For those who enjoy reading my destination articles, they know by now that I absolutely love visiting the area of Northern Ontario known as Algoma Country. Typically my stays here have been at fishing lodges along the Hwy 17 corridor between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. This time, however, my youngest son Izaak and I wanted to try something really remote…perhaps not fly-in remote but at a resort where you couldn’t just drive to your cabin. On top of that, we were seeking prime walleye country for a change—not a lake harbouring our favourite small or largemouth bass. We found all that and more this fall when we stayed at Ritchie’s End of Trail on massive Lake Biscotasi about four hours northwest of Sudbury, Ontario.
Our adventure began with a quick stop in the Biscotasing General Store on the shores of Lake Biscotasi, also known just as Bisco. It’s basically the only shop in town and carries a bit of everything but remains under lock and key. To get in you need to ring a buzzer where the owner will saunter over and open up to serve you. The Town of Biscotasing has a long and storied past and today is an underutilized and perhaps unappreciated part of Ontario. It was one of those instant towns that jumped out of nowhere during the construction of the CPR Railway in the early 1880s. Today Biscotasing is a partial ghost town. Lumbering is still carried out in the area and the most recent records indicate that Bisco supports a year-round population of 22 that swells to about 300 during the peak of summer.
From the General Store, we took the short drive to Ritchie’s Landing where we met up with Brady – who works for owner Brian at Ritchie’s End of Trail. Brady had a big barge ready for all of our gear – including Izaak’s 16-foot canoe which we ended up not even using for a planned canoe trip later because of heavy rains and strong winds. We spent our time fishing in the well-equipped rental boat Brian had ready for our five-day stay.
Our first day on the water was with Rob - the lodge’s top fishing guide who brought us in his boat all the way to the headwaters of the legendary Spanish River. Several hundred miles south of this mouth, yet still in Algoma Country is where my friend Doug Wadden and I stayed and fished for bass a couple of years ago—learn more about that trip here. Rob tied the boat to a small dock on shore and had Izaak and I get out and walk with him to a gorgeous unoccupied shore fishing spot well below the dam at the base of the Lake Bisco outflow. His back-to-basics technique included a steelhead float, jig n’ minnow combo that he encouraged us to try but with a jig and13 Fishing grub already tied on my Rapala rod…I couldn’t wait and made my first cast.
For the next hour or so, we enjoyed the spectacular rapids and fishing for not only plenty of walleye but the occasional pike and even some smallmouth bass. “We haven’t caught any bass in the main lake behind us and supposedly they’re not there yet, but downstream here on the Spanish there are plenty of them, and some really big ones to boot,” said our guide. As part of the Spanish River Provincial Park, this site is also a perfect put-in spot for those wishing to paddle the mighty river downstream in canoe or kayak; something Izaak and I contemplated as a future trip when we could have our vehicle waiting for us many miles downstream.
With over 30 years of experience fishing Bisco, Rob is well known for his knowledge of these waters and as someone utilizing the latest sonar technology with good old-fashioned techniques like the reliable jig n’ minnow combo used by most of his guests.
Over the next several days, Izaak and I were on our own within this labyrinth of islands, back channels, bays and shoals, but Brian supplied us with a detailed map book that, along with my portable Lowrance Elite 5 Sonar (same unit I use ice fishing but with an open water transducer) provided tracking and GPS to keep us from getting turned around. The deep V aluminum boats do come with their own sonar units, are powered by dependable four-stroke motors and they have the most comfortable add-on seats I’ve ever seen any boat outfitter ever offer.
For the three days we fished on our own, we experienced crazy weather conditions that likely had their effect on the walleye we sought. High winds, pouring rain and cold fronts did not stop us from enjoying some of Bisco’s fine walleye action though and we caught them long lining Rapala X Raps, 13 Fishing’s deep-running Loco Specials, Rapala Shad Raps or casting Jig n’ grubs, tube jigs and yes the old dependable Jig n’ live minnow.
For sure some of Rob’s hot spots produced but one of the things I enjoy most about fishing new waters is being able to figure out where the fish are most likely to be based on past experiences and current conditions. With strong westerly winds dominating I figured windswept shorelines would be the ticket and they were. We fine-tuned that even further as the week progressed to main and secondary points that funnelled wind into them.
Throughout Algoma Country, it is not uncommon to see an eagle or two and we have seen our share on every trip up here. This time, however, we saw more of these awe-inspiring raptors than ever and set a personal best (for Ontario) when one day we counted five bald eagles soaring overhead. Brian told us there is even a golden eagle that graces their presence up there, but we were not blessed enough to make its acquaintance.
Lake Biscotasi (pronounced Bisk-O-teh-see) means 'lake of long bays' in Ojibwe. It surely is full of bays and islands too. The lake stretches 37 kilometres from end to end. It has over 965 kilometres of shoreline and contains over 400 islands. The lake is a gorgeous pristine Canadian Shield Lake and has been entirely incorporated into a new provincial park which means its shoreline is protected from any development such as cottage lots, forestry, mining and the like but activities such as fishing, hunting, motor boating, and tourism are still permitted. The park will ensure the Bisco area is left untouched for generations to come! We saw some cabins scattered here and there around the lake and some amazing water access only campsites (all vacant when we were there) but other than the Town of Biscotasing and a few other anglers you’ll have a hard time finding traces of human activity. Other species available include whitefish, yellow perch and northern pike but we chose just to focus on walleye.
All in all, despite some weather challenges we had a great time at Ritchie’s. They offer packages catered to fit anglers who want to bring their own food or you can choose to have all the food already there for you to cook in your fully equipped kitchen and housekeeping cabin. Prices for a typical stay are extremely reasonable whether you are renting a boat or bringing your own. To learn more about this unique out-of-the-way fishing resort please visit Ritchie's End of Trail.
Unlike Southern Ontario, most of Algoma Country is crown land and that means hunting access is typically fairly easy to find. We stopped on our way home to explore a trail into the bush – hoping to see a couple of ruffed grouse along the way. Izaak is not a hunter so he was just enjoying the hike and we had no sooner spent five minutes away from the truck when I spotted a skittish grouse 40 meters ahead.
With all the branches and underbrush in the way, it took me a couple of minutes to get a good clean shot but when I did, Izaak got to watch his dad bag a nice grouse for dinner. One more 15 - 20 minutes later and Izaak was convinced hunting grouse was always a quick and easy type of deal…if only he knew the hours I have spent searching for them not seeing one for days at a time.
I have driven by Onaping Falls so many times without stopping to get out and have a look…and now that I finally have, really regret it took so long. The falls are located just off of Hwy 144, about 35 km west of Sudbury, and 15 km north of Hwy 17. The Onaping River drops over 150 feet here in a series of drops, the largest of which is the 30 or so foot final drop that you can see from the viewing platform and the bridge on the far side.
The trail climbs up across the rock alongside the falls allowing you plenty of opportunities and vantage points to view different parts of the falls and crosses a pedestrian bridge with additional vistas to enjoy. The whole area is geologically significant. In addition to the falls located at the edge of the Sudbury Basin, there are some fascinating rock formations to look at like a 2 billion-year-old impact crater.
All in all planning a stopover at Onaping Falls – whether for a picnic, a hike or just a quick glimpse at the falls, will be well worth it for anyone planning a trip further north to Ritchie’s End of Trail.