Welcome to Week XIX of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access a boat a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish for a good summer fry.''
The Shellmouth Dam sits at the southern tip of Lake of the Prairies and that is the destination this week.
You can tour east on Highway #16 and then once at Langenburg take a few grid roads and get to the dam, but it is easier to hit Russell, MB. turn north on Highway #83 and follow the signage.
For this time we pick the spillway at the bottom of the dam control structures.
Now the spillways are a spot which are a little confusing in terms of licensing. Lake of the Prairies itself allows fishing with either a Saskatchewan, or Manitoba angling licences.
The spillway is marked as part of the Lake of the Prairies management system, so things such as slot limits imply.
It is however, not part of the lake, so you will require a Manitoba license. Coming from Saskatchewan you can purchase a license, and can get the conservation version which is about half price, but does also come with reduced limits on some species. As an example a regular Manitoba license allows anglers to keep six walleye (with some size restrictions), while a conservation license allows only four.
There are actually two dam structures at Shellmouth but by our September visit one was closed so there is no water flowing.
The other is still active and that is a good thing.
This is a spot for good weather. There is a winding road down to the spillway edge and the car made it easily, but if it was raining I am not sure you'd climb back up without a four-wheel drive.
The good news you could opt for some shore spots on the lake side of the dam if the rains came.
The spillway is a busy spot with fisherman spaced along its length, but we still find a spot.
People are generally using pickerel jigs and we go that route.
My first thought as I fish the area is what are the large black areas in the water which shift and move?
I initially thought it a weed patch, but it moved too far for that.
And then I realized it was a school of fish.
The schools, there were several as the day wore on, where made up of small bullhead catfish.
It was very cool when on occasion they would get scared, likely by a roving pike, and some would break the surface making little slapping sounds as they hurried away.
The bullheads liked the minnows on the rigs just fine, and several bit.
Many were too small to keep, including my first ever 'bullie' but it was still a thrill to catch.
The other fishermen seemed in a major hurry to get the bullheads off their hooks and back into the water, but as bigger ones bit we kept them.
Bullheads are sort of the perch of the catfish family. Huge is a three-pounder. We never got one that large, but we did manage half a dozen.
Now these guys may not be big, but their whiskers can sting, so they need to be handled carefully. Grip from under the belly when removing hooks.
As far as preparing, the bullhead is skinned, gutted and the head removed. The tail stays on and into the flour and frying pan.
The six made one meal, but it was a tasty one. They would be right in between perch and walleye in terms of yummy, which makes me wonder why so few seem interested in taking them home. The feisty little fighters are certainly worth trying folks.
The same pickerel rigs netted me a couple of pike, always a surprise to me.
But the walleye were not biting.
I finally went to a chartreuse spilt tail lead head, a hook I was promised would work (see related story this page). Well it did get the first walleye of the day and a keeper to boot.
But walleye were not being co-operative for anyone.
Then up drives a truck. The driver leans out the window and asks how it's going. The reply is 'slow' in terms of walleye.
His response is to move around the bend and fish in the white water where he had been catching consistently.
I'm off in a heartbeat.
Now closer to the dam the shore is rocks, great big rocks. It's a rough, careful trip but I get to a spot I know I can cast right to the dam if need be, and I have a flat rock for a seat.
Out goes the chartreuse split tail lead head. Nothing.
I switch to a white lead head, and cast away. Again zip.
I am thinking the walleye are taking an after lunch nap.
I try a red five of diamonds spoon. Still nothing.
I am about ready to go find some late lunch myself when I remember I bought some lime green grubs for Canora Dam walleye, and decide to give it a try.
Three casts and bang. It's big enough to take line against the drag. It turns out to be a 51-centimetre and goes back in the swirling water.
Another four casts and another big one hits close to shore. It was a twin to the first at 50-centimetres so back into the water. The slot limits at Lake of the Prairies help ensure a healthy walleye population, but darn it can be frustrating too.
Thankfully the next four strikes over about 20-minutes fall under the throw back line and are big enough to fry.
In terms of fishing, not much beats taking fish in white water.
Maybe taking your first-ever bullhead catfish would equal it.
However the Shellmouth Dam is also an area where you will learn you cannot stick to one technique and be successful.
A second visit on an overcast day and I head back to the white water spot and throw the green lead head and get nothing. In fact walleye ignore jigs of several colours, and a few spoons too.
So I make my way down the channel to calmer water and find still jigging is working. So like any smart angler I join in. Bang I get a bite and it's a big one. It measures 64 centimetres, my biggest walleye of the summer, and back it goes with the slot limits in place.
What is truly intriguing as the walleyes are being reeled in you can see pike chasing them right up to shore.
That gives me an idea. After my better half and I limit on walleye I decide to have some fun with pike.
I reach for a new lure, one that only recently arrived from the Quebec-based Ma-Jik Canada ( www.majikcanada.com ).
Most fishermen are intrigued by new lures, but that said I look for lures which offer me new options, whether colour, shape or action. I do not need another red and white spoon, Len Thompson pretty much mastered those years ago.
Ma-Jik offers a boat load of different. To start most of their lures are far lighter than you would expect given their size. They use a very thin metal which allows you to toss larger spoons without sinking to the lake floor. That is good news for their largest hooks.
They do offer a 'Magnum' series which are think and heavier, and these feel more familiar.
The smaller ones, made of the same material have less casting distance in them, and have a tendency to surface in fast water. In many instances the smaller offerings are going to need some weights incorporated into the casting system.
The lighter hooks will take some getting used to, but they are going to give new options to what I can offer fish.
In terms of colour Ma-Jik has found great variety in simplicity. They have a line of lures based on white, another on black, with surprising variation within that.
Since the old adage says go with bright hooks on overcast days and darker hooks on sunny days, Ma-Jik has you covered too.
Back to Shellmouth. The pike were following the walleye in, why not give them a fake walleye for lunch? I grab a 2 3/4-ich St. Maurice spoon from Ma-Jik in silver/gold.
On the first retrieve you can see the pike trailing it. It took a while to realize on my normal retrieve the lure was coming out of the water just before the pike was making its final lunge. You could see the pike turning away as the lure dangled just out of the water.
So I slowed the retrieve, getting to the point I'd stop completely about the point I got a glint off the spoon. The spillway water creates a current and the hook would sort of just hang in the current a metre off shore and you could see pike literally running into it.
So close to being out of the water a quick hook set would literally pull the hook out of the water. I had to let the pike get a good bite first then yank. As Manitoba waters are all barbless you need to keep the line taught, but in this case the pike is turning and running for the centre of the channel so I just let it fight the drag a bit and then started retrieval.
In a matter of a couple of hours I must have landed 20 tossing them back. Being so close in the fish weren't even overly worked, and swam away in a hurry once released. This was pike fishing for the joy of watching strikes and enjoying the fight.
I will say if pike are feeding on walleyes, or even perch, the silver/gold St. Maurice spoon from Ma-Jik is going to be a killer offering.
A spot with a chance to fish whitewater, one with walleye, pike and catfish make the Shellmouth Spillway one of the best spots in the region. I can hardly wait to get back there, and with more Ma-Jik lures to try out it is going to be fun.