Dick Mansfield is one of those exceptional lodge owners who actually fishes. In fact, Dick and his son Troy guide practically all of their ice fishing clients. Mansfield’s home sits amidst a cluster of cabins along the shore of Abram Lake, just outside of Sioux Lookout, and serves as a base of operations for Winoga Lodge’s winter guests.
Gord Ellis and I arrived last night and this morning we’re joined by friend and Sioux Lookout fishing guide, Ben Beattie. As we prep for our first day on the ice in the early hours of the morning it’s obvious the Mansfields are serious. In fact, Dick left with a group of guests at about 6:15 am. Ben, Troy, and I are not far behind.
We pull up to a mid-lake shoal and Dick Mansfield reports slow action and leads his party off to greener pastures. Beattie assures us there are big whitefish here and we decide to give it a shot. It’s warm, still, and sunny and, although it’s the first day of spring, several feet of fresh powder snow cover four feet of ice.
I lower a green airplane jig and get a hard strike. I set and miss, pulling up a jig point adorned with several large silvery scales. “Whitefish,” says Beattie. Moments later Ellis confirms the species, sinking the hooks into what turns out to be a beautiful five-pound whitey. “Big whitefish”, Gord says but Beattie shrugs, “They get a lot bigger than that.” As if to illustrate the point, Beattie would soon hoist a well-shouldered whitey that would probably go 7-pounds.
Early evening we assemble in the large heated garage where Troy fillets while Ben and Dick coat and deep fry. Gord and I are sure to stay out of the way, electing to drink beer and chat with other guests. Between mouthfuls of hot fish Dick points to a remote lake on a huge wall map with boyish enthusiasm, “I’m going to take my group there for walleye. About 30 km. Nice ride.” Beattie has a closer destination in mind and after a cosy night we’re back in the saddle, snowmobiling toward
Ellis strikes first, catching a 17 inch walleye on a black tube jig. I follow with three smaller fish and Troy Mansfield catches a fat specimen smack in the middle of the 18 to 21 inch slot size. Slow but sure walleye fishing continues into the warm and sunny afternoon. However, by the time we meet up with Dick and his crew at a widening in a river system, the wind is up and wet snow is slanting sharply.
Knowing that a half-hour snowmobile ride will deliver us to the warmth and hospitality of Winoga Lodge, I’m quite content to turn up my collar and angle into the blackening evening. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the action is nonstop. We all pluck whitefish, pike and walleye from shallow water, and another full day on the ice passes all too quickly.