Through the Ice Crappie Fishing

Written by Ian Young, Shield Outfitters owner/guide.

The Whiteshell is home to some of the best black crappie fishing in Manitoba. Crappie are good eating and fun to catch, but as an introduced species to our area not many people know much about them. Here are some tips to make your next outing a successful one.

First off, know your lake. Does it have crappie in it? Do a little research. Locals will usually give you a little information and guide you in the right direction, even if they don’t tell you their honey holes. Where to start? I like to fish the deepest hole in the lake during the winter, particularly during first ice. The deeper holes contain the warmest water and highest oxygen concentrations at certain times of the year. Both of these factors lead to more active fish.  Because crappie are a schooling fish, they can be concentrated in small area of a large lake basin, making them very tough to locate. Try and find a point of land that reaches out into a deep hole. A sunken tree or other midlake structure can also provide something for fish to relate to and is a good place to start.

The author and owner/guide of Shield Outfitters with a nice 16" crappie.

The author and owner/guide of Shield Outfitters with a nice 15.5″ crappie from the Whiteshell.

Locating crappie requires a flasher. Usually feeding crappie will be suspended halfway up the water column. I start by drilling several holes and move around from hole to hole with my flasher, moving my bait up and down through the water column to try and find a fish. If crappie are nearby they will often come over and investigate your bait and you will see them on your flasher. I would never stay at a hole that doesn’t have a fish under it for more than about five minutes without moving.

Locating fish is half the battle, and getting them to bite is the other half. Crappie can the easiest fish to catch if they are in the mood. Catching one will often trigger the competitor within them and start a feeding frenzy among the school. However more often then not, and especially in the winter, it can be very difficult to trigger that bite. Crappie can be very sluggish in the winter and may hang out and look at your bait for hours without biting. If you’re fishing on a lake that allows live bait, they will usually out-fish artificial bait. However in the Whiteshell our regulations require us to use artificial baits. So I like to use a very light, 1/16th or 1/32nd  ounce jig with a minnow shaped bait to match. To fish such light baits you need a light action rod and very light line, my preference is a 2 – 4lb fluorocarbon line. Light lines provide the best fishability with light baits, but you must be careful when setting the hook and bringing fish through the hole as it does break easily. My favorite colour to use by far is Glow. Glow baits have phosphorous in them and store the energy of light they’re exposed to and emit it slowly in the dark. This gives the bait a light green glow and makes it highly visible. Glow baits work well in the Whiteshell because many of the lakes have stained water, and there is very little light under snow-covered ice. (Try supercharging your glow baits to make them extra visible by shining a bright light on them for a few seconds before they go down the hole, I keep my headlamp in my pocket for this reason).
IMG_0470While fishing through the ice, always be open to trying something new. Sometimes even being in the right spot with the right bait doesn’t mean catching fish, especially in the winter. Cold water and short light cycles cause fish to be very finicky and not eating much, and as a result can be difficult to coax to bite. Trying new baits and techniques will never hurt… especially if you can see fish on the flasher.

In the winter presentation plays a big role in triggering the bite.  I find when the bite is real slow and I can see fish on my flasher that refuse to bite, an ultra slow presentation sometimes works. I find when I hold the rod in my hand I cannot keep it still enough for this technique. The only way is to place the rod on the ice or in a rod holder (I prefer on the ice) and watch the rod tip closely for any movement.  I watch my flasher to show me where the fish is and I’ll place my hook just in front of the fish and leave it dead still. When I see the rod tip vibrate or dip down, I’ll grab the rod and set the hook in one motion.  If it sits still for thirty seconds or so without a strike I will jig a few times to remind the fish that my bait is down there and try to trigger strike, and then let it sit still for a while again. If that doesn’t work after five minutes, I will change my lure or move to another hole and find a fish that is more receptive.IMG_0468 copyCrappie are fun to catch and delicious, but it is important to practice good conservation strategies. Always use barbless hooks and release anything you’re not going to eat. Sometimes when you get into a school of fish it can be easy to think that there are tons of fish in the lake. Remember that you have found a concentrated school of fish, and removing too many fish from that school will seriously damage the population. Also it’s important to know that the biggest fish in the school are the most successful spawners. If you do get into a group of fish and plan on taking some home, set yourself some limits. Choose to keep only fish between 10 and 12 inches. That way you can bring home a good feed while still protecting the fishery.

