Welcome to Week LVII 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 to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
Having heard from a gas station fellow that there was indeed a Shoal Lake, and that there was shore fishing opportunities, I of course had to make a trip to check it out.
From Yorkton, Shoal Lake is about a 90-minute jaunt, so to fish new water that is not bad.
Turning off Highway 16 you are quickly into the town of Shoal Lake, and you can see the water just to the community's west side.
We wind our way west through the town, and see a sign for tourist information. I figured a stop there was in order, since they would likely be able to point out a shore spot open to the angler.
As we pull up to the old wood-board-sided building, I am happily surprised to see the building houses more than a tourist information desk. It is also home to the Shoal Lake Mounted Police Museum.
As you may have noticed with my recent tour through the Margaret Laurence home on a fishing trip to Neepawa, I can happily be waylaid from a lake for a little taste of history.
Generally I do pass on local town museums, interesting and important as they are as storehouses of local history, they don't grab my attention since I have no connection to the community other than it may be near a fishing hole.
But this one dedicated to the RCMP was different.
Of course in Saskatchewan most of us are at least aware of the RCMP Museum in Regina, and many, myself included, likely visited it as part of a school tour. Now in my case that means a trip made some 35-plus years ago, but I still remember glimpses of it.
The museum at Shoal Lake is not as large, nor as fancy as the one in Regina, but that is all right. The antique building and the feeling you might well have stepped into an RCMP station from the past gives the place an interesting flavour.
I did manage to access some information on the museum.
"The Shoal Lake Police and Pioneer Museum Inc (changed to Shoal Lake Mounted Police Museum Inc. in 2011) was established in 1984 by the Shoal Lake Historical Society. The building, located at the north end of Shoal Lake, is a replica of the original North West Mounted Police barracks built at the south end of Shoal Lake in 1875. The Shoal Lake Historical Society erected the building using logs recovered from old Fort Brandon."
The rustic building creates a real charm for the museum that I must say I completed enjoyed.
"The museum initially housed North West Mounted Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police displays as well as a collection of pioneer artifacts from the Alex McPhail Museum at Vista and from Shoal Lake and area residents," detailed the material provided.
"In 1994 the museum was re-opened by a new committee after a period of closure, incorporated as Shoal Lake Police and Pioneer Museum Inc. and became a Registered Charity. In 2004 and 2005 the pioneer articles not pertaining to NWMP and RCMP use were packaged up and donated to the Shoal Lake Prairie Mountain Regional Museum and the Rossburn Museum. Since then, more NWMP and RCMP displays have been added. In 2004 it was designated 'Manitoba's Official Mounted Police Museum'."
That the museum focused on a particular area was likely a good thing. I would think such focused museums more easily attract donations, and they certainly make a tour of the place more interesting as one can immerse themselves in a particular theme.
Such was the case with one of the coolest items in the collection, a piece with quite a history of its own.
"The police artifacts came from private donors, some of whom were former RCMP members. The cast steel Musical Ride horses and riders on the rafters were originally in a carousel at Expo 86 in Vancouver, then put in storage at the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. In 2005 that museum decided they would like to remove them from their storage and we were fortunate in being the recipient of the collection and had them mounted on the rafters," noted the material.
I will note here the museum could use a bit more on-site background material on the displays. The Margaret Laurence Home, as an example, has a simple cassette recorder visitors can carry. On the tape is a narrative which details background on exhibits as you move room-to-room. It is a simple tool which is ideal in smaller museums and such a device would have been an asset here.
The RCMP museum has some very interesting exhibits including; "North West Mounted Police artifacts, Winter Scene displaying buffalo coats, Musical Ride Display (which includes a stuffed horse), First Nations Display, Uniform and Saddle Displays, Women in the RCMP Display, Transportation Display and Barracks Diorama. We also have three framed prints (with NWMP and RCMP themes) painted by artist Terry McLean from Virden, MB.," noted material.
They were nice to look at, but some more information on the significance of buffalo coats, or about key women in the RCMP from Manitoba, or background on McLean as an artist would have added much to the tour.
I will say that anyone passing by Shoal Lake with even a passing interest in history would be well served to stop in at this museum. It is open for eight weeks in July and August and tours may also be arranged by contacting pettin...@goinet.ca or by phone 204-759-2826 (Barb) or 204-759-2671 (Helmut).
We offer school tours spring and fall. The museum gets between 400 and 500 visitors per year.
The young lady at the desk was also helpful in taking us outside and actually pointing to a rock outcrop area where she assured people often catch fish.
That was good enough for me.
We head there, a spot almost in the shadow of the museum, with a great view of the lake. It is late afternoon, sunny, warm, one of those evenings great for sitting on a lakeshore for the joy of the location as much as for the expectation of catching a fish.
I suppose that is something some people don't quite understand about fishing, including some fishermen themselves. As I write this I am sitting at A&W in the city, having just completed a round of disc golf at Patrick Park Disc Golf Course (a solid 29 by the way). As it would happen a fellow was out with his metal detector searching for old coins. The park, I learned, was once a fair grounds. We got to talking for a bit and he made the comment he almost always finds something, not like fishing where getting skunked is not that unusual. I told him on days without a fish he still had the experience of fishing, and that is, on reflection, always good.
Which brings me back to Shoal Lake. I start tossing lures and changing lures, and trying spoons, and plugs and rubber baits.
