Fall, which is a glorious time to visit Northwestern Ontario, is also a prime time to fish for the elusive and highly prized Esox masquinongy! The ultimate angler's challenge is to catch (and release) a fall musky, and Lac Seul offers the best in the world for this type of fishing. This past mid-October, my fishing buddy Kyle and I headed out on a road trip to the beautiful Sioux Lookout to fish this famous lake.
With truck and boat packed to the brim, we ventured out early morning, wide-eyed and giddy to get after musky. The musky fever had us bad, and there was only one cure. We had so much gear packed, it was hard to believe we were only going to be gone for five days! Between Kyle’s fishing gear and mine, we had enough to open a store. Thankfully, I have a 22 ft Alumacraft deep hull with more storage than most garages.
The fall colors were in full swing and offered up copious amounts of photo opportunities.
The fall colors were in full swing and offered up copious amounts of photo opportunities.
No matter where you look, fall is definitely a gorgeous time to venture through Northern Ontario. While summer also offers exceptional fishing and is much warmer, I think I enjoy fall more, with the changing of the seasons: the fog curls through the brightly colored boreal forests, and the air is fresh and crisp. Indeed, these are signs of the end of the season and the impending winter that’s to come. But for that short time in fall, all is vivacious and beautifully painted like artwork on a canvas.
For us who brave the cold, there is a great treasure to be bestowed up the successful angler, and that reward is the coveted fall musky!
On our way there we stopped to eat at the Comfort Table bakery – there you’ll enjoy delicious coffee, tea, and all sorts of bakery goodness! Located on HWY 17, Vermillion Bay, Ontario, it's convenient for anyone traveling from Manitoba and is 29 minutes drive west of Dryden.
Next up: chasing the Mighty Musky of Lac Seul – a lake that holds trophy toothy critters and other fabulous finned friends.
We used a variety of gear on this trip – both fly and conventional. Musky on the fly isn’t easy, but it's a rewarding way to chase these creatures.
During our stay, I met the owner of Moosehorn Lodge, Linda Rice, a long-time resident of Sioux Lookout and also known as the “Musky Mamma!” Linda and her husband Carter Rice have owned Moosehorn Lodge since April 2003. The lodge and its cabins are beautiful and updated and maintained yearly. There's a full kitchen in each cabin, and they all over look the lake. They have everything you need to be cozy and comfy while you enjoy your stay. Moosehorn Lodge has six full-time guides and four part-time guides.
Linda is the women’s world record titleholder for the biggest musky caught and released! She told me the story of that special day, and if you’re lucky and stay at her lodge, she may have some spare time to tell you about her world record. You can see the world record replica in the main lodge, along with the papers and articles that were written about it. Linda’s musky was recorded as 57” x 28 ¼ .
After fishing for five days, through all types of weather and endless casting, it was beginning to feel a bit hopeless when out of nowhere came the most incredible sight!
She was light shimmering silver and green, with golden yellow tones, big, yellow dragon-like eyes, and she delivered a lightening fast strike! My first musky just took my fly! I was more in shock than anything! Thankfully, being a seasoned angler, my second nature takes over and I strip strike hard on her, setting the hook with direct impact and no give. She’s on and the hook is set, and the adrenaline begins while the words out of my mouth rang across the lake: “I got a musky!!” and “Get the net!!!”
Seriously, it all was beyond exciting, with slight panic that I may not land the giant fish till it’s in the net. This fish was a dream come true for me, and I couldn't count on it being mine till it was officially in the net! Thankfully, my partner Kyle was right there to help net my big fish, high five, and share in the joy. Also, Colin Gosse (a Moosehorn guide) had rolled up in his boat as he heard the hoorays! Both Kyle and Colin took some great photos.
With the trophy musky quickly put back in the water, resting in the cradle-net, we were ready to release her, and I made sure I put her back in shallower waters. Releasing a musky in shallower waters will let the fish adjust easier back to its environment, without other musky lurking in the depths for anything weaker. Also, it’s imperative that these big fish are well treated. Most of the big trophy musky are female and around 30 years of age; the future of the fishery is in the angler's hands, and I take great care to make sure no harm comes to the fish.
Lac Seul is a big lake, with huge musky and to accomplish catching a big esox: You have to put your time in. Fishing for these mighty elusive beasts is not for the faint of heart, and even the best of the best know the challenges of musky fishing. My efforts were greatly rewarded, and I highly recommend fishing Lac Seul for its massive musky, especially in the fall.
