ice fishing

manitoba powerhouse

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails. ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Every once in a while you have the most perfect plan and it all goes crazy. You can pour over every little detail, arrange every single moment, and yet it is all thrown out the window in one quick second due to something completely out of your control. Sometimes those crazy mishaps and curve balls actually end up making the best experiences and stories. They become the thing you look back on and laugh about, the memoir you always share at a cocktail party, the incident that ends up becoming an inside joke amongst your family or friends.

Take for instance my family vacation in February 1992. I was in grade 8 and living in rural Nova Scotia. My parents had arranged this fantastic once in a lifetime family trip to Florida and we were super pumped. Until the biggest snowstorm of the year hit and our station wagon got stuck in the middle of the Trans Canada Highway, my dad cursing and trying to shovel us out to get us back on track. When we finally made it to the airport all flights were canceled and we ended up spending 26 hours sleeping on the airport’s benches and eating little bags of airline food because all the restaurants were closed down too. At the time we were upset, we were missing out on some warm Florida fun. But quickly our anger subsided and humor began to kick in. Our entire family started to look back on the experience with new eyes. Even though we eventually made it to Florida and had so many fantastic family experiences on our vacation, the adventure of being stormed in at the airport as a family is probably the one we reminisce about the most and it always puts a big smile on our faces. We had weathered the storm together and it brought us closer, and it is now a happy memory. 

Living in Canada these types of things happen all the time with the weather. You basically have a choice - you can complain and sulk about it or you can learn to adjust your perspective and embrace whatever Mother Nature has in store for you. This life lesson kicked in hard for me last week. I was invited to attend a Travel Manitoba media trip at Lakeview Hecla Resort in Hecla Provincial Park, approximately 200 km north of Winnipeg. It is a beautiful resort, in a beautiful provincial park, and I was with beautiful people who all shared my enthusiasm and love for Manitoba. We had the perfect Manitoba winter plan - to head to the marina on Hecla Island and spend the morning learning to ice fish with Jason Hamilton, a very experienced fishing guide, followed by a winter outdoor shore lunch. In the afternoon we would set out for a cross country ski adventure or partake in some snowshoeing or tobogganing. Sounds amazing right? The ultimate way to spend a February day in rural Manitoba!

As we walked out on the ice to where our guide Jason was set up and waiting for us we smiled and commented “it’s not too bad out” and “it should be a good morning for ice fishing”. Well Mother Nature - Manitoba’s powerhouse - sure had something else in store for us. As we snapped pretty photos of the shacks and the sun bouncing off the snow and ice, our fishing guide was struggling with the auger (used to drill the holes in the ice). Turns out the cold (-40 C degrees with wind chill!) had frozen the fuel line. Then came the wind. Holy cow! Mother Nature was sure blowing in a storm. The sun disappeared and was replaced by a whirlwind of snow and gusts up to 101 kilometers per hour. Some of us huddled in a fishing shack to escape her brutal force. When we emerged from the shack we discovered that Mother Nature was relentlessly pounding harder and harder - she had now lifted one of the ice fishing pop up shacks and blown it down the lake. One of our group members was struck in the head by it (thankfully she was okay) and our guide had to tackle the fishing shack like a football player to prevent it from being blown out to sea never to be found again. Things were getting exciting and crazy and we found ourselves in a the middle of an intense Manitoba adventure. But it was dangerous. It was time to bow to the power of Mother Nature and get off the ice before something really bad happened. We were forced to adjust our plans.

As we walked back to our vehicles I couldn’t help but look around and crack a smile. Our perfect plans were compromised by Mother Nature's own agenda, and instead of fishing and snowshoeing and toboganning we would spend the day soaking in the lovely indoor pools at Lakeview Hecla Resort, curling up with free movies, and gorging on amazing food from Seagull's, the resort's onsite restaurant. It was an incredible back up plan, and really showcased that Lakeview Hecla Resort has something for everyone and every situation, even in snowstorms. We all enjoyed watching the storm from the warmth and comfort of the resort. I can't think of a better place to be snowed in when a powerful Manitoba storm hits.