Crappie fishing can provide constant action. If you don’t have the equipment or knowledge to do it yourself, consider hiring a guide. It’s a great way to get the kids into fishing and the outdoors.

Good luck out there.

Wildlife of the Month: Bobcat

Bobcats are a rare sight, but it seems that recently they’ve been spotted more often in the Whiteshell. In fact they’ve even been making the news. Sadly, an injured bobcat was found in Falcon Lake in mid-January and was taken to the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg to undergo surgery. The good news is the young female bobcat is making a recovery and is expected to be released into nature again. The Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has been accepting donations to cover the cost of the surgery.

Here’s a few great photos of a bobcat (not the injured bobcat) in the Whiteshell that have been captured by wildlife photographer Anne Klassen:

bobcat4unnamedbobcat5bobcatbobcat2

Beaver Days Bash

Poker, snowmobiling, sponge hockey, wood carving, homemade chilli, and more; there was a lot going on at the 40th annual Beaver Days last weekend. Beaver Days is a weekend-long winter festival in Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake every February. The event is a great combination of tourism and community-spirit. Here are few highlights and photos from this year’s festival:

Snowmobile Poker Derby

The snowmobile poker derby is a big part of Beaver Days each year, bringing out sledders from all over the province. This year was no exception. The parking lot at the Whiteshell Community Club was packed on Saturday afternoon as sledders returned to turn in their poker hands and check out the other events happening at the community club. This year’s poker route started at the Whiteshell Community Club and then went to the Mud Lake shelter, to Pittman’s on 44 Restaurant & Lounge, to the Zubek shelter, and then back to the community club. Congratulations to Trevor Proceviat on winning first place!

The Whiteshell Community Club was packed with sledders on Saturday afternoon.

The Whiteshell Community Club was packed with sledders on Saturday afternoon.

Sponge Hockey Tournament

This year’s sponge hockey tournament had six registered teams playing all day Saturday and Sunday. This year the wood carving display was located right next to the hockey rink. This year’s champions were the Six Bros, the runner-up team was The Blizzard, and Team OV won the c-side.

The sponge hockey tournament at the Whiteshell Community Club.

The sponge hockey tournament at the Whiteshell Community Club.

IMG_8612

Demo Day

Falcon and West Hawk were absolutely packed with snowmobilers this weekend, who were out enjoying the trails and the powder on the lakes. And if you didn’t own a sled – no problem. Enns Brothers and Winnipeg Sport & Leisure were there to take you for a ride. Both businesses were setup in the Falcon townsite offering guided demo rides. All day Saturday a steady flow of people came to test drive new 2014 Ski-Doo and Yamaha sleds to Mud Lake and back.

Enns Brothers demo display.

Enns Brothers demo display.

Winnipeg Sport & Leisure demo display.

Winnipeg Sport & Leisure demo display.

If you missed out on Beaver Days this year, be sure to check it out next February. A big thanks to all of the local businesses that organize and support Beaver Days events every year!

Whiteshell Business: Tallpine Lodges

treesTJ and Sacha Harder came to the Whiteshell two summers ago and stayed at Tallpine Lodges, a beautiful couples-only resort located by the beach in West Hawk Lake. The two loved their time out there, and joked about how cool it would be to run the resort. They also quickly fell in love with the beauty of the area as well as the peace and serenity. The couple talked to the then-owners, only to find out that the lodge was going to be listed that upcoming winter. One and half years later, just before the July long weekend of 2013, they found themselves as the new owners of Tallpine Lodges.

unnamedTallpine Lodges has been a couples-only resort for over 30 years that offers a peaceful getaway even when the town is incredibly busy during the peak seasons. It is a popular honeymoon, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day destination. It is also a great place for couples to go just to get away from their hectic lives.

