By David Janeson
Every true Manitoban knows that fishing is not merely a warm-weather activity. Even on Lake Winnipeg’s comparatively warm southern basin, ice-out typically doesn’t happen until mid-May, although the surface becomes unsafe for heavy vehicles a few weeks earlier than that.
Time was when commercial anglers and committed hobbyists had the ice to themselves up here. For better or worse, that’s no longer the case.
“The time has come to embrace Lake Winnipeg’s vast potential for responsible cold-season angling.” — David Janeson
If you’re headed our way this winter, be sure to carve out time for an ice fishing excursion, no matter your skill or comfort level. We love beginners, and thanks to the magic of heated huts, it’s not nearly as cold out on the ice as you think.
Why Make Gull Harbour Your Home Base for Ice Fishing Lake Winnipeg?
Lake Winnipeg is far too big for any one community to lay call itself the lake’s fishing capital. That said, we’re willing to put Hecla Island (and Gull Harbour Marina, specifically) up against any of the better-known shoreside destinations to our south.
For one thing, we know what we’re doing up here. If you don’t believe it, check out this two-minute YouTube video showcasing our ice fishing chops. Thanks to our friends at Icebound Excursions, whose legendary SnoBear tours get anglers out on the ice fast and keep ‘em comfortable in any conditions, the phrase “too cold” does not appear in the Gull Harbour lexicon. Read this Hooked Magazine writeup for more on Lake Winnipeg’s SnoBears — “the ultimate ice fishing machine,” as they call it.
We know what we’re doing off the ice, too. Besides ice fishing, winter activities at Gull Harbour include endless Nordic skiing, clear-ice skating, winter hiking (snowdrifts permitting), and that old Manitoba standard, curling up in front of the fire with a hot cup of cocoa. Plus, the talented chefs at our lakeside restaurant serve up fresh, seasonal delicacies all year long; in winter, that could just mean your very own taste of the morning’s catch.
What Will You Catch?
No promises, but Lake Winnipeg isn’t known as Manitoba’s premier walleye destination — a high honor, if you know anything about our lakes — for nothing. As food supplies dwindle throughout the fall and early winter, walleye grow peckish. By February and March, they’re practically jumping.
Other confirmed catches in Lake Winnipeg, per Angler’s Atlas:
- Lake whitefish
- Northern pike
- Yellow perch
- White bass
- Rainbow trout
- Channel catfish
- Freshwater drum
- White sucker
Do keep in mind that the government of Manitoba and responsible anglers everywhere care deeply about the sustainability of our fisheries. Even in winter, anglers must abide by catch quotas and size restrictions to preserve our abundance for future generations.
Tips and Tricks for Newer Anglers
So, you’re a first-time winter angler. What should you know about ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg?
Well, night fishing is popular, according to this experienced Winnipeg-based fishing blogger. Winter nights are pretty long in this part of the world, anyway. Might as well make the most of them.
The proper gear is important, too. Here’s a crash course on what to bring if you’re heading out on the ice with minimal supervision (which, to be clear, isn’t recommended for novice anglers). If you’re working through an outfitter, they’ll handle much of this list.
Finally, remember to enjoy yourself! Angling is meant to be a contemplative, rewarding experience; that you need a heated hut to stay comfortable come winter shouldn’t dissuade you from making memories to last a lifetime.
So, what else do you want to know about ice fishing on Lake Winnipeg?
David Janeson and his wife Lori own Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba