January 03, 2022
By Thomas Allen
Ice fishing is not only a culture of fanatical anglers embracing the northern annual arctic freeze, but the same anglers also recognize the opportunity to tangle with trophy-caliber fish under complicated conditions. Rest assured, those who chose to face the elements are a passionate bunch who don’t know no quit, but once you experience the excitement of squeezing a fat 40-inch pike or lake trout through an 8-inch hole, it all makes perfect sense.
And really, there’s no better time than the second half of the ice season for a legitimate shot at the biggest fish in the system, and Manitoba is one of the finest late-season destinations in the North. It seems the farther north one seeks winter satisfaction, the deeper the ice-fishing culture runs.
With the holidays in the rearview, now’s the time to make plans with your squad to head north, my friends. Adventure awaits.
You’ll enjoy daily chances at big northern pike, impressive lake trout and trophy-class walleyes, but there are also burbot, crappies and perch readily available, too.
One piece of advice before booking an ice-fishing adventure in Manitoba: Be sure to pack an extension for your auger. During normal winters, most lakes in the region will see in excess of 50 inches of ice, especially late in the season. Go prepared
We wouldn’t send you without a plan. We’ve taken the liberty to do the research and legwork to provide a few fine options for wintertime memory-making at its finest.
But don’t dilly-dally on making plans, there are limited spots remaining at each of the following locations, so get your name in soon to take advantage of Manitoba’s awesome late-season ice fishing.
Bruin Outfitting and Guide Service, Matt Cornell
Renowned for some of the finest walleye fishing in the Northern Hemisphere, the south basin on Lake Winnipeg is where the majority of the magic occurs with Bruin Outfitting. Matt Cornell also occasionally branches out to nearby lakes to expand the experience if that’s what traveling ice anglers are looking for.
“We work with a dedicated lodge in the area who provides rentals throughout the year,” Cornell said. “But there are lots of hotels and cottages we can arrange for a trip up to our region. We like to cater the trip to the anglers’ objectives, and that sometimes means moving around to different locations on Lake Winnipeg, or from lake to lake in search of a number of different species. And depending on the weather and conditions, a certain location is better for lodging over the next. Ultimately, we can customize home base depending on where the fishing is the best and what type of fish the group is after.
“We offer two simple packages: One is fully guided and fully rigged for the anglers looking to travel light. We’ll provide houses, rods, reels, bait and tackle—the whole thing. However, the vast majority of our visitors prefer the DIY option where they bring what they intend to use—we keep backup gear handy in case something happens while they are there.”
Cornell also suggests bringing your own electronics because of the familiarity factor.
“It can be challenging to learn a new system of electronics, and the last place you want to do that is during a trip,” he continued. “Bring what you’re comfortable with and that’ll be one thing you don’t have to worry about. But we are happy to supply various electronics options if that’s required.”
As the season wanes on, big pike tend to move shallower in preparation for the spawn. Fish into the mid 40-inch range are not uncommon and can be caught on tip-ups or rod and reel, depending on the preferred approach.
“Big walleyes in the 30-inch range are caught regularly, but countless numbers of fish in the mid 20s are caught,” he said. “Lake trout are one of our favorites, though. Each year we see trophy fish caught in the mid 40-inch range, but fish in the 30s are common in numbers.
“If you do plan to bring your own gear, I suggest reaching out to us just before you leave to discuss methods of travel while here. Sometimes the weather warms up later in the season making the ice slushy and hard to travel on. Other times it stays cold with lots of snow making a track-vehicle the best option. There’s always plenty of ice, but the surface conditions often call for specialized equipment. We’ll help you navigate it either way.”
Cornell is a passionate angler himself and firmly believes Manitoba offers some of the best ice fishing on the planet.
“We have an extensive list of lakes and species to pursue at all times,” he said in closing. “I’m still amazed every year how good the fishing is late in the ice season, but it truly is world class. Come visit us!”
Here is more information about rates and packages.
C/O Matt Cornell
Box 44 Garson, MB
Wekusko Falls Lodge, Bryan Bogden
Located less than 2 hours beyond the northern reaches of Manitoba’s famous Lake Winnipeg, and close to the quaint community of Snow Lake, MB, Wekusko Falls Lodge is camped just mere minutes from picturesque Wekusko Falls Provincial Park and Wekusko Lake providing tremendous access to the region’s seemingly endless acres of ice-covered and fish-rich waters.
