Manitoba’s Best Ice Fishing Hot Spots

It’s almost ice fishing season! Check out Manitoba’s top ice fishing hot spots:

For hardwater northern pike fishing, head to Big Whiteshell Lake in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park, about 130 km east of Winnipeg on Highway 1. Access to this lake is usually walk-on or by snowmobile or ATV. Fishing off points and reefs in 15 to 20 feet of water will often result in all-day action, with plenty of fish in the 35- to 40-inch range, particularly as spring approaches. Tip-ups baited with frozen smelt or sardines represent a presentation favourite, with baits suspended three to six feet off the bottom. A big bonus from this lake is the tulibee action, which keeps anglers busy between pike bites. It is not uncommon for 16-inch tulibee to be caught on small jigs and tails.

Lake Dauphin (by the town of Dauphin, about 110 km north of Brandon on Highway 10) is a true walleye factory, producing consistent limits of walleye from ice-up to ice-out. Access onto the lake is relatively easy, with several locations serviced by ice roads, although heavy snows and late ice conditions typically lead to access being limited to snowmobiles and ATVs. Jigging frozen shiners in about six feet of water is typical as far as presentation is concerned, with run and gun techniques necessary as spring approaches and the fish begin to move. (The Red River below Lockport gets honorable mention, more for the presence of walleye in the 28-inch-plus range than for numbers.)

The south basin of Lake Manitoba is the choice for perch through the ice. This is a huge, relatively flat basin that often necessitates plenty of angler movement from one location to another to find schools of active fish. Access is often “drive-on,” limited only when heavy snows deal up drifts and ice ridges block the way. Small jigs tipped with a piece of frozen minnow represent a typical presentation pattern. When the bite is on, it’s not uncommon to limit out with 10- to 12-inch fish filling five gallon buckets!

Brown and rainbow trout can be caught in many stocked waters in the province, but for outstanding size and numbers, Paterson Lake is the go-to waterbody. Paterson, located north of Oakburn, is a relatively new lake on the stocking list, and has only recently been open to anglers. A no-live-bait and one-fish-limit is protecting this trout mecca, which regularly yields both brown and rainbow trout in the 20-inch-plus range. Access is an easy walk-on from the road. Anything trout will bite can be included in the presentation pattern, with Powerbait on jigs and flashy spoons being favourites.

For lake trout, a trip north finds a top five representative, Clearwater Lake, near The Pas. Access to this lake is usually by snowmobile because of the often deep snow on the ice surface. Ice thickness often exceeds four feet later in the winter, so an auger extension may be needed. Chumming the holes with chunks of sucker helps to attract active fish, and a 3/8- to 3/4-ounce jig tipped with a frozen minnow is a presentation favourite. Make sure your jigs are top quality, as fish in the 40-pound range are frequently caught. Also, because these fish will suspend, a good quality ice sonar is highly recommended.

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