Academic journal article Manitoba History

Ice-Fishing on Lake Winnipeg

Academic journal article Manitoba History

Ice-Fishing on Lake Winnipeg

Article excerpt

When the sun is shining and the fish are biting, it matters not to true fishers if its summer or winter. Ice fishing has grown to become a significant winter sport in Manitoba, as evidenced by the many fishing shacks that pop up on our rivers and lakes. On a mild day in February, you can see dozens of happy fishers on the ice lolling in the sun on lawn chairs around their fishing holes. The fish bite in winter too, and the meat is firm and good tasting.

Commercial fishers likewise do not stop fishing when the ice is on the lake. Lake Winnipeg, which accounts for half of the production value of commercial fishing in Manitoba, also contributes 16% of its total return from ice fishing. This is significant to local economies, as well to the generations of people who have earned their living by fishing for over 150 years. The biggest value catch is pickerel (walleye) with sauger, northern pike and whitefish all taken but lower in commercial value.

Did you ever wonder how commercial fishers set nets under the ice? How they can make the catch worthwhile to brave the cold and danger of traveling across ice that may be unstable or compromised, or blocked by pressure ridges, not to mention snowstorms that can blow up out of nowhere? Traditional fishers in Manitoba employ a technology, which they developed out of necessity, and which has been further developed for use by commercial fishers.

First, employing local knowledge and much experience, the site is chosen and accessed safely, sometimes using an old enclosed Bombardier caboose built in the 1930s and 40s especially for the purpose, or other ski machines such as snowmobiles pulling sleds with boxes for the nets, equipment and eventually, the catch. …

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