Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reunion With Canada

Hungry walleyes!
After a 40 year absence from fishing north of the 49th Parallel, Saturday was the date of my return.  I was pretty excited as we were following the same basic route that I took with the Tollefson's back in 1970, crossing the border at Pigeon River on the North Shore of Lake Superior, continuing through Thunder Bay to Nipigon, we drove by our old destination at Lake Nipigon for another 70 miles to Geraldton, Ontario.  My brother Steve conveniently picked up one of our hosts at the MSP Airport, Dane Kane who flew in from Atlanta to fish with his in-laws Victor Sr. and Victor Jr.   This gave them the chance to pick me up at home, saving me a 2 hour drive to meet them in Eleva.  We left the house at 9:00 with the intent to meet the rest of our group at the Culver's in Two Harbors, MN.  Enduring the Duluth Marathon and the 49 degrees with fog, we finally met up and headed northeast.  Before crossing the border we topped off the gas tanks.  At $3.55/gal, it would be better than the $5.40/gallon just a mile down the road.  Going through customs was better than I thought, just a few trick questions to see if you knew how to answer them the right way and we were off.  With 40 years between me and the last time I traveled in the area, admittedly it was a lot different than I thought I remembered.  With the time change we arrived by 8:30 that evening to the White Wolf Resort on Hutchinson Lake outside of Geraldton.  Sunday morning saw our caravan of boats heading to Burrows Lake, 15 miles from the cabin.  A crude landing, of rock and gravel there were 2 options, the shallow back your truck into the water or the steep side where one barely needs to get the trailer wet.  I chose the steep one.  With my brother Steve and his son Kevin in control, all I could do was sit back and enjoy the ride.  The first strategy was to cast the weed edges and shorelines for northern pike.  They were hitting as though they had never seen a bait before.  Ranging from 8 to 28 inches it was impossible not to have a fish on one of our 3 fishing rods at any given time. 60 northerns later we tried for some walleyes along the shorelines with little luck.  In the afternoon we moved to an area where a railroad bridge narrowed the outlet causing a nice current flow.  Sensing an opportunity I had 10 walleyes landed before Steve and Kevin knew what was going on.  With the walleyes hanging on the current break and the slower current areas we landed about 60 walleyes before the northerns decided to move in.  Although the walleyes were pretty small, most in the 12 inch range we did manage 4 nice keepers in the 16 - 18 inch range, enough to do our part for supper that night.  It did take a while to find the fish but we managed a good day.

River lined with pilings
Monday was suppose to be the start of having the lake to ourselves.  5 miles long, there are lots of places to fish northerns however we were focused on more walleyes.  The upper reaches of the lake have inlets that form slow moving rivers as the waters head either to Hudson bay or Lake Superior.  Burrows Lake is right on the continental divide and it's outlet can either go north or south depending on the water level and a few control dams in the system.  We decided to explore heading through the first inlet channel to a shallow lake to its inlet to another lake.  Both channels were surprisingly deep and held the promise of walleyes.  After 5 hours of exploring and fishing, we ended up with 3 more keeper fish.  Deciding to head back to the railroad bridge wouldn't you know it a boat was parked right in the middle of "our" spot.  With no desire to crowd the area we left going back to the northern spot fighting the waves that a 20 mph wind had whipped up.  An hour later it was time to head back to the cabin for more fried fish.  At the end of day 2 my honest opinion was less than favorable.  Plenty of 16 inch northerns and only locating one walleye hotspot full of 12 inch walleyes, the lake was beautiful but a pattern wasn't coming together.  Tuesday would prove to be more interesting as the discussion turned to hitting another lake, Longlac located 30 miles east of our cabin.

Supper caught!
Morning arrived as we headed east to the town of Longlac and had to make a choice.  Because of the high water it would be difficult to travel under the railroad bridge separating the incoming river from the main lake.  Longlac (Long Lake) is exactly what it infers, long.......over 60 miles long and a lot of water.  We decided to fish the river, there was good current, the water was deep and it seemed like great place to find walleyes.  The river showed remnants of the old lumber days when logs were floated down the river to the mills in Longlac as it was lined with large pilings driven into the edges of the river, some still having cables attached to them.  The strategy was simple, tie up to one of these individual pilings along the edge and cast your jig bringing it up the edge of the drop where the walleyes were stacked.  It took about an hour to figure the pattern and we began catching walleyes, much nicer than the first 2 days.  We moved up the river, jumping from piling to piling determining some were better than others.  In the meantime our other 2 boats had left the river and headed to the lake across the road.  Catching over 100 walleyes with 12 nice fish in the box, we headed back to the resort to clean our fish.  Victor Sr., Victor Jr., and Dan in one boat, Travis, Steve, and Ken in another pulled up with the mother lode, plenty of 17 inch fish with a 26 inch walleye caught by Victor Sr.  Apparently they let a number of nice fish over 19 inches as you can only keep 1 over 18.1 inch.  The discussion quickly went to Wednesday's plan, go back to Burrows Lake for the 18 inch northern massacre or back to Longlac for the 20 inch plus walleyes committing suicide..........back to Longlac.

Kevins 23 incher
Wednesday brought us back to the scene of yesterday's hot bite, along the main highway in 5 feet of water.  Being done with the spawn and with the water temperatures at 68 degrees, the walleyes had just started to go on their feeding binge.  Fishing for 2 hours and only 3 walleyes caught they either moved or we needed to wait for the bite to turn on.  Without a depth map we looked along the shoreline to determine a possible flat area in the 8 - 11 foot range that gradually sloped to 5.  A little exploring and we found our spot as the wind would drift us from 11 - 5 feet, next to a rock island, seemed like a great place.  As we move into that area Steve hooked his biggest fish of the weekend, a 33 inch northern which satisfied a promise to a friend to bring back a nice pike fillet.  Concentrating on walleyes, the bite began.  Travis's boat came over to see what we were doing as saw the obvious as 3 walleyes were released.  The moved over by 50 yards and immediately caught a 28 inch walleye, a beautiful fish anywhere.  They left early as we continued to catch walleyes up to 23 inches.  The day ended with over 130 fish landed and released, not bad.  The hot bait for us was a Gulp Minnow with 1/3 a nightcrawler for additional scent.  They just slammed it.

Steve caught the largest northern pike of the trip
I admitted to the guys that my first impressions were not what I had expected.  Looking forward to a more remote location, we simply went to their favorite lakes they had been going to for over 40 years.  I soon realized that my place was simply a moment in a long history of family, friends, camaraderie, and fishing experiences.  Of course the last 2 days of 250+ walleyes caught didn't hurt, it is really like my own experiences and adventures.  These guys joined me last fall for a day on Mille Lacs and it was a fishing disaster, one that I would not blame them if they never came back even though I knew better.  The guys that came up of our annual Leech Lake opener only to be greeted with ice, who knows what their expectations were.  My mistake was making comparisons to 40 years ago.  I had the opportunity to get more acquainted with 6 new friends, had a wonderful new experience, and really did catch a ton of fish, I am not sure what more a guy would ask for.......nothing. It was a fabulous time, one I will not forget. 

Sunday will see me on Mille Lacs with my neighbor Blair and his high school friend Kevin, from Chicago.  We had a blast last year and hopefully Sunday will be a repeat.


Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

Nice to see the Ranger in Ontario.


Duane said...

Can't believe you never did a fly in. Surprised you and RH never paired up. I did it for 15 years. Fished where folks probably have never fished before. Gotta get away from those roads...

Dave Anderson said...


You will have to come and have lunch with us and we will talk about that one!