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Rice Lake Rendezvous

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Rice Lake Rendezvous

Gord Ellis hoists a 36 inch muskie plucked from the waters of southern Ontario’s Rice Lake. • Credit: James Smedley

Fall fishing for muskie at Elmhirst's Resort



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It’s Gord Ellis’s fourth cast on this calm October morning. Smatterings of reds, browns and yellows still cling to the hardwoods that guard the periphery of cleared fields sloping towards the waters of Southern Ontario’s Rice Lake. Gord is retrieving a huge rubber perch minnow past a rocky shoreline flanked by deep weeds.

“I’ve got something,” he says with a distinct note of surprise. We’re fishing for what has been called “the fish of a thousand casts," and Gord is incredulous: “It’s a muskie!" Guide Joe Ford scoops the fish, and Gord hoists the respectable 36-incher. “That didn’t take long," says a beaming Ellis.

We’re fishing out of Elmhirst’s Resort on the north shore of Rice Lake. Earlier, our guide picked us up at the dock in front of our cozy housekeeping cabin and we layered up for a cool ride to our first stop – a deep, rocky shoreline adjacent to a broad weed flat. This is where Gord boats a musky on his fourth cast. After releasing the mid-sized predator, Gord continues to cast the big rubber perch, while I throw a big bucktail spinner and Joe experiments with various presentations.

Within half an hour, the perch provokes another attack, with a larger muskie surfacing and clamping down on the rubber fish just as Gord is lifting the lure out of the water for another cast. There’s a brief thrashing, and Joe and I look back to see the lure fly into the air and the creature disappear to the depths.


Elmhirst’s Resort boasts cozy Housekeeping cottages that are lined along the shoreline of southern Ontario’s Rice Lake. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Guide Joe Ford casted a blue crankbait for this big Rice Lake smallmouth. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

James Smedley tosses a soft plastic Senko amongst the weeds and pads to catch a half dozen largemouth from southern Ontario’s Rice Lake. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

We decide to give the spot a rest and troll along what Joe says is the old river channel toward a windblown point. Joe says most of Rice Lake is 6-10 feet deep, but it drops quickly to 25 feet off the point. To demonstrate the value of this structure Joe casts a blue crankbait close to the wave-washed rocky shoreline and connects instantly with a fat smally of about 19 inches.

We work down the shoreline with tube jigs and crankbaits, boating chunky smallmouth from the rocks. When the shoreline becomes adorned with lily pads and weeds, I put on a Senko and pull out half a dozen largemouth from water just deep enough to keep their backs wet. We continue probing all the bays, islands, docks, boathouses, cribs, flats and breaks that Joe can deliver. At one rocky extended point, Gord puts on a huge six-inch tube to target muskie and sets the hook into a 21-inch smallmouth.

With the sun hovering above the trees, Joe delivers us back to the dock in front of our cabin. Gord and I change for dinner and walk along the waterfront path to Elmhirst’s Hearthside dining room. Between swigs of dark ale and mouthfuls of duck prosciutto, we both agree that this is not a bad way to end a great day on the water.

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