Editor's Notes: Author Bill Spicer of The New Fly Fisher is no stranger to Algoma Country. Read on as Bill describes in his own words the fishing and lodge accommodations he experienced during his fishing trip to Pine Portage Lodge on Kabinakagami (Kaby) Lake. You can learn more about fly fishing in Algoma at www.algomaflyfishing.com
Since I was first introduced to fishing, the sport has become almost an obsession with me. I love traveling in Ontario's beautiful Algoma Country and testing different waters. Recently, I had the pleasure of fishing at Pine Portage Lodge on Kaby Lake, which boasts big pike and walleye. This full-service Lodge was founded by the Watson family in 1946 and has remained in the family since then. It's family friendly and pets are welcome.
When fishing, I used streamer patterns for the most part and had non-stop action for pike and some walleye. Although I was fly fishing, the conventional tackle user can be very successful here using spinners, plugs, and jigs.
16-foot aluminum boats are available with 15 hp motors. The lodge also has a complete line of tackle, bait, ice and gas. After fishing activities include backwoods golf-driving range/ pool table/ sauna / swimming / canoeing /hiking / satellite dish TV /Wireless Internet connection / mountain biking...and more!
Full American plan and Housekeeping plans are available. The meals are all home-cooked, and you never leave the table hungry. Guides are available on request, or you can head out and do your own thing. The beauty of the area is unbelievable. Abundant wildlife is in the area -- the chance of you seeing a moose, or bear, or waterfowl is high.
I was especially impressed with how the staff went out of their way to make sure we had a successful fishing trip. It seemed everywhere we went we caught fish.
To learn more about Pine Portage Lodge visit them on the web at www.fishthefinest.com or give them a call toll free at 1-800-363-4443.
If you're interested in having the same fly-in fishing trip as Bill, you can request a FREE travel guide at www.algomaflyinfishing.com
Editor's Note: As one of the original pioneers of Canadian adventure television, The Fish'n Canada Show has for over 30 years broadcast their pursuit of the ultimate adventure. Hosts Angelo Viola and Pete Bowman educate and entertain audiences with their passion and enthusiasm for fishing. Both are inductees in the Canadian Anglers Hall of Fame. Read on as Ang and Pete tell their train-in fishing trip story in Algoma Country. Don't miss the video at the end of this article.
A fly-in fishing adventure is a luxury not every angler can afford, the hefty price tag is one of the main reasons a fly-in trip is still on the bucket list for most anglers.
But what if you could have the experience of a fly-in, but at a more affordable price? Well, you can – without ever leaving the ground. The destination is northern Ontario's Algoma Country, where you can take the Algoma Central Railway in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, or the VIA Rail out of Sudbury to any number of fishing lodges within the 25,000-square-kilometre wilderness. That's right, a "train-in" fishing trip.
Travelling by train to a lodge certainly adds a whole new dimension to a fishing adventure. Last year, the Fish'n Canada team took the VIA RAIL BUD CAR to Esnagi Lake, now one of our favourite Walleye waters. We started off at our home base in Oshawa, took a leisurely drive north to Sudbury, boarded the VIA train at the main station, then relaxed as the journey took us to within 100 yards of the Esnagi shoreline. There, waiting boats were ready to taxi us to the lodge, and within less than an hour after arriving, we were pounding big Walleye. It was that simple.
While at Esnagi, we stayed at Lodge Eighty-Eight and Mar Mac. Both destinations offer first-class food and accommodations, but they're far from the only choices in Algoma. There's a wide array of lodges situated along the stops for the Algoma Central Railway Passenger Train, all with excellent fishing opportunities.
Lodges along the Algoma Central Railway Passenger Service area to look into are:
SPRUCE HAVEN WILDERNESS LODGE
KWAGAMA LAKE LODGE
WINDY LAKE LODGE
LOCH ISLAND LODGE
NORTH TO ADVENTURE
ERRINGTONS WILDERNESS ISLAND
CAMERON LAKE FISHING LODGES
ONTARIO NORTH FISHING ADVENTURES
WATSONS PINE PORTAGE LODGE
HEARST AIR SERVICE
As per the above list that Fish'n Canada have sampled, we have been to both North to Adventure properties, Errington's Wilderness Island, Pine Portage and Hearst Air and all of these have produced great fishing episodes and superb fishing trips when the camera is turned off. As well, the hospitality and the lodging were absolutely first class. We think we can honestly say that the destinations that we have not visited yet will sit right among these top ranked properties.
