Ritchie’s End of Trail Lodge

"We were seeking prime walleye country for a change...We found all that and more this fall when we stayed at Ritchie’s End of Trail on massive Lake Biscotasi about four hours northwest of Sudbury, Ontario."

For those who enjoy reading my destination articles, they know by now that I absolutely love visiting the area of Northern Ontario known as Algoma Country. Typically my stays here have been at fishing lodges along the Hwy 17 corridor between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. This time, however, my youngest son Izaak and I wanted to try something really remote…perhaps not fly-in remote but at a resort where you couldn’t just drive to your cabin. On top of that, we were seeking prime walleye country for a change—not a lake harbouring our favourite small or largemouth bass. We found all that and more this fall when we stayed at Ritchie’s End of Trail on massive Lake Biscotasi about four hours northwest of Sudbury, Ontario.

ritchie's end of trail barge

At Ritchie’s End of Trail Landing Wil and Izaak loaded the barge with all their gear for the ten-minute ride over to their private dock in front of the cabin they would be staying at. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

Our adventure began with a quick stop in the Biscotasing General Store on the shores of Lake Biscotasi, also known just as Bisco. It’s basically the only shop in town and carries a bit of everything but remains under lock and key. To get in you need to ring a buzzer where the owner will saunter over and open up to serve you. The Town of Biscotasing has a long and storied past and today is an underutilized and perhaps unappreciated part of Ontario. It was one of those instant towns that jumped out of nowhere during the construction of the CPR Railway in the early 1880s. Today Biscotasing is a partial ghost town. Lumbering is still carried out in the area and the most recent records indicate that Bisco supports a year-round population of 22 that swells to about 300 during the peak of summer.

ritchie's end of trail cabin

The Wegman’s cabin was mere steps away from the lake and included their own private dock. The cabins are simple but very clean and comfortable. Due to the remoteness factor, there is no electricity but there is free WiFi. All electrical devices can be charged at the main office a few metres from all the cabins. There is a propane fridge, stove, cold running water, indoor toilet and a propane BBQ on the spacious deck. A wood stove for cool fall nights and a heated shower shack with plenty of hot water was situated right behind their cabin. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

From the General Store, we took the short drive to Ritchie’s Landing where we met up with Brady – who works for owner Brian at Ritchie’s End of Trail. Brady had a big barge ready for all of our gear – including Izaak’s 16-foot canoe which we ended up not even using for a planned canoe trip later because of heavy rains and strong winds. We spent our time fishing in the well-equipped rental boat Brian had ready for our five-day stay.

angler holding walleye

Will’s first cast of the trip yielded a small but surprisingly hard-fighting walleye. Within the strong current, these fish are stronger than their counterparts in the adjacent big lake. This walleye turned out to be the average size during their whole trip but several other bigger ones were caught. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

Our first day on the water was with Rob - the lodge’s top fishing guide who brought us in his boat all the way to the headwaters of the legendary Spanish River. Several hundred miles south of this mouth, yet still in Algoma Country is where my friend Doug Wadden and I stayed and fished for bass a couple of years ago—learn more about that trip here. Rob tied the boat to a small dock on shore and had Izaak and I get out and walk with him to a gorgeous unoccupied shore fishing spot well below the dam at the base of the Lake Bisco outflow. His back-to-basics technique included a steelhead float, jig n’ minnow combo that he encouraged us to try but with a jig and13 Fishing grub already tied on my Rapala rod…I couldn’t wait and made my first cast.

smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass below the dam was plentiful and although Wil, Izaak and their guide for the day Rob caught several, no real giants showed up. A Storm Wiggle Wart in the crayfish pattern seemed to do the trick for bass above, while a jig n grub or jig n minnow with a float combo worked well for walleye…below. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)
anglers with walleye

Wil and Izaak kept a few walleye to enjoy during their stay but the majority were live released. Back at Ritchie’s, a well-designed indoor fish cleaning house made the task of filleting their walleye a relaxing venture. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

For the next hour or so, we enjoyed the spectacular rapids and fishing for not only plenty of walleye but the occasional pike and even some smallmouth bass. “We haven’t caught any bass in the main lake behind us and supposedly they’re not there yet, but downstream here on the Spanish there are plenty of them, and some really big ones to boot,” said our guide. As part of the Spanish River Provincial Park, this site is also a perfect put-in spot for those wishing to paddle the mighty river downstream in canoe or kayak; something Izaak and I contemplated as a future trip when we could have our vehicle waiting for us many miles downstream.

Walleye like this abound in Lake Bisco and are the primary species sought after by Ritchie’s End of Trail guests and actually by most anglers fishing Ontario’s quarter-million lakes. It’s no wonder too, as they taste amazing and their fine table fare may actually be why their populations in many southern Ontario lakes have been reduced to the point where anglers head north to catch them instead. Walleye Possession Limits on Bisco for those with a full Sport Licence are 4 and only one of those can be over 18 inches.

