Every spring, many anglers in Manitoba actively target white bass during the spawning migration into most creeks and rivers that are connected to Lake Winnipeg. These fish, also known in the Fil-Can community as ‘striped bass’, are most easily caught during this short time period from the May opening to around mid-June. When the run is at its peak, these spunky fish will school up by the hundreds in relatively shallow water and their voracious appetites cause them to aggressively attack practically any presentation that an angler wants to tie on. The fact that they are extremely fun to catch and also make great table fare make the white bass run an eagerly awaited yearly tradition for many anglers in our community.
As anyone who has had a spawning run white bass on the end of their line can attest, the strikes are vicious as a big female can literally rip the rod right out of your hands. The fight is very similar to the enjoyable smallmouth bass, the difference only being that the ‘whites’ have considerably less stamina than their pound for pound champion cousins. A Manitoba Master Angler white bass is 15”. During the annual run, the average size of bass caught is 13” to 17”. It is very likely that an angler will catch multiple trophy sized fish once they are honed in on a big school. Once the white bass are done spawning though, they return en masse back out to roam around Lake Winnipeg chasing their forage. As a result, the run always has a ‘get them while supplies last’ sense of urgency to it among the die hard ‘striped bass chasers’ amongst us.
Popular presentations to hook into white bass are lighter jigs (1/8oz – 1/4oz) trailed with 3” or 4” plastic grubs or swimbaits, shallow running crankbaits (1ft – 5ft), and my personal go-to lure the metal casting spoon. For those who tire of the constant cast and retrieve or ‘pahabol’, casting out a float with a light jig and minnow combo (3ft down) will do the job just as well if not better depending on where you are fishing.
A lot of anglers had great success earlier this season fishing from shore in the Gimli and Winnipeg Beach area. The run generally will start earlier on the west side from Riverton all the way down to the Netley Creek system. Most years the white bass don’t move into the east side tributaries and rivers until the water warms up somewhat which is usually later in May. Anglers fishing from boats can often head these schools off much earlier however by casting at rock piles in Traverse Bay or even out on the main lake from Grand Beach all the way up to Manigotogan. Shore fishing for the run is at its peak right now however with most anglers concentrated at Pine Falls to the Manigotogan River area.
The possession limit of white bass for each angler is 25. Also, when seeking out potential shorelines to hunt for these schools of ‘stripers’, be mindful to respect all private property to avoid any possible trespassing situations. Please respect our outdoors and be safe when fishing everyone.