Getting back to the train advantage: the other thing we like about this travel mode option is the convenience. Forget about packing your car or truck to the hilt, then driving for a full day in possible rain or snow, depending on the time of year. Instead, simply load your gear into a freight car and settle into a cozy seat. You can bring out the cards and poker chips, take a walk up and down the aisles, enjoy a few snacks, or just have a snooze. Then before you know it, you've arrived at your once-in-a-lifetime fishing destination.
Walleye, Northern Pike and Speckled Trout are our favorite species from these lodges along the line with the Walleye and Specks being our top 2 (simply personal choices). The unique thing about these two Algoma species is that the Trout which you would normally suspect as a colder water fish than the Walleye should be farther to the north. Not so...and in fact, the Speck fishing in the southern portion of Algoma rivals almost any other Canadian destination for this painterly species. Imagine taking a train-in fishing trip and having a great chance at a true 5lb Algoma Brookie??? Well people, it's a reality.
We here at The Fish'n Canada Show have now sampled some of the outstanding angling opportunities that the Algoma area of Ontario has to offer via all 3 forms of transportation: driving, flying, and training. Try to make it a point to get some buddies together or grab the family and jump aboard the Bud Car, or the Algoma Central Railway Passenger Train and experience wilderness at its best: in Algoma Country.
If you'd like more information about train-in fishing in Algoma visit the website www.wildernessbyrail.ca
When talk turns to walleye fishing, jigs are the lures most often discussed. It's no coincidence that jigs are the "go-to fishing lure" of most walleye enthusiasts but just knowing enough to take along some jigs on your next trip to Ontario's Algoma Country isn't a guarantee of fishing success.
Jigs are a fishing tool and like any other tool in the garage one size or type doesn't fit every application. Let's use a hammer to illustrate a point. A claw hammer is a good tool for driving nails but not the best tool for putting on a hub cap. A rubber mallet is a hammer of sorts and is a good tool for putting on a hub cap but in the same token isn't so useful for driving nails.
Jigs designed for walleye fishing are like any tool in that it's important to pick the right tool for the job at hand. The jigs best suited for casting are going to be somewhat different than those suited to vertical jigging or dragging along the bottom. Now that it's clear not all jigs are not created for the same tasks it's time to take a closer look.
Jigs suited to casting presentations are designed with some key features not necessary found on all jig designs. Jigs designed for casting applications have the eye tie positioned on the nose of the leadhead instead of being on the top like the traditional round ball style jig. This line tie position enables the jig to swim along bottom while reducing the chances of fowling on weeds or other bottom debris.
This small and often overlooked feature can make a big difference in reducing or eliminating fowling. Selecting a casting style jig for casting applications makes the angler more efficient and increases the chances of catching fish.
Just as casting is an important presentation for catching walleye, vertical jigging is another fishing method popular among jiggers. Practiced most often in rivers or when walleye are found in deeper lakes, vertical jigging is the practice of presenting the boat over top of structure and fish.
Because vertical jigging positions the boat over top of the fish, the best jig style for this kind of fishing are ones that feature two key features including a 90 degree eye tie and a long shank hook design.
The 90 degree eye tie enables the jig to hang horizontal in the water creating a natural presentation as the jig is lifted and dropped. The long shank hook feature helps to insure the hook point reaches far enough into the walleye's mouth that a solid bite is achieved on the hook set.
Short shank jig styles are popular, but these designs often lip hook fish that tend to escape more readily than fish hooked deeper in the mouth.
STAND UP JIGS
Stand up jig designs are available in both casting and vertical jigging models. Stand up head designs keep the hook point positioned upright at all times, increasing the chances of hooking walleye in the roof of the mouth. Other jighead designs that don't position the hook upright deliver a somewhat lower percentage of hooked fish.
BAIT OR PLASTICS
Both live bait and soft plastics work well for jig fishing applications. The attractive powers of live bait are hard to argue with. Unfortunately minnows, leeches and nightcrawlers are rather delicate, hard to keep on the hook and even harder to keep on hand.
Soft plastics have the advantage of staying on the hook better and they come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, actions and of course colors. It's a simple step to purchase an assortment of soft plastic sizes, shapes and color options ideal for jig fishing. So the question becomes which is better.... live bait or soft plastics?
The answer is both soft plastics and live bait have a place in jig fishing for walleye. When available in adequate amounts live bait is tough to beat for generating the maximum number of fish bites. That stated, soft plastics work almost as well as live bait in the hands of an angler who appreciates them and uses them often.
