North America > Canada

Lake Manitoba: A Paradise For Anglers

lakeLake Manitoba
surface area4,752 km2
maximum depth7 m
average depth4 m
lake typeGlacial
length200 km
width45 km
catchment area79,355 km2
altitude245 m
volume17 km3
inflowsWaterhen River, Whitemud River
outflowsFairford River
shore length2,111 km
mixing typePolymictic
settlementsFairford, Steep Rock, St. Laurent, Sandy Bay
residence time1,164 days
frozenNovember to May
average discharge169 m3 / sec.

Lake Manitoba Information and Facts

Lake Manitoba is the 13th largest lake in Canada, located in the province of Manitoba, which was named after the lake. It is one of the best outdoor lakes in the country, considered an angler’s heaven since it is home to some of the biggest walleye in the World.


Lake Manitoba is the 33rd largest lake in the World, lying 65 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg. It is part of a group of three lakes, which were all remains of the prehistoric glacial Lake Agassiz, the other two being lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis. The lake is part of the Nelson River and Hudson Bay watershed.

Lake Manitoba is divided into two connected, but somewhat different basins. The northern basin is small and irregular-shaped, whilst the southern basin is larger. The southern end of Lake Manitoba ends in the Delta Marsh, located at merely 24 kilometers north of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. The delta is an important staging and breeding ground for migratory birds.

A number of small communities can be found along the coast, such as Fairford, Steep Rock, Saint Laurent and Sandy Bay.


The lake gets 42% of its inflow from the Waterhen River, which brings in waters from Lake Winnipegosis, with an annual contribution of 2.3 km3. An additional 2.2 km3 (40%) of the water is received from precipitation. Lake Manitoba drains into Lake Winnipeg through the Fairford River. More than 50% of the lake’s outflow is through evaporation, which explains its hypersaline nature.

Water Control and Floodings

After a couple of severe floodings occurred in the area in the 19th century, they started to excavate an improved outlet channel between 1899 and 1901. After many dry years, the Province of Manitoba constructed a concrete control dam across the Fairford River, downstream of the channel, in 1933. An additional, new dam was built in 1961, aiming to control and maintain water levels between 247 and 247.7 meters.

Because of the above average snowfall in the winter of 2010-2011, and above-level precipitations in the following spring, the water levels in the lake have risen to 249.1 1meters above sea level on the 21st of July. In the same year in the month of May numerous strong winds damaged beaches and a number of communities along the southern basin, including Twin Lakes Beach, Saint Laurent, Saint Ambroise and Delta Beach.

History and the Manipogo

The lakeshores were populated mainly by Cree and Assiniboine tribes before European settlers arrived. Lake Manitoba was made known to the Europeans by La Verendrye in the mid-1730s. He travelled together with his son from Fort La Reine through the lake, aiming to explore the Saskatchewan River. Settlers later established forts along the river and next to Cedar Lake.

The lake was part of an important trade route that led towards Hudson Bay. It was known to French explorers as “Lac des Prairies”. The lake’s name comes from the Cree word “manitou-wapow” or the Ojibwa word “manidooba”, which mean the same thing: “straits of Manitou, the Great Spirit”, referring to the Narrows in the center of the lake, a place where the Spirit could be heard.

Local legends state that there’s a monster living in the lake waters, similar to the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. Sightings of a serpent-like monster have been reported since 1908.

Fishing and Hunting

Lake Manitoba is one of the prime spots for fishing in Canada. The main marketable fish used to be the whitefish in the 19th century, but today the sauger, walleye and yellow perch are the primary catches. The lake has witnessed a large increase in rough fish such as carp, and the tullibee catches still remain high, although it isn’t considered a commercial species. Ice-fishing is another beloved activity, since one can catch silver bass, burbot in addition to the previously mentioned fish species.

Hunting is allowed if one owns a valid permit. Main catches are duck, geese, bears and deer. Guided hunting tours can also be booked in advance.

Recreation and Activities

Plenty of accommodation sites ranging from hotels to cottages and campgrounds can be found in the communities on the lakeshore. Developed camping is available either in public places such as at Manipogo Provincial Park, or at private listings with their own beaches. Bike riding is possible on paved roads in designated areas. Since the water is relatively shallow, it is perfect and safe for tubing. Boats and kayaks can also be rented locally. Wildlife viewing is another popular activity, since moose, elk and black bears can be spotted. The lake’s marshy southern end boasts large flocks of migrating birds. One can also make short day trips to Manitou Island, Ashern, Lundar or Brood Valley. Cross-country skiing is popular in the winter.

Lake Manitoba Fish Species

Freshwater drum
Northern pike
Yellow perch