie enough to get it to strike. I’ve yet to get one, but we know they’re in there!
Depth/location: I’ve caught the most perch in around eight-14 feet of water. If you access the lake from the boat launch, it plateaus around 7/8 feet in the entire bay. I’d recommend driving on (when safe to do so) from the beach. And heading toward the point that seperates the beach bay from the boat launch bay.
Lure recommendation: I’ve had the most luck with a simple jig-and-minnow set up. The water is clear, but dark, so go for a vibrant pink or orange jig. Switch between deadsticking and jigging.
For a jigging lure, go bright and go loud! A firetiger rattle bait might be a good start if you want to rustle up a bass, or a piss of a pike.
Here’s another Whiteshell spot. I rarely see another angler on this lake in the winter. It’s a shame really, because it’s a great little spot. The province stocks Hunt Lake with brook trout and splake. If you can’t get on the trout on a given day, the native perch should keep you busy.
Depth/location: Head to the shallows! I’ve caught the most fish here in less than six feet of water. Walk on from the dock and head straight to the opposite shoreline. Find reeds, broadleaf cabbage and other features and you’re good to go.
Lure recommendation: Berkley Rainbow Candy trout dough on your deadstick. I set up a little slip-sinker rig with a size 6 octopus hook, letting the dough float a foot or two from the bottom.
Get yourself a little PK spoon for your jigging rod. Flick that baby up and let it fall. This is especially effective if you have a flasher, or if you cut a big enough hole to sight fish!
I’ve had a good amount of success on this little lake, and my luck has been better in recent years. The hatchery must have re-upped on brookies, because there are some big beautiful fish to be caught here.
Maybe it’s because I usually fish on weekdays, but I’ve found ice fishing to be underused at this Winnipeg nature reserve. You’ll at least find that you aren’t surrounded by anglers. This must be winnipeg’s best-kept secret, cause the pike in here are huge. I’d say you have a better chance of landing a trophy pike here than most spots, and you don’t have to drive forever to get there.
It’ll run you about $11 for the day. This will turn some people off —pay to fish?!?— but it’s worthwhile, especially for beginners. If you live in Winnipeg, and you’re just starting out at ice fishing, Fortwhyte Alive is a great introduction to the sport. The staff will even drill you holes if you don’t have an auger.
Depth/location: The water is crystal clear. If you drill a wide enough hole, you can sight-fish these big gators. I’ve had luck at varied depths, but eight feet of water is my go-to. If you can’t find the pike, run and gun it!
Lure recommendation: A big, glow-white Greenback slammer with some extra large shiners does well here. You could definitely have some fun with tip-ups too!
Just kidding. This place is just about the most crowded ice fishing experience you can have. I do however, have a simple piece of advice when it comes to ice fishing on the Red River or Lake Winnipeg. Break off from the pack! Those dudes fishing the same spot at Lockport, Sugar Island or Balsam Bay day in and day out? They likely know as much as you do, don’t follow their lead. Download the Navionics apps for the river; the detail is pretty good. Find your own honey holes by finding slopes, flats and well…holes. There will be less pressure in those areas, and hell if you find where all the trophies live, then it’s your little secret.
What’s your under-the-radar fishing spot? Drop a line or a fish pic in the comments! Remember though, this is the internet, so don’t be giving away your top-secret spots— like anyone actually would.