In some cases actually tipping a jig with both soft plastics and live bait makes sense. Early and late in the season when the water is cold, walleye can be lethargic. Equipping jigs with a soft plastic body and tipping with live bait is an excellent way to bulk up the presentation, add color, increase action and slow down the sinking time giving walleye a better opportunity to spot and attack the jig.
SUMMING IT UP
Jigs are popular walleye fishing lures because they work. Matching up the correct styles of jigs for the fishing presentations at hand can make these useful lures even more deadly. As for the bait debate, nothing stated here is likely going to reduce the overwhelming popularity of live bait among walleye anglers. The truth is soft plastics work too, but not unless you try them.
Now that you've learned some great tips for catching walleye from Mark Romanack, you need to book your next fishing trip to try them out! Algoma has the fishing trip you're looking for with three different fishing trip experiences: drive-in, train-in and fly-in. For more information about our fishing trips visit www.algomaregion.com
How do you get 4 adult men to screech, squawk and giggle like school girls on the last day of semester? Drop them in on Algoma Country's Brunswick Lake Lodge for a week of FISHING!
Having ventured to many remote Ontario outpost camps in my life, Brunswick Lake Lodge, situated in the historical heart of Algoma, was a thrilling change of pace! This was my first experience to a remote lodge complete with all the amenities including on-site caretakers, hosts, generated hydro, clean drinking well water, hot and cold running water in the showers, wood fired sauna, bleach brightened fish cleaning station with stainless tables, sinks and running water.
Each lakefront cabin is called out to the lake by a long, stable dock with as many Lund SV 16 foot boats as we needed. New 9.9 hp Yamaha motors were easy starting and smooth idling and capable of dead slow trolling. Boats were all adorned with swivel seats for added comfort! I took a walk along the entire fleet of boats and not a one had a leaking rivet. I enquired about this and caretaker Randy told me that the boats are re-riveted on first signs of any leakage.
Ultra clean and tidy European style log cabins consisted of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen with full sized propane fridge and stove, hydro lights, back up propane lighting, large counter surface with cold running water, pots, pans and CAST IRON fry pans! The large dining rooms were surrounded by picture windows in every direction. Each cabin has its own separate outhouse facility just a short walk away. The 4 of us spent much of our late evenings on the large screened in porch where we could watch the sun set and the full moon rise. The cabin could be heated on cooler nights with a large wood stove. Wood was piled in the inside third room/spare room.
Every evening caretakers Randy and Traci would deliver us fresh drinking water from the well and fuel up the boat motors. Upon one of these visits they noticed our screen porch door was not quite fitting properly. The next day, Randy and host Norm were in to jack up the corner of the cabin and re-fit the door.
In the centre of the large well groomed acreage sat a HUGE common Lodge with full kitchen facilities, dining room, sitting room, screened porch overlooking the lake, dart board, quality pool table, Foosball, wet bar, couches, chairs, recliners and TELEVISION with Satellite! Similarly, a satellite WiFi system is available for anyone with a laptop or smartphone that needs to check their email, message friends on Facebook, or post a few teasing Tweets.
Across the walkway from the Lodge is the Office where we had access to a satellite phone for a modest fee. Inside the office a small store of supplies was available to purchase such as fishing tackle, rods and reels, insect repellents, cases of pop, dry food goods and cooking oil.
I skeptically asked if there were any of those large outside deep fryers on site available for deep fryer fish. WELL OF COURSE THERE WAS! Several propane deep fryers and propane tanks were available for use. Perfection!
Slipping into a boat, with waterproof map in hand we started exploring the many back bays and islands. Brunswick Lake is 15 miles in twisty length and contains 37 mid lake islands randomly strewn about. Water depths range from the shallow weeded back bays to over 50 feet deep. My "never leave home without it" portable depth sounder/ fish finder alerted me to the immediate fact that FISH ARE EVERYWHERE!
Brunswick Lake is noted for its plentiful Walleye, chunky Yellow Perch and numerous Northern Pike and seeing is believing! Brunswick Lake was simple enough to fish in, merely find a bit of underwater structure such as rock piles, rubble or weeds, bordering deeper waters and the fish will be there... eventually. Other guests, some of whom have been visiting for over 20 years tell tales of slow fishing rates suddenly becoming explosive and catching 40 or 50 in an hour! That is so true with Brunswick's underwater structures. Pick any see-able island and troll its perimeter with the favoured Red & White Wobbling Spoon, 5 of Diamonds, or a 3/8 ounce round ball pink jig with a 3 inch white curly tailed worm and you will find if the fish are active or not! No fish? Simply move or troll to the next visible structure (island or rocky point) and give it a slow pass with your lure.