Did I mention how nice the evening was, the sun dropping into the west across the lake?
The time passes and I'm deep, deep into the tackle box. Len Thompson lures strike out. Dardevle lures follow suit. Homemade bottle cap lures do no better.
Ah, but the weather was so fine.
There are a couple of fishermen on a boat not too far out. I don't think they were managing more than washing their hooks either.
Another shore fisherman takes up a spot across the small bay and finally manages a pike on a spinner. Not too big, he lets it go, and soon moves on himself.
But that little pike kept my hopes up.
A few fish start to break the surface on jumps. Some lore has it that jumping fish are a good sign since they are at least active. Other lore argues the opposite.
Such is the vagary of lore I suppose.
I choose to take it as a good sign.
I am at this point fishing a Lyman lure. These are my favourite lure of frustration. I love their action in the water. They have great side-to-side action on even a moderate speed retrieve, and will dive hard on a quick retrieve. But get into trouble, touch a rock or weed bed and you can stop the retrieve and the Lyman floats back to the surface and out of harms-way.
All that goodness however, has not meant catching fish with them, in spite of repeated attempts in lake after lake.
But at Shoal Lake with fish jumping close in, I want a lure which will be noticed. The movement of the Lyman could ensure that.
I see a fish break water by some weeds only eight-10-feet from shore.
I cast over the weeds and start to work the small bed. A couple of casts and a fish makes a pass at the lure. Whether it changed its mind, or having had a slow day I missed the chance to set the hook, I came up empty on the strike.
But if it was a hungry pike, as I assumed it was hunting the weed bed, it might well make another run.
I make a couple more casts. The idea I am working is a quick, hard retrieve once the Lyman landed on a cast over the small weed bed. I wanted the lure to look like a small fish headed to cover. Once I was close to the bed I let off the retrieve letting the Lyman surface where I couple pull it slow over the weeds, then dive it hard for the last few feet to shore.
It was on the slow pass over the weeds the pike hit. It came out of the water and struck the lure hard and fast. It was a beautiful sight to be sure.
I set the hook, there was a momentary hard tug on the line, the sign of a none-to-pleased pike. And then nothing.
There was still a huge bend in the rod, but no fight. I pull hard and the drag gives line.
Now there are rocks just off shore and at this point I am figuring the pike had twisted free and on the release the lure had lodged into a rock crevice.
But remember it was a beautiful evening, although at that moment I am pretty sure beautiful evening was not what I was thinking.
I get to work trying to get the lure off the bottom. I tighten the drag a half turn and it starts to come my way, the rod bent like I'm dragging a deadfall log off the bottom.
And then the pike surfaces. It had simply gone to the bottom and sat there sulking as it decided what do to about a lunch that was now trying to drag it to shore.
As it breaks the surface the pike thrashes angrily, and makes a short run, but the Suffix line is more than up to the task of keeping the pike in check.
It starts to come back my way, and is soon on shore, 24-inches, and one of the most memorable strikes and retrieve of the summer.
It turns out to be the only fish Shoal Lake will give up, but with a catch like that one can be enough.
Oh, and yes it was a beautiful evening anyway.
Addendum: It was one of those good Wednesday's, a day off, a 29 on the disc golf course, and the fishing article above completed.
So with a free evening I thought I'd take a little run up to the Canora Dam for some fishing on a nice August evening.
As we bundled into the car I made the comment I had not brought the camera, adding I'll probably catch something big, smiled and headed out.
The water was low, with the flow over the dam pretty thin.
I see a couple of jump ripples as I dig a Len Thompson Fire Tiger out of the tackle box, and I cast in the general direction of the ripples. I am maybe six casts into the evening when I get a strike.
It's big, and none too happy about its dinner dragging it toward shore. It gets close and runs.
I drag it back, it runs.
A third time it breaks the surface. It's a pike, and it is big.
It runs across the water like a mad pooch on a leash.
But finally I win out. It's 32-inches, and thick, the biggest pike of the season. It would have ran on the north side of eight pounds.
I momentarily consider him stuffed and baked, then opt to let him go, after all he was a fighter and release was a way of tipping my hat to him.
But even after the release the river decided I owed it something for the pleasure of catching the pike, and a rock soon claims the Fire Tiger.
The night is slow, not that it mattered after the big pike.
I managed another small pike, and the better half gets a small walleye on a minnow jig.
I'm about ready to call it a night, when something takes the Len Thompson Hammered Perch I am throwing out.
Again it's got some fight. I figure it's another good-sized pike as it makes a couple of spirited runs against my drag.
When it finally rolls close the surface before making a run the shape is wrong for a pike. I am wondering if carp have found their way to the Dam since walleye don't often fight with such spirit.
But as it gives up the fight and comes to the shore rolling on its side, the gold of its scales glistening in the the light of a setting sun. The walleye measures 22-inches, my best of the season.
Now I fish a lot and to catch the biggest pike and walleye of the season on the same day is rather surprising and gratifying.
It also got me to thinking.
The likelihood that I happened to hook the biggest pike and biggest walleye that were in the spillway of the dam was highly remote.
So while the water was low, it is likely even larger fish lurked there that night.
And therein lies the great allure of fishing, with every cast there is the possibility of not just a tug on the line, but a tug from a really big fish, even in waters you might not expect them to be lurking in.
Such was an amazing Wednesday night at Canora Dam, where two big fish wrapped up an overall fantastic day.