Wishing you Tight Lines ~ Rebekka Redd
Fly Gear:12 WT Thomas and Thomas Fly rod – with a matching large arbor reel with 350-grain sinking line, connected to a 7 ½ 40-lb test flouro with 2 feet of 40-lb steel leader. To simplify: you can buy the “Toothy Critter “ 40-lb test tapered leader from RIO fly line. It comes with a snap at the end for easy fly change-out.
Flies used: Size 2/0 to 6/0 hook in a variety of colours – My successful fly was a 12” long tan with white belly with heavy dumbbell head. Spring and summer flies for musky are much smaller, as small as 4 inches. Fall is a very challenging time to fly fish for musky, but have quality, beautifully colored fish. Spring and summer are far better, more successful times to land higher numbers of musky on the fly.
Conventional gear: Okuma rod in 7-ft medium heavy fast action with matching baitcaster reel , 80-lb Mustad braid, with 100-lb fluorocarbon leader with stay-lok snap. Okuma – 8 ft 6’, extra heavy fast action rod, paired with matching baitcaster, with a power handle, with 80-lb braid; the longer the rod the easier it will be to do a figure 8 motion. The common leader for general musky fishing is 12 – 18” of 80- to 100-lb flouro-carbon test with swivel snaps down to a stay-lok snap, then the lure.
Lures used: When using conventional lures – you’ll be stepping it up in size!
Aside from chucking big flies, I chucked some massive 14" swim baits from Savage gear, and other fall-season soft plastic lures such as bulldogs, jakes, grandmas, and bucktail spinners.
- Warm clothing: dressing in layers is essential to be comfy for the long days on the water
- 3 to 4 pairs of winter mitts/gloves
- Hats and beanie/toque
- Waterproof boots
- A full survival suite for boating is ideal
- Water, plenty of water, hot tea, coffee in the thermos
- Head lamps for low light when getting off/ on the water
- Pack a cooler of food / eat on the lake! More time spent on the water will increase your musky hook up.
- Dry bags – to keep extra clothing dry
- Camera – with water-tight case.
The boat I use is a deep hull 22-ft Alumacraft Competitor 205 LE, run by a 200 HP Yamaha, with Minn kota Ulterra self-loading trolling motor. A king of boats with full windshield, double live wells, and incredible comfort, so we were well equipped to stay on the water and battle any weather condition Lac Seul gave us! Come prepared and you will truly enjoy yourself, or make it easier and go with a guide!
October is a must to try for fall musky, and you can truly catch the musky of your dreams in Lac Seul, nestled in beautiful Northwestern Ontario.
- Distance from Thunder Bay: 94 km, four-hour and 20-minute drive via Trans-Canada Hwy 17 West.
- Distance from Winnipeg: 45 0km, 4H 58min drive via Trans-Canada Hwy 17 W.
- Distance from Minneapolis MN: Approx. 750Km, 8h 43 Min
- Lodging: Moosehorn Lodge. This lodge is a drive-to location. We had a wonderful waterfront cottage that had a full kitchen and housekeeping. I found it very convenient to grocery shop within the city and was able to cook dinners in the cabin at the end of the fishing day. Just like home. Lodge website: www.canadafish.com
For more info on Sioux Lookout and its lodging options visit: www.siouxlookout.com
Guides: There are a number of experienced guides available through the lodge.
Fish to target: Musky, walleye, smallmouth bass, pike, and lake trout.
Fish species info: Musky, Lunge, water wolf, Esox masquinongy, the Muskellunge: it is to fresh water what the barracuda is to salt. It has a savage reputation when it comes to an angler's fly. They strike just when the angler grows to fatigue, and they fight fiercely to regain their freedom!
In their day-to-day eating habits, they prey upon most digestible things such as ducklings, mice, muskrats, smaller forms of their own kind, and of course other fish.
Occasionally there have been reports of “attacks” on people when swimming or bathing in the water. Clearly, this is non-intentional towards people, and mistaking a bather's arm, leg, or toe for something else like a fish.
The moody musky is erratic and a rebellious fish. At times it will sulk and ignore everything; at other times it will vehemently seize anything that comes within its sight.
They prefer clear waters where they lurk along weed edges, rock outcrops, or other structures to rest.
Muskellunge are typically 28-48" long and weigh 15-36 lb, though some have reached up to 6' and almost 70 lb.
The current world record on the fly is 57” x 26.5, landed in Mille Lacs, MN.