Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

A View From The Aerie

 

In August of 2015, Bob Wood, 62, and a friend were fishing the Winnipeg River for pickerel. As he reported to the CBC,"I thought I had a snag and lo and behold, it wasn't a snag". So, I thought it must be a big jack,"Wood related". All of a sudden, this great big fish just jumped right out of the water and I said a few choice words..."What was that?!" And the guide who was with us said "That’s a monster sturgeon". When Wood finally landed the fish after a 45-minute tussle, the guide estimated the fish weighed between 85 and 100 pounds and was between 90 and 100 years old. There, in a nutshell, is the beauty of the Winnipeg River - you never know what you might catch and, whatever it turns out to be, there’s a strong chance it could be trophy-sized.


The Winnipeg River winds its way from Lake of the Woods in southwestern Ontario to Lake Winnipeg in central Manitoba, passing through some of the most beautiful Canadian Shield landscape along the way. Historically speaking, the river has made a meaningful mark. For thousands of years it was an important travel corridor for the Cree, as is revealed in the many petroforms found along its length. Fur traders plied this route for several hundred years, the Winnipeg River watershed occupied the southeast portion of lands granted to the fledgling Hudson Bay Company in 1670. Later, before the completion of the national railroad, the Winnipeg River served as the travel connector between the Great Lakes to the east and the vast prairies and Rocky Mountains to the west. Today, the Winnipeg River is home to several hydroelectric dams, but the rugged beauty that has characterized the river over the millennia hasn't waned. Nor has the quality of the fishing.

A spring sunset on the Winnipeg River

A spring sunset on the Winnipeg River

Unlike her more renowned sister river, the Red, the Winnipeg River is more of a cold-water system and, as such, the fish species present are a little different. Where the Red is celebrated for its catfish and drum, along with its famed fall "greenback" run of walleye, the Winnipeg is all about smallmouth bass, pike, perch, and walleye with, as Bob Wood discovered, enough sturgeon to keep an angler guessing. Looking at the species composition in the Winnipeg, the list reads like that of a traditional shield lake fishery. That’s not surprising given the source of the river, the landscape it traverses, and the fact that in many places it expands to widths that if it weren’t for the current, you'd never know you're not on a lake.


I first fished the Winnipeg River nearly 20 years ago on a cool September afternoon. We were fishing near the mouth, just south of Lake Winnipeg, and the walleye were schooled and active. In what remains probably the best day of walleye fishing I’ve ever enjoyed, we caught fish after fish trolling crankbaits in the slow current, many of them in the five to eight pound class. It wasn’t until 2015 that I had the opportunity to fish the river again. Last May I visited Eagle Nest Lodge, one of several boat-in or fly-in lodges on the river and the one that’s closest to the Ontario border. With the diversity of species available, it’s difficult to know where to start when you first hit the water. Of course, whenever you fish Manitoba your thoughts naturally turn to walleye, so that’s where my fishing partner and I began.

Walleye in excess of 25 inches are common on the Winnipeg River

Walleye in excess of 25 inches are common on the Winnipeg River

River fishing is, by and large, more challenging for first-timers than is lake fishing. On lakes you just follow your sonar and your experience to the fish, but it’s not quite so easy on a river. Fortunately, Eagle Nest provides guides if you want them, and we were more than happy to have one of their experienced local anglers along to show us around the river.


While there are all sorts of proven presentations for walleye, it’s tough to beat a baited jig. We vertically jigged in 12 to 16 feet along a flat adjacent to one of the river’s many islands and were immediately into fish. Over the course of a couple hours, and without moving more than 100 metres, we caught walleye, pike, sauger and perch. The perch were all what most would describe as "jumbos", and my best walleye that morning stretched the tape to an impressive 27 inches. Diversity and size of fish are what differentiates the Winnipeg River from most others, and its reputation held firm for us.

Virtually all the perch we landed could be described as

Virtually all the perch we landed could be described as "jumbos"

Over the next couple days, we changed tactics and targeted specific species in series. We spent one afternoon casting topwater baits and floating crankbaits to post-spawn pike in shallow bays, hooking fish until we lost count. While we didn't land any of the many 20-pound plus hens that cruise these waters, we brought no shortage of pike in the 10 to 15 pound class to the net.

