Lake Winnipeg is known for its walleye ice fishing. In fact, it’s home to the famous “Green Back Walleye,” on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. It offers the best chance at landing a 10+ pound walleye through a hole in the ice. For years, prior to social media becoming such a giant influence, this lake has been producing the fish of a lifetime for many anglers. Walleyes were being plucked from the waters with giant lipless crankbaits and ice fishing spoons the size of soup ladles. Going after any fish with aggressive techniques is something I live for.
Prior to my first Lake Winnipeg ice fishing trip, I thought it would just be another day on the ice. I’ve never been more wrong in my life. If we would have been able to gain an air temp of 60 degrees, it would still have been below freezing. Between a snowmobile going down, the auger flighting freezing up between holes and the howling wind, I didn’t think I’d ever come back to this lake. Then it happened, a 32” walleye with the coolest colors I had ever seen. From that moment on, I planned on making the pilgrimage every year.
Shortly after our first Lake Winnipeg walleye fishing trip, I decided to become better prepared, even if it was only for one trip every year. What Lake Winnipeg gives out, it also takes back. We broke a lot of things that first time around and that’s because we were unprepared. Ice fishing is ice fishing…we thought.
My initial upgrades were going to be to my actual ice fishing gear. My love for lipless cranks was already in the courting stage but I really didn’t know what I needed at that point. What I did know, is that I wanted all of them. The following list is not numbered for a reason; they all seem to work.
Lipless Cranks for Giant Walleyes
- Live Target Golden Shiner – Now, you can get all the colors with a glow base. Overall, I think the profile and sound make more of a difference than the glow, but it never hurts to have all your boxes checked.
- Jackall TN60/50 – Nice, subtle action/vibration with enough weight in a smaller package to drop you back into the right depth. The only issue I’ve had with a Jackall is the tailhook fouling on my line. Most times can be attributed to user error when working the bait too aggressively.
- Rapala Rippin’ Rap – #6 and #7’s are my go-to lures for many bodies of water. In the murky waters of Lake Winnipeg, I tend to rely on contrast rather than color. Firetiger, for example, is an incredibly productive color because of its’ high contrast.
- Northland Rippin’ Shad – Simple colors, not a lot of options and fantastic glow bases are the main reason you can line a tackle box with these lipless cranks.
- Custom Lipless Cranks – Sometimes certain colors set you apart from the rest. In fishing, a leg up on the competition is always warranted.
Walleye Jigging Spoons
- Pelican Spoons – With some of the best colors out there, these lightweight flutter spoons continually produce.
- Slender Spoons – A personal favorite of mine for all different bodies of water. I typically carry two of every color with me.
- RJ Lures – Some lightweight spoons with a multitude of colors to cover your needs and wants.
- XStream Tackle – Rattle Styx and Sonar spoons have pleasantly surprised me on my last trip. It’s like a Buckshot and Slender spoon got together and had a kid. Tip it with a minnow or fish it naked, you will catch fish.
- PK Lures – Pretty much their entire lineup is a solid choice, regardless of the body of water. Just make sure to choose the appropriate size.
Ice Fishing Jigs
- If you happen to talk to any local, a deadstick will sometimes make all the difference. Calling a fish in with the lipless and getting it to attack a deadstick is commonplace on Lake Winnipeg ice fishing as well as our home lakes. What I’ve found to be the best option is a roadrunner jig with an attached blade (see below). If you choose to pick up some live minnows, this is a deadly combo for big fish.
Lake Winnipeg Bait
- Canadian salted shiners and live minnows carry a little sticker shock, but I wouldn’t be caught on the ice without some sort of meat hanging from my hooks. Whether you want to fork over the cash or make your own, you’ll need some bait.
- There are many ways to make your own salted minnows and they’re perfectly legal to take across the border. I’ve tried using the Coca-Cola method as well as the Borax method. In my opinion, the Borax minnows held together much better than Coca-Cola minnows.
