Some General Reflections (or just plain old rambling) On Fishing in Manitoba
by Daniel Kiazyk
Sometimes I'll just sit down and muse about stuff I'll do when fishing or what I see other guys doing when fishing at this or that fishing spot. I'm no fishing guru by any stretch of the imagination but I do believe there are some things that are just common sense…perhaps just fishing as much as I do also creates an opportunity to arrive at a few little tricks that makes fishing that much more fun.
Docking your boat with a little forethought will only make your life as well as the lives of those around you a little more livable and enjoyable. I'm docking my boat quite often by myself in the am. and pm. and very often in the dark. If you're going to be docking in the early am or late p.m. another set of lights mounted at the rear of your vehicle can be really helpful to see behind you. I've mounted a set of floodlights from a local farm supply store which are activated when I'm backing up. Since mounting these lights I've had little or no trouble finding my way down to the launch in the dark.
There are, of course, other things that should be done before you put any boat in the water. Some of these items are matter of common sense and good safety practice. Make sure you do walk around the boat to see that all is well with your craft. Checking to see that all your safety gear is aboard: Safety items include; flashlight, whistle, bailing can, heaving line, paddles, anchor, lifejackets. Make sure the other stuff you'll need for the day is aboard is well; lunches, rainwear, drinks, fishing gear. Make sure the plug is in and all the hold down straps are undone. Leave the winch hooked up until the last moment; I've seen some boats slide off an icy bunk and hit dry land (not fun at all!).
Other stuff to consider before getting down to the launch and here we're supposing you're doing this in a locale away from the launch includes priming your gas line, disconnecting your trailer lights and making sure that your mooring line is readily available. Don't spend a lot of time down at the ramp if there are a lot of folks waiting. If you have a larger boat I'll often have my co-pilot disconnect the winch line, start the motor driving the boat off the trailer. If I'm alone I'll back up to the point where I can still reach the winch line (disconnecting it) and then I'll tie the mooring line to the trailer. Once the boat is clear of the trailer I'll pull up the trailer so as to be able to untie the mooring line from the trailer..
One caveat to heed when backing down a concrete launch pad is not to go too far in – in some cases I've seen algae build up that is as slippery as ice. In some instances a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a necessity. If you do go in too far the possibility exists for air to get caught under vehicle and it may become buoyant. Believe me no matter what kind of vehicle you drive in this situation you're going to have problems. I've seen it happen and a four wheel drive truck went in for a swim. The other caveat in the launch sequence is to use your parking brake more often than not. This one tool is not used as often as it should be used. For the amount of time it takes to put it on it just might save you from having your truck roll in the lake or river.
Many articles have been written about this or that anchor in this or that situation. The trick to be successful at anchoring is an understanding of how each type of anchor functions and understanding the bottom composition of where you'll be putting down that anchor.
Anchor types vary but there seems to be two principles that are present with most anchors; The two factors are "weight" and something that I call the "edge" factor. Depending upon the conditions a combination of these two latter components will dictate the tape of anchor you should consider using. Fluke type anchors are very light and secure themselves quite well to almost any bottom composition. These anchors have the edge. On the Red River up in Manitoba these anchors are effective to a point. If you don't use enough line or if you get into the rocks, rebar, shopping carts you just might lose it. Weighty anchors on the other hand are good in the latter situation but on a soft bottom they're going to slide if you get into current or wind.
I like the fluke type of anchor in most circumstances. It's always nice to pull them up all day and not have arm so sore you can't do anything the next day. A weighty anchor can be useful especially in most craggy areas, or in many parts of Manitoba "shield country". I've seen some parts of the latter so craggy that any other type of anchor would require that you cut your anchor rope in order to set yourself free.
I personally feel that an all round anchor type doesn't exist. However two types do seem to apply to most Canadian waters that I'll fish; A water spike type anchor and the navy tape anchor with a weight greater than or equal to 15 pounds.
There are some specialty anchors that I've personally manufactured over the years for the Red River. I've welded Rebar bent at 8 inches into forks and then welded to a heavier rail. From the rail I'll usually have about a foot of steel chain which then be tied off to a heavier anchor rope. This anchor has served me well on the Red, but I've even lost a few at the bottom of the dam.
Finally, it'll only be on rare occasions that I'll double anchor when angling. I personally find a little movement while single anchored allows me to move my boat in front of more fish below albeit in a limited area. I'll use that second anchor when the boat is moving too much and it becomes difficult to angle downstream or it becomes difficult to fight and land a fish.
As simple as it may seem an anchor can make or break a day. I was out recently in a fully loaded Lund boat and it was a dream to fish so long as the anchor held. However when the wind got up the fishing shutdown because we couldn't present the bait to the fish in the way they wanted it. My suggestion to the boat owner was to invest in a better anchor, one that would hold the boat.
Suggestions for anchoring effectively.
1) You need at least three times as much rope for the depth that your anchoring in.
2) Having a length of chain in front of an anchor makes it easier to move and set up.
3) Strong rope of at least half an inch is a good idea. 100 ft is a good length to have around.
4) Be sure to buy up Polly tape rope as it floats (should the anchor ever come loose from your boat)
5) Use of snaps that can be tied into your main anchor rope can facilitate more effective and adaptable anchoring. These devices can speed up the tie up and retrieval process.
6) Knowing the bottom composition of where you want anchor and using the appropriate anchor -- remember an anchor can save you if you're set adrift.
7) Get a good set of cleats set up in your boat so that you can anchor from any place in your boat.
