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Manitoba's Trophy Walleye Await

Consider these excellent Manitoba lodges to tangle with trophy-class walleyes.

Manitoba's Trophy Walleye Await
Manitoba is a trophy walleye factory, among the finest in the world. Find your dream walleye at these fine fisheries and lodges.

Budd’s Gunisao Lodge

The slogan says it all: “If trophy walleye is your game, then Budd’s is the name.”

Dusty Budd, whose family has owned Budd’s Gunisao Lodge since 1987, said the natural splendor surrounding this Manitoba getaway fosters a stellar fishery chock full of big walleyes.

"The biggest thing is the Gunisao River system that runs through our lake and empties into Lake Winnipeg,” Budd said. “Also, we have some really good spawning areas for the walleyes, and we have plenty of forage like perch, whitefish, and all kinds of different shiners for them to eat.”

budds gunisao lodge on the lake shore
Budd's Gunisao Lodge is a fine destination to experience Manitoba's beauty, but also to catch the walleye of a lifetime.

Complementing what the lake has, he said local walleyes also benefit from what Gunisao does not have. Specifically, that means a lack of heavy competition and predation.

“Our northern pike population isn’t overrunning our walleye population by any means,” he said. “And we don’t have any lake trout.”

Moreover, he said the lodge’s 30-year history of catch and release for the larger fish has helped build a strong gene pool. Basically, a self-perpetuating reality, the lake keeps cranking out big fish and anglers keep sending them back to make more babies.

That’s good news for anyone pursuing Manitoba's Master Angler program, North America’s oldest such program, which honors anglers that catch trophy fish within the province by awarding certificates of achievement and a variety of badges based on species number. As Budd points out, the waters his guests fish offer abundant opportunity to pursue that coveted walleye certificate.

“We call a 28-inch or bigger walleye a trophy, because (that’s the Manitoba’s Master Angler measurement),” he said. “We catch a ton of walleyes 24 to 26 inches, right below that. In most places, that’s a big walleye.”

Describing the common walleye tactics, he said lodge guests target their fish in 5 to 10 feet during the springtime and then follow them out to 35 feet in the summer months. The fish relate to various bottom features, but the presence of forage is the key component.

angler holding a big walleye
Monster walleyes are abundant at Budd's Gunisao Lodge in Manitoba.

“We do a lot of Lindy rigging and back trolling with a floating jig head tipped with a worm or a frozen minnow,” he said. “Once the walleyes move out to the deeper part of the lake, we’re vertical jigging with a jig and a frozen minnow.

“The fish come off the deeper drops-offs of islands and underwater reefs. We target those areas with electronics because you know if the fish are there.”

On a good spring day when the fish are shallow, Budd said guests can expect 100 fish per boat. As summer progresses, fishing days require more travel, but even with less fishing time, 50 to 75 walleyes is a very common expectation.

Recommended


With knowledgable guides carrying anglers to ideal fishing locations on a fleet of new 18-foot Alaskan Lunds, angling action unfolds amid the magnificent verdant scenery. Along with walleye and northern pike, lodge guests also catch yellow perch, whitefish and burbot.

With accommodations blending the comfortable with the rustic, hardy food and a laidback vibe encourages both relaxation following a busy day of catching and reflection on the lifetime memories. Budd’s Gunisao Lodge provides all the necessary tackle and gear, but guests are welcome to bring their favorites.

“We give suggestions on what to bring and if you run out of something, our tackle shop has what you need,” he said.

airplane at budd's resort
Fly-in access limits the fishing pressure at Budd's Gunisao Lodge and keeps them big and eager.

With no roads reaching the remote location, guests fly into Winnipeg where they spend one night before a bright and early start the next morning. Lodge staff handle the fly-in arrangements for a schedule designed for maximum rod-bending opportunity.

“People like coming up here because you can fly into Winnipeg, overnight there, then leave the next morning at 6 a.m. so you can get a full day of fishing in,” he said. “On the return trip home, we get you Winnipeg around 9:30 a.m., so you can catch an afternoon flight home.”

No doubt, delighted guests board their homeward flight with hopes of repeating the trip sometime soon.

