I landed in Yellowknife May 25, it was about 4 degrees Celsius and I had hours to wait for the float so I shared the picture of the flight over Great Slave lake with the guys who fished it with me last fall. Jokes were made about ice fishing and how Burbon needs ice to bring out those fine sour notes.
The south end of this massive lake looked better with only a few ice flows. I was chilled to the bone the first "night" with those cool winds coming off the ice. We went out after supper and really I could only hack 3 hours of it. The next day I ended up wearing my long underwear, pants, pajamas, and rain gear to stay warm and that is what I did basically for most of the rest of the week even though temps were in the low teens. It was the wind that chilled. What I really needed was a proper outer layer. Had it rained also with that ever constant cold north easterly wind I would have been toast. Luckily we had only a few hours of rain that week and most of it was during one night.
The target species was pike but the wind had kicked up sediment making most shallow water opaque. My guide didn't believe that NWT pike stay shallow beyond the spawn. So we fished patterns like wind swept walls and had some luck. My first Inconnu.
Occasionally there would be a kill during hook up and when that happened the guide kept the fish. It is a lot rarer with Coneys because there mouth is a lot smaller. Here is Garet prepping the fish for smoking. Basically a Coney fights somewhat like a Tarpon in that it instantly reacts to the take and never gives. They are tough fighters that can really wiggle and are hard to hold for a pic. Boy can they get thick and hit the lure like a freight train.
Since we were not fishing shallow we fished the river but how many times can you fish that river until you get bored? My guide took me out to the ice flows. I thought he was nuts...out there the ice forms into shard patterns...very cool.
Up the river the trees were greening and temps could be 20 degrees warmer. You could pick up trophy pike....just not the PB size I was looking for.
To tell you the truth the two other guys there trolled the lake and the end of the river channel for almost 7 full days. They had a FEW bigger fish but not as many. They were trolling Bull Dawgs and other relatively massive lures for early spring. I was happy to get off the main lake at least for part of each day.
The water being so cold, you would think deep would not be where pike were hanging out but this one was caught with a tiny hot'n'tot with a good sized lip.
Unlike the fall most pike were relatively undersized. I've never been enamored with Walleye so I was very happy to fish for Coney.
...and sometimes you would get a good one!
My guide persisted with fishing the ice. I looked at him, the ice edge? Here I snagged lures on chunks of ice! I don't think he did it much because he wasn't sure of success either...which ice flow was better...was a km off shore too far...2 km?...which edge of the ice do you fish?
I had caught one tiny pike the previous night so I said you show me how it is done. He got a Coney and then so did I. This one spot was active and we were having success with all species there. This is a pattern I would have never believed in a million years...pike, walleye, and inconnu all busting bait at ice edge about a km off of an island. Better yet they were so aggressive I used a surface swim bait and it worked well...so I had to take a pic in case anyone didn't believe me. Anything silver or white worked well.
What ended up happening was the focus went to catching Coneys
Finally on the last day the weather changed. We had a mild and warm south wind so we made a trek to another bay about an hour away because the wind was low and the ice finally gone along the shoreline.
The bay known for pike was mostly empty...I wanted to check the upper shallow lake but NWT pike don't stay there. I used a big white and orange Len Thompson spoon and found the only trophy pike that morning. It's a great tool for exploring.
Back at the bay channels were opening up because the muddy water from the bay wasn't being carried as far. And then we lucked into some fabulous fishing. Inconnu were surfacing chasing the tiniest of bait. It took us some time to figure out what else they wanted but once we had the lure the fishing was fabulous...all species were aggressive and you would have a fish every 3rd cast. We did this till supper. Before we left the owners son told us he got a 46 pike in the back bay. Do we switch...where there more?
The problem is when you only have had brief windows of success all week you go with what works so we went back to the Coney hole..and it was slower but then I caught this beaut.
Finally we moved off our hole and I asked the guide to check the bay out for only a few minutes. Being a good guide he stayed on the spot because there were fish and soon we realized there were probably 2 dozen trophies there. The water was as brown as I have ever seen trophy pike sit in...my guide's mind was blown. I said the trophies are in warm shallow water and he said, yeah today they are! There were probably some PB sized pike in there, I even hooked into a good one but lost him.
I did get what is probably a PB walleye...somewhere around 25 inches for me...and the clouds rolled in and that was it. I did come back in the morning hoping hoping hoping...but a 46 pike or bigger will have be a goal for a future trip.