With over 30 years of experience fishing Bisco, Rob is well known for his knowledge of these waters and as someone utilizing the latest sonar technology with good old-fashioned techniques like the reliable jig n’ minnow combo used by most of his guests.

fishing boat

Their guide Rob not only helped the father and son duo understand how to navigate around Lake Bisco but provided them with several of his favourite walleye spots to try later in the week. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

Over the next several days, Izaak and I were on our own within this labyrinth of islands, back channels, bays and shoals, but Brian supplied us with a detailed map book that, along with my portable Lowrance Elite 5 Sonar (same unit I use ice fishing but with an open water transducer) provided tracking and GPS to keep us from getting turned around. The deep V aluminum boats do come with their own sonar units, are powered by dependable four-stroke motors and they have the most comfortable add-on seats I’ve ever seen any boat outfitter ever offer.

angler holding walleye

Smaller walleye went back and a few of the 14-17-inchers were kept for breakfast, lunch or dinner during their stay. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

For the three days we fished on our own, we experienced crazy weather conditions that likely had their effect on the walleye we sought. High winds, pouring rain and cold fronts did not stop us from enjoying some of Bisco’s fine walleye action though and we caught them long lining Rapala X Raps, 13 Fishing’s deep-running Loco Specials, Rapala Shad Raps or casting Jig n’ grubs, tube jigs and yes the old dependable Jig n’ live minnow.

angler with walleye

Even under the one bright bluebird sky day the father and son enjoyed, they still managed to catch a few walleye on Lake Biscotasi. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

For sure some of Rob’s hot spots produced but one of the things I enjoy most about fishing new waters is being able to figure out where the fish are most likely to be based on past experiences and current conditions. With strong westerly winds dominating I figured windswept shorelines would be the ticket and they were. We fine-tuned that even further as the week progressed to main and secondary points that funnelled wind into them.

Throughout Algoma Country, it is not uncommon to see an eagle or two and we have seen our share on every trip up here. This time, however, we saw more of these awe-inspiring raptors than ever and set a personal best (for Ontario) when one day we counted five bald eagles soaring overhead. Brian told us there is even a golden eagle that graces their presence up there, but we were not blessed enough to make its acquaintance.

ritchie's end of trail sign

Wil and Izaak snapped this photo on their way home but they made two stopovers en route before the rains came down. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

Lake Biscotasi (pronounced Bisk-O-teh-see) means 'lake of long bays' in Ojibwe. It surely is full of bays and islands too. The lake stretches 37 kilometres from end to end. It has over 965 kilometres of shoreline and contains over 400 islands. The lake is a gorgeous pristine Canadian Shield Lake and has been entirely incorporated into a new provincial park which means its shoreline is protected from any development such as cottage lots, forestry, mining and the like but activities such as fishing, hunting, motor boating, and tourism are still permitted. The park will ensure the Bisco area is left untouched for generations to come! We saw some cabins scattered here and there around the lake and some amazing water access-only campsites (all vacant when we were there) but other than the Town of Biscotasing and a few other anglers you’ll have a hard time finding traces of human activity. Other species available include whitefish, yellow perch and northern pike but we chose just to focus on walleye.

All in all, despite some weather challenges we had a great time at Ritchie’s. They offer packages catered to fit anglers who want to bring their own food or you can choose to have all the food already there for you to cook in your fully equipped kitchen and housekeeping cabin. Prices for a typical stay are extremely reasonable whether you are renting a boat or bringing your own. To learn more about this unique out-of-the-way fishing resort please visit Ritchie's End of Trail.

Drive Home

Unlike Southern Ontario, most of Algoma Country is crown land and that means hunting access is typically fairly easy to find. We stopped on our way home to explore a trail into the bush – hoping to see a couple of ruffed grouse along the way. Izaak is not a hunter so he was just enjoying the hike and we had no sooner spent five minutes away from the truck when I spotted a skittish grouse 40 meters ahead.

With all the branches and underbrush in the way, it took me a couple of minutes to get a good clean shot but when I did, Izaak got to watch his dad bag a nice grouse for dinner. One more 15 - 20 minutes later and Izaak was convinced hunting grouse was always a quick and easy type of deal…if only he knew the hours I have spent searching for them not seeing one for days at a time.

hunter in orange with ruffed grouse

Grouse are fun to hunt, delicious and abundant in Algoma Country. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

I have driven by Onaping Falls so many times without stopping to get out and have a look…and now that I finally have, really regret it took so long. The falls are located just off of Hwy 144, about 35 km west of Sudbury, and 15 km north of Hwy 17. The Onaping River drops over 150 feet here in a series of drops, the largest of which is the 30 or so foot final drop that you can see from the viewing platform and the bridge on the far side.

call colours onaping falls
Fall colours were only starting to show when Wil and Izaak explored the trail and falls at Onaping in mid-September. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)
rock formations

Izaak and his dad stopped along Hwy 141 on their way home to hike the A.Y. Jackson Lookout Trail (30 minutes from Sudbury) and to gaze at the wonder of Onaping High Falls. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)
onaping falls sign

(Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

The trail climbs up across the rock alongside the falls allowing you plenty of opportunities and vantage points to view different parts of the falls and crosses a pedestrian bridge with additional vistas to enjoy. The whole area is geologically significant. In addition to the falls located at the edge of the Sudbury Basin, there are some fascinating rock formations to look at like a 2 billion-year-old impact crater.

ay jackson trail

The trail is well marked even when not in the forested area. (Photo credit: Wil Wegman)

All in all planning a stopover at Onaping Falls – whether for a picnic, a hike or just a quick glimpse at the falls, will be well worth it for anyone planning a trip further north to Ritchie’s End of Trail.

About Wil Wegman

Wil Wegman is an award-winning Outdoor writer whose articles have appeared in most Canadian outdoor magazines and several US publications. His freelance writing career began as an outdoor columnist for several newspapers has spanned over three decades. Wil is a popular fishing seminar speaker, avid conservationist, angling and tourism promoter and in 2017 was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame. He can be reached at his Focus On Fishing website here: www.wilwegman.com   

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