Family Fishing at Lodges & Resorts in Algoma
I’m content to angle for elusive fish for hours on end, but the rest of my family draw their satisfaction more from catching than fishing. And they’re not alone. Whether it’s a youngster, a new angler, or an older individual who only gets out on occasion, connecting with fish is an essential ingredient. If there are members of your family who like to do more catching than fishing, then a remote fishing destination is the answer.
Choices include outpost camps and full-service lodges accessible by floatplane, train, or boat. There are even drive-to lodges that offer exceptional fishing just off the Trans-Canada Highway. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career as a writer and photographer to have visited more than my fair share of remote fishing destinations. It’s something I’ve been able to share with my friends and family, and some of my most enduring memories were forged at resorts in Algoma Country.
A Young Angler’s Choice
A light breeze blows us over a mid-lake hump at Brunswick Lake Lodge. I try to put a minnow on my daughter Islay’s line, but she insists on the strangest-looking bait in my tackle box. I know better than to argue with the instincts of a 2 1/2-year old and thread a brown "skirted caterpillar" onto her chartreuse jig head. While my wife and I work the hump with minnows and leeches, Islay hooks a walleye on the first pass, and another on the second. We're converted by the third drift and switch to the unlikely soft plastic bait selected by our daughter. Aggressive walleye to 18 inches mean double and triple headers all morning, providing a convincing endorsement for the choice of a child angler.
At the Apisibago Lake outpost camp operated by Air Dale Fishing & Hunting, my preteen daughters enjoy catching walleye and pike right from the dock, by simply casting jigs tipped with soft plastic grubs. Advanced angling techniques are generally not necessary at remote angling destinations, but the presence of eager fish presents a great opportunity for learning.
With that in mind, I take my daughters out on the lake to teach them how to fish a slip sinker rig, which incorporates a hook and leader behind a swivel and sliding sinker. It’s a particularly effective way of presenting live bait like worms or leeches, and on Apisibago the payoff is immediate. With walleye readily fooled by this new technique, the girls quickly learn the subtleties of live bait rigging with a slip sinker, and an afternoon of doubleheaders of tasty walleye passes by like a gentle breeze across the remote classroom of Apisibago Lake.
One on One in the Whalesback
My girls are approaching their teens when we go to Brennan Harbour Resort amongst the smooth rock shorelines of the Whalesback Channel of Lake Huron. This morning I wake my youngest, Lillian, and we creep down to the dock. A great blue heron stands stock still on the breakwater as we load the boat and idle out of the harbour. It’s flat calm at our fishing spot, and Lillian lowers her worm harness to the bottom for an instant hook-up. For the next few hours, we experience walleye fishing that rivals many fly-in destinations. Songs, conversation, and catching as many fish as we want, build a lasting one-on-one memory.
In the afternoon, it’s Islay’s turn. My eldest daughter joins me on a quest for bass at a rocky saddle between islands. I drag a tube jig and quickly hook up. The big brown slab jumps and spits the hook. Islay casts a jig and white gulp minnow. I suggest she changes to a tube, but she perseveres, and within five minutes is into a good bass. Islay is not a quiet child, especially with an acrobatic 18-inch smallmouth bass on her line. I sit back and absorb as her hooting, hollering, and laughter engraves yet another indelible father-and-daughter memory.
Shekak Lake Outpost Camp is living up to its reputation as a great walleye and pike producer, but the primary ingredient to this trip’s success is the friends we’re sharing it with. I don’t see Jay Nixon nearly as much as I did when we were teenagers, spending our summers creek fishing and playing guitar around campfires. Now with children of our own, we are reconnecting around familiar themes and sharing with our wives and children.
Walleye feasts are followed by evening bonfires, where our teenagers trade fishing rods for guitars and lay down some inspiring, starlit performances. Even Jay and I shake off the rust to sing a few tunes from 25 years back. Jay and I were around the age of our children when we first met and started playing together. It’s heartening to see the tradition continue and to be harmonizing again within the warm embrace of angling and music.
Marcel and Yolande Dubreuil work the walleye flat as the warm sunlight plays off the golden varnish of their cedar strip boat. Getting my father-in-law out on productive waters is one of the main incentives for this trip to Lodge Eighty Eight. Marcel is a keen angler, but a hip injury that has plagued him since his twenties makes it tough for the 79-year-old to get out on the water. But here he can amble down to the dock, slide behind a 25 hp, and find fish within a 10-minute boat ride of the lodge, and the days of fishing and family, entrenched in the hospitality of Lodge Eighty Eight, slide quickly by.
On our last evening, we rendezvous at a favourite narrows where big walleye crawl up on a sandy shoal. As much as we enjoy catching fish, the best part is watching Francine's parents laughing together as their rods bend with thick walleye. Every time Marcel dips the net under one of Yolande's fish, his smile rivals the warmth and radiance of the setting sun.
As children grow up, as friends grow older and parents eventually leave us, memories of times spent together become more and more precious.
Things to Know About Traveling to Algoma Country
1. Northern Ontario is only a 5-hour (350-mile) drive. You will cross over the St. Marys River between the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario via the International Bridge.
2. If both parents are travelling with children under the age of 16 you only require birth certificates for the children. If only one parent is travelling with the children you still require the birth certificates but it's always good to have a letter of permission to travel to Canada signed by the other parent. The Canadian Border Services officer may ask for this letter when crossing over into Canada. Learn more at www.algomacountry.com/travel-information
3. What can you bring into Canada? This information changes often, especially for food products. Visit www.inspection.gc.ca for the latest information.
4. You will need a fishing licence to fish in Canada. It's easy to get a licence and you can do right online! Visit www.ontario.ca/page/fishing to buy a fishing licence online.