Fishing Esnagi Lake

Try These Tips for Catching Walleye at Lodge Eighty Eight

Lodge Eighty Eight is located in the heart of Algoma Country and on beautiful Esnagi Lake. Esnagi Lake is one of those fishing destinations that should be on every walleye angler's bucket list. Once you've fished Esnagi, it's not a question if you will return, but rather when.

The MacLachlan Family has outfitting in their blood. This family business was established back in 1959 and continues to provide anglers with exceptional full-service and remote wilderness fishing opportunities.

On Esnagi Lake, the MacLachlan family operates two full-service camps including Lodge Eighty Eight and Mar Mac Lodge both of which offer American Plan and Housekeeping Plan packages. Also on Esnagi Lake, there are two outpost camps located at the extreme north end of the lake.

Accessible by either the train or via floatplane from White River Air, Esnagi Lake has for many years ranked as one of Ontario's top-producing walleye lakes. A couple of things set Esnagi Lake apart from other lakes in the region. The exceptional size of this fishery creates countless places ideal for walleye fishing including main lake points, islands, sunken reefs, weed beds and saddles between islands.

Secondly, the average size of the walleye taken on Esnagi is exceptional. The lake abounds with countless "eating sized" walleye in the 15- to 18-inch size class, but Esnagi is famous for producing staggering numbers of walleye upwards of five pounds.

On a recent visit to Lodge Eighty Eight, my wife Mari's first two fish were walleye in the eight-pound range! Mari is a casual fisherman, but she had no trouble landing 20 high-quality walleye before lunch on day one. The guests of Lodge Eighty Eight and Mar Mac Lodge routinely enjoy world-class walleye fishing from late May through September.

Traditional Cedar Strip Boats

One of the features I personally like best about Lodge Eighty Eight is the hand-made Giesler and Sons Limited cedar strip boats made in Powassan, Ontario. These spacious 18-foot boats are a dream to fish from and the staff at Lodge Eighty Eight take exceptional care of these "fishing icons" of a bygone era. No disrespect to aluminum fishing boats, but fishing from these hand-crafted wooden boats is worth the price of admission alone.

Esnagi Lake Fishing Tactics

Like many of Ontario's natural lakes, jig fishing is hands down the "go-to" method for catching walleye on Esnagi Lake. An assortment of 1/8-, 1/4- and 3/8-ounce jigs almost guarantee fishing success. Personally, I favour a stand-up style jig head for fishing the rock and gravel-strewn bottoms of Esnagi. Stand-up jigs position the hook point up off the bottom, reducing snags and greatly increasing the odds of hooking walleye.

Live minnows are readily available at the docks of Lodge Eighty Eight and Mar Mac Lodge for traditionalists. To be honest, the fishing is so good scented soft plastic grub bodies are my preferred jig dressing. Twister tails, split tail minnow grubs and shad tail minnow grubs will all produce consistently on Esnagi walleye. A 3-inch grub is about perfect and shad, shiner and white make up my favourite grub colours.

Jigging Rods, Reels, Line

To get the most from walleye jig fishing, it's important to come prepared with suitable jigging gear. I recommend a medium or medium/light action graphite rod in the 6-foot, 6-inch to 7-foot length. Match this rod up with a 25- or 30-sized spinning reel loaded with a 10-pound test super braid line.

A highly sensitive graphite rod paired with a low stretch super braid line will allow even novice anglers to easily detect light walleye bites. A refinement to this jigging setup is to add a 24-inch leader of clear 8-pound test fluorocarbon leader material. This leader can be tied using the double uni knot which can be easily learned by visiting Animated Knots or an angler can use a small barrel swivel to attach the mainline braid to the fluorocarbon leader.

Finding Fish

Because Esnagi Lake is so large, it can be a little intimidating to newcomers. Booking one of the lodge's resident guides is never a bad idea for a day or two. The guides at Lodge Eighty Eight and Mar Mac Lodge can cut the learning curve in half and help guests get on fish quickly.

For those who prefer to do their own thing, walleye are going to be found in shallow water during May and June. On Esnagi walleye routinely show up in 6 to 10 feet of water.

By July and into August and September the walleye of Esnagi will begin moving to deeper mid-lake reefs and can consistently be located in water from 15 to 30 feet deep. Portable sonar units are invaluable for locating walleye near the bottom in deeper water.

lodge88 northtoadventure
Photo credit: Mark Romanack

I recommend using a portable sonar/GPS unit when fishing at Esnagi Lake. Having a GPS unit enables anglers to save waypoints on key fishing spots, establish safe running plot trails and virtually eliminate any chance of getting turned around in the maze of islands and connecting channels.

Pack A Sea Anchor

Because most of the jig fishing on Esnagi is conducted from a boat that's drifting, packing along a sea anchor is a good idea. When the wind picks up, using a sea anchor to slow down the boat's drifting speed will enable anglers to maintain contact with the bottom even on blustery days.

Summing It Up

Esnagi Lake is a jewel of the north in terms of the walleye fishing it provides. Guests can expect to find excellent fishing regardless of a visit in May, June, July, August or September. Keep in mind that in the spring walleye are likely to be shallow and as the summer progresses, they simply move offshore to deeper waters.

Jigs will catch Esnagi Lake walleye all season long and stand-up style jigs are well worth the extra investment. Also investing in a good quality graphite jigging rod and low-stretch super braid line will put the odds of success firmly in favour of the well-prepared angler.

About Mark Romanack

Mark Romanack is an outdoor writer, book author, fishing educator and the Host of the Fishing 411 television series broadcast on the World Fishing Network. For more information on fishing visit the Fishing 411 Facebook page or go to the Fishing 411 YouTube Channel to access a wealth of free educational fishing videos.

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