Any time you can start a year with a fishing trip, the year’s off to a pretty good start in my book.
Such was the case Sunday — New Year’s Day — when Brad Durick of Grand Forks and I joined Jim Stinson, a longtime Canadian friend, for a few hours on the Red River north of Selkirk, Man.
Our goal was to catch a few of the “greenback” walleyes that swim into the Red each fall from Lake Winnipeg. Known for their iridescent greenish-blue coloration, these walleyes can reach astounding weights, and every bite offers the opportunity to battle a fish weighing 10 pounds or more.
The weather Sunday wasn’t exactly in our favor, with wind gusts flirting with 50 mph that drove the light snow into horizontal sheets. There’s not much snow in southern Manitoba so far this year, either, which probably worked in our favor; otherwise, we would have faced the kind of blizzard conditions that prevented us from even making the trip north for New Year’s last year.
Setting up portable fish houses in 50 mph winds isn’t a whole lot of fun, and it took probably twice as long as it should have to get our lines in the water. Once we got set up, we weren’t going anywhere so we just had to hope the walleyes cooperated in the spot we’d chosen to fish.
Considering the weather and our late start, the fishing wasn’t bad. Durick, fishing by himself in a Frabill pop-up portable, had the hot hand, landing a half-dozen walleyes up to about 24 inches, along with a couple of saugers.
I fished with Stinson in a portable just a few yards away and managed only one walleye, a 22-inch greenish beauty that hit so hard it nearly swallowed my lure.
There would be no lunkers, but we felt like we’d accomplished something when we packed up and headed back to the Stinson residence for an evening fish fry.
Conditions on the river were good, and we drilled through at least 16 inches of clear, solid ice to reach open water. A few anglers were driving trucks on the river, but we chose to play it safe and use Stinson’s snowmobiles, instead.
We fished for a couple of hours Monday morning, as well. Wind wasn’t an issue, but the temperature had dropped substantially, and the fish were sluggish. We marked very few fish on our depth finders, and the ones we did see weren’t much interested in biting.
Stinson landed the only walleye of the morning, a 15-incher he kept, but he lost a fish at the bottom of the ice that left us wondering what might have been.
We never saw the fish, but judging by the rod bend, it likely flirted with 10 pounds or more.
There’s always next time.