The neighbourhood deer are quite friendly.

The neighbourhood deer are quite friendly.

In the summer, Tallpines has a heated pool and is also just a two-minute walk from the beach. Tallpines offers bike, canoe, and jet ski rentals so guests can get out-and-about and enjoy nature. In the winter Tallpines has cross-country skis and snowshoes available for guests and is now offering snowmobile rentals so guests can head out and discover the beautiful groomed-snowmobile trails of the Whiteshell.

The interior of one of the beautiful cabins at Tallpines Lodges.

The interior of one of the beautiful cabins at Tallpines Lodges.

Tallpines has four different styles of cabins:
• The small studio cabin – Has a heart-shaped jacuzzi hot tub. Approximately 275 square feet.
• Deluxe Cabins – The deluxe cabins offer an open-concept and include a larger jacuzzi tub and a sauna. Approximately 450 square feet.
• The Luxury Cabin – This cabin includes a bedroom as well as a jacuzzi tub and a sauna. Approximately 500 square feet.
• The Luxury Plus – This is the biggest cabin at Tallpines. Includes king-sized bed (others cabins have queen-sized) as well as the jacuzzi and sauna.
• All cabins have a fully furnished kitchen, barbecue, electric fireplace, and satellite TV.

Book your Valentine’s Day getaway at Tallpine Lodges! For more information on the resort or for booking inquiries visit tallpinelodges.com or call 1(866)-349-2209.

Whiteshell Business: Nite Hawk Cafe

The Nite Hawk Cafe is a family run business that has been a popular place in West Hawk Lake since 1970. Ellie Zimmerman and her husband, Harvey, purchased the restaurant over 40 years ago. The Nite Hawk Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and includes a licensed dining room, covered patio, and a take-out and ice cream window. Sharon Morrison started to work at the Nite Hawk at a young age and now carries on running the family business along with her husband, Bruce Morrison.
NH1This past year was a big year for the Nite Hawk Cafe as the business continued to evolve. The cottage-country restaurant got its official claim to fame when it was listed in MacLean’s Magazine as one of the 10 Great Canadian Pit Stops as voted by readers. In the spring of 2013 the patio was renovated to include a custom covered screen room. This renovation has enhanced the patio’s aesthetics and provides a relaxing, bug-free outdoor dining space that can be enjoyed in rain or shine.

The newly renovated patio at the Nite Hawk Cafe.

The newly renovated patio at the Nite Hawk Cafe.

 NH14
This year is also the first year that the Nite Hawk is open all winter-long to serve the locals, winter cottagers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and winter day trippers each week from Thursday to Sunday. Hours for winter 2014 are Thursday & Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 9am-7pm and Sunday 9am-4pm. The Nite Hawk is also connected to the South Whiteshell Trail, and makes for a great cross-country ski start/end point. Parking for trail-users is provided courtesy of the Nite Hawk Cafe, and the restaurant is the perfect place for après-ski food and drink.
The Nite Hawk is a great starting point for cross-country skiing. Parking is provided to trail users courtesy of the Nite Hawk Cafe.

The Nite Hawk is a great starting point for cross-country skiing. Parking is provided to trail users courtesy of the Nite Hawk Cafe.

While the restaurant has evolved throughout the years, the Nite Hawk still serves the same delicious homemade gourmet burgers and fries. The menu now ranges from burgers and fries to healthy wraps, gourmet burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and much more. The restaurant and patio are now licensed and there are many signature drinks including ‘Sharon’s Signature Caesar’ and the ‘Mucho Mojito’.

Just a few examples of the delicious food and beverages that the Nite Hawk Cafe serves.

