Starting with a BANG
Catching massive freshwater drum great way to kick off season
AFTER spending the first part of May out of the country, I was anxious to get back out on the water. When friend Jim Price invited me out to fish on Lake Manitoba, I was glad to head out — even if it meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. Weekends can be a busy time at our many lakes and rivers, but upon arrival at Sportsmen’s Park at 6:30 a.m. we had the boat launch to ourselves. A busy place on any weekend, we were early enough to avoid the crowds. After launching Jim’s boat in the Whitemud River, we decided to try our luck upriver for walleye and the ever present silver bass or drum as anglers prefer to call them. After about three hours of covering water we caught four small walleye and a few silver bass. Our real goal on this day was to head out to the big lake and try our luck along the many sandbars extending from the mouth of the river itself. A brisk west wind was blowing as we ventured out through the channel into the lake. We could see the sandbars out in front of us and Jim trimmed his motor as we slowly ventured our way to deeper water. There are times on the lake when the water drops, and these sand bars make it difficult to get out of the river. Luckily we didn’t have any trouble and soon we were in two metres of water. Shallow water — but more than deep enough to catch the walleye and drum feeding on small shiners on these sand bars. Trolling in two metres can be a bit of a challenge, but by using ultra small crankbaits we were able to accomplish our two main goals: cover water and catch fish. While the walleye we caught on this day were all smaller males, many of the freshwater drum we landed were in the two-kilogram range. Later in the day as we headed north on the lake we got into a extremely active school of these aggressive predators. Suddenly the size started to jump up considerably. Then I hooked into an express train, with line melting off my level wind reel. Jim immediately put the front troll motor in anchor mode so I could make some headway on whatever was on the end of my line. When trolling for walleye I like using a three-metre rod with a line counter reel spooled with three-kilogram test Crystal Fireline. Onto this is attached a small cross lock snap that holds up even the pull of a monster like I currently had on the end of my line. As the fish got closer, I guessed it was probably a massive drum given the wild rolls and surges in the fight. Finally we saw it in the water and my knees got a little weak. Since Jim only had a small rubber net for the walleye, I was not sure the massive drum would fit. Friend Dan MacRae managed to get the fish in the boat somehow. Big drum are not the easiest fish to handle, with a tough small mouth and really hard gill plates. After a bit of a struggle and a pectoral fin in my finger, (much blood) I was able to hold it up for a quick picture. Not wanting to get beat up anymore, I released it over the side before measuring or weighing. Still both Jim and Dan agreed it was a rather large specimen of the species. It was certainly by the far the largest freshwater drum I had ever landed and made the opening day of fishing season a memorable one. This species is a worthy sport fish and I plan on spending more time in the future trying to catch them. Anglers Notes: The continuation of cooler temperatures and moisture has delayed a lot of fish movement out to deeper water, so think shallow. Fishing for walleye has been pretty good all over the province with many fish still in less than two metres of water. A great way to catch these shallow fish is to use a small spinner rig weighted with a couple of small split shots or bullet sinker. This allows your lure to slide through the weed cover with a minimum amount of snags. Many of our trout species are also still patrolling the littoral zones in search of an easy meal.
Don Lamont with the huge drum fish he caught on Lake Manitoba.