NINETTE, Manitoba -- Pelican Lake, located 25 miles into Manitoba from the North Dakota border, is proof you don't have to travel far into Canada to find great fishing.
The lake is stocked annually with northern pike fingerlings and semi-annually with walleyes. Perch maintain their own population and suckers are present in good numbers.
"The best sucker fishing in the world is in Manitoba," said Bill Cole of the Ninette area economic development group in what surely is one of the more unusual claims to fame ever advanced on behalf of the Canadian province.
Pike top out in the 20-pound range, walleyes at about 7 pounds and perch around 2 pounds. "It doesn't have a lot of huge, trophy fish," Cole said, "but it's good for numbers."
The lake was formed in 1917 when a wooden dam was built on the Pembina River. The dam fell into disrepair and was burned in the 1930s. Nobody missed it because a drought had dried up most of the lake.
In 1947 local residents re-established the lake by building a new dam. But the Pembina River was a trickle at the time and the distance from the former shoreline to the new shoreline was about 400 feet.
Heavy snows in the late 1940s helped return the lake to its former elevation of 1,352 feet above sea level. Today it's a mile wide, 17 miles long and has a maximum depth of 25 feet, though most of the lake is less than half that deep. It's the largest body of navigable water in southwest Manitoba and a popular destination for fishermen from North Dakota. Though about 900 cabins ring the shoreline, they're far enough apart so that the lake retains the wild aura of a western reservoir.
Cole said an enterprising businessman might be interested in buying a former hospital on the north end of the lake. It sits on 160 acres of land and once handled up to 89 patients. Shoreline access is available.
Other lakes in the Pembina chain include Bone, Square, Grassy, Lorne, Louise, Rock and Swan. The river's source is in the Turtle Mountains near Peace Gardens and it flows into the Red River near Pembina, N.D.
To reach Pelican Lake from North Dakota, cross the border at the Lena or Hansboro port of entries. Motels are found in Killarney, Ninette, Glenboro, Belmont and Cartwright, cities within a half hour drive. Call Bill Cole at (204) 528-3226 for more information.
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