[Skip to Content]

If This Is A Dream, Don't Wake Me Up

Every year there is a short period of time in the spring when the snow is gone, the temperatures are warm and summer-like, the sun is hot, the winds are calm and the sky is turquoise blue - but there is still safe ice on the lakes. I mean, it took three or four months to make the stuff, it can't all melt overnight.

Well, the past week coincided with that unique and spectacular time, and my, oh, my was the fishing ever good.

Buddies Jeff and Jason Matity from Saskatchewan came over for a visit and we fished from dawn to dusk for four days. And how was the fishing? Well, we landed more than 500 lake trout, walleye, crappies, whitefish, yellow perch, walleyes and ciscoes. Seven different species to be precise.

Wednesday we went out for lake trout and landed two over 20-pounds and one 14-pounder. I caught one of the beauties on a 1/4 ounce Reel Bait Flasher jig tipped with a Trigger X minnow. Buddy Ryan Haines, who joined us this day, caught its twin on a jig and similar soft plastic dressing while Jason nailed his pig popping a Fergie spoon. The Fergie is a hot walleye lure, with a noise making clacker up front, in western Canada and it seems that Northwestern Ontario lake trout find it appealing too!

Day two found us quadding on a small lake northeast of Kenora fishing for crappies. The funny thing, though, is that we spent at least two hours hunting for the fish without locating any. For some strange reason they weren't where we normally find them at this time of year. But after drilling about 150 holes in the ice I managed to nab a gorgeous 14-incher. That gave us a sense of the depth they were frequenting. Then Jeff wandered back to where we had fruitlessly started the day, dropped his jig down one of the holes and quickly iced three crappies in row. That is when the fun began. We ended the day catching about 45 fish - including several slabs between 13 and 14 inches in length. We released most of the fish, but kept enough to have a magnificent fish dinner that evening.

Served with fresh pasta and a homemade tomato, basil, almond and garlic sauce - a secret recipe we discovered in Italy a few years back - the golden brown, Cajun spiced, deep fried crappie filets were outstanding. Especially washed down with a bottle of fine French red wine.

Day three was by far the slowest of the four days. We wanted to reconnect with a 52-inch northern pike I caught last year while filming an In-Fisherman Ice Guide television show. A fish Jeff had nick named "gordzilla."

Because we were filming TV, we didn't weight the monster pike. Matter of fact, we didn't even snap a photo or two of her. But, when we later converted the length and girth measurements it appears the fish might have approached the 40-pound mark. Close to a new ice fishing world record! So, we were hoping to catch her again this spring, weigh her in a special weigh-sack, take her photo and then carefully set her on her way.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our day long quest to catch "gordzilla" and had to be satisfied with a gorgeous beast that Jeff haul up from one of the holes. Close ... but no cigar!

Saturday, our final day, found us enveloped in pea soup fog that was so thick, when we were running down lake on our 4 x4s, I needed to use my handheld GPS unit to keep us on course, and Jeff and Jason had to hang 10 feet or so off my tail light in order to see and follow me. I kid you not - if you held your hand out in front of you, you could barely make out your fingers. Not the best conditions when there is open water nearby!

Fortunately, by mid-day the sun had burned off the fog and it was absolutely gorgeous on the ice. How nice? Well, if Jeff had removed any more clothing he would have been fishing buck-naked on the ice! Trust me - that would not have been a pretty sight!

As it was, we were peeling off layers of clothing all day long as the temperature climbed into the mid-60s, the sun beat down relentlessly, and there was not even a hint of wind. It was in a word "glorious".

The fish seemed to think so too, as we landed more than 50 whitefish averaging 6 to 8 pounds! We caught them on gold/silver Williams Ice spoons and the same Reel Bait jigs we had used for lake trout, only this time we tipped them with the back half of a Trigger X minnow.

Then, we hit a spot where I normally catch big jumbo perch. The fish were there too, the biggest being a 13 1/2 inch fatty I caught on a Jigging Rap. But, mixed in with the perch were walleyes up to 21-inches, a ton of whitefish, and a huge school of smallmouth bass.

We actually didn't want to target the smallmouth even though we have a catch and release season for them. There are few redeeming qualities catching smallmouth in the winter as they'll be spawning shortly, but no matter how often we moved and drilled more holes to avoid them, we caught them nevertheless. In fact, Jeff iced a dozen golden smallmouth, the best five of which would have weighed more than 20-pounds!

"All right," I said to the boys, as the sun hit the horizon, began to set and I started loading up my quad for the trip back to the truck, "It's time to pack up."

To which Jason, replied ........... "Just leave me here!"