By Daniel Kiazyk
An important part of fishing lately for myself and my fishing buddies is getting out to see new water. This past spring we had an opportunity to drive out west, to Estevan Saskatchewan, to fish a not so well known fish factory: Boundary reservoir.
Boundary Reservoir is an arm of the upper Souris river that has been blocked off and is used as a source of cooling water by one of Sask-Power’s Coal fired hydro generating plant. The plant is situated in this area because of large deposits of hard high quality coal. The reservoir is situated in a south west to northeast orientation and tapers off becoming shallow as it moves south towards the Canada US border. The border, by the way, is a mere 12 km from the mid way point of the reservoir. One other point of fact is that every where we went we met up with unbelievably friendly people. I guess living out on the prairies in mid southern Saskatchewan brings out the best in people. We never were lost for information as anyone you’d speak with was willing to share whatever they knew about the reservoir and its fishing.
The reservoir’s twenty some year history has seen an interesting transition in terms of fish species. At its beginning the reservoir had a population of perch and pike. These two species are fish indigenous to the Souris River watershed. Walleye and large mouth bass were introduced at different periods later on . As one local put it to us, the fishery at one time was dominated by very large perch and monster pike. The balance, however, was tipped with the introduction of walleyes and largemouth to a point where the once abundant perch are no longer targeted as they once were. Simply put they were subject to too many predators.
The fishery is unique for this part of western Canada as a result of warm water released (in huge amounts) by the coal plant. I was told by a local that when winter temps in the area hit – 40 F the reservoir remains open for almost two miles back from the warm water output structure. This last fact points to an interesting idea about the reservoir, one that is particularly significant to its fish population. The whole biomass of this reservoir has a longer “growing” season than any lake in the area, perhaps its growing season might be equal to some BC coastal lakes (whose smallmouth populations are legendary) or some southern Ontario largemouth fisheries. But all of this is operative in frigid Western Canada. This “growing” environment is probably why Canadian Sport fishing writers suggested that the next Canadian record largemouth bass will come form this reservoir.
Our trip into Boundary was not completely blind. Our arrival was on the heels of a walleye tournament that had taken place the weekend before. We had heard of the reservoir’s mid 60’s water temps and that walleye and bass were being caught using typical walleye gear. As a means of comparison, water temperatures in general back in Manitoba at the time (it was early spring) were in the high 30’s lower 40’s. Walleye we found were very active taking ¾ oz jungle jigs tipped with a Berkley power craw. It was almost embarrassing when we “the bass fisherman” were outperforming the locals with regards to walleye. The locals were fishing walleye using typical lures (jigs, rigs) and fishing probable locations, points, drop offs. Walleye however, that day, were up on the shallow “flats”. It didn’t take long for us to figure out after shaking off 3-5 pound walleye with some regularity that the largemouth bass were elsewhere.
Walleye, as you can probably read between the lines, were not our objective. Largemouth bass were what we wanted to see. Largemouth as a warm water fish species were not exactly overly active from the number of pike and walleye that we were catching up on these mid reservoir flats and shallow areas. Our tactics had to change if we were going to see a largie or two. So it followed that while pulling out our boat from the mid reservoir point where we had been fishing for a part of the morning that we met a local fellow who gave us the hint we needed to make the shift in “fishing paradigm”. This shift is often what is needed when fishing for a different species (different that is from what we normally angle). He mentioned that largies were very active at the end of July back in the shallow soup at the south end of the reservoir. He also said he’d heard that bass were being caught up near the water discharge structure… Bingo we knew right then and there we had been fishing out of sorts. Bass being a warm water species were going to be near to where it was warm.. Where we had been fishing by the preponderance of cooler water species was not an environment that was suitable for largemouth bass.
Loading up we trailered over to the Optimist launch at the northeast end of the reservoir. After a short ride across to the west side of the reservoir we encountered some pretty specific habitat, habitat that you’d associate with largemouth – large mats of algae that formed a twenty foot strip out from shore. At first we worked the outside edge of this weed bank but with no success. Following that we worked the edges of the water outlet structure. Here we did have a bite or two but nothing extraordinary. We were also picking up the odd walleye. Finally it was my fishing partner who suggested we walk spinners over top and down into the holes in the algae bed. Not surprisingly (it is with hindsight that I make this comment) every time a spinner could find an opening in the bed and was allowed to helicopter down a bass would smash the spinner. The fun from where we stood was wrestling bass with lighter equipment out of the “slop”.
Interestingly enough and for our first time out on this reservoir we found what we had been looking for. Perhaps the most difficult part of the experience was shifting our presentation to being species appropriate. Too often a shift is required that will make your approach to a specific species (and bring them to the boat) more feasible. I guess we should have done more preparatory work by telephoning a local bait shop or by spending more time talking to local anglers. Good “recon” is going to provide at least a better starting point than “nowhere”.
Boundary reservoir is a fascinating fishery and is definitely a go to spot for early year walleye and pike action. One caveat for anglers heading out at anytime is that the location is very much open to the elements. Wind can be a definite factor especially if it comes from a northerly or westerly or southerly or easterly direction. Yup this is the bald headed prairies after all.
Never caught quality largemouth bass? Boundary reservoir is a definite option for those who have a hankering for this feisty species.