Welcome to Week XLII 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.
So as we drove down the hill toward the south end of Lake of the Prairies for the recent fishing derby I was surprised to see water flowing through the Shellmouth Dam, and that meant open water in the spillway.
For a fisherman who has grown up in Saskatchewan open water in February is less than a rarity.
So Adam and I sat over our derby holes waiting for a bite which never did come I was regularly suggesting we head back the next day (a Sunday), for some open water fishing.
Adam hedged his bets as they say, suggesting he'd let me know later, likely seeing how far into partying he got Saturday eve.
But I kept reminding him how rare open water winter fishing was, adding at 52 I had never done it.
Fighting a cold as it was, I turned in early, with no word from my son, I figured he was not up to going Sunday and I'd sleep late.
Well at 10 Sunday morning he rolls in and I am still in bed asleep. In a groggy moment I said no to fishing.
He went home, while I, now awake, laid in bed wondering why I had not got my butt up, after all I was the one who had put forward the rarity of open water winter fishing. I was 52. I had never done it.
And while yes I had a cold, it was sunny, the forecast unseasonably warm, and I could still move. I was crazy to have said no.
So I had the better half call Adam as I dress. He climbs back out of his bed where he's gone back to, and off we go.
We get to the spillway and it is like some scene out of one of the fishing books I have become addicted too.
It's -3C, calm, at least down on the spillway shore, and sunny. The kind of intense sun that when reflected off the surrounding snow the brightness chases every shadow from the landscape. It is so bright my photographs are blown away in the whiteness of it all.
I slip a hook on, make sure it's a barbless one since this is Manitoba water, and I cast. The hook goes plop in the water. It's a sound that seems out of context with everything around me.
The snow crunches under foot.
My cast hindered just a bit by the shirt, sweater, vest and winter parka I am wearing.
On the far shore the dried grasses of fall are poking through the whiteness of snow.
I cast several times and no nibbles.
I really don't care.
I just soak in the experience.
I have been fishing for the better part of a half century and never had I fished open water in February.
But then again I am a fisherman, so I automatically switch hooks. It's what we do when our first choice of lure fails to entice a strike.
It's red five of diamonds and on its second cast a pike obliges by taking the hook.
It's a nice sized one, and I keep it.
The fishing is slow, the day beautiful. It balanced out well in my favour.
In time Adam's rod takes on the familiar bow of a solid strike, and he hauls in a pike, yes larger than my own.
In fact it's large enough we find ourselves questioning what such a catch might have earned a day earlier. We pull out the tape measure and it's 62-centimetres, not a $10,000 fish by far (that was an 87.5-centimetre pike), nor a $5,000 second place fish for that matter, although it would have made the top-10. Ah the curse of a Derby fisherman, left wondering the 'what ifs' of something we should be doing for the pure joy of it, and yes Sunday, on a warm February day, the water flowing freely before us, it was as pure a joy of fishing as you could hope for.
We only brought home two pike, but then again a good day of fishing is rarely measured in the number of fish caught.
At home I go about filleting the two fish. Both are female and heavy with roe. I smile for on my New Year's fishing resolution list is to fry up some roe.
I remove the egg sacks, squeeze the eggs out, rinse well then plop them into a milk bath, dredge in some Kamut® flour and toss into the frying pan. I keep the seasonings simple, salt, pepper and a splash of hot sauce.
They taste fine. I'm not going to suggest they are the best thing ever, and the texture of the eggs was not to Adam's liking, but yes I would make them again.
The chance to try roe just added to an already great fishing day.
So what to do with the fresh pike? I decided it was time to make Spicy Honey Pike in Acorn Squash.
I kept this little creation pretty simple.
I took acorn squash, halved them, removed the seeds and put a large dollop of butter and a healthy dose of Wendell Estate Honey, which readers might recall from a feature in these pages earlier this year, or from the MacNutt, SK. company's recent appearance on Dragon's Den.
The squash went into the oven to bake.
Meanwhile the fresh pike was fried with salt, pepper and chili powder. Once cooked, I took the pike and flaked it, which got rid of the bones.
Then the pike went back in the fry pan, along with sliced almonds and toasted sesame seeds. Again I seasoned it spicy with hot sauce and chili powder.
The mixture was then stuffed into the half squash, drizzled with more honey, and back into the oven for a few extra minutes, and then to the plate to serve.
Now I have never been a squash fan, well past a pie from the cousin pumpkin, and zucchini which takes its flavour from whatever you cook with it, but this was pretty darn tasty, sweet and spicy like I had planned. Oh yes this would work just as well as stuffing in a baked zucchini.
Give it a try, it was a great result from an even greater winter day of fishing.