2015 Whiteshell Winter Wonderland Bucket List

IMG_0535 copyWinter is officially here… And we Manitobans can make it through this. Although the past few weeks have been surprisingly mild, you may be waiting for the times where you’ll be scraping your car windows, getting stuck in the deep, heavy snow, or freezing at the bus stop. However, as stated once before on this blog, winter rules in the Whiteshell, and we’re not just saying that. Some even say winter is their favourite season at the lake. Winter is what you make it, and the Whiteshell has endless opportunities for fun winter activities in the most beautiful and scenic place in Manitoba. So instead of staying cooped up inside counting down the days until the snow melts, bundle up and venture out to the winter wilderness wonderland of the Whiteshell, where winter truly rules. To kick off a season of winter fun, here is our 2015 Whiteshell Winter Wonderland Bucket List: Continue reading

A Frozen Obsession

Many people don’t understand the sport of ice fishing. Many people wonder why anyone would want to sit out in the cold, staring at a hole in the ice, waiting and hoping for some legendary fish will come out of it. However, as the anglers in this documentary will show you, it’s so much more than that. Many Manitobans prefer to embrace winter with their love of chasing an adventure in the great outdoors, and there’s no better place to do so than in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. Here is a brief documentary about why people love to do this crazy Canadian pastime known as ice fishing. Filmed in the Whiteshell at the 2014 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off and on West Hawk Lake with Shield Outfitters.

Filmed/edited by Marney Blunt, Experience the Whiteshell editor.

 

Weekends in the Whiteshell

The temperatures are finally rising and spring is in the air…..  And so is the last chance to get in some awesome winter activities. The river trail in Winnipeg may be closed and the ice fishing shacks are off the Red River, but there are still tons of fun winter activities going on in the Whiteshell in the next few weeks!

This Saturday, March 15, is the 11th annual Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off. This year the all-species fishing derby has $40,000 in great prizes and cash! Some of the prizes include guided fishing trips, fishing gear & equipment, a Canada One travel trip for two, and a grand prize of $10,000. Back by popular demand is the hidden weight prize of $50,000. Be sure to head down to the ice tomorrow between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm to check out the derby if you haven’t already signed yourself up!

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

On the following weekend, Sunday, March 23, Falcon Ridge Ski Hill is having their final hurrah of the season with the Slush Cup 2014. Head on down to the ski hill to have a beverage, enjoy a chalet meal, and, most importantly, strap on your board or skis and hit the slush. Contact Falcon Ridge Ski Hill for more information. 393241_269924959727180_1795004112_n

Head on out to the Whiteshell for your  last chance of ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other fun winter activities!

Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off

Falcon Lake has some fantastic angling opportunities, from your boat or through the ice. The Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off gives anglers the chance to catch a huge fish for some huge cash and prizes.

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

The pike that won the 2011 Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off.

The 11th annual Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off is on Saturday, March 15 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. All the holes will be pre-drilled and all prizes are guaranteed. This is an all-species tournament, and the heaviest fish is awarded the grand prize of $10,000 cash! The great part is, you don’t need to catch a monster to win some of the awesome prizes. Prizes will be awarded down to 50th place, making for a total of $40,000 in cash and prizes. Some examples of this year’s prizes include:

• A Canada One travel trip for two plus $1,000 travel credit (2nd place).
• Ultimate ice fishing package that includes a Frabill Ambush three man flip over ice shelter, a Vexilar FL-22HD Pro View Ultra Pack Flasher, an ION Electric Power Auger, and much more (3rd place).
• A 60″ 3D Samsung Smart Plasma 1080P HDTV (4th Place).
• Shimano rods and reel package (8th place).
• Crowduck Lake Camp fishing trip (13th, 23rd, 33rd,and 43rd).
• Guided musky fishing trips, tackle, power augers, and much more! Check out the full list of prizes here.

The Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off has many great prizes including $10,000 cash for first place!

The Falcon Lake Winter Fish-Off has many great prizes including $10,000 cash for first place!

