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Setting Expectations for your Ontario Fishing Getaway

Ontario fishing lodges come in all shapes and sizes.

• Credit: Fish'n Canada


"Expectations" as defined by the Webster dictionary is “the act or state of looking forward to an occurrence.”

Yes, this might sound like a weird way to open a fishing show but it came with good reason. We wanted to connect the dots between expectations and fishing, in particular, fishing trips.

Last year, coming off of one of the craziest years in recent memory, we here at Fish’n Canada decided to bring a little bit of joy to the lives of anglers nationwide. So, we teamed up with Destination Northern Ontario and NOTO and came up with “The Great Ontario Get-Away Give-Away,” awarding $100,000.00 worth of fabulous fishing trips.

Simple right?

What could go wrong?

contest ad

Well, while the majority of reports we got back from our winners were overwhelmingly positive, the randomness of our draw revealed something to us that we had no idea was going to rear its ugly head -- EXPECTATIONS, you see, it turns out that the ultimate fishing trip is very subjective, what might be the perfect trip for us, might not be for you, even if it’s free.

Fortunately, Ontario fishing lodges come in all shapes and sizes. From the luxury, resort-style experience of, say, a Killarney Mountain Lodge on Georgian Bay to the rugged wilderness adventures of Gray Wood Outfitters on the Attawapiskat River System or the in-between experience of a Blue Fox Camp in the Algoma Highlands. All great trips, but all very different experiences -- so knowing what you want, need, and most importantly expect, is paramount. That’s why anglers need to set expectations before booking their trip.

lakeside cottages, boats

Gray Wood Outfitters on the Attawapiskat River. . .purely about extraordinaire hunting and fishing.

Think not “where is the perfect fishing trip” but rather “what is the perfect fishing trip for me”. Does all of this sound too deep? No worries! We’re here to help.

Your Base

Your base, the actual lodge or cabin, is the first thing you see when you arrive at your location and the last thing you will see every night before going to bed. This makes it a key component of an enjoyable trip and something that expectations need to be set for before showing up at the dock.

Simple things like indoor plumbing, hot showers, and electricity may not be an issue if you were expecting to do your business in an outhouse all week but it sure is a shocker when that float plan leaves and you first notice that strange little windowless shack next to your cabin. Yikes!

“As I’ve said a million times on this show,” says Ang “I can do without a mattress. I can certainly do without cell reception or the internet. But I have to have my porcelain, so that becomes part of my expectation on every trip. No indoor plumbing -- no Ang!”

outhouse

Here’s a rare one of Ang with the one and only “thumbs up” he’s ever done on a pre-outhouse excursion.

There’s a misconception out there that in order to have exceptional fishing you need to rough it, nothing is further from the truth’, in fact, some of the best fishing we’ve ever experienced has come from 5-star operations in north and Northwestern Ontario, some of them are even drive-to operations.

Take the American Plan-only lodges like Hawk Lake Lodge, or Timberwolf Lodge to name a few.

Right from the moment you set foot on these exquisite properties, you know your expectations are going to be met. From luxurious suites to culinary excellence, these places are for la creme de la creme of wilderness lodges. . . add to this list places like Delaney Lake Lodge and Killarney Mountain Lodge.

killarney mountain lodge

Drive-to destinations like Killarney Mountain Lodge offers easy access, great accommodations, and fantastic fishing.

On the other side of the coin, those who view fishing as more of a rustic experience may want to opt for a housekeeping or outpost package. Although the name may confuse you, make no mistake about it, a Housekeeping Plan does not mean you get a housekeeper -- it means you are the housekeeper. All the daily responsibilities are left up to the guest, from cooking meals to cleaning to making the beds. The outfitter, in this scenario, is simply providing a roof over your head. The rest is in the hands of you and the fish gods.

For those who don’t mind the chores and extra planning, this also means that, if you so choose, you can spend an entire trip without seeing another human being.. If you want to skip dinner, skip dinner! If you want to sleep in, sleep in. The only person you need to please is yourself!

Most operators offer both Housekeeping and American plans. One of our favourites is Anderson’s Lodge outpost camps, located on the famous Lac Seul. With four different outposts to choose from, anglers can pick and choose which area of the lake they want to be dropped off at and are free to explore on their schedule. Although guests will be required to pack in their food and fend for themselves when it comes to service, these trips are not exactly “roughing it”. Anderson’s remote outpost cabins still come equipped with all the appliances you need to enjoy a trip in the wilderness -- from an oven to a wood stove to cooking utensils. Heck, some of them even have hot showers!

anderson's lodge outpost camp tom's landing

Anderson’s Lodge outpost camp called Tom’s Landing. You can fly here or boat here. Either way, the fishing is outstanding!

The Service

Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to lay your head at night and where you're going to take care of business when nature calls, it's time to establish your expectations for how the days are going to look. This section is what we call “the service” and the things you decide to include, or exclude, in this department will help shape your fishing lodge experience.

Since we’ve already covered the services that are available off the water, like American Plan versus Housekeeping Plan etc., we’re now going to focus on what you can expect from these outfitters when out on the lake. With many lodges being extremely accommodating when it comes to the angler's needs, the services you choose once again, come down to your personal preferences and expectations.

Let’s start in the boat. How do you picture your Ultimate Fishing Trip? Are you huddled over a fish finder, boat tiller in hand as you scan for mid-lake humps? Or are you leaning back in your bow-mounted seat, feet up as you jig for walleye over one of the lodge’s trusted fishing holes?

anglers fishing in boats

Hardcore fishing VS relaxed fishing. . .it’s all up to you.

