Once In a Lifetime
Both the Red River and Lake Winnipeg are incredible if not magical places for monster greenbacks. Located just 30 minutes from Winnipeg is the mighty Red River which drains north from the Dakota’s into the 10th largest lake in the world, Lake Winnipeg. As first ice approached last year, Cats on the Red, owned and operated by Stu McKay would host what would be the first of two massive media events. The first being on December 12th with its sole purpose to educate North America on what a world class fishery the lake and river have become. Both Lake Winnipeg and the Red River consistently produce huge, monster greenbacks with an abundance of feed such as emerald shiners and lake chubs, helping to keep the increasing numbers of fish healthy and plentiful. Greenbacks are known for their emerald color due to the limestone lined shorelines of Lake Winnipeg.
Guests from across North America join Stu McKay and his guide Holly Chow for the festivities and among them, Jeff and Jason Matity from Saskatchewan. To their credits, television show hosts and great outdoor writers. As the day for the big events premier on the ice arrives, the wind chill would bring minus 40. It seemed within second’s hands, faces and exposed skin could feel the wrath of the bitter cold.
A convoy of trucks, vans and SUV’s head down what is locally referred to as the end of main. The ice was still too thin to allow vehicles to drive on it, so a long line of participants hauled sleighs with supplies onto the frozen ice in the bitter cold. Thermal Clam Base Camps were provided for all the guests and the “Mr. Heaters” certainly proved to be more than a valuable asset. With Strikemaster’s Laser Mag, cutting threw the mere 12 inches of ice was a breeze. Holes were drilled, allowing one for fishing and one for electronics.
With set-up complete, the hunt for monster greenbacks was on. Each portable would yell when another fish was taken, so cameramen and photographers could capture that special moment. Eyes stay fast on the dial of the Vexilar’s and as the marks came in, the shrill of an excited angler could be heard. This day would prove to be either a Chubby Darter or flasher tail jig bite. (Lake Winnipeg and the Red River for those anglers who have never fished it, requires very little in your arsenal except these two lures and a bucket of salties.)
Jeff and Jason seem to come from a mighty heart stock. They were the only anglers who seemed to not mind braving the cold. Periodically they would step into neighbors portable to take the frost off and then back out they would go. It took only one yell from the Matity brother’s to bring everyone running. “Big fish on”! The fish seemed to take forever to come to the top of the 10 inch hole and seemed to take even longer to make its way through it. The girth of the monster greenback almost exceeded the diameter of the ten inch hole. When she was pulled free from the ice, thrills of excitement could be heard. Jeff quickly sheltered her eyes and ran for the nearest portable to keep her from freezing. Everyone knew the value of this fish, but also knew that returning her as quickly as possible would insure her survival. After a few photo’s the monster was dubbed, “El Whappo” and released back to the mighty Red River. It is amazing to catch a walleye this size, but even more amazing that it happened during this event and with video cameras running. The event proved to be so successful that a second event was held in mid March with some of the most elite guests from the ice fishing industry attending, along with some of the foremost outdoors writers from the United States.
Since that first great media event, a lot of great news has come to the region. The North American Ice Fishing Tournament Circuit is allowing the first ever Canadian tournament to be held on January 9th, 2011. Events such as trade show booths and seminar speakers will take place during the week prior to the event at our host facility. The event will allow 300, two person teams and expects to pay out over $30,000 in cash prizes based on team entries. The host facility, South Beach Casino & Resort located 30 minutes from Winnipeg and only minutes from Lake Winnipeg, is fashioned in an Art-deco design and tropical atmosphere. Their distinctive resort offers luxury suites and deluxe guestroom accommodations with a high standard of service and amenities like their tropical pool area. South Beach Casino will be providing rooms for the event at $47.00 Sunday to Thursday and $89.00 Friday and Saturday.
The excitement surrounding the tournament is building daily with anticipation of yet another “El Whappo” being caught and who knows, maybe lady luck will smile upon you and two of her size will bless your line.
Cats on the Red is excited to be involved in this great event and we hope to see you on the ice. A big field is expected, so grab your fishing buddy and call to enter today. For registration for the NAIFT, please call 1-204-757-9876 or 1-204-510-2469. For hotel reservations: 1-877-775-8259 www.southbeachcasino.ca and check out “ElWhappo” on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/catsontheredcanada.