"We have fully modern cabins here and offer a food package that guests can take advantage of, or if they want to bring all their own food, that’s an option as well,” Bryan Bogden said. “Of the 10 cabins, two are all-inclusive. We’ve learned over the years that winter ice anglers love to be independent and most prefer the DIY approach, even with lodging and meals. Ultimately, I think the loose scheduling is what’s most attractive because as Spring approaches the days get longer with sunset occurring after 8 O’clock. That makes for long days of catching!”
As is typically expected, every year brings different weather patterns and conditions. Bogden said to come prepared for anything but pay attention to weather forecasts in the region before heading North.
“Some years winter really hangs on into April and it stays chilly, but there are also days when you don’t even need a shelter,” he said. “It all depends on how comfortable you want to be. The right footwear is critical. If you come before the ice has lifted, slush and water will be an issue waterproof boots are a must. Cold and wet feet will ruin a trip as fast as anything.”
Wekusko Falls Lodge offers top-shelf trout fishing, and not just behemoth lakers.
“We have access to trophy-class lake trout—fish pushing the low-40 mark, but also stocked trout such as rainbows and big brookies,” he said. “Our top three preferred species are lake trout, northern pike and walleyes. Big lakers generally max out at 41 to 42 inches, but there are plenty of fish in the 20s and 30s to keep you busy between big ones.
“Pike and walleyes are always big producers for our anglers. Each year we catch a few pike over 48 inches—even up to 50—but they average in the mid 30s daily. We’ll also see some big walleyes every year, including fish well into the 30-inch range, but the average size can really change day to day. Some days the average might be 19 inches and the next day it’ll be 25 or 26 inches. It’s the days with larger averages when you have your best chances at trophy-caliber walleyes.”
While largely appealing to the DIY anglers, Wekusko Falls Lodge has a package for every angler, including access to lots of lakes and the kind of ice fishing to make dreams come true.
Here is more information about rates and rentals.
Wekusko Falls Lodge
Snow Lake, MB
Caribou Lodge Outfitters, Norm Sancartier
Based 1 mile east of Cranberry Portage along the shores of beautiful First Cranberry Lake is Caribou Lodge Outfitters, a year-round hunting and fishing outfitter. Led by veteran guide Norm Sancartier, the ice fishing available here provides a first-class stop for anglers looking to experience what the frozen land- and lakescape has to offer.
“We’ve had several guests in camp this year who have caught well over 20 lake trout in a day, including fish up to 42 inches,” Sancartier said. “In Manitoba, a Master Angler lake trout must measure 35 inches, and there are plenty of fish of that size to be caught in this area. They are willing biters and true tackle-busters, just the kind of fish our guests visit us to pursue.”
Manitoba’s Master Angler walleye minimum is 28 inches, and numbers of fish exceeding the magical 30-inch mark are numerous and relatively easy to catch.
“We enjoy truly incredible fishing here, and the walleyes in our waters prove that,” he continued. “Experienced anglers will likely catch a handful of Master-Angler caliber fish when they visit us. And the pike fishing is certainly not to be overlooked either, (the Master Angler minimum for northerns is 41 inches). The late-ice pike bite is tremendous, we’ll see some fish measure into the low to mid 40-inch range, but 39- to 40-inchers are pretty common. And that’s a fun fish to pull through the ice.”
With ease of access and the number of locations anglers can fish, Sancartier primarily attracts DIY anglers that come prepared with personal gear and personal experience to lean on.
“I keep ample gear on-hand in case someone forgets something, or a piece of equipment breaks, but most of our anglers are experienced and very capable and they prefer that approach,” he added. “I meet with every guest every day to evaluate the bite and make adjustments when and where needed. I do my best to get out on the ice with each group at least once while they are here. It’s a personal priority to see to it I provide the best experience possible, start to finish.”
The motel features eight regular motel rooms with a total of 17 beds, one of which is wheelchair accessible with a wheelchair accessible shower. All rooms have satellite TV and Wifi, and full cell phone service. The remote feel to the resort allows visitors to enjoy nightly viewing Northern Lights, which is the best during winter.
The amenities combined with the world-class ice fishing make Caribou Lodge Outfitters a fantastic destination to make your winter fishing dreams a reality.
Caribou Falls Lodge
Cranberry Portage, MB