If option two sounded more enticing, a guided trip is what you’re looking for. These packages take all the fish finding and boat driving out of your hands and into the hands of a trained professional guide. In other words, all the guest has to do is catch the fish!

This guided vs. non-guided decision also comes into play during lunchtime. Again, this ultimately comes down to expectations. Even if you’re someone who has experience in frying fish, there is nothing like a shore lunch prepared by a trained and experienced guide. Not only does this take the work out of lunch, but it also allows you to catch a snooze or catch up with fishing buddies, share stories, and make the kind of memories that have real staying power.

shore lunch cooked on open fire

Sit back, relax and dig in as your guide(s) prepare one of the world’s most outstanding meals, an authentic Canadian shore lunch.

On the other hand, if you’d prefer to cook or pack your lunch more than the outpost, a non-guided experience is what you’re looking for. In these scenarios, all the lodge provides you with is transportation in and out of the lake, a boat to fish from, maybe a fish finder to scan the lake, and a motor to get you from Point A to Point B. These are usually fly-ins.

Some lodges actually will allow you to bring your rig in. That way you can use all the tools and comforts that you’re familiar with.

The Fishing

Well, we’ve purposely left the final and most exciting piece of the “Expectation Puzzle” for the end and that, of course, is the fishing.

While many often assume that all lodges are equal in the fishing experiences they provide, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The first and most obvious differences are species. Walleye are definitely the most prevalent sportfish in Ontario if not all of Canada, spreading from BC all the way down to parts of eastern New Brunswick but it’s the secondary and the tertiary species that are often overlooked.

Always plan on focusing some of your attention on the alternate fishing opportunities, like bass, pike, trout or even crappie. Then there is the issue of quantity over quality, this is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of fishing. Not everyone is fixated with trophy hunting, some people would much rather make contact with big numbers as opposed to big size.

Some operators, Hawk Lake Lodge and Garden Island Lodge are just two that come to mind, specialize in big fish. And we mean big!

angler fishing walleye

Each and every trip to Hawk Lake Lodge puts anglers in a highly potential situation to catch a giant walleye like this one Ang is holding.

This, however, does have its trade-offs. As you have seen dozens of times on this show, we are perfectly willing to tough out a few slower periods throughout the day if it means landing one or two trophy-sized fish. For others, they want non-stop action. They don’t want to sit there patiently jigging while they wait for big fish, they just want to feel that rod bend. For these anglers, lodges that provide quantity, as well as some quality, will meet their expectations. Timberwolf Lodge and Agich's Kaby Kabins are perfect for that.

timberwolf lodge sign and lodge

Timberwolf Lodge: a fantastic facility, run by fantastic people, along with a fantastic fishery!

Seasonality can also play a big role in setting expectations. For example, if you want to cast for big shallow water lake trout, you’d better be thinking about the ice out period in early spring which also coincides with the peak black fly season, and you know what that means. This leaves the angler to consider a few trade-offs. Does the excitement of late-fall pike fishing outweigh the frozen fingers? Do the warm, bug-free days of August outweigh a slower walleye bite? This is all part of setting expectations.

angler fishing muskie

Pete likes fishing the late early fall period of the calendar. . .it’s pretty much bug-free!

Finally, those weighing their options for the perfect fishing opportunity should, once again, consider whether a guide would help meet or exceed expectations.

A lot of lodges offer guides by the day or even half days which is great for those of you who just want to familiarize yourself with the water and learn the personality and nuances of that particular lake. Remember, good guides always have their finger on the pulse of that fishery. Don’t know where pike go when a sudden cold front moves through? No problem! Your guide certainly does and that information can prove to be extremely valuable during your stay.

Simply put, good guides make days on the water more enjoyable, especially when the fishing is slow…

two anglers fishing northern pike

A good guide is a great investment. Tyler Dunn put Steve Neidzwecki onto this great northern pike up on Lake Superior.

As we said at the top of the show, an enjoyable fishing trip is all about expectations. This goes as much for your weekend trip up to the cottage as it does for your once-in-a-lifetime guided trip. If these past years have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot take what we have for granted. Don’t let poor planning and unrealistic expectations ruin the time you get to spend on the water. Plan accordingly, stay safe, and enjoy the wild spaces we’re so fortunate to have in this country.

To get to this episode's featured Fish’n Canada Locations, we first travelled to the ultra-popular Chaudiere Lodge, on the fabled French River in search of giant muskie.

Next were two fly-in destinations in Ontario’s Algoma region, both accessed by Lauzon Aviation. The first was for gorgeous brook trout at Blue Fox Camp on Kirkpatrick Lake. The second was Hastie Lake, one of our favourite Bass lakes.

From there we took a walleye trip to Old Mission Resort on Lake Temiskaming.

And our final feature fishing destination was Agich’s Kaby Kabins on the beautiful Kaby Lake.

Hotspot

garmin fish finder

This episode’s Hotspot was on Roothouse Lake in the Algoma Region of Ontario. It’s a subtle point jutting from shore and dropping into deep water.

  • The best ways of fishing a structure like this are slow trolling, drifting, anchoring, or easing your way with a trolling motor and fan casting the shoreline.
  • For trolling try spoons, spinners, or hard-body baits like crankbaits and minnow baits.
  • When casting, try spinners, EGB spoons, or jigs. And don’t forget to drop shot a small bait like a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm.

Baits: Spoons, Spinners, Plastics

Presentation: Cast to Rocks and Trees, or Troll

Water depth: 2 to 15 feet

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