These visible structure areas erupt early in the day and later into the afternoon when the sun settles and does not beat so forcefully on the water. Walleye are a bit light sensitive, so if you want to catch them mid-day, you will find them holding in deeper water just off these islands and points. Throughout the course of your fishing day, you will find Walleye and Pike in a mixture together. That is because the great Northerns are feeding on the Walleye! About 10 percent of the Walleye we caught were torn or ripped with escape scars from larger predators.
For the more adventuresome angler, we enjoyed drifting slowly along visible structure and cast our jigs up into the shallows and retrieve them down along the stepping depths. This tactic can result in HUGE amounts of fish catching action...not for the faint of heart! Casting is a great way to localize fish schools and once you find them, continually casting to them often resulted in many "fish per cast" scenarios!
Catching a big Northern Pike was eluding me. The system is literally loaded with shallow watered "Hammer Handles" as I call them. Many of those 1 – 3 pound Pike were also scarred by larger predators. It's a well known fact that Northern Pike are so voracious a feeder that they will cannibalize! Where were the bigger Pike? My Humminbird 110 portable fish finder said they were suspending in deeper water most of the time. BIG fish eat less and spend more time in a neutral state. I tried fast casting and power trolling across these suspended fish in an attempt to create a reaction strike from them. I threw the tackle box at them including large St Clair Hound Bucktails, Tiny Torrent Flash Skirts and even some homemade Bucktail Spinners. Relentlessly, they were pushed aside.
In a final attempt to secure a subtle monster, I pulled out a trusty three quarter ounce, bright yellow and white, double bladed SpinnerBait and found a good weed bed bordering deeper (15 foot) water. I cast that lure as far as I could and would rip it fast through the weeds. Spinner-baits have the luxury of not hanging onto the weeds or sunken logs. This ripping/ stop and go retrieve did the trick! It wasn't the monsters I had seen in Brunswick photos but it was a chunky 32 inch fish approaching 10 lbs! I was satisfied.
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Diverse outdoor experiences, where dreams come true is what keeps me coming back to Algoma Country.
One last note: During the summer at Brunswick Lake, the sun rises a half hour earlier and sets half hour later than Southern Ontario...THAT'S AN ENTIRE EXTRA HOUR OF FISHING PER DAY!
To book your next fly-in fishing trip in Algoma visit the website www.algomaflyinfishing.com
Here's a list of the 2013 Fishing Derbies happening in Algoma Country this summer. You have a chance to win amazing cash prizes, experience great fishing competition and camaraderie among fellow anglers.
Dubreuilville Fathers' Day Walleye Derby
June 15 - 16, 2013 Dubreuilville, Ontario
The Magpie River reservoir has many places to fish for walleye making it the perfect place for the community of Dubreuilville to host its annual Fathers' Day Walleye Derby.
Quick Facts about the 2013 Tournament:
- New 2013: Youth Angler Prize, Most Improved Team, 2 x $1000 mystery weight CASH prizes, big cash prizes for first, second, third, etc
- 6 Walleyes per day: total 12 walleyes per weekend
- April 15th 2013: 1st Early Bird Draw Fishing Trip (Loch Island Lodge)
- May 15th 2013: 2nd Early Bird Draw (PRINCECRAFT Fisherman 14 ft. boat)
For more information and to register for the derby visit the website www.dfdwd.com or phone (705) 884-2703
Kiwanis International Walleye Tournament
July 13 - 14, 2013 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario St. Marys River
Up to 80 boats with two anglers will set their sights on the first place prize of $10,000! The tournament kicks off with the Parade of Boats with free family activities all weekend.
Quick Facts about the 2013 Tournament:
- "Live-in-Water Weigh-ins"
- All inclusive registration includes boxed lunches, tickets to the Anglers Buffet Dinner and Entertainment
- Waterfront amenities, attractions all within walking distance of the tournament
For more information and to register visit the Kiwanis Tournament website www.kiwt.co or phone (705)946-7915
Wawa Salmon Derby
August 23 - 25 2013 Wawa, Ontario
Wawa's Superior Sporting Event is holding its 31st Annual Salmon Tournament on Lake Superior. Food, beverages, pancake breakfast, fish fry, Fisherman's dinner on Sunday, games, socials, prizes and events for the whole family.