Contact Info:

Dusty Budd, Owner

Phone (year-round): (517) 676-FISH (3474)

Mailing Address: PO Box 347, Mason, MI 48854

Email: Dusty@WalleyeManitoba.com

WalleyeManitoba.com

Viking Lodge

Situated on the headwaters of the Grass River system—an important link in the waterways used by fur traders of old—Viking lodge is in Cranberry Portage, about 20 minutes south of Flin Flon. The town’s name references the land over which early travelers must portage their canoes to pass from First Cranberry Lake, west to Lake Athapapuskow.

Today’s visitors find travel considerably easier, but all who make the trip marvel at the vastness of the landscape and the incredible habitat where walleye grow large and abundant. Matthew Wiens, who owns and operates the lodge, along with his brother Paul, said the area’s complexity is ideal for anglers seeking to truly fish in solitude.

“Being on such a diverse water system, from our dock, you can access five different lakes without having to leaving you boat,” Wiens said.

The “getaway” appeal is nice, but it’s much more than a boat ride. As Wiens points out, this is serious walleye neighborhood.

lady holding big walleye at viking lodge
Viking Lodge needs to be on your trophy walleye bucket list, they have them!

“For the past (nearly two decades), it’s been a conservation system, so there are limits on how much fish you can keep and there are size limits,” he said. “There’s such diverse habitat for them. Some lakes are 30 to 40 feet max and then Second Cranberry is close to 200 feet deep.

“They have so much water and the food is abundant. There are so many ciscos in this system, versus shiners or minnows, so it helps sustain them through the winters too.”

He said the main tactics involve trolling bottom bouncers and spinners with nightcrawlers are the main tactics, but vertical jigging also delivers. Anglers targeting big fish will “sharp shoot” them—cruise promising areas and hunt down individual walleye with sonar.

“Size varies by water body, but we average about 19- to 24-inchers, with plenty in the 20- to 24-inch range,” he said. “A big one would be 30-31, but we have had 34- to 35-inch walleyes.”

Complementing the walleye, Viking Lodge guests also enjoy fishing for big Northern pike and lake trout. The views are spectacular and welcoming to anglers of all ages.

big walleye at viking lodge
Walleyes in excess of 30 inches are common at Manitoba's Viking Lodge.
aerial view of viking lodge
Viking Lodge is a beautiful destination to enjoy the fishing or enjoy the fine Manitoba wilderness.

“We like to consider ourselves a family-friendly destination,” Wiens said. “We have plenty of families that like to come up, spend some time on the boat and enjoy nature.

“Once you’re here, there’s no reason to leave. We have a restaurant and a bait/tackle shop onsite, there are hiking trails and, in town, there’s a historic museum where you can learn about fur trade and indigenous cultures.”

Wiens said that most Viking Lodge guests bring their own boat, but a fleet of rentals awaits those who prefer to simply show up and fish. The majority of fishing is self-guided, but the lodge offers guiding in the summertime.

Contact Info:

Viking Lodge

C/O Matthew Wiens

P.O. Box 190

351 Public Rd SE

Cranberry Portage, MB R0B 0H0

Phone: (204) 472-3337

Email: info@vikinglodge.ca

VikingLodge.ca

Blackwater Cats

Friends of those who fish with Donovan Pearase will be “green” with envy when they see catch photos from Lake Winnipeg walleye trips. Taking on an emerald tint in these limestone rich waters, “greenbacks” grow big and he sets the standard pretty high.

“Year classes go up and down, but consistently over a 10-year average, we won’t call a walleye a big walleye until it’s over 27 to 28 inches and starts pushing 9 to 10 pounds,” he said. “We have a lot in the 26-inch, 8-pound range, but that’s not really that big of a deal here.

donavan with a huge walleye
Lake Winnipeg is a top destination for giant "greenback" walleyes, truly unique trophies.

“For an experienced angler, 30 inches is the mark that everyone’s trying to reach and there are quite a few of them up here. We’ve had them up to 32 3/4 inches and 15 pounds.”

While limestone colors the fish, the lake’s fertile waters present a big walleye production facility that runs night and day. Well-suited for growing big fish, Winnipeg delivers quality and quantity.

