After a restful night’s sleep, I climb out of bed and stumble into the kitchen to put the kettle on. It is still dark outside, and I am not surprised that my wife Dervla remains under the covers, waiting for me to turn up the heat and announce that the tea is ready.
I pull the curtain aside to look out the window across the lake to the eastern shoreline, hoping for a hint of the sunshine after two days of bleak, blustery weather. To my surprise, I see clear sky above the ice-fishing hut that sits 100 metres from our cabin on Lake Nosbonsing in Northeastern Ontario, and a thin line of clouds that hovers above the pine covered hills disperses as the sky begins to lighten. I call to Dervla to grab the cameras and the fishing gear – there's no time for breakfast when the sun is shining and the walleye are biting.
Dervla and I are here at Big Moose Camp near North Bay, to sample the hospitality of camp owners Ray and Shelley. Their specialty is catering to groups of ice fishermen on winter weekends, but from Monday to Friday, boisterous outdoorsmen are gone and guests can find serenity and privacy, perfect for couples looking to escape the city for a few days.
While my idea of a perfect winter getaway involves primitive backcountry camping next to a frozen lake full of trout, my wife’s preference is for an oceanside cottage somewhere in the Caribbean, basking in the warm southern sun while dining on fresh seafood. Here in Northeastern Ontario, we find our compromise. Our private cabin sits next to Lake Nosbonsing in Corbeil, Ontario, where we have all of the comforts of home. Our second home for the next two days sits just 100 metres from shore – an 8’x12’ ice-fishing hut that comes complete with a wood burning stove, propane lights and comfortable benches. And the seafood? Perch and walleye pulled up through the ice and prepared by yours truly in our well-equipped kitchen. Now that is my idea of romance!
The fishing was slow on our first day out, no doubt a result of the low-pressure system that has been shutting down the fish activity on the lake for the past couple of days. Unseasonably warm temperatures accompanied by freezing rain and high winds thankfully subside over night, and this morning dawns cold and clear. A few bites in the morning offer some hope, but the fish continue to be elusive and we return to the cabin for lunch, empty-handed. Heading back out in the afternoon, anticipation is high, as we know that the lake’s perch and walleye predictably start to feed as the sun drops, and this change in weather is sure to turn them on.
I throw a few logs into the wood stove, and the spacious hut reaches t-shirt temperature in a matter of minutes. We lower four minnow-tipped jigs into the dark depths through 8” holes cut in the ice, and strike up a conversation about how fortunate we are to be able to visit this fishing camp in the middle of the week, when the busy crowds of the weekends are all but forgotten.
Almost immediately, our conversation is cut short when one of the fishing rods starts to dance, and I hoist up a small perch; not big enough to make a meal on its own, but certainly enough to contribute to one. I place it in a bucket of water and re-bait my line. Within minutes, I pull another up onto the ice, and then several more shortly thereafter. Oddly, all of the action comes from just one of the four lines, and Dervla expresses her disappointment with her chosen fishing spot.
Suddenly, her fishing rod moves, and she whoops with excitement as she hauls a beautiful 20” walleye up through the hole. We quickly snap a couple of pictures and release the prime-breeding aged fish back to the icy depths. It is the perfect ending to another fantastic mid-week couple’s retreat in Northeastern Ontario, and we agree that shared adventures and willingness to compromise are two of the keys to a happy marriage and a satisfying life.
Big Moose Camp Ltd
581 Big Moose Rd,
Corbeil, ON P0H 1K0
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