Post-spawn pike were quick to hit topwater lures

Post-spawn pike were quick to hit topwater lures

The following afternoon we struck out after smallmouth bass. We found them in relatively shallow water along rocky points and shorelines, where they were more than eager to smash small rattling crankbaits, spinner baits and tube jigs cast towards shore and retrieved slowly back. These bass were broad-shouldered and scrappy, and we managed to boat many in the 16 to 18 inch class.


This section of the Winnipeg River is very remote, so when we weren’t landing fish we were enjoying the wildlife and the unspoiled wilderness that girded the shorelines. Bald eagles, otters, painted turtles, black bears and a myriad of other birds and mammals entertained us over the days. Throw in a daily shore lunch of fresh caught fish and the trip reminded me more of an excursion to a remote subarctic lodge than it did a resort only a couple hours from Manitoba’s largest city. Think about Manitoba fishing rivers and for most anglers the Red comes immediately to mind. But for those seeking more of a wilderness setting and the opportunity to catch boatloads of more "traditional" fish species, the Winnipeg River isn’t to be missed. And you just never know in the Winnipeg River - maybe you’ll be the next angler to land a one hundred pound sturgeon.

No wilderness fishing trip is complete without a shore lunch

No wilderness fishing trip is complete without a shore lunch


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) In The Walleye Zone

(2) Zoo Trout

(3) Fly Selection for Beginners

(4) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(5) New Waters

(6) Big Bad Burbot

(7) Looking Back

(8) Out of Africa

(9) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(10) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(11) The Browns of Autumn

(12) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(13) Walleye Town

(14) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(15) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(16) Going With The Flow

(17) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(18) Swinging The Fences

(19) A View From The Aerie

(20) Dixieland Delight

(21) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(22) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(23) Montana's Cool Missouri

(24) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(25) Toothy Critters

(26) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(27) Top Ten Flies

(28) Northern Exposure

(29) Home Water Lessons

(30) Chicken Of The Sea

(31) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(32) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(33) Keep It Up!

(34) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(35) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(36) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(37) Hawg Holes

(38) Saltwater Salmon

(39) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(40) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(41) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(42) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(43) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(44) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(45) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(46) Fall Walleye

(47) Wet Flies

(48) Versatility the Key to Success

(49) Grayling of the Boreal

(50) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(51) Size Matters

(52) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(53) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(54) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(55) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(56) The Point Of It All

(57) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(58) Fall Fly Fishing

(59) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(60) Big River, Big Fish

(61) Bottom Bonanza

(62) Fishing Small Flies

(63) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(64) Four Seasons of the Bow

(65) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(66) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(67) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(68) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(69) Edge Walleye

(70) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(71) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(72) Four Corners – Four Waters

(73) Chasing Pothole Trout

(74) Springtime Stoneflies

(75) The Torrents of Spring

(76) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(77) Bust Them With Bait

(78) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(79) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(80) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(81) Terrestrials

(82) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(83) Rocky Mountain High

(84) Reading the clues

(85) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(86) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(87) Fly Fishing 101

(88) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(89) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(90) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(91) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(92) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(93) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(94) Trust Your Electronics

(95) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(96) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(97) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(98) Walleye can be Humbling

(99) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(100) Winter Flyfishing

(101) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(102) Hot Fall Pike Action

(103) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(104) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(105) Frequently Asked Questions

(106) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(107) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(108) Deep Water Perch

(109) Post Spawn Brookies

(110) A Fisher's Life

(111) The River's Last Stand

(112) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(113) Coho on the Coast

(114) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(115) Summer in the Mountains

(116) Peak Walleye Season

(117) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(118) Last Ice Rainbows

(119) The Burbot Event

(120) Tackle Matching

(121) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(122) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(123) The Lure of Brook Trout

(124) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(125) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(126) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(127) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(128) The Vesatile Plug

(129) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(130) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(131) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(132) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(133) Daily Fish Migrations

(134) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(135) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(136) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(137) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(138) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(139) The Fun in Ultra Light

(140) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(141) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(142) Never Stop Learning

(143) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(144) Jigging through the Ice

(145) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(146) Rainbows on Ice

(147) The Season of Ice Begins

(148) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(149) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(150) Facts On Cats

(151) West Coast Adventure

(152) June Walleye Frenzy

(153) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(154) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(155) "Northern Exposure"

(156) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(157) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(158) Man Overboard