So in the end we didn't catch any fish, our auger froze up, our fishing shack blew away, and someone got hit in the head, but there was something humbling about Mother Nature and the winter experience in rural Manitoba, and our adventure was still very enjoyable. I will always remember the time we tried to go ice fishing in rural Manitoba and Mother Nature kicked our butt. That my friends, is a story I will tell at cocktail parties for many years to come. It will always put a smile on my face.

For more information on Travel Manitoba and great winter adventures and activities please visit http://www.travelmanitoba.com.

For more information on Lakeview Hecla Resort please visit http://www.lakeviewhotels.com/hotels/hecla/.

For more information on Jason Hamilton Outdoors, Lake Winnipeg Ice Fishing Guide, please visit http://www.jasonhamiltonoutdoors.com/home.html.

Little Gray Bird Attempting to Capture The Storm - Photo Taken By Shel Zolkewich

girls gone fishing

As we barreled across the snow and ice towards the village of fishing shacks I glanced back at the ladies all cozy in the bombardier and smiled. We had just started our ice fishing day and we were having an amazing time. I was certain this was one of the best ways to enjoy a snowy Saturday in Manitoba.

I had signed up for a day of guided ice fishing with a group of women and our instructor was Sticky’s Bait and Tackle in Dauphin. I was a bit apprehensive, I had been fishing many times, but never in the winter and never through a hole in the ice. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t know anything about ice fishing, but being the adventurous type I decided to give it a shot.

We met up with Sticky at the edge of Dauphin Lake. We were also greeted by this very captivating 1950s bombardier snowmobile capable of carrying a dozen people. We piled in and set out for the shacks. Our group of women felt like royalty being shuttled in this restored and unique Bombardier, we giggled as we hit snow drifts and plowed right on through with ease.

When we made it to the fishing shacks the real fun began. Sticky introduced us to his helper guides and gave us some demonstrations covering the basics of ice fishing. We were encouraged to pick a hole with gear already set up and give it a try. As we claimed our fishing holes we started waging bets - who would be the first one to catch a fish, who would catch the biggest fish, how many fish would we catch? Sticky just smiled and laughed and said we would not be disappointed. And we weren’t. Within minutes a scream of delight was heard and Sticky went running to help one of our novice fisherman pull in her catch with ease. It’s a keeper! The first fish of the day was tossed into a container and bets were back on as to who would catch the next one.

We fished for a couple hours, sometimes out in the open air where we could admire the beautiful view and sun as it danced on the frozen lake, and sometimes in the toasty warm shacks which offered a break from the wind and chilly temperatures. We all caught multiple fish, and with Sticky watching closely and helping us learn the tricks of the trade we handled it like old pros. 

Halfway through the day it was time to take a break and feast out on the ice. Sticky‘s Bait and Tackle had prepared a catered lunch, cooked right there by the shacks. Salads, barbeque steak, french fries, shrimp and cheesecake filled our bellies and replenished our energy. As I sat there with the sun beating down on me on the brisk winter day, surrounded by a great group of women and guides, I was happy. Happy to be outside in the frigid winter weather, happy to be trying something new, and happy to have caught some fish to take home for supper. I knew I was hooked. Hooked on ice fishing, hooked on experiencing winters in Manitoba to the fullest, and hooked on Sticky’s Bait and Tackle.

After a few more hours of fishing, our catches of the day were cleaned and filleted by Sticky’s Bait and Tackle and packaged for us all to take home. As the sun started to set we piled back into the bombardier and headed for land. We cheered and thanked each other for a great day of ice fishing and proclaimed we simply must do it again. It was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced in winter in Manitoba. Laughs with friends, learning new skills by guides, great food out in the fresh air picnic style, and of course catching some fish.

Are you interested in getting a group together and booking a guided ice fishing trip to beat the winter blues? It’s a great way to experience winter in Manitoba and enjoy life to its fullest. For more information on Sticky’s Bait and Tackle and guided fishing trips in the Dauphin area visit www.stickysbaitandtackle.com.