After a long, grueling back-and-forth, a bulky shadow appears several feet down under a dangerously bent graphite rod. The line points to the blunt end of the dim shape below, glinting emerald green with milky eyes the size of quarters.
“How big?” is the mind-numbing question nobody wants to ask before the net envelopes it. Because, in Manitoba, it could be one the biggest walleyes caught anywhere all year. Maybe even all time.
The beautiful jade hues of her famous “greenback” walleyes are just one reason anglers dream about Manitoba. From December through March, thousands trek to Manitoba for unmatched ice-fishing opportunities. “I wouldn’t miss it,” says famous walleye guide Tony Roach, who makes a trophy walleye pilgrimage to Lake Winnipeg every year in February or March. “Nowhere will you see more walleyes over 10 pounds lifted out, bulging above a hole in the ice in one week’s time. Nowhere else will you have the opportunity to ice one over 16 pounds. And nowhere will you see a more beautiful example of the species than the Manitoba greenback.”
But the province is home to huge lake trout as well, along with Arctic grayling and 27 other species—all wall benders in wild surrounds. Northern pike provide one of the main draws. Like European pike, they grow bulky and dense here in lakes and rivers seemingly designed specifically for rearing and maintaining trophies. The provincial record, catch-and-release pike, measured an amazing 60.5 inches. Almost 70 pike over 50 inches have been recorded in the relatively recent annals of the Manitoba Master Angler Program.
Lake Winnipeg sprawls north for 425 kilometers into areas very difficult to access. “It’s way up there by road, but the bays of northern Lake Winnipeg harbor some of the best drive-to pike fishing on earth,” says hall-of-fame angler, John Peterson. “But it’s southern end is well populated with towns and some of the world’s largest walleyes.”
The Churchill River might be the best drive-to fishery for big pike anywhere on earth—a memorable adventure to the back-of-beyond past Flin Flon that requires meticulous planning. But pike fishing is almost as prolific in the Winnipeg River, where walleyes, too, are massive, smallmouth bass grow fat. These fisheries are also not far from the metropolitan wonders, great cuisine, and modern conveniences of Winnipeg.
Up beyond the roads, fly-in lodges offer monster lakers, gargantuan pike, prolific walleyes and more. North Seal, Big Sand, Nejanilini, Utik, Nueltin, Gods, North Knife, Sasaginnigak, Aikens, McGavock, Waskaiowaka, Bolton, Silsby— just some of the remote fisheries that produce lifetime memories for thousands every year. In fact, the province has more than 100,000 lakes populated by 30 species of gamefish, from porcine, 16-inch black crappies in the south and chunky Arctic grayling north. Last year alone, Manitoba awarded over 10,000 Master Angler certificates.
Manitoba is home to six huge, geographically-distinct regions, from the accessible Eastern to the massive, remote Northern region that ranges along Hudson Bay and covers almost half the province. Many of the numerous tributaries that enter the Bay, from tiny rivulets to massive rivers like the Hayes, produce runs of sea-run brook trout.
North Central Manitoba envelopes Thompson and Lynn Lake—dotted with lodges offering unparalleled fishing for walleye and pike. The Northwest, where legendary stops like The Pas and Flin Flon reside, produces remarkable multi-species angling that includes some of the most prolific pike and lake-trout waters on earth. The Southern regions offers the most diversity, with world-class walleyes, big brown trout, smallmouth bass, panfish, and some of the best fishing for catfish over 20 pounds in all of North America.
For campers who prefer to “rough it,” Manitoba has over 50 Provincial Parks, scattered through every region—most offering world-class angling to explore for yourself. Some of these parks can’t be accessed by road, like Caribou River Provincial Park. It’s nestled into the corner of Nunavut Territory, Manitoba, and Hudson Bay, where boreal forest meets tundra. The only way to access the camping is to arrange a flight in with an outfitter or air-charter service. Parks and lodges in Manitoba reveal the world as it used to be, dotted with pristine lakes in undeveloped land where wildlife free of fences or roads for hundreds of miles.
Similar adventures abound region wide. May to September is the time to plan a fly-in. Take a canoe trip through class 5 rapids into the tundra for world-class trout fishing on a fly. Or an exotic fly-out to lake-trout waters seen by anglers only once every few years. Or take a May to October road trip deep into remote forests to untouched fishing for pike and walleye. Obviously, becoming familiar with all of Manitoba’s fishing opportunities can take some time. Like several lifetimes.
Start packing for the one that suits you best with the help of the following links: