It was mid-March, sunny and gorgeous. Spring was starting to arrive in Algoma, Ontario and even though the lakes were frozen solid the snow was already retreating. Ah yes, it was a beautiful day—standing out on the ice ready to get fishing. Oh, apart from the gale-force winds.
My name’s Aldo and I co-host a fly fishing podcast called So Fly. My first trip to the Algoma region was in the fall of 2020. We chased bass, pike, and musky on the fly, and fell in love with the beauty and the fish of the region. We were hosted by Adam Vallee of Angling Algoma and made plans to return when the lakes were frozen and get some ice fishing in.
Ice fishing isn’t exactly the easiest of activities to pull off. It’s cold, there’s snow, and the fish can be tough to find. But the challenges COVID presented made it tougher in a different way. After a few reschedules the province opened up and we made plans with Adam to hit the ice, after some COVID tests of course. A quick swab and an all-clear meant we were able to spend the weekend punching holes and chasing fish near Iron Bridge.
We couldn’t have been more excited to get out of the city and breathe some fresh Algoma air. It was 12 degrees in Toronto and slightly windy. A sign of things to come. After a quick refuel in Sudbury, we hit Highway 17 on the way to Iron Bridge. On our way, we rang Adam to make some dinner plans. He suggested we get some pizza at JR’s in Blind River to slam at the hotel. Pizza was ordered - Hawaiian of course. Pineapple on a pizza? Who couldn’t love that, baby!
Shortly after checking in to the Village Inn, Adam showed up to scarf some pizza and go over the plan for the next day. We were going to hit a secret lake, travel light, and be ready to move around with Adam’s sled. The plan was set. Our friends and videographers Matt and Jeff were stoked to hit the ice. After being in lockdown for so long, we were all ready to stretch our legs.
Morning came quick, coffees were made and lunches were packed. Adam showed up with the best fishing pal I’ve ever met – his dog Remy. This is the best part of a trip to a new location for me: fresh coffee, gear all set to go, and no idea where we’re going. Discovering new places is half the reason I fish in the first place. Plus one quick look at Adam’s photos and you know you’re in for some big fish.
We got to the trailhead, packed the sleds, and hit the ice. MAN, it was windy! We’re talking Twister, batten down the hatches type stuff. We get Adam’s mobile shelter set up which we eventually took turns sitting in, partly to warm up and partly to stop from blowing away. Adam got to work quickly punching holes and setting up tip-ups. It wasn’t long before we were marking fish on the sonar. Soon, we had our first fish on – a feisty pike, brought to the hut.
We had a great day fishing but the wind didn’t let up a bit. Mittens were chased down the lake. Minnows blew to the next town. But that’s half the fun, isn’t it? You might not know it or be able to tell at the time but a little hardship always makes a trip that much more memorable.
Oh, and the fish we caught were next level. We were hunting walleye but caught perch, pike, and even a few healthy smallies. Pretty good for what Adam called “a bad day”. But I gotta tell you, I really did want to catch one of the famous Algoma walleye I've heard so much about.
As day turned into night, we started marking bigger fish on the sonar. They’d chase the bait but not commit. Then all of a sudden the sonar went blank. Was that it? Had we lost our window to catch a legendary walleye? We started packing up but Adam told me to keep a rod in the water and watch the sonar screen “just in case”. Well, let me tell you – always listen to your guide.
It was the proverbial “last cast”. We marked a large fish. A HUGE fish. All four of us huddled in the tiny mobile hut meant for two. I started working my jig and as luck would have it the fish hit! I still find the fish size hard to gauge on an ice fishing rod but I knew one thing—it was big. Matt and Jeff were cheering us on and rolling the video. I was on the rod and Adam was ready for the land. “Holy moly it’s a monster!" Adam exclaimed as he got ready to land it. Even Remy was standing at attention. Adam reached into the hole and pulled out a huge walleye, my biggest to date for sure. I was psyched!
“29 inches and 10 pounds”, Adam quickly put the tape to the fish and released it back into the depths. After a celebration, we stepped outside of the hut. It was now fully dark. We packed up and walked out under the blanket of Algoma stars.
With the wind still howling we got back to the trucks, back to the heat, and back to the hotel for a well-earned dinner. We chuckled about what we went through and checked out our wind burnt faces. I won’t soon forget this day.