“It’s a massive system; Winnipeg is the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world and so much of it is untouched,” he said. “You have a (huge) biomass of plankton, minnows, and baitfish. So, you have plenty of room for these fish to roam and chase bait and grow big.

“Probably a key feature of growing trophy walleye is the abundance of tullibee, or ‘cisco.’ So, Lake Winnipeg has all the right factors. The fishery is really healthy, and you can find the best fishing you’ve ever (experienced). The fish are everywhere and it’s very easy to catch fish.”

Pearase targets greenbacks during the open water and ice seasons. For the latter, greater mobility, compared to open water running, allows him to move as needed to hunt down the bite. Also, winter finds walleyes concentrated in the south basin, while the warmer months scatter the fish throughout Winnipeg’s vastness.

Using modern sonar—specifically Humminbird Mega Live—to locate fish, he switches to a flasher once he’s on the fish. Spoons tipped with salted minnows, rattlebaits and minnow baits like the Salmo Chubby Darter tempt big walleyes.

For open water fishing, shallow, sandy flats with minimal structure are the common targets. An 1/8-ounce jig with a salted minnow works well for the meager depths, but when summer finds a lot of the fish far up-lake, he favors 1-ounce jigs to handle heavy current.

Along with walleye, he guides anglers to his signature giant catfish in the Red River. Other possibilities include carp, northern pike, and yellow perch.

“Ninety percent of the people that fish with us can’t believe how plentiful the fish are and how big they are,” Pearase said. “We want our guests leaving just wowed.”

big channel catfish on the river
Blackwater Cats offers plenty of access to trophy walleyes, but don't overlook the trophy channel catfish fishery near Winnipeg.

Balancing the amazing rod-bending opportunities, he said the area’s abundant points of interest offer plenty of trip accents. Among them, Hecla Island in Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park offers a variety of leisure activities, a wetlands boardwalk, wildlife viewing and a good dose of viking history/culture in the town of Gimli.

Downriver, south of Selkirk, Lower Fort Garry Historic Site played a significant role in the fur trade. Built in 1830 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, the fort, with its original stone masonry offers exhibits and interpretive interactions with staff in period attire.

Most guests fly into Winnipeg International Airport and comlete the journey to Gull Harbor via car.

Contact Info:

Donovan Pearase

Phone: (204) 990-2171

Email: dcp1@mts.net

BlackwaterCats.com

Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge

Nestled at the edge of transitional sub-boreal forest and tundra, Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge boasts Manitoba’s northernmost trophy walleye fishery. But don’t assume that reaching the extremes of the species’ range implies lower expectations. Actually, lodge owner Ken Gangler said guests typically enjoy a surprisingly memorable experience.

“The health of the habitat with all the water moving through the system creates phenomenal walleye fishing with big numbers and big size,” he said. “There’s a good mix of habitat with lots of fertile weed beds. It’s just a really strong combination of the different characteristics that go into making a very healthy fishery.”

big walleye at gangler's lodge
Beautiful and hefty walleyes are plentiful at Gangler's Lodge.

He said small jigs with twister tails are a sure bet for most walleye seekers. If fly fishing’s your flavor, Clouser minnows presented on 7-weight outfits will interest big walleye feeding in 4 to 10 feet of water.

Offering remote excursions to 26 different fly-out lakes located on the lodge’s allocated 5 million acres of unspoiled wilderness, Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge is perfectly positioned for pursuing the Canadian Grand Slam—northern pike, Arctic grayling, lake trout and walleye. Guided fishing trips with breezy shore lunches create indelible memories of Northern Manitoba’s world-class fishing.

northern lights at Gangler's lodge
Enjoy the amazing scenery at Gangler's Lodge, especially the Northern Lights.
sky view of gangler's lodge
The fishing is incredible at Gangler's Lodge, especially for trophy walleyes, but the scenery is a very close second.

Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge complements this astounding angling action with 5-star accommodations in private cabins, exquisite dining, full-service bar, pool table and complimentary fly-tying table. Enhancing the experience, the lodge offers ecotours on which guests often spot wildlife including moose, caribou, black bears, and wolves, while experiencing stunning natural features such as the sand eskers created by glacial movement.

Guests fly into Winnipeg and take the Calm Air charter to the lodge.

For more information: Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge




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