Multi-Species Fishing, Magnificent Scenery, and Friendly Folk
I can’t believe it took me this long to visit the Mattawa River. Way back in the 1600s, European voyagers used the river as part of an important trade route from Montreal to Lake Superior. There’s no doubt in my mind they saw the same beauty of the Canadian Shield that I experienced some 400 years later.
A friend of mine mentioned Mattawa River Resort and said that he knew the new owners, who have owned it for just over a year. My friend didn’t know anything about fishing but had heard it was pretty good up there. After a quick Google search, I was on board to check out this area in Northeastern Ontario that I’d never fished.
Our hosts, husband and wife team Nicole and Adrian Grigorov, immediately made us feel right at home. It’s truly a family business, as the whole family seemed to be working around the resort. This place has a lot of character clean, comfortable cabins and great food at the Cardinal Restaurant in the main lodge.
The vista at the lodge will take your breath away with views of an incredible mountain of trees on the river’s edge. It’s funny, I’ve been doing the show and travelling for 36 years now, and I’ve never been to this little corner of Ontario. I’ve been north, south, east, and west of it, but I’ve never been to Mattawa or to the Mattawa River.
Cara Carmichael, who hails from Renfrew, joined us on this trip. She’s been a friend for many years and recently got her own Ranger bass boat that she uses to fish a lot of local tournaments up in the Ottawa Valley.
On day one we decided to go out launch the boat and try fishing on the section of the Mattawa River near the resort. You can go as far east as the dam, or as far west as the rapids. I’d say there are about 10 or 12 miles of river you can fish in this section. It’s not charted on Navionics, so I didn’t want to run too fast in either direction on our first day of fishing.
Well, as it turned out we caught about 30 bass and about five northern pike just playing around out there. We decided not to film because we wanted to test the waters first, and it was incredible how many fish there were. In fact, when we quit in the evening of day one, we were catching smallmouth in over 60 feet of water on crankbaits and swimbaits by fishing them in the top 10 feet of the water column. The bass was busting pinhead minnows on the surface and, in one 200-yard stretch, we caught them one after another. Unfortunately, although the action was fast and furious, we didn’t catch any big fish.
So on day two, we decided we’d go a little bit further west, to Talon Lake in the Mattawa River Provincial Park. I had heard there were largemouth, smallmouth, and other species in there, so I thought we’d give it a try. We hooked up the boat and on our 2-km trip from the resort back out to Highway 17, my wife Sandy said we should get a Tim Hortons coffee. So rather than going west, we headed east, to the town of Mattawa to get coffee.
While we were in town, I said that we should stop at a grocery store to pick up some snacks and something for lunch, since we planned on being out until dark. So we parked the truck and Ranger on the main street while we went into the store. Well, the boat and truck caused quite a stir because there was nobody on the street when I parked, but when I came out of the store there were a bunch of people waiting at the boat to meet me and say hello. I guess somebody noticed the boat and started calling people, and all of a sudden there was a crowd. Meeting those folks and chatting with them for a little while was a great way to start the day.
After saying our goodbyes to the local folks, we pulled down the road to the Mattawa Museum and got some shots of the big wooden lumberjack statue that is outside of the building. While we were taking our pictures, I looked down on the Ottawa River, which the Mattawa River dumps into, and I saw a marina there. So, rather than head back west to Lake Talon, we decided to launch the boat and film our show with Cara on the Ottawa River that day. We fished for four or five hours and ended up catching a bunch of smallmouth bass up to about 3 pounds, along with a number of small northern pike up to 5 pounds.
We caught most of our fish on a ½-ounce lipless Berkley War Pig rattling crankbait. I can’t stress enough that these vibrating lipless crankbaits are one of the easiest lures to use. You just cast them out and crank them in. You can use a stop-and-go retrieve or a steady retrieve, a medium retrieve or a fast retrieve, it doesn’t matter—they will all catch fish. The War Pig definitely caught the majority of our fish, but we also caught some on a drop shot that we had rigged with the 4-inch black Berkley PowerBait MaxScent flatworm.
I guess the moral of this story is that there’s a lot of water to fish around Mattawa River Resort. There are a number of small lakes, and both big and small rivers, in the area, and there are all kinds of fish species available. You’ve got muskies, pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, trout, panfish—you’ve got pretty well everything that you’d ever want to catch up there. If you’re looking for an easy-to-get-to location that offers magnificent scenery, friendly folks, and unlimited fishing opportunities, do yourself a favour and get up to Mattawa River Resort.