Winter fun and ice fishing have begun

Photo: Curt Bayak with a pickerel he caught standing on front of his and Terry Roth’s rental shacks.

Hi gang. On New Year’s Eve, we celebrate the hope for better things to come. In our world of winter outdoor sport, two young guys at Sunset Beach bay just south of Grand Marais are making things better.

The winter ice fishing culture in Manitoba is evolving at a mind spinning rate. On the thick ice pack of our waterways, traditional small hard wall shacks now sit side by side with portable soft wall shacks, house-sized custom trailers, bombardiers, snowbears, sleds, ATVs and now rental shacks, thanks to Curt Beyak and Terry Roth. They built a bunch of ice shacks, towed them onto their bay and are renting them out. Good for you, guys.

During one of our conversations, Curt told me once the shacks were out, his grandfather came and they “baptized” one of them catching their limit in an hour. His granddad, always gracious, having caught the most fish, explained his luck by offering that the fishing is always good on “first ice.” When I asked Curt if he had ever had an unusual fishing experience, he thought for a minute. Then he smiled sheepishly, saying, “Yes, last spring I went onto Jessica Lake southeast of Pinawa for some fishing and almost lost my lunch.”

He went on, describing how he was clipping along over smooth ice on his sled enjoying a beautiful early spring warm sunny day when he felt the back end of his sled drop. Then he heard the motor go under heavy load. He tensed, his senses alert. Almost instantly, he saw his skis break through the ice and water began splashing over them. Instinctively, he sat back on his seat and clamped the throttle tight, forcing the machine to rear up and shoot forward, planing over patches of water pockets.

He tore along, being sprayed with icy water every time he hit a patch of water trapped between the lower thick ice and a top thin layer. Close to the south shore, he hit true solid ice and stopped letting the sled idle. Water steamed off the motor. He stood looking back at his trail of ice and water, and to his surprise, his baloney sandwiches, hot coffee canister and fishing gear were strewn everywhere. They had flown off the back of the bucking sled in his rush for shore. He had no choice. Leaving the sled running, he gingerly walked back and collected all his belongings. Carrying his much-loved baloney sandwiches and dragging his other gear, he got to shore and made camp at dusk.

Before the snowstorm two weeks ago, I was at Breezy Point. It was cold but you could still see grass between snow patches. I got talking to three young chaps from Selkirk, BrettonFewchuk, Jesse Waterman and Brandon Sutherland, who had just loaded their boat after a day of fishing. While we were joking around, as they showed me their catch, I couldn’t help noticing some trampled snow in their boat. I asked themwhy they hadn’t tossed the snow out before launching.

“We didn’t want to wait,” Jesse quipped, “ but the snow on the aluminum boat bottom made it super slippery and we did wind up on our butts more than once.”

After we stopped laughing about that, I think it was Brandon who said he remembered when they were fishing here last winter and his dad decided to pull their shack to a different spot with Brandon in it. As they were bouncing along, the door flew open and Brandon’s best rod holder fell out. He was determined to get it back so he put his sled helmet on (he wasn’t sure why) and jumped out of the moving shack, tumbling onto the ice. He rescued his holder as a cousin came along on his sled. Brandon jumped on the back and headed to dad, who had stopped with their shack. As Brandon approached, the shocked expression on Pop’s face was something not easily forgotten. By the way, the shoreline ice on Lake Winnipeg’s south basin is fairly flat from Riverton to Winnipeg Beach but kind of rough from Matlock/Libau north to Victoria Beach.

Have fun New Year’s Eve. See ya.