As we head into 2023, it’s hard not to think about all the changes that have gone on in the outdoor industry recently.
I have just completed my 40th year in this industry, a mark I never would have imagined. It was 1982 when I started out as a guide at Eagle Nest Lodge on the Winnipeg River.
I had developed a passion for the outdoors and angling when working in the television/radio business in Prince Albert the previous two years. A newfound freedom from any relationships or debts had allowed me to pursue a career in the fishing industry. After my first year on the job as a guide, I knew this was the industry that I wanted to stay with the rest of my life.
Don Lamont / Winnipeg Free Press
Donna-Lee Bean holding a 57.50 centimetre whitefish caught in Clear Lake just before Christmas. This fish qualified as a Manitoba Master Angler. Bean has many Master Angler Awards to her credit for a wide variety of fish.
I always had a willingness to listen and learn, which has held me in good stead over the years. I consumed every book and magazine on fishing that I could find and went to every seminar on fishing that was available. It truly was full speed ahead. I can remember saving every dime to buy my first piece of electronic equipment. It was called the Lowrance Fish-lo-k-tor or simply the Greenbox. This invaluable piece of equipment allowed me to find structure and even fish as I was driving around in my guide boat.
To this day, I would say my biggest strength as an angler is my ability to find fish quickly and efficiently. Of course, equipment has changed a lot, especially electronics.
Two weeks ago, I ran into the owner of Alumarine Boats, which are now built just north of Prince Albert. Alumarine was my first boat sponsor and to this day they still build the 18-foot Mr. Pike I ran. It has a full carpeted floor and livewell along with swivel seats, cutting edge design at the time. I had helped design that boat at their factory which was owned at the time by the Franks just north of Winnipeg.
In my second year at Eagle Nest, I guided out of that boat. It was decked out with front and back troll motors and the best electronics that money could buy at the time. In other words, I had spent every dime from my first year to upgrade. It paid off in spades as I guided pretty much every day my second year.
Lund Boats took over my boat sponsorship a few years later and I have owned many different models over the years. I mention this because Lund is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year. Their team of engineers have really helped change the boat market in the last 20 years. In 2005 I was shooting my last season of The Complete Angler TV show after 15 years. I had arranged with Lund that I could keep the 2005 Lund Pro V that I had been using. I had the new IPS 2 Hull that was a real breakthrough at the time. It was designed to throw the water low and away from the boat, thus making it extremely dry in rough water. I still have that boat to this day. Both the boat and 90 Four Stroke Yamaha motor on the back have hardly given me a day of trouble over all those years.
With inflation on the rise and gas prices where they are at my boat is still tremendously gas efficient. Many anglers are downsizing their boats just to be more efficient on and off the water. More and more are also turning to lithium batteries for their troll motor power needs. Some companies are making just one battery which can either be 12, 24, or 36 amp. This is a tremendous weight saving and will pay for itself over the course of a season on the water. Four stroke outboards are very fuel efficient, and energy efficient troll motors and freshwater anchors also help keep costs down.
Most parts of the province have received a fair amount of snow, making travel on various lakes a bit iffy. Those fishing Lake Winnipeg are mostly taking snowmachines and ATV’s. As I mentioned in my last column there are a few Facebook pages devoted to ice conditions in various parts of the province, including Lake Winnipeg. There are a number of dangerous pressure ridges on Lake Winnipeg that have open water, so caution is advised.
Some amazing fish have been caught though by those making the effort. There has been more than one 30-inch walleye landed as well as some trophy crappies in the Whiteshell. The stocked trout lakes are still going strong with some nice brown trout from Patterson and Tiger Trout from Twin Lakes in the Duck Mountains. Don’t forget about the whitefish of Clear Lake and tullibees of Big Whiteshell. These are all fish that are fun to catch.
One of my favourite meals on the ice is a fish fry with lake whitefish. The soft, delicate white flesh melts in your mouth. On that note get out plenty in the outdoors in 2023 and enjoy what this great province has to offer! All the best.