Quick Facts about the 2013 Tournament:
- $6,000 cash for the largest salmon
- Early Bird Registration until July 31, 2013
- 5 Day Pre-Fishing Contest - August 17-21, 2013
For more information and to register visit the Wawa Salmon Derby website www.wawasalmonderby.com or phone Buck's Marina (705) 856-4488
Garden River Salmon Derby
August 24th and 25th 2013 Garden River, Ontario
For more information visit Ben's Bait & Tackle at www.bensbaitandtackle.ca
Garden River Powder Puff Salmon Derby
Saturday September 8, 2013 Garden River, Ontario
- Registration from 7am to 2pm
- Entry fee $50
- Boat Launch, Barbeque and Cash Prizes
For more information visit Ben's Bait & Tackle at www.bensbaitandtackle.ca
We keep the list updated with the most current information.
Last updated April 18, 2013
I cast to the outside of the weed growth and counted down my streamer. I started the retrieve with a quick jerk, then twitch. From deep in the weeds a large shadow appeared and followed the streamer. I quickly changed direction of the fly as to imitate a fleeing baitfish and the monster of a smallmouth attacked. This same scenario repeated itself all day long with fish averaging 4 pounds.
I have never been to a lake with so many large smallmouth bass. This most excellent trip started with a call to Adrian Hoke, owner of Misty Mountain Fly Shop / McCauley's Motel and Restaurant located on Highway 17 North in Havilland Bay. McCauley's Motel is unique in that it has very reasonably priced, clean and comfortable rooms along with an excellent restaurant with superb food, but also a full tackle shop along with a specialty full service fly shop.
Arrangements for boat rentals and guides can be made through this facility. This part of Algoma is known for its great runs of steelhead and salmon, but they also have excellent smallmouth bass fishing and walleye fishing. Numerous fish filled rivers and lakes are in close proximity of Misty Mountain Fly Shop. Whether you're a spin fisher or a fly fisher, Adrian can help you. His knowledge of the fishing industry is second to none. Advice is always free and if you had that special fly pattern, he can take one look at it and tie you up a copy exactly. I personally witnessed this as I was down to my last streamer pattern that was working, and Adrian made sure I had more for the next day's fishing.
I had an incredibly great time at this facility, and I would highly recommend Adrian Hoke at Misty Mountain Fly shop for your next fishing adventure. He can be contacted at (705) 649-5813 or visit their website www.mistymountainflyshop.com
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The Algoma region of Ontario is home to thousands of lakes and river systems teeming with Northern Pike, Walleye, Small and Largemouth Bass, varieties of Trout, and Salmon. Not only do we have the fish you love to catch but we have 3 types of fishing adventures you can book: drive-in fishing, train-in fishing and fly-in fishing. Algoma fishing lodges offer five-star accommodations, guides services and amenities to make your stay comfortable. For more information visit the Algoma website www.algomaflyfishing.com
Every fisherman I've shared a boat or campfire with has one thing in common. As anglers we love the feeling of detecting a bite and then pulling the line tight against a stubborn fish. It's amazing how an activity so simple can give pleasure to so many, but the statistics don't lie.
Recreational fishing is one of the most popular per capita pastimes in America and Canada. Fishing appeals to the young, the old and everyone in between. Fishing is not gender specific and it appeals to every race, income and social status. Recreational fishing is the glue that bonds us in the common belief -- catching and eating fish with friends and family is a wholesome and fun experience.
BEING ON FISH
Everyone agrees that catching fish is fun. Unfortunately, the "fish Gods" do not always cooperate when it comes to the actual "catching" part of this equation. Fishermen are a funny lot when confronted with both their successes and failures on the water. When fishing is good most anglers are quick to give credit to whatever lure or bait they happen to be using. When fishing is not good the experience is summed up by saying the fish aren't biting.
My experience fishing has taught me that it's rarely the lure that makes the difference. Being "on fish" is what it takes to catch fish consistently.
Since the majority of the fish are found in a small percentage of the available water, it's surprisingly easy to not be "on fish" and that is the rub this article centers upon. Those anglers interested in actually catching fish would be well advised to pick bodies of water that have lots of fish in them, increasing the chances of being "on fish" more often than not.
This simple logic seems elementary, but ironically this is not how fishermen in general tend to pick fishing destinations. Instead, many anglers are more likely to fish familiar waters even if those fisheries are less likely to produce the desired results.
Because the time we have to dedicate to fishing is limited, it makes more sense to zero in on the best fisheries in order to maximize the "catching" part of any fishing trip. This is precisely why I find myself returning to Ontario year after year. My first trip to the Algoma Country region of Ontario was more than 30 years ago and to this very day, many of my most memorable fishing trips have taken place inside these boundaries.