Just a few examples of the delicious food and beverages that the Nite Hawk Cafe serves.

 Every Thursday in the spring, summer, and fall the Nite Hawk has ‘Steak Nite’ that features delicious Certified 10oz Angus New York steak barbecued on the patio. The steak dinner includes a baked potato with all the fixings, a deluxe salad bar with three to four different salad options. Sautéed mushrooms, shrimp and scallop skewers and blue cheese are available! Be sure to drop by when local musician Doug Edmonds performs on the patio in the summer.
Nh10unnamed
Want to find out more about the Nite Hawk Cafe? Like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram. Stay tuned for a new website launching soon!
Come meet the Nite Hawk’s amazing team of servers and kitchen staff next time you’re in the Whiteshell! For more information, group booking inquiries, or for details dates and hours of operation call the Nite Hawk Cafe at (204)-349-2580.
NH2

The 40th Annual Beaver Days Winter Festival

Don’t have any plans for next weekend? Come out to the Whiteshell for a weekend of winter fun that the whole family can enjoy!

The 40th Annual Beaver Days Winter Festival kicks off on Friday, February 7th at the Whiteshell Community Club located on Highway 301, right beside the Falcon Lake entrance (adjacent to Highway 1). Here’s a list of awesome winter activities throughout the weekend.

websitelogo

Friday, February 7th

• Family Skate Night – A great way to get the family out on the ice and enjoy the new outdoor skating rink at the Whiteshell Community Club!  Family Skate Night goes from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm and there will be free hot dogs available for children!

• Casino Night & Texas Hold’em Tournament – Some fun and games for the adults on Friday night! Both start at the Whiteshell Community Club at 8:00 pm. The Texas Hold’em tournament, organized by Falcon Beach Auto, will have a $40 entry fee.

• Beer Gardens –  Open from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am at the Whiteshell Community Club.

• Variety Auction – Organized by West Hawk Marine Ltd.  Tickets will be on sale from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm and all day Saturday and Sunday until 4:00 pm. Lots of great prizes!

Saturday, February 8th

• Breakfast – Saturday kicks off with a breakfast at the Whiteshell Community Club from from 8:30 am to 11:30 am courtesy of the Falcon Lake Golf Course restaurant.

• Snowmobile Poker Derby – The snowmobile poker derby goes from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Saturday. Both registration and the starting point are at the Whiteshell Community Club. The second checkpoint is at the Mud Lake shelter, third checkpoint is at Pittman’s on 44, the fourth is at the Zubek Shelter, and the final checkpoint is back at the community club. Prizes are: Gold – $1,000; Silver – $400; Bronze – $300. Come ride the beautiful snowmobile trails in the Whiteshell and possibly win some cash while you’re at it!IMG_1001• Demo Day – Looking for a new ride for the trails? Come check out the lineup of new sleds in the Falcon Mall parking lot from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. Sponsored by Winnipeg Sport & Leisure and Enns Brothers.

• Sponge Hockey Tournament – Starts at 11:00 am Saturday on the outdoor rink at the Whiteshell Community Club and continues on Sunday. $150 entry fee per team. 100 per cent payout. If you would like to register a team call or text Ian at 1(204) 295-6052. Organized by the Falcon Lake Marina.

• Beer Gardens – Open from 11:00 am to 1:00 am at the Whiteshell Community Club. There will also be a canteen open from noon till 5:00 pm.

• Kids Activities –  From noon till 3:00 pm on Saturday kids can enjoy games, crafts, face painting, glitter tattoos, animal balloons, and more. Noon to 1:30 pm is open for children ages 6 and under and 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm for children ages 7 and up.

• Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides – Nothing says winter fun more than dashing through the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh. The Falcon Beach Ranch will be providing sleigh rides starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday, You can register at the gym at the community club.

