Photo: Cameron Bernier with a pickerel he caught while fishing with his father on the Red River by Breezy Point
Hi outdoor buddies.
Late last week found me sitting and swapping fishing stories with Phillip Perkins of Transcona in Shawn MacDuffs’ ice shack not far from the end of Gimlis’ harbour. The air of brightness in this shacks’ high walls, grand ceiling fan and huge windows seemed to complement Phil’s story of his happy childhood fishing contests in Pinawa years ago. Phil was a jolly, energetic, full faced guy with short brown hair who punctuated every sentence with a short hurried laugh. He loved telling a story where he, his sister and dad would go boat fishing in the weed banks of the Winnipeg River by Pinawa and whichever kid caught the biggest jackfish dad would take them to a sporting goods store and buy them anything they wanted.
On one such occasion his sister caught a humungous jack which netted her a fine fishing rod prize and bragging rights because come the next spring when they were spring cleaning the boat, she found and kept a half inch tooth from that jack stuck in the floor carpet.
A few days before meeting Phil, I went visiting anglers on the Red River off Breezy Point. Going from one portable shack to another I met two young chaps, Drew Wallace, who was thin with a dark pointed beard and his pal William Henry, a very fit guy who had a warm subdued constant smile. We talked of fishing experiences while standing on the ice in a brisk cool wind. Drew’s favorite story was when he was checking the water depth off an interior rock face by Nanaimo, B.C., with a line and weight. As he was winding it up, at the 25’ level he felt a tug and when he brought it all the way up to his amazement a jack had swallowed the weight.
I left Drew and William after a bit and carefully walked along over the truck trails of half ice, half hard snow to another tent-shack where I struck up a conversation with Cameron Bernier and his dad Perry also from Transcona. They had caught a few fish and Cameron held one up for me to show you. Cameron and Perry spoke with fondness of the fact that they have been fishing together forever. Cameron remembered once when he was very small and they were fishing off the slippery rocks at Seven Sisters when he spied a turtle swimming furiously between the rocks in the rushing river current. Oblivious to the danger he went after it and sure enough fell into the icy turbulent water.
He was in luck though because a passing stranger saw him trying to grab onto the slimy rocks as his legs flailed about. With one grand move he bent over and plucked Cam out of the water with one hand. To this day in his mind Cameron can still see himself in that cold water amongst those slippery rocks.
One beautiful, warm, cloudy Saturday I was far out on the ice at Balsam Bay. I was bouncing along between what seemed like streets of shacks when I heard someone shout, ”hey Arnie, how are you doing?”
Off to my left, a shorter fellow heavily dressed and with a scarf that almost completely covered his face waved me to come over. Obligingly I pulled up and met Paul Joyal and his son-in-law Lawrence Bryant from Winnipeg.
Paul’s upbeat, fun loving personality was overwhelming. Holding up a pickerel, he took great joy in telling me that he had been coming out here all winter long and hadn’t caught a thing. He told his wife before leaving home today that if he didn’t catch anything he was going to quit fishing for good. Well, that must have changed his luck because he was three pickerel to the good. Apparently he had just called his wife and told her, “Tonight we’re having fish for supper.”
Later, when I was pulling off the ice onto the road, I met a young couple out for a walk pulling a sleigh carrying their child. I remember stopping, rolling down my window and jokingly asking, “how do you guys like the “fishing city” that’s been appearing here on the ice every weekend?” They just laughed and shook their heads in wonder at the spectacle.
See you next week gang, bye.