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 with Rob Miskosky

Sometimes Size Doesn't Matter

Most of us that fish probably have a lake, river or creek that we consider our home waters. For me, when I was in my early 20s, my brother Dale and I considered Shunda Creek our creek of choice. While we fished many other waters in the Nordegg area, we always seemed to gravitate back to the Shunda. The Shunda is a creek that took boots on the ground and stealth to fish, and creeping up on the pools was a necessity if you were going to catch a fish. There, you could catch brookies and bulls and if you were lucky, a big brown trout that would test your fly rod. Between us, my brother held the brown trout record from the Shunda, a gorgeous fish we estimated to weigh in that three-pound range. We cooked that fish over an open fire at our small camping spot alongside the creek. Back then, that was what we did; we fished to catch a fish to eat. If I remember correctly, there were rumours that the Shunda also held golden trout, but we were never able to confirm it. I haven’t fished the Shunda in many years now but would love to one day visit it again with a fly rod in hand.

Dakota Miskosky with a typical small Wabamun Lake walleye.
Later on, my home waters became Baptiste Lake near Athabasca and for ten years, seldom would you find me on any other waters. Nearly 20 years ago, Baptiste held the promise of a 20-pound pike, huge perch, and plenty of walleye. Back then, the limit for walleye was three over 50 centimetres and a fish fry of golden walleye fillets was a regular occurrence. You could keep a pike too but the walleye were everybody’s favourite. For me though, I loved nothing better than to sight fish for pike lying in the shallow bays that we had names for; Pike Bay, of course, being my favourite spot. It truly was a great fishery.

Today, while the chance of catching a 20-pound pike at Baptiste is probably non-existent, there are still big perch and plenty of walleye to catch. But the walleye are now a draw fish. I remember the first time being successful in the draw, I was drawn for Class C, three fish under 43 centimetres. At the time I entered the draw, I never gave it much thought that a Class C walleye was a very small fish and I learned in a hurry that it really wasn’t worth the effort—or the cost—to catch a Class C walleye. Three fish wouldn’t feed a family of four, you needed much more than that, so we stopped entering for the Class C tags and focused on the bigger Class A and B tags.

About seven years ago, I moved onto an acreage west of Edmonton and gave up my spot at Baptiste Lake. Today, outside of the stocked ponds near my home, Wabamun Lake is the closest lake for me to regularly fish, although Isle Lake and Lac St. Anne are also close by. But being familiar with fishing Wabamun from years earlier it was my chosen destination. As Baptiste Lake once was, Wabamun too was once considered a trophy pike fishery. And while there are probably still some 20-pounders swimming its waters—Wabamun is a big lake—it appears to me that the walleye have taken over as the dominant fish, as you can catch walleye after walleye, day after day for days on end there.

This year, Wabamun Lake has been added to the list of lakes for draw, which should be considered a good thing because surely the lake could use some walleye thinning. Unfortunately, the only walleye available for draw is those tiny Class C sized walleye and the number you can keep is a mere two fish. I swore back then at Baptiste Lake that I would never put in a draw for those puny fish again. But sitting here thinking about it, Wabamun does need some thinning to help it out, and if I can help by removing a couple of those puny fish, then I guess I’ll do my part. Sometimes it’s about making things better for the future.

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