It was 6:15 am when we pulled into the Robin’s Donut shop on Highway 17. Greeted by a fantastic smile and cheery disposition, you’d never know the lady behind the counter had just begun her 12-hour shift of serving coffee to weary travellers. Enthusiastically, she handed us our large double-double coffees and we were on our way.
Pulling off Highway 17 into White River, Ontario, you almost take a bit of a step back in time. The railway was, and to a certain extent still is, the reason the town is there. That, and the truck stops and strip motels that dot either side of the highway encouraging a fill-up, an overnight stay, or an incredible pizza from Michelle’s. White River has the staples of any small town but also has a VIA Rail station stop where travellers and anglers alike can access other rail towns and fishing lodges dotted along the tracks.
We pulled into the parking lot that was the station and asked a kind gentleman when the train was to arrive. “Just throw your bags over the fence, the train will be here within a half-hour and the conductor will get you loaded up and on your way.” And so we did. Looking at the other vehicles in the parking lot, I noticed a few familiar logos and names… Mar Mac Lodge, Lodge Eighty Eight, Loch Island Lodge, and Camp Esnagi. Our adventure was about to begin.
Mar Mac Lodge is located on Esnagi Lake and is accessible by rail or by air. Taking the train affords the unique experience of laying eyes on lands and waters few anglers will ever see. It’s a romantic way to travel, in that the train seemingly takes you back in time to when rail travel was one of the only ways to access the North. Mar Mac Lodge offers full-service “American Plan” lodging in a fantastic wilderness setting, as well as housekeeping options and an opportunity to participate in a full outpost camp experience. Trophy pike, walleye, whitefish, perch, and even brook and lake trout are all available (brook trout if you’re not shy of a bit of an adventure!). Getting off at Mile Marker 88 at Swanson, you’ll be taken to the lodge where your adventure begins. Debbie and Ken welcome you to their slice of Esnagi heaven!
Lodge Eighty Eight rounds out the trifecta of lodges located on Esnagi Lake accessible by train. Eighty Eight boasts equally wonderful fishing opportunities as the other two lodges on the lake and caters to both full-service plans as well guests who are looking for a fluid schedule option such as housekeeping. The MacLachlan's have been a staple on Esnagi Lake for 60 years now, and have their fingers on the pulse of the fishery. Conservation practices ensure each guest has legitimate shots at catching a fish of a lifetime, master angler species thrive in this watershed, and it’s witnessed and documented year over year.
Loch Island Lodge, located at Lochalsh, is another train-access lodge with fantastic shots at trophy fish. Walleye, perch, northern pike, brook trout, whitefish, and smallmouth bass are all target species in and around Wabatongushi Lake. Adventure seekers can stay at the full-service Loch Island Lodge, or venture out on the lake and stay at one of three outpost camps. Lochalsh Lodge, also part of the Loch Island family, is available for housekeeping guests as well. Loch Island Lodge is available via train, plane, or you can access the lodge through a system of logging roads to the train drop and Lochalsh! Andy and Amy Wilson are waiting to pick you up!
Camp Esnagi is also accessible from train and plane and can be accessed at Swanson marker on the White River–Sudbury Via Rail line. Esnagi Lake is a world-famous big fish fishery and is responsible for giant specimens of northern pike, walleye, brook, and lake trout, as well as yellow perch and whitefish. It is a giant body of water (27 miles long) which is a natural widening of the Magpie River in Ontario’s Algoma Country. Camp Esnagi caters to anglers’ desires by offering both American Plan packages via train and plane as well as housekeeping options. Outdoor entrepreneurs Paul and Aynslie Kuysten (plus their three daughters) have injected new exuberance into the lodge, and we loved the renovations and upgrades all-around camp.
Train travel in Ontario’s Algoma Country is an iconic way to access incredible fishing opportunities. It’s easy, inexpensive, and a truly unique way to travel! With liberal luggage requirements, comfortable spacious seats, and a view that rivals any 65” big screen TV, train travel is a fantastic way to access trophy angling opportunities in Algoma!