Back by popular demand is the $50,000 Hidden Weight Contest. Participants that land the first 120 fish on the ice will automatically be entered into the contest. If your fish matches the hidden weight, you will win $50,000! If no one matches the hidden weights, the participants with the closest weight will still win great prizes courtesy of Frabill and Eskimo. There will be hot food and drinks all day provided by Danny’s Whole Hog and all prizes will be awarded at the Whiteshell Community Club at 3:00 pm.

This year the fish-off will be supporting the St. Amant autism program. One dollar from every ticket sold and all proceeds from the on-ice bait sales will be donated.

Adult tickets are $50 if you purchase them before March 5th, and after that they are $70 each. Second Hole and kids are just $30. You can purchase tickets at 12 ticket vendors across Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, online at www.winterfishoff.com, or over the phone at toll-free 1-866-676-FISH (3474).

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.

A Winter Woodland Expedition

During the brutal cold snap we had around New Years, there was one day that was a balmy -15C. A perfect day to go camping in the woods.

The quinzee on Caribou Lake.

The quinzee on Caribou Lake.

I have never gone winter camping before, in fact I have barely gone summer camping before. Having a grown up with a cottage on Star Lake, I never really thought to go camping. Holidays and vacation time were spent hanging out on the dock and the boathouse.

So this winter camping trip to Caribou Lake was a great new adventure for me. Caribou Lake is an isolated little lake, just northeast of Caddy Lake. It has no cottages on it and is not accessible by road, so we took the snowmobiles through the woods to get there.

Hollowing out the quinzee.

Hollowing out the quinzee.

Firewood had been previously chopped and snow had already been piled up for the quinzee. You want to do this in advance so you don’t work up a sweat before sleeping in the quinzee. We got there around two in the afternoon. About six of us had sledded in, but only two of us were going to spend the night.

We started off the day with ice fishing for walleyes. The walleye on this lake aren’t huge, but they are a perfect eater size. What is really interesting about the walleye on Caribou Lake is that they have blue fins! According to the fishing experts and zoologists I was with, this is most likely because of the water colour in the lake. Fish can vary in colour from lake-to-lake as the water colour varies. However I was told that apparently there is a certain type of blue walleye, but not found in these areas.

A very blue tail on a walleye from Caribou Lake.

A very blue tail on a walleye from Caribou Lake.

After landing about five or six fish, we hollowed our the quinzee. The previous cold snap and massive amounts of snow had made it quite firm.

Cliff copy
A large cliff with a little nook in it made the perfect natural spot for a fire as the rock cliff reflected heat back quite nicely. This was the perfect place to sit and keep warm throughout the evening, and it also was the perfect place to cook dinner. My boyfriend had brought a deer roast – An entire hind leg wrapped in tin foil. Low and behold, there was a little ledge in the side of the cliff right above the fire; a perfect place to cook the deer roast over the fire. It was a true caveman style dinner… Except we had injected our roast with garlic-infused olive oil. The deer roast cooked for over the fire for about five hours. To be honest, I wasn’t overly confident in the idea of cooking an entire roast on a rock by the fire, but it turned out to be the best deer meat I have ever had!

The deer roast cooking over the fire.

The deer roast cooking over the fire.

Sitting beside the fire.

Sitting beside the fire.

After dinner my boyfriend took the rest of the crew home on the snowmobile, giving me some time to myself in the woods. They took the remainders of the deer roast with them – And thank goodness. While I know wolves are highly, highly unlikely to approach a human, when you’re alone in the woods in the dark your mind can have a tendency to run away on you. The last thing I wanted was to be sitting there alone with a delicious garlic-infused deer roast! However I enjoyed the fire for awhile while the others were gone, and no wolves were seen.

The candlelit quinzee.

The candlelit quinzee.

When it was the end of the evening, we rolled the snow door over the quinzee for a long winter’s nap. Well, it wasn’t that long. The quinzee was candlelit and actually created a lovely atmosphere, but our only mistake was that we should have layed down a tarp inside the quinzee to provide a bit more of a barrier between us and the ice. However the temperature outside was around -20C and the inside of the quinzee stayed at about zero degrees so we had a decent temperature to sleep in.

This was a great experience and a true outdoor adventure. I would recommend anyone to give winter camping a try. If you come equipped properly it is an amazing experience and an awesome thing to check off the ol’ bucket list.

Written by Marney Blunt.