Sometimes we just can’t see the forest for the trees. There is this misconception that you need to travel to the end of the planet to find locations that harbour lots of bass, lots of big bass with very little angling pressure, and lots of places to catch these bass once arrived.
Planet Earth has millions of people who fish for bass. Lots of people fish the same lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for bass. If I told you that there was a place, a lake not far from the greater Toronto area (GTA), located in Northeastern Ontario near the small town of Field, that has everything a bass fisherman could ever ask for without the crowds, would you listen?
If this is something that interests you, pay attention.
If this is something that interests you, pay attention.
I was fortunate to fish this lake last summer, and was impressed with the numbers of bass, the size of the bass, and the sheer lack of angling pressure for these bass. What is the name of this lake? Thistle Lake, part of the Temagami Waterway system, just off Highway 64, a little over four hours from the big city lights of Toronto.
Having the opportunity to bring my own boat was a great considering the pristine wilderness setting of the lodge and lake, as well as the luxury of using my own sonar/fish finding electronics was a bonus.
The lodge has a great boat ramp and docking system that afforded us the opportunity to leave my boat securely docked overnight in the sheltered bay, a few steps away from our cabin.
Upon our arrival, we took a short tour of the lake with the lodge owners, who graciously showed us where the shoals were located (as clearly marked with white jugs) where the rivers entered and exited the lake, the short cuts through islands that could and could not be navigated by boats, and an overall layout of the Thistle Lake, which helped us decide where to start the next morning.
The overall make up of this lake is basically a river system with bays, covers, islands, and lots of great natural locations for smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, jumbo perch, and whitefish. A lot of the small bays and coves have thick cabbage weed and prime spawning elements like rock, sand, and gravel, hence the excellent reproduction of spawning bass, which of course results in really good numbers of bass and lots of fish in the mid 3- to 5-pound range.
Since the lake is part of the Temagami waterway system and has consistent current flowing through the system, from the Marten River and Temagami river, winter fishing is not allowed on Thistle Lake, which in turn results in even better walleye fishing in spring and fall, particularly in evenings near the current areas and many rocky points and natural structure.
The lodge promotes catch and release for all the big fish. You are allowed to keep the smaller ones for eating or taking home. But all the walleye and northern pike over a certain size are released, protecting the breeding stock for future generations to enjoy. This catch and release program has been in place for over 25 years.
Island Lake Lodge supplies all the live bait for your stay and has a fleet of boats equipped with four-stroke electric start motors, fish finders, and padded swivel seats, serviced daily to make your fishing excursions on Thistle lake hassle-free and enjoyable.
Once again, Mother Nature tried to mess with us as a brisk southerly warm wind blew directly from one end of the lake to the other. But luckily for us and other guests, Thistle Lake has many islands, back bays, and coves that have the elements such as broken rock, weeds, and gravel which attract baitfish, crawfish and yellow perch; these, in turn, attract the bigger critters such as northern pike, walleye, and smallmouth bass.
I found a tiny cove that had a rock shoal surrounded by weeds that lead to a small rocky point leading to the main lake, with lots of cabbage weed tapering from 7 to 14 feet deep, an excellent location for feeding fish to periodically come into feed.
Fishing a combination of splashy pop and stop baits and walking style top-waters, I pinpointed a location that was loaded with schools of baitfish and tiny perch that the smallmouth bass couldn’t resist.
I stayed in that general area, zig-zagging back and forth from shallow water to the rocky point, catching smallmouth from 1 to 3 pounds all day long. Once the topwater presentations tapered off, picking up a tube jig and snap jigging along the edges of the weed beds and rock was fortunate to catch some 4-plus-pound bronze bombers that fought like the devil on this current-driven lake.
With time restraints, we did not have the opportunity to fish for walleye, and regretted not doing so, as so many of the bass locations I fished had schools of thick-bodied fish symbols near bottom on my sonar that screamed walleye, and lots of them too! I’d say that’s a perfect reason to come back to Thistle Lake and Island Lake Lodge next year and get my fix of chunky walleyes.
In closing, the lodge has the perfect Northern Ontario outfitter layout—clean, comfortable cabins evenly spaced to prevent overcrowding in a wilderness setting that feels like you’re miles away from civilization, and yet only a few miles from the major highway leading to the big city.
You can bring your own boat or use one of the lodge boats that are rigged for fishermen. The docking system is secure and ideal in a sheltered bay with no wind, and all the cabins are outfitted with all the amenities of home, a barbeque, and a screened-in porch in a quiet surrounding with a lake system that has a lot of fish.