Recommended Ice Fishing Rods
Ford vs. Chevy, Pepsi vs. Coke or Vikings vs. Packers. Hardcore people will stay to one side regardless of the reason. The same goes for ice fishing rods. It’s been a long time since I started with a simple Berkley Lightning Rod, but it’s been nice to upgrade along the way. Rod technology is constantly advancing to bring stronger, more sensitive rods to the masses. However, with the improved technology, cost continues to rise. What I recommend is to get the rod that fits your budget. After all, this is a once a year trip for many anglers. If you’re in the market, there are a couple of rods that should be on your radar.
- JT Custom Rods, specifically the 40” Black Reign. I run two of these while I’m on the Lake Winnipeg. One is dedicated to rattle baits while the other always has a spoon attached. Everything about these rods makes you feel warm inside. Perfect sensitivity ties into a stout backbone to handle the upsized tackle and massive walleyes.
- Tuned Up Custom Rods – 38” Commander is worth looking at. I started with the Power Precision, which handled Winnipeg walleyes with ease. The Commander is a beefier version with all the goodness still intact.
- St. Croix Custom Ice Rods – A little newer to the game, but with the quality that St. Croix typically produces, I’d have to imagine they handle fish well. Look for something 36” or longer with at least a medium action.
Ice Fishing Reels of Choice
I’m a simple man and focus on the functionality of my equipment. Many times, the expensive gear seems to win out in durability. With that said, every ice rod I own is paired with a Shimano Sienna FD500. For under $40, you get a reel with a fantastic drag, instant anti-reverse, and smooth action. Use what you have or what you want, but please don’t overlook this reel.
Every year, I think I swap out what type of line will be used on Lake Winnipeg. Typically, 10lb Power Pro Super Slick is on all of my rods. Last year, I decided to switch out to a 10lb mono. The reasoning behind the switch went back to the idea of just keeping the fish attached. When fishing Lake Winnipeg, you’re usually standing on three feet of ice underneath you. Allowing the fish to have a little more wiggle room and not solely relying on the action of the rod oftentimes allows you to land what you hook.
Ice Augers for Lake Winnipeg
Whatever brand you run, having a 10” hole makes things a whole lot easier. The last few trips we’ve made, a Strikemaster 40V Lithium has made short work of drilling holes with the added benefit of spitting the slush back with the reverse feature. Whatever you own will work just fine, just be sure to have a backup.
Lake Winnipeg Lodging
- Canalta Inn – Selkirk, MB. Nothing like clean rooms, a hot breakfast, and a Jacuzzi to make your fishing trip that much more enjoyable.
- Selkirk Inn and Conference Center – Selkirk, MB. Affordable and right next door to Smitty’s Restaurant and Lounge. If you pass Chuck the Channel Cat, you’ve gone too far.
- South Beach Resort and Casino – Scanterbury, MB. Comfortable rooms, an in-house restaurant with the added bonus of a little gambling (if you have a rough day on the ice).
- Petersfield Motor Inn – Petersfield, MB. Minutes from Werner Road Launch with an attached lounge/restaurant.
A hot meal and a cold adult beverage is the best way to cap off a day of fishing regardless of where you are.
- Sadie’s Diner and Lounge – Petersfield, MB
- Petersfield Curling Club – Petersfield, MB
- Boston Pizza – Selkirk, MB
- Tim Hortons – Selkirk, MB
- Smitty’s Restaurant and Lounge – Selkirk, MB
- Mango’s South Beach Restaurant, South Beach Casino, Scanterbury, MB
Lake Winnipeg Bait and Tackle
- Smoke N’ Fish – Selkirk, MB. They have all the live bait and salted shiners you can handle along with the best Lake Winnipeg ice fishing tackle. If you haven’t bought your Manitoba Fishing License yet, this is the last place to get it done.
All in all, this trip needs to be on your bucket list. The chance at a 10-pound walleye is incredibly high with few opportunities offering the same probabilities. Big fish with fewer numbers tend to start the season. As the days get longer, numbers of fish tend to increase. It truly is a place to catch your “fish of a lifetime.”