by Daniel Kiazyk
My story begins with a trip a brother and I planned to celebrate the birthday of the oldest brother in our family. Our desire was to get out and spend a day together and catch/eat one of Manitoba's favorite angling species, the walleye. Our destination was a bit out of the way, but not too far away: Buffalo Bay (Lake of the Woods – Manitoba) Manitoba's share of the walleye factory that is lake of the Woods.
Buffalo Bay (an interesting name given that Manitoba's provincial animal is the bison) is a large bay with no real outstanding structural element, but one, a long protruding finger like structure that extends ¾ of the length of the mouth of the bay. This structure is known affectionately by locals as the "finger" and has been a favorite angling spot for years by many anglers. Fish seem to migrate to this area of the bay and spend most of the summer somewhere in its vicinity. The only other component to Bay of interest to anglers is the Reed River/Birch point and its environs (we'll often fish the shore line area around the Reed/Birch point in the spring/early summer with considerable success but fish seem to evacuate these areas by mid July).
Our approach on this day was to do nothing out of the usual to make contact with the walleye. Initially the challenge to angling the Bay is to locate the finger. Many approaches are possible --- Once you get a feel for the area you'll be able to get out there quickly on your own. However if you're new to the area…. go out in search of other boats – this approach usually works unless everyone is out to lunch. This latter approach was what I used the first time I visited the bay and it seems to be a relatively effective on most days.
Upon arrival at the "finger" we thought drifting a jig would be a good way to start, but as the wind developed we found ourselves being pushed off the finger's structure too quickly. The wind too was not cooperating as it blew from the east (which signaled the onset of a low pressure system --- not a bad thing at first) giving waves an opportunity to blow over a greater amount of open water. The result was some pretty good waves in the 1.5 – 2 foot range. If we were going to have a shore lunch another strategy had to be employed quickly, one which would give us greater boat control (in essence not leaving us totally at the mercy of the ever growing waves!)
Two options presented themselves to us at that point: We could troll crank baits along the edge of the structure or troll a spinner/bottom bouncer combo up and down the edge of the structure (this approach could also be used with a floating rig and a short leader). We settled on the latter as the ever increasing waves would still not allow us to troll along the break associated with the finger. Our spinner - bottom bouncer tactic was yet further enhanced by the use of the bow mount electric which allowed us almost limitless boat control to move our rigs up and down the break line at what ever speed we desired. Almost immediately upon employing this strategy we had fish on. However three more factors mitigated against us having one of those so called "banner days"
The first two factors, which would have an impact on our success that day were human and mechanically related. My brother had forgotten to charge his trolling motor battery. Hence as the wind and waves increased we started to find ourselves being pushed around and away from those areas that were the most productive. More power was required from the electric motor, power it was not able to give us. Secondly when we finally switched over to the 50 hp four-stroke motor we did not have the same maneuverability and speed control as we had had with the bow mount electric. It goes without saying that the new four-stroke are great but even tehy have their limits!
The third factor was unlike the first two in so far as it was completely out of our control. The weather that day was rotten. As the day progressed so did the waves on the bay. By two clock conditions were such that we were no longer able to comfortably able to fish the bay..... you've really got to be able to say when enough is enough!
Did we still have success, yes, but not to the same degree as we had had when we first employed our initial trolling strategy. Were we disappointed? Yeah, a bit, but not so much so that we would later call the day a loss. On the contrary we had done our best to adapt and we had caught enough fish for an excellent shore lunch!
What worked? Bottom bouncers/spinners (with a short lead) were most effective when tipped with some type live bait ( both crawlers and leeches worked equally well that day). This type of rig was especially effective when we could control the speed and location of our boat. My brother's 16.5 ft boat did quite well considering the conditions that prevailed upon us. I would warn those with boats smaller than this too go out on the bay with great caution. You'll have to travel at least 1.5 miles of open water to return to safe harbor.
My brothers had their feed of fresh walleye . We all had our opportunity to catch one of our favorite fish. I had this distinct pleasure of spending the better part of the day with two brothers whose company I really enjoy. Fishing isn't everything, now is it?
PS We ended up being blown off the lake…. a situation which arises quite often on Buffalo Bay. I was very much impressed by the enforcement of regulations – we were visited by both Conservation Officers and the RCMP. Finally I did see something that might bring me back to the finger on some other occasion – some really big pike were busting out of the water like leaping salmon… hmm….. big toothy fish….. that could be fun….maybe a winter project!
PSS. The Big toothy critters are not a real secret to the area's ice fisherman. These trophy fish have been targeted over the past few years with considerable success.