It’s funny how you go through life, and some of the neatest and coolest things are right under your nose and you don’t even know it.
I’ve fished Big Rideau Lake in eastern Ontario for over 30 years. I knew that there was a big property on the south end of the lake because I’d fished in that area many times before, and I always thought that it must have been some sort of private club or fishing camp. Little did I know that it was Cedar Cove Cottages.
Cedar Cove Cottages is a division of Box Arrow Farms, which raises thoroughbred racehorses. One of the unique things you notice as soon as you pull into this place is the size of the property and all of the beautiful farm that surrounds it. You have horses, cattle, and just a magnificent property on the shores of Big Rideau Lake. Cedar Cove Cottages has six cottages that they rent by the week.
Ruth is the daughter of Shirley Thomas Prosser, who grew up on this property. The first thing I found out is this is a hard-working family who own and operate Cedar Cove Cottages—as Ruth was busy baling hay, feeding the horses, and doing all kinds of work.
Shirley Thomas, who was born in the mid-1930s, was the first female show jumping rider to ride internationally under the Canadian flag. In 1954 she won the World Cup in Ireland. Throughout her youth she won numerous other horse jumping competitions around the world, and in 2008 she was inducted into the Jump Canada Hall of Fame. On two different evenings, after we were done fishing I had a chance to sit down and chat with Shirley, and the stories that she had were just incredible. I could have talked with her for weeks. It was so neat listening to her adventures throughout her lifetime. She definitely has not lost her passion.
The crazy thing is that the beautiful property and the wonderful, friendly people that we met at Cedar Cove Cottages made our trip. I wouldn’t have cared if I never caught a fish. I left there knowing that we had made friends for life.
I invited my old neighbour, Mark Alford, on this trip. Mark brought his boat, both to operate as the camera boat and because he had never fished Big Rideau Lake before. My goal on this two-and-a-half-day outing was to fish as many different species as I could. When Mark wasn’t running the camera boat he concentrated mainly on catching lake trout—and boy, did he catch a lot of them.
He caught a few dozen lake trout up to 15 pounds by vertically fishing a Sebile Vibrato in the deep waters of Big Rideau. I spent some time fishing lake trout too, and caught several on both the Vibrato and on a Berkley Power Swimmer rigged on a 5/8-ounce jighead that I fished vertically.
While Mark pretty much stayed with the lakers, I decided to mix it up a bit and caught smallmouth bass fishing some of the rock shoals and points. I used a wacky rigged Berkley PowerBait General as well as a dropshot rig set up with the Berkley Flatworm and the new Water Bug baits. I also caught some largemouth bass by flipping the weed mats with a Berkley Chigger Bug on a 3/4-ounce Ultra Tungsten weight.
One of the interesting things about Big Rideau Lake is that it has an amazing population of giant panfish. In all of the fishing I’ve done over the course of my career throughout Ontario, I would say that this lake has some of the biggest pumpkinseeds and bluegills that I’ve ever seen. They seem to inhabit all different depths of the lake. You can catch them both shallow and deep—in the weeds, on rock humps, on points, and on breaks. They’re so big they almost look like smallmouth when you mark them on your graph. I ended up using a dropshot rig with a small, #2 Fusion19 hook with a 3/8-ounce Ultra Tungsten dropshot weight about 10 inches below the hook and a variety of Berkley Gulp! baits to catch these amazing panfish.
In the two and a half days that I fished up there, the weather was beautiful. It was early September and what can I say—it couldn’t have been much better. The fish cooperated, and I caught all different types of species whether I fished shallow or deep.
Cedar Cove Cottages is one of those places that’s easy to get to—it’s only about a half-hour drive north of the city of Kingston. The friendly folks, the beautiful property, and the excellent fishing make this one of those places you really should put on your bucket list.