Fly-in to Ontario’s Walleye Headquarters
Even though it’s the middle of the day, I’m not surprised that a worm dragged along the edge of a mid-lake hump is answered by a chorus of eager walleye. This is Kabinakagami, after all: a 30,000-plus-acre remote lake with a well-deserved reputation as a prolific walleye and pike fishery. But I am surprised when the walkie-talkie crackles to life: “James we're catching some nice walleye in the shallows here.”
It’s Jean Meloche. He’s about a kilometre away, with his wife Monique, working a weedy shoreline. Francine and I head over to investigate. It’s mid-August and we know the fish should be deeper, but watching Monique pull in a couple of 19-inchers before our lines are even in the water convinces us to give the unlikely-looking shoreline a try. We discover patches of weed, scattered rock and plenty of walleye. As Monique continues to put on a shallow water clinic, dragging a jig and worm in 3-5 feet of water, I wonder what other pleasant surprises Kabinakagami holds.
Our adventure began with a half-hour float plane ride from Wawa, Ontario. From the Dehavilland Turbine Otter, we watched as civilization was quickly replaced by wilderness. Lakes, rivers, and vast cedar swamps cradled within an undulating boreal landscape stretched as far as the eye could see. Soon after the pilot pointed to a huge island-studded body of water, we were touching down on the waters of Kabinakagami Lake and pulling up to the dock at Windy Point Lodge.
Home Away from Home
A long row of vertical log housekeeping cabins stretches along the shoreline of a wide peninsula. There is a main lodge, a screened-in fish cleaning hut and a tiny general store. Our cabin has a huge stone fireplace and iron woodstove as well as three bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower, and a fully-equipped kitchen with hot running water and an infrared drinking water system.
On our first day on the water, we’re led by guide Cody Ferrigan. He takes the helm of Jean and Monique’s boat and leads us on an angling tour of the northeast section of Kabinakagami. The walleye for shore lunch is plucked from the windblown rocky structure and prepared at Agamik Gap, one of the lake’s 37 established shore lunch sites with tables and a stone fire pit. On discovering there’s no paper towel in the shore lunch kit, Cody improvises by serving the deep-fried walleye, potatoes, and onions on a bed of freshly cut cedar boughs.
With the knowledge gleaned from a day on the water with our guide, combined with the well-marked map provided by Windy Point Lodge, we have no problem navigating the island-clustered North end of Kabinakagami for the rest of our trip. But Jean and I do spend one more morning with Cody, on an isolated section of the lake that he promises will not disappoint.
Spoon Feeding Walleye
After an early morning cruise to the end of a shallow, mist-shrouded inlet, a narrow passage widens into a kilometre-long basin. “Walleye hit spoons here,” Cody remarks as he casts out a chunk of metal. I’m skeptical and clip on a crankbait but again I am surprised when Jean casts a Mepps Cyclops and lands the first walleye, a fatty over 22 inches. We are in less than 10 feet of water, trolling toward a series of visible rock shoals when Cody connects with a string of scrappy midsized northern pike.
When one of the toothy fish snaps his line, I hand Cody a gold and orange Len Thompson spoon that accounts for a succession of thick walleye up to 25 inches. Once we reach the shoals I join the action, plucking big walleye from four feet of stained water on a yellow/orange X-Rap. We switch gears and troll the tiny bay’s main basin where my deep-diving Husky Jerk dredges up a pair of corpulent walleye over 26 inches.
Foolishly, we assured our wives we would be back early. Under the hot midday sun, with walleye continuing to snap at hardware over shallow structure, we reluctantly head back to the lodge with another surprising shallow water bite under our belts.
In the short time, we’re here, we remain fully engaged: angling into the dying light of the red August sun, preparing gourmet meals in our cabin, sharing drinks and stories with other guests, and enjoying bonfires on the rock point in front of our cabin. Even so, Kabinakagami, with all of her surprises and opportunities, remains largely unexplored. And this is good, considering that Windy Point Lodge is a place we’d all love to come back to.