Lac La Biche /
Lesser Slave Lake

Ice fishing: A perfect man-cation

Chris Bruno stands on Lesser Slave Lake in the brisk morning breeze and searches the holes in the ice for the first catch of his life.
Photo courtesy of John Korobanik

 

JOHN KOROBANIK

SLAVE LAKE, AB - The temperature was a bitter -24 C with a light breeze blowing across Lesser Slave Lake. Chris Bruno was off by himself, fishing through one of many holes in the ice he and his buddies had cut, searching for the elusive Walleye.

His line disappearing through the hole, Bruno waited patiently in hopes his first ice fishing trip would not end without catching a fish. Regardless, the time spent on Lesser Slave Lake fishing with his buddies was an experience he would not soon forget.

“This is my first time ice fishing, first time staying in a hut,” he said as he gave his line a few gentle tugs. “It's fun, I like it. The experience has been great, but we haven't been catching too many fish.”

Chris Bruno, feeling good after catching his first Walleye.
Photo courtesy of John Korobanik

Then, almost on cue, his rod suddenly dipped; one tug and he was alert, two tugs and he prepped himself, then three tugs and with a quick, short jerk of his rod, Bruno hooked what was biting.

Moments later he brought his first ice fishing Walleye through the hole and onto the ice.

“What is it?” he asked.

“A nice pickerel,” I replied. “Perfect eating size.”

“A pickerel?” he inquired.

“Walleye,” I replied, remembering that most westerners use the formal name while easterners call them pickerel.

“Well, it feels pretty good” he said as his buddies wandered over from their holes to see what he'd caught. “Patience pays off!”

A Great "Man-cation"

Bruno was one of five working buddies from Wabamun who had rented one of the six Southshore Adventures Fishing huts available on the Faust side of Lesser Slave Lake. They had a couple of days off and decided it was time for a "man-cation" – a guys only vacation.

“It's just like a boys night out,” said Lance Gallie, one of Bruno's buddies. “Fishing has been slow but we're still having fun. We ran around and drilled a whole bunch of holes, cooked up some smokies and sausages and played some poker.”

And yes, they had fish for supper. As guys do on their getaways, they also had their drinks – entirely legal since the huts are considered their place of residence – told a bunch of stories, had their share of laughs and met other fishermen who had rented the other huts.

Fishermen like Chris Link and Mike Johnston of Edson, who were on Lesser Slave Lake for the same reason as so many others – they had heard about the great fishing, especially in the summer, and wanted to find out for themselves.

Lance Gallie waits patiently for a tug on his hook.
Photo courtesy of John Korobanik

The fishing hadn't been great that week, but, as Link explained, “Fishing isn't always about catching them. We're still having a great time.”

Johnston and Link spent the hours with lines dropped through the ice, catching a few fish for meals and, when they weren't biting, watching on the underwater camera they had brought along. Johnston watched the camera, focused on his lure, and as he saw a school of burbot (ling) slowly swim pass he quickly pulled in his line and dropped another one with a lure he hoped would be more appealing to that species.

"Does the camera actually help in catching fish?" I asked.

“No, but it's entertaining and gives you a little hope. At least you know they're there” he replied.

Johnston has fished Lesser Slave during the summer so he knows the fishing is good, which helped keep up the optimism when it's slow in the winter.

“Our days are spent pretty much entirely fishing,” he said. “[We] play some cards, cook good meals, have a few drinks and just enjoy ourselves.”

Southshore Fishing Adventures 

The six South Shore Fishing Adventures huts are arranged in a semi-circle, so it's easy to meet your temporary neighbours who, when needed, offer a helping hand. Dean Syniak, who manages the huts, wasn't around during the days but his ice auger certainly was, being passed between huts when a longer auger was needed.

The huts come with several pre-drilled fishing holes – they do have to be re-drilled to cut through the ice that reforms each day – so renters have the option of fishing from inside, or going outside to try different fishing spots.

Want a "Man-cation" of your own?

For more information and to book a hut, go to: http://lesserslavelake.ca/icefishing.php

Most of the huts are 12 by 14 feet in size and are equipped with bunk beds to sleep up to four adults, wood burning stoves for heat (plenty of wood is provided), electricity hookups for lights and portable heaters, a table to seat four and utensils. Renters do need to provide generators for the electricity and bring their own bedding, with warm sleeping bags recommended.

The Southshore Fishing Adventures are getting to be so popular that the huts have already been booked on weekends for the rest of the season.

I can undertand why, witnessing the guys having so much fun. The Wabamum group, having eaten fish for supper and played a couple hours of poker, visited other huts to see how everyone was doing and invite them back into their hut where they were deep frying chicken wings and fries to go with their beer.

What more would be needed for the ideal man-cation?

“Not much,” agreed Gallie.

Read about SnowSeekers correspondent, Paula Worthington's first experience icefishing on Fawcett Lake in the Lesser Slave Lake Region.


 

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