Ontario's Sunset Country in Northwestern Ontario offers one of the most diverse fisheries found on the planet. Over the last 30 years, I've made many trips from my home base in southern Ontario up to this incredible area of the province. There are so many lakes and rivers to fish in that region that I'm not sure a person could fish them all in a lifetime.
Real Fishing Radio co-host Gord Pyzer, who resides in Kenora, has put me on to so many different species of fish over the years that it's been mind-blowing. I had one of my most memorable trips this past winter with Gord while we were taping an ice fishing episode for the Real Fishing Television Series.
On the first day my brother Wayne, friend Steve Chantler, Gord Pyzer and the crew all did a bit of ice fishing and we caught a pile of walleyes, whitefish and smallmouth bass in an afternoon of fishing. Because of Gord's vast knowledge of the area and the fish holding spots, it was easy to go out there during some pretty frigid conditions and catch fish almost at will.
It was a great afternoon, but I really wanted to catch a big northern pike through the ice. It's been a number of years since I've had the pleasure of fishing with Gord for trophy northerns, so I said to him that the next day I wanted to try for pike, since we'd already caught so many other species of fish. Gord agreed and said we'd give it a try.
The next morning we picked up some fresh, store-bought chub mackerel and herring to use for bait and headed out on the water. Gord was very confident as we were setting up our spread of tip-ups, but he also said that it would be a waiting game - and it sure was.
We missed a few fish and got one small one, and then there was quite a long lull. Keep in mind it was windy and extremely cold. Then, as if we got a reward for our patience, a flag went off and we had a heavy fish on.
When we finally got it to the hole we couldn't get it up through the four-foot thick ice. The Ontario northern pike was caught on a quick strike rig, with one hook in the corner of the mouth and the other around by its gill plate. When we'd pull the fish up, it would come horizontally and would get wedged underneath the bottom of the ice. After a lot of poking around with the telescopic pole that we had the GoPro camera on, we finally got the fish facing vertically, with its nose in the hole, and managed to pull it out of the water.
This was absolutely the biggest pike I personally had ever seen caught. I know there's been bigger pike caught over the years but this one was my personal best ever -- ice fishing or in open water. It was a giant. According to the length x girth x girth/800 formula it would have weighed 31.68 pounds! We wanted to take a few quick pictures and then get it back into the water as soon as we could, so we never did weigh the fish.
The cool thing about the Kenora area is that you can base yourself right in town and fish in virtually every direction. You can go to some of the smaller lakes, you can go to Lake of the Woods, you can go to the Winnipeg River system -- there are so many options to fish for so many species like northern pike (as we were doing), lake trout, walleye, whitefish, smallmouth bass (which are open all year), crappies etc.
The town of Kenora has some great eateries and all of the amenities that you'll need during the hard water season. Over the years we've made a number of trips up here and have stayed at several of the hotels and motels in the area. We've used the Best Western Lakeside Inn, the Super 8, the Days Inn and a number of other hotels right in town. They all gave us great service and comfortable accommodations, and they all worked out perfectly for a base during the winter season. There's no question that Kenora is the perfect starting point for an ice fishing getaway to northwestern Ontario.