General terminal tackle tips
In an article I read lately a writer stated simply, I believe in swivels. He then suggested that given modern jigging techniques and the way we present cranks baits, fishing lines are breaking down, twisting more than ever. Adding in-line swivels in this context is a good idea. However I would go so far as to suggest that in most situations a swivel will be helpful. Yes, a small barrel swivel tied in line will extend the life of your line but there is the chore of trying one in. At some point I'll even tie in an invisible leader if it's a matter of Pike incessantly breaking off tackle. I found that in most instances an 8" invisa leader made of seven strand wire painted black with a built-in crosslock swivel and barrel swivel actually can save money, reducing significantly the number of bite offs while fishing in water were to the critters swim. I even proven it to a number of guests that if fish are biting there can be virtually no difference in the number of fish landed with virtually no bite offs… that is if you're using an invisible leader.
The only time where an invisible leader is a bit disadvantageous is when fish are neutral to negative in mood. I've written about this before but generally if walleye really want something they'll come for an offering until they get it. However after you have caught a number of walleye an invisa leader will become gnarly and won't have the nice clean shape that it had when it was new. This may cause the jig to act in a different way then was wanted.
As for pulling crank baits, very rarely will I not tie on an invisa-leader. I've found that a 1 dollar investment saves me hundreds of dollars a season (considering the cost of crankbaits!). I also find that having an invisa leader facilitates the changing of crank baits on those days when time needs to be spent patterning fish.
Finally with regards to leaders, I won't leave home without them one going out for pike or musky. Six dollar titanium leaders work but buying someone else's pike -- musky leaders seems to be a bit limiting. I found that tying my own has allowed me to create leaders that suits the rods and the tackle that I'll be using.
What is your line?
As for super lines, I feel they do have definite applications, but that doesn't mean I've given up on monofilament either. Super lines in my opinion are now as good an option for trolling as any other type of line. They have many advantages, some which will put more fish in your boat. Firstly I love the feel I get using super line while trolling. I can literally feel every branch, rock or other obstructions that'll be down there. More importantly I feel the light bites, takes. As for the fight I'll often back off the drag a little and retrieve the fish a little more slowly.
Mono on the other hand is ticket if you need to change up often (by re-tying) and in some forms eg.fluorocarbon provide an element of stealth when working walleye and trout in gin clear-water. The only problems with mono that I've had would be trolling with larger baits, and not retying while heaving heavy musky dates --- in both cases mono must be retied on a regular basis. I still like Mono for its variety of uses and its reasonable price.
Rods and reels are a matter of personal choice of course. Species will dictate the type of rod and the reels/line to use. For Catfishing guests I've switched over to graphite from the E- Glass rods everybody's using. In this respect I am a bit counterculture. However I found that the E-Glass rods are too soft and don't really afford as much control over big fish as I would like to have. I still have these rods in the boat for anyone that has a preference, but I'll usually suggest a seven foot graphite flipping stick. These rods have a lot of power and haven't let me down over a period of 10 cattin' seasons with different clients and many fish.
Walleye rods on the other hand need some differentiation. Jigging and rigging and trolling rods would make up three categories I see as being significant. The trolling and rigging rods can be worked into one category depending upon the feel people require for one or the other activity. In general I find longer rods with a bit of give to be the best for these two purposes. I will also use a softer rod for trolling as it seems to have the give needed when the fish will hit of bait. At the same time I've also tried a stiffer rod for trolling and I've seen how it allows for even more transfer of information to the angler. The only problem that I've had with a stiffer rod while using super line is that I'll sometimes lose fish because of the lack of give in the rod.
As far as jigging is concerned I prefer a shorter and a bit stiffer rod, with some backbone. The actual length of the rod should be no more than six feet six inches. I find after that, that many rods either become too big to handle or they lack the backbone to set the hook with a big fish. A stiffer rod in general seems to transfer information more quickly to your hand and ultimately to your sense of touch. It follows that if you're jigging in extremely deep water you want of good stiff rod with backbone to be able to set a hook.
Once you've purchased all the great equipment that's available, the next challenge will be to keep it in good condition. Storage and maintenance are the key to longevity. A rod not kept in a rod locker or not kept in case when in transport can be victim to any number of accidents. One particularly in annoying difficulty is when the eye is from another rod rub against the blank of another rod. For fiberglass this isn't all that bad, but with graphite rods this can spell the early demise of an especially expensive rod. Our rod sock will help to avoid the situation. The rod locker on board a boat is great but theft is always something to worry about---if you use them lock them.
As for tackle boxes I have moved away for the most part from the larger all in one type of box to a compartmentalized plastic system. These containers allow me to put similar types of tackle into a box and to label and use individual boxes on an as per need basis.
Various sizes of plastic containers exist for all types of tackle types, but buying too many different sizes can be a problem with carrying cases. Some variety is necessary given the different sizes of lures and components that you'll use for different kinds of fishing. I haven't totally abandoned the idea of the tackle box. I have a smaller tackle box for adventure trips. In this type of smaller box all have an assortment and everything I'll need albeit to a lesser extent. I find the all in one concept to be better when weight and items to carry are an issue. There's a side to the single box concept where you are forced to be parsimonious with what you bring. Well I've tried to avoid things that'll never use and I've loaded up my small box with the following: Jigs, and rubber tails and a couple of spoons, a couple of Rapalas, a few spinners, pickerel rigs, leaders for Pike and you've got enough to catch most sports species in Manitoba.
The important and perhaps interesting point after having rambled all this time is that my ideas are always in evolution. Even after having written this short reflection, I know that in a few years I'll have some different ideas. I don't claim to know much but what I do know is that there's always something to learn. Moreover I'm sure other issues will be present when I change the species I'll fish at any given time or places where I'll most often fish.