WHAT SETS ONTARIO APART?
In college I studied Fisheries Management and to this day I have an acute appreciation for forward thinking resource management plans. Any way you slice it the fish we covet so much are a popular yet finite resource. When fishing harvest exceeds the resources ability to sustain itself, fishing success suffers.
Ontario was one of the first regions in North America to identify the need to restrict fish harvest, especially among larger adult specimens that do the majority of the spawning. This is accomplished through various management tools including slot limits, eliminating possession limits, gear restrictions and establishing open and closed seasons on key species.
Anglers in general resist these special regulations, not realizing how vital they are to creating and preserving quality fishing destinations. I fished Ontario years ago when the limits were liberal and the fishing today is vastly better than it was in the "good ole days" of generous limits. Managing the resource so as to provide "reasonable" harvest while protecting critical brood stock is the ultimate compromise that has created countless world class fishing destinations across Ontario.
The majority of these fisheries are inland lakes and rivers that can be targeted using the small fishing boats and motors most anglers own. Mainstream fishing presentations like jigging, live bait rigging and trolling are the best ways to catch a wealth of species including smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, lake trout and brook trout.
SUMMING IT UP
The Algoma region of Ontario sits smack in the middle of world class walleye, smallmouth, pike and trout fishing opportunities. These fisheries are collectively among the best in North America and accessing these destinations is as simple as contacting www.algomacountry.com to zero in on some of the best fishing available anywhere.
It only takes one trip to hook (no pun intended) an angler for life. I'm living proof of the fact that fishing in Ontario is an experience that simply can't be duplicated anywhere else.
To book your next fishing trip in Algoma visit the website www.algomacountry.com
It had been a few years since I had had the pleasure of doing a fishing trip with "the boys" in Northern Ontario, and this one was bound to be special. A group of 12 like-minded individuals who had met on an Ontario hunting and fishing forum had managed to find out about White Lake, one of the hundreds of walleye and pike lakes Northern Ontario is famous for. We had planned this trip for weeks ahead of time, and the anticipation of the trip was at an all time high. We made the 12-hour drive from Toronto in the middle of the night to the lake which is just past Wawa and north of White Lake Provincial Park.
With boats launched just off Hwy 17 we headed up the lake towards the island campsite we had picked out. As we swung out of the protection of the river where we had put the boats in, we saw 3 foot high waves on the main lake. "Uh-oh." I thought. "Hopefully this wind won't make it too difficult to fish those Walleye!" I said to my fishing partner Dan. Luckily I didn't need to worry. We got to the island and set up camp, ten tents stretched across a sandy section of beach surrounded by the scrub pine forests of the north. Ten minutes later, we were on the water fishing. On my second cast, WHAM! I had a nice chunky northern pike hit and the best week of fishing, of my entire life, was off to a great start.
Over the next four days, the twelve of us shared some amazing fishing, some great meals, and a whole lot of stories around the camp fire. Even though I hadn't met many of the guys on the trip prior to arriving, all of us quickly built a bond that will not soon be broken. Between us, we managed to land hundreds of walleye between 1 and 4 lbs, with the largest being a 27 inch beauty. We also managed dozens of pike up to 14 lbs, and even a lake trout caught in the shallows on a minnow. We also caught something bigger - a feeling that we had found something special in the wilds of Northern Ontario - something that couldn't be put into words or expressed, but that we all felt. It's something YOU can experience yourself - all you need to do is plan your own trip to Northern Ontario!
View more great fishing stories or find more information about fishing in Ontario.
The torrid Northern Ontario winter walleye bite has continued unabated since Christmas, maybe even shifting into over drive. I've talked with several fishing friends in the North Bay, Timmins, Kirkland Lake, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay areas and they all tell me the same thing. Local ice conditions are superb and the walleyes are biting like crazy.
It is what I expected to hear, given how good the ice fishing has been here in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. I have been out several times in the last few days, and to be honest, it was hard keeping the fish off the lines. How I was catching the walleyes, however, was an interesting study in contrast.
One day, for example, we caught more fish on set lines but bigger fish jigging. And then, 24-hours later, the reverse was true. Jigging produced considerably more fish - with several gorgeous 12- to 14-inch bonus yellow perch thrown in for good measure - but the set lines produced the bigger walleyes, including a gorgeous 7-pound 14-ounce beauty that I quickly released.