• Whiteshell Fur Trappers Display – From 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.995008_677465482306457_723471048_n

• Beard & Moustache Competition – Come showcase your fantastic facial hair at the Falcon Ridge Ski Hill and get some skiing or boarding in to boot! The competition is part of the Beaver Days festivities. Entry is free. Prizes will be awarded to the longest, the thickest, and best groomed beards and moustaches (all separate categories).
Prizes will include: – A free season pass at Falcon Ridge Ski Hill – A free stay at Falcon Trails Resort – A $50 food voucher for Falcon Ridge cafe – Falcon Ridge apparel. To register, come on down to the ski hill anytime before February 9, 1:00 to have your photo taken. Judging and prizes will take place on Sunday February 9 at 5:00 pm at the Whiteshell Community Club (right before the Red Moon Road show!)• Snow Dance Performance – By the Falcon Beach Academy of Dance at 5:00 pm.

• Homemade Ukrainian Dinner – 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. $25 for dinner and entertainment. $15 for dinner-only or entertainment-only. $10 for kids.

• Family Skating – 7:00 pm at the Whiteshell Community Club.• Entertainment by Steve Chmara – Performance by illusionist and classic magician at 8:00 pm. Great entertainment for the whole family!

• Music by Dagan Haddad – 9:30 pm at the Whiteshell Community Club.

Sunday, February 9th

• Breakfast – Another breakfast will be held at the Whiteshell Community Club from 8:30 am to 11:30 am. Courtesy of the Falcon Lake Golf Course restaurant.

• Beer Gardens – Open from 11:00 am to 1:00 am at the Whiteshell Community Club.

• Kids Poster Contest – 11:00 am.

• SnoMo Radar Runs – Take your sled for a run down Falcon Lake! Goes from noon to 3:00 pm at the main beach in Falcon Lake. Prizes will be awarded at the Whiteshell Community Club at 4:00 pm.

• Whiteshell Winter Olympics – Teams of four can compete in snowshoeing, trap setting, and biathlon. Registration is at 11:00 am at the gym at the Whiteshell Community Club. Races begin at noon.

• Whiteshell Trappers Fur Display – From noon till 4:00 pm.

• Chilli Cook-Off – Register your delicious chilli at 2:00 pm!

• Mini Cupcake Contest – Kids-only event. Judging will happen at 3:30 pm.

• Variety Auction Wrap-Up – All tickets must be in by 4:00 pm. Draw for the great prizes will happen at 5:00 pm.

• Music by Red Moon Road – Enjoy tunes from the creators of the Whiteshell-inspired album, Tales From the Whiteshell. Red Moon Road will play at 5:30 pm.

Red Moon Road will be performing at Beaver Days on Sunday at 5:30 pm.

Red Moon Road will be performing at Beaver Days on Sunday at 5:30 pm.

The Wolves of the Whiteshell: Part II

Photos and writeup by Marney Blunt.

I have always loved wolves. Their eerie howls, massive paw prints in the snow, and remainders of their deer kills on the lake are absolutely fascinating. In my opinion, they are the coolest wildlife that anyone could see or hear in the Whiteshell. While extremely aloof, on occasion you can be lucky enough to see them, and in winter 2011 I was lucky enough to have a camera available too. These photos were taken on Star Lake during that winter. A pack of ten wolves came across the lake from a bay in the northeast corner of the lake, right beside our cottage. They hung out on the ice in front of our cottage for awhile, providing the perfect photo opportunity. Some of them were even play fighting! Eventually they moved off into the woods on the left side of the lake, towards the old logging trail behind Star Lake. About 15 minutes later another lone wolf came from the same direction and trotted across the lake, as if it was hoping to catch up to the others.

IMG_0912_2 copy IMG_0914 copy IMG_0915 copy IMG_0918_2 copy IMG_0923 copyThese photos were taken on Star Lake later that same winter. Two wolves were just hanging out by the snowmobile for awhile before noticing us and taking off.
IMG_1017 copy IMG_1018 copy IMG_1021 copy