Snow an­glers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - OUTDOORS - DON LA­MONT

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.

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