Go figure, eh?
Still, it highlights an important winter walleye presentation principle when you're ice fishing in Northern Ontario. Since, you're allowed to have two lines in the water, it pays to take advantage of the additional opportunity. Of course, having said that, the devil's in the details.
First, as our recent results indicate, it never pays to do the same thing in both holes. In other words, if there are two, three or four ice anglers in your party, don't set dead-stick rods or tip ups in all the holes. Be sure to actively jig several of them so you can gauge the day's activity level and determine what the fish want most.
As a matter of fact, when I first arrive at a fishing spot I like to drill several holes in the immediate area, at least five or six per angler, spacing them 10-, 15- even 20-feet or more apart, so we can move around and constantly check subtle depth differences and spots on the structure.
On my walleye jigging rods I rely on three distinct styles of lures: spoons, jigging minnows and lipless crankbaits.
Spoons, or "flash lures" as I call them, like the Blue Fox Tingler and More-Silda, #0 Mepps Syclops and my beloved William’s Ice Spoons that are plated with pure silver and 24 carat gold, quickly catch the attention of big walleyes and draw them over to your hole, if for no other reason that to investigate the commotion. The ideal winter walleye spoon, by the way, should measure about 2 ½- to 3 ½- inches in length and weigh between ¼- and ½-ounce. Oh, yes, I always tip the treble hook with the head of a fresh or salted emerald shiner.
Rapala Jigging Shads, Snap Raps and Storm Walleye Jigging Minnows, on the other hand, especially in the medium size range complement the spoons perfectly. Indeed, while the spoons display their talents in an up-and-down vertical manner, the jigging minnows strut their stuff by swimming out horizontally below your hole. It is amazing how walleye preference for one or the other will change daily, even over the course of the day.
By the way, I almost always tip the bottom treble hook on these lures with a minnow head as well.
Finally, large, lipless, vibrating lures like the Rapala Rattlin’ Rap and LIVETARGET Golden Shiner and Gizzard Shad are the noise making party animals in the crowd. I especially like these lures when I am fishing on lakes - or portions of lakes - that are relatively flat and featureless and that lack a plethora of structure, such as the Bay of Quinte in southern Ontario, Lake Nipissing in the Northeast and the flat, basin waters of Lac de Mille Lacs, Eagle Lake, Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods here in Northwestern Ontario.
When you jig these big, loud, lipless, vibrating lures you can magnetize and draw in walleyes from great distances and then excite them into biting.
Indeed, armed with these three lure types - spoons, jigging minnows and lipless crankbaits - there is not a walleye in Northern Ontario that you can't entice up a hole in the ice to visit you on the surface of the lake.
The Coup de Grace
But, let's not forget that second hole you're allowed to use because some days, it is the coup de grace, the clincher, the finishing touch. And it is even easier to decide what to use with a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jig at the top of the list. My favourites are UV Chartreuse and UV Rocket Red Mister Twister round jigs, or the same weight and colour ReelBait Flasher Jigs with the tiny willow leaf blade below the hook.
But here is the key. Always tip these jigs with a super active live minnow by running the hook lightly under the skin along the back, coming from behind the dorsal fin and exiting in front of it, so the tip of the hook is pointed toward the minnow's head.
When you do this properly, balancing the weight of the jig with the size of the minnow, once you lower it to the bottom, the minnow will struggle to swim away, tire itself out, and be drawn back under your hole by the weight of the jig. Done right, it’s deadly.
The One-Two Combination
In fact, here is a little secret, honed from fishing for walleyes in Northern Ontario for many years. Drill your holes in groups of three, spaced about three feet apart.
Place your sonar unit in the middle hole and then, in one of the other two, drop down your jig and minnow combination, stopping it when it is about a foot above the bottom. Now, lay the rod across the top of a plastic pail, so the tip of the rod is positioned directly over the hole.
The third and final hole is the one you're going to jig with the spoon, swimming minnow or lipless crankbait. Using a simple lift, pause, freefall, pause, jigging motion, monitor the action of both lures simultaneously on the sonar screen. That is why you placed it in the middle hole.
When you spot a walleye streak across the screen, it is like playing a fast-action video game. If the walleye is aggressive, you'll feel it almost immediately smack your lure. But if it doesn't, watch the tip of your adjacent "deadstick" rod, out of the corner of your eye, and invariably you will see it bend over.
It is an amazingly effective “one-two punch”. But, we better make that a one-two-three punch combination, because when you add in your favourite Northern Ontario walleye water, it is as good as it can possibly get.
