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Quench your walleye thirst

Francine lifts an average sized walleye from Algoma's Country Esnagi Lake. • Credit: James Smedley
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Quench your walleye thirst

Fishing in Northern Ontario's unspoiled wilderness on Esnagi Lake

As the long and narrow cedar strip boat cuts through the chop of Esnagi Lake, my wife and I are stricken with an anxious agitation that only walleye can fix. I throttle back when I see the bottom rise from 30 feet up to eight and then plunge down again. We drop jigs and leeches and drift. Satisfaction is instant with the protests of a 20-inch walleye. Francine counters with a larger fish, so fat she has to stretch her hand around its belly. With the presence of quality walleye confirmed, a satisfied calm allows us to slow down, take a breath, and look around.

Elongated islands of rock and gravel are funnelled between the steep granite shoreline that envelops this 43 km-long lake. Subsequent fish to 23 inches spark the nagging suspicion that one trip to Esnagi Lake is not going to be enough.

MarMac Lodge is situated on a picturesque spot of sloped granite and pine on northeastern Ontario’s Esnagi Lake. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Over dinner that evening, Mar Mac Lodge manager Ken Johnston points out some nearby hot spots. Though normally a slow eater, I crank it up a notch and we head to a sandy hump within sight of the lodge where I immediately boat a 22-inch fish. Francine commandeers my rod and is fast into a fat 5-pound fish before I can rig another. Calming waters and a reddening sky usher in a procession of corpulent walleye up to 26 inches before we head back to our log cabin.

The eventful first day of angling is doing its best to overshadow the lodge itself, but Mar Mac Lodge emerges as a worthy companion to the unspoiled boreal wilderness and solid fishing of Esnagi Lake. A series of rock-lined paths link the main lodge to the housekeeping cabins resting amongst the tall pine and sloping granite. Propane stoves, electric refrigerators, flush toilets, and showers are contained within newly constructed or fully restored log structures that complement the landscape. On the waterfront, a fleet of 18-foot cedar strips is tied to a dock that mirrors the curve of the long sandy beach.

18 foot Cedar strip boats line the docks at northeastern Ontario’s mar Mac Lodge on Esnagi Lake.(Photo credit: James Smedley)

Over the next few days, we spend a lot of time on the water revisiting established spots, trying new areas and experimenting with everything from plastics to jerkbaits. Large numbers of quality walleye mean a rarely-quenched angling thirst is sated, to the point that we take the time to hike up a steep granite bluff at the southwest end of the lake. Moss, pine and glacier-scattered boulders rest atop of a lookout that reveals Esnagi Lake narrowing into the northern horizon.

A group of no less than 50 loons frolic on waters below that hold untapped pike, perch and whitefish. A short hike south would take us to a brook trout lake. Northeast is Mar Mac's Outpost on lake trout waters. The fact that we fly out the next day confirms my suspicion that one trip to Esnagi Lake is not enough.

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