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ONTARIO OTHERWORLDLY WALLEYE

What makes walleye fishing in Ontario so good



The question I am probably asked more often than anything else is: what is my favourite fish? And I always reply the same way. It’s the one I’m fishing for at the moment.

Honestly, if I am with a bunch of goofy kids at the end of a dock and they're dropping down tiny hooks tipped with pieces of nightcrawler to catch yellow perch and pumpkinseeds -- hey, call me goofy, too, and let me get into the game.

If you forced me to think about the question a little more deeply, however, I probably pursue walleye more than any other fish.

It’s only natural, too, I suppose, growing up in Ontario where, with over 400,000 lakes and more than 2/5 of all the freshwater on Earth, there are more and better walleye waters than anywhere else on the planet.

As a young kid, I was fortunate to spend my summers at the family cottage, tucked deeply into the lush hardwood forests of central Ontario's magnificent Haliburton Highlands. The little lake I grew up on was a veritable walleye wonderland.


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

I kept a record of the weather and water conditions, as well as the number of fish I caught each day and looking back on the scribbled notes some years later, I discovered that I fished for a portion of every day, from the end of June to the beginning of September, for something like seven years straight.

As I grew older, I branched out and started fishing walleye glory holes like Southwestern Ontario's Lake Erie, Georgian Bay, the Kawartha Lakes and Southeastern Ontario's Bay of Quinte.

I mention Quinte for a reason, because it was here that I lost the biggest walleye I have ever seen. I was fishing the annual derby that is held each opening weekend with some high school friends, and we had our sights set on winning the first-place prize of a boat, motor and trailer.

We dropped our lines into the water precisely at midnight, and were still trolling in Hay Bay some 20 hours later. That is when I hooked into one of the mammoth walleyes for which the Bay of Quinte is famous. But as I fought it to the side of the boat and attempted to pull it over the edge of the outstretched net, the behemoth flipped the hook and slid back into the water.

I remember that 14- to 16-pound walleye as though it was yesterday.

Something else I remember vividly is the first fly-in fishing trip I ever made with my father. We drove up to White River, situated between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, and flew by float plane into one of the hundreds of outpost camps throughout the region.

It was the trip of a lifetime, and I still remember how we dined like kings under the brilliant evening stars, devouring a few of the walleyes we kept each day.


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

The action was outrageous -- but do you know something, it is even better today, from one end of the province to the other, thanks to an embarrassment of walleye riches, magnificent habitat and modern fish management.

To tell you just how spectacular the walleye fishing is, a couple of years ago, a buddy and I flew into one of the finest resorts in the Hudson Bay lowland in Northeastern Ontario. We were targeting gargantuan northern pike, the size of alligators, but each day at noon we stopped for break to catch walleyes for lunch.

It was mindboggling.


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Honest truth, the average size walleye we were catching was between 22 and 26 inches, and we struggled to catch "eaters" that were small enough to keep. Anywhere else and the lodge would have billed itself as the Walleye Capital of the World, but here they were playing second fiddle to the enormous pike.

Is that crazy, or what?


(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

But you find the same thing in so many other lakes throughout the Algoma region and Northwestern Ontario.

I have some good friends from Minnesota who walleye fish with me every summer in my Sunset Country home waters, and I tease them about their license plate that boasts 10,000 lakes.

"That's too bad," I always kid them, "because we have 100,000 lakes between Kenora and Thunder Bay alone. And when you see their names, it reads like the All-Star Team at the Walleye Fishing Hall of Fame."

All joking aside, when folks ask me to describe the walleye fishing they can expect to experience in Northern Ontario, I always find myself drawing on the word that good friend and host of the In-Fisherman Television Show, Doug Stange, often uses.

It is otherworldly.

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