Ontario offers more out-of-this-world fishing opportunities for the walleye angler than any other place on earth.
In fact, there are so many great walleye fisheries in Ontario that the sheer volume creates a perplexing dilemma. Dare I say, "problem", especially for walleye anglers who have set their sights on catching the personal trophy of a lifetime.
With so many choices, where do you go and what do you throw?
Fortunately, the "where to go" part of the question is the easiest one to answer. Simply touch base with the Northern Ontario regional tourism office in the geographic area of your interest. The entire north is divided into six zones and you can take your pick from among thousands of lodges, resorts, provincial parks and campgrounds.
Now, if only the "how to" part of the question was as easy to answer. Although, the more I think about it - it is - so long as you keep one thing in mind.
The tactics you use to catch numbers of walleyes are not the best techniques to use to catch the biggest fish in the lake.
Indeed, there is nothing I enjoy doing more than taking out folks who have never before caught a lot of fish and watching them land 30, 40, 50 or more walleyes a day. It never hurts, either, to pull up on a remote pine studded island and cook shorelunch over a crackling wood fire.
Talk about “finger lickin' good”!
But those walleye "number days" nearly always involve using relatively small lures - jigs, rigs and spinners - tipped with live bait. And it is rarely how we go about dredging up double digit walleyes.
Indeed, if there was ever a time to put into action the big-baits-catch-big-fish game plan, this is it.
As a matter of fact, it is what buddy Tom Van Leeuwen and I did on Friday to indulge our big walleye addiction. Tom and I landed more than two dozen walleyes in the 24- to 27-inch range, weighing 5- to 7-pounds apiece, with our biggest being a 28-inch brute that tipped the scales at over 8-pounds. That is not bad considering we didn't launch the boat until 10:00 o'clock in the morning and we pulled it back out at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon.
And get this: Tom was genuinely surprised we didn't land a 10-pound plus, double-digit trophy, given how many fish we spotted on the sonar screen and put into the net.
The secret, as always when you're targeting big, bold, bodacious brutes, was casting the big baits necessary to attract and trigger the goliaths. Not little, itty, bitty, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jigs, or tiny rigs tipped with livebait.
As a matter of fact, the lightest jig we tied on all day was a full 1/2-ounce salt water brute moulded around a stout 3/0 hook. The biggest jigs, on the other hand, were twice that heavy. We tipped them with five and six inch long soft plastic Trigger X Swimbaits, X-Zone Swammers, Mister Twister Sassy Shads and Berkley Split Belly Swimbaits and Flat Back Shad.
Riding shotgun, tied to a bunch of other walleye sticks we had laying on the casting platform, were large #11 Rapala Clackin' Minnow crankbaits, #10 and #12 X-Raps and the hot new lipless Rippin' Rap, which is sometimes so good for big walleyes, it deserves a future blog all for itself.
Still, the key is offering big walleyes a worthwhile meal.
Just remember, however, that it is critical to rig your soft plastic swimbaits properly by skewering them onto the beefy jigs so that they are hanging perfectly straight. You'll reduce their efficiency and effectiveness significantly - and hence the number of big walleye bites - if you rig them the least bit crooked, bent or humped over.
Still, I hear the doubters thinking: isn't a 1/2-ounce or 3/4-ounce jig and 6-inch swimbait way too big for walleyes? Trust me, it is not, as you'll discover when you see how many small 'eyes you also catch on the combination.
Just be sure to deliver the bigger than typical walleye baits using the right rod, reel and line combination. To that end, you can't go wrong using a 7- to 7 1/2-foot long, moderately heavy action spinning rod, teamed up with a 3000 series reel spooled with a 14-pound test braided line like Fireline, Nanoline or Sufix 832. By the way, I always add a two-foot long leader using 15-pound test Maxima fluorocarbon line.
The balanced combination of rod, reel and line lets you keep the bulky bait close to the bottom where most big walleyes tread.
Just as importantly, the beefy pairing forces you to fish the lure much more quickly than most folks are accustomed to fishing for walleye. Did I mention, we routinely retrieve these lures in only 10, 12, 15 feet of water - all the way down to 30 feet.
In these relatively shallow situations, the heavy thumping jig and swimbait combination forces you to pick up the pace, raising your rod tip as you swim the lure along, keeping it within a foot of the bottom, then dipping it briefly while you reel in line. And it is this slight hesitation between manoeuvres that causes the lure to stutter and fall, triggering every big, bold, bodacious Ontario walleye that is following to devour it.