Story Ideas

Beat the winter blues with hardwater angling in Canada.

Head to Manitoba to drop a line, share some stories and experiences, and enjoy the food.

23 September 2015

Hardwater Walleye

4 walleye fillets, cut into chunks

½ cup (125 ml) milk or water

Your favourite breading or batter (Shore Lunch, Rocky Madsen’s Fish Crisp or other brands)

4 cups (1 litre) canola oil

Preheat oil to 375°F (190°C) in your deep fryer. Dredge fillets in milk, then in breading. Deep fry for four minutes, turning once halfway through. Drain on paper towel.




Suggested tweet: Don’t get stuck with midwinter blues—drop a line + go hardwater angling in Canada #explorecanada @TravelManitoba

We are in the clutches of winter—December, January, February and March—a span that could easily be bundled into a never-leave-the-house, waiting-for-spring scenario. But what’s the sound outside? Why, it’s a snowmobile, blasting across the frozen surface of Lake Winnipeg in southern Manitoba, en route to a hot spot where the bite is on. Ice fishing season is upon us!

With the lakes, rivers and ponds frozen since early November, diehard anglers were beginning to twitch in these parts. That’s a long time to go without feeling a tug on the line. Now, with at least 30 cm (12 in) of ice on these waterways, it’s time to get fishin’.

Boats and motors are replaced with snowmobiles and sleds or hefty trucks with snow-munching tires. Ice fishing—or hardwater angling, as we like to call it—requires a few more pieces of gear than its open-water cousin.

There’s the ice-fishing shack, portable or permanent, that often includes chairs, benches, a woodstove or propane heater and cooking equipment, not to mention favourite, framed posters from the 1980s and remnants of shag carpeting. Then there’s the auger. You can get hand-powered models, but gas-motor versions are preferable. Its big blade slashes through the ice (there’ll be over four metres of it by March), creating a tube-like hole in the water. Simply drop your line and get fishing.

Every hardwater angler knows ice fishing isn’t really about the fish. It’s about getting outside, sharing stories in the shack and, more than anything else, the food.

Even if you feel confident about your catching ability, always bring backup food. It’s bad karma to count on fish for lunch. Nine times out of 10, you’ll catch something, but don’t take that chance. It’s a long, hungry ride from that sweet spot on the ice to the shoreline and the nearest restaurant.

Lake Winnipeg’s prized fish is walleye—a tender, white-fleshed beauty that lends itself to pretty much every cooking application and comes out deliciously delicate. But the lake is home to dozens of species, so don’t be surprised if you catch northern pike, perch, white bass, drum, sauger or catfish.

Luck is on your side and you’ve hauled in some eaters—walleye of the appropriate size for the lunch special. Deep fry is the way to go. For this task, some anglers make a bit of an effort, hauling along a generator to power the deep fryer. Fillet your fish, cut them into chunks and toss them in your favourite breading.

There are two critical points when it comes to frying fish: 375°F (190°C) and four minutes. Nail those two things, and you’ll be serving some of the most delicious bites your fellow anglers have ever tasted.

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