IT seemed every time I headed out ice fishing in the last month the snow started to come down. First it was a trip to Lake Winnipeg to fish with Dustin Byfuglien for a day, then it was last week on a trip out to the Winnipeg River. My friend Kevin Stobbe and I were to meet up with Matt Cornell, who grew up along the shores of Barrier Bay on the Winnipeg River. Cornell is well known in angling circles across North America as a man who knows how to catch fish. I have met Cornell at a number of events in the last year and we talked about getting out for a day on the ice. We were able to get our schedules together and finally make it happen. After hooking up a trailer loaded with a couple of new Polaris snowmobiles from Rond’s Marine (thanks Tyler), we headed to Barrier Bay Resort, our first stop on this two day excursion. DJ and Erica Seales took over ownership of the resort four years ago and have made it into a couple’s destination. They also have one chalet Cornell likes to use to accommodate anglers that come up to fish with him. The cabins at this resort are spotless with hot tubs, decks and an incredible view of the Winnipeg River. Both DJ and Erica grew up playing competitive volleyball in Winnipeg, but decided a lifestyle change was needed to get away from the bustle of a big city. Erica says they are loving the change, especially with the people they get to meet running the business. After checking in, we drove up the back lane to Cornell’s cottage just a short distance away. He grew up spending his summers in this cabin with his parents and his uncle, who always took him fishing and hunting. Cornell says he has always loved the lifestyle in the country, so to become a hunting and fishing guide, was natural for him. He has guided for the last 20 years, but a couple of years ago decided to return home and work out of Whiteshell Provincial Park. Prior to that he had been a guide at Scott Lake Lodge in northern Saskatchewan. While he guided there for a number of years, he also spent time in the spring guiding bear hunters, then waterfowl and big game in the fall. He says the total days a year guiding started to take its toll. That’s when he decided to take a year off and refocus his efforts closer to home. So for the last year he was been guiding anglers on the Winnipeg River and areas closer to the family cottage. On this trip, Cornell was going to take us on a snowmobile tour of the backcountry to fish for one of the many species available in this beautiful Canadian Shield country. Off we went early the next morning and headed down a back trail in the middle part of the park. The Whiteshell River starts out at Caddy Lake, and ends up in the Winnipeg River at Nutimik Lake. It has been a major canoe route for thousands of years, allowing people access from Lake Superior to Lake Winnipeg. In recent years, it’s become a popular destination for anglers who want a backcountry experience. This is especially the case in the winter, with snowmobile trails criss-crossing the park. It’s also increased angling pressure on black crappies, a species that established a presence in this water system a few years ago. Cornell, who loves to fish for this tasty panfish, is concerned the increased angling pressure will cause a collapse in the population, especially in the trophy fish that swim in the many lakes in the system. He would like to see a reduced limit to four, with all fish over 11 inches or 28 centimetres released. To register a Master Angler fish with Travel Manitoba, it must be 30.5 centimetres, or 12 inches. For more information on Barrier Bay Resort, visit them online at www.barrierbay.com
A cabin overlooking the Winnipeg River at Barrier Bay Resort.
Matt Cornell with a master angler crappie.