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I wasn’t going to post a trip report for my day on Pigeon Lake because… well… I got skunked. But even though I didn’t land a fish I think there’s still value in sharing my trip.
Moon and Weather Patterns:
We’re in the thick of the mid-winter slump. Fishing for walleye, pike, and even trout really slows down mid-winter but there a number of things you can take advantage of to combat it. One of the first things I start paying attention to are moon phases. A good full-moon or new-moon phase can help dial up an otherwise slow bite.
Here is a link to the 2021 Solunar table from Outdoor Canada:
The second thing I start paying more attention to is the wind and the barometric pressure. As in summer, pressure changes also affect fishing activity in the winter. A dropping barometer often means an impending storm and with it, actively feeding fish. I look closely at the weather and hope for a pressure drop before I head out fishing. If the barometer isn’t dropping, I will at least want it to be stable for a few days. The only thing worse then rising air pressure, is windy, variable air pressure that really messes with a fish’s air bladder.
Even though the weather was near perfect, both a garbage moon phase and impending high winds were working against me. I know I just said to fish the optimal moon and weather phases, but sometimes we have to fish when we can. I had a late morning start and after dropping the dogs off for training I drove out to the lake, my destination – Golden Days Beach.
Golden Days is the point just west of Mulhurst bay. There is a small beach and no parking so access is easiest during the winter when you are able to drive on the ice. It’s a very popular spot and with good reason – its the closest access from land to the deepest part of the lake.
As I arrived at the lake, I found 20 or more vehicles already out on the ice. Driving on the ice is never 100% safe and I like to move pretty cautiously until I get a good feel for how the ice is behaving under the weight of my truck. A lot of people were driving a long way off shore and were clustered pretty tightly in groups. Since I’m not one to fish in the community holes I headed east, in the opposite direction. The first hole I drilled was on the eastern drop off in about 17ft of water. To my surprise, as soon as I dropped the transducer in the water I marked my first fish. Oh, what a great sign that is!
My first offering was one of the most popular walleye lures around, a Northland Buckshot Flutter Spoon tipped with a minnow head. After a pretty clear refusal I switched to my next bait, and then another, and another. Each one was being inspected thoroughly but the walleye refused to bite. Its always been said that the biggest challenge in fishing is finding the fish, but the most frustrating is finding fish but not getting them to eat!
Throughout the day I carefully explored the point and concentrated on fishing from 17-26 ft of water. I found walleye hugging bottom throughout the entire range, but again and again, the fish showed very little interest in eating my buffet of minnows. Near the end of the day a single walleye decided to play, I managed to get his interest, teased him up off bottom two feet and he went in for the strike. Unfortunately, right as he was near the surface, he gave a couple good head-shakes and threw the hook right back at me. Bummer.
Depth and contour Maps
Being able to see lake depth and contours is one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself when locating fish. I’ve been playing around with different mapping options, such as Autochart Live and Navionics, for a few years and one I thing I came across but haven’t fully utilized are the free bathymetric maps available from the Alberta government. The maps on their own are a great reference tool and have helped me get an idea of what the lake looks like below the surface. What has always been missing for me is the ability to quickly see where I am on that map. Wouldn’t it be great if we could upload the contour map to a GPS and see exactly where you are? Like some sort of overlay? If you are familiar with Google Earth, you know where I’m going with this.
Using a combination of Google Maps, Google Earth, the free lake contour maps, and a lot of internet searching, I was able to create a Ground Overlay and the following contour map:
With the data uploaded in Google Earth, I downloaded the app to my phone and used the internal GPS to see exactly where I was on the contour map. It even works too! On this trip to Pigeon Lake I compared the Google Earth map to my very precise Autochart Live data and I was only out by about 100 yards, which is pretty comparable to other mapping software. This was just a proof of concept but if there in interest on how it works let me know in the comments! I may try to create a tutorial in the future.