Wilderness Wanzatika Lake

Fly-in to a remote Northern Ontario Lake to hook a walleye and a pike at the same time in Wanzatika Lake.

From the fight, it’s hard to tell if I’ve hooked a pike or a walleye. But when the chartreuse spinner of my worm harness emerges from the stained water, what feels like a substantial fish turns out to be two: a walleye on the front hook and a pike on the back. I’ve never hooked two fish at a time before, but at Wanzatika I’m not surprised. The lake is loaded.

Hearst Air’s Wanzatika Lake Outpost Camp is less than a half-hour flight from the base along Highway 11 and as my wife Francine and I carry our gear up to the cabin, we watch as our link to civilization disappears with the drone of the departing aircraft.

Scoping It Out

The first few walleye come quickly along the rocky shoreline in front of the cabin. With the presence of fish confirmed we opt for an afternoon cruise to scope out the lake. The graph reveals a maximum depth of 25 feet with most of the lake around 15 or shallower. At roughly four kilometres long and one wide, the lake is small enough to navigate in a few hours -- provided we don’t fish. We make it about a quarter way around before being seduced by a thick weed bed. Francine dunks a jig and worm into weedless pockets under the boat while I suspend a jig and leech under a slip float. It’s a relaxing way to fish and accounts for numerous walleye to 22 inches and perch to 14.

hearst air bushplane
Hearst Air’s floatplane dropped us off at the wilderness outpost camp at Wanzatika Lake. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

After a solid dose of angling, we’re able to unwind, step back and absorb our situation. Huge front windows within the vertical log cabin look out over a succession of pine-capped, round granite bluffs leading to the water’s edge. We brought sleeping bags, food, and fishing tackle. Everything else we need for a comfortable five-day stay is found in the cabin. The propane fridge, stove, and lights are put to use as I crack a cold beer and prepare a plate-load of fresh fillets in the fading light of early evening.

Search for Structure

After sampling Wanzatika’s shallows, I head out the next day to probe her depths with a bottom bouncer and crankbait. All is quiet until I locate an elongated hump rising to 13 feet and tie it into a good fish. I throw out a marker and crisscross the hump. Every pass produces walleye either on top or along its edge. It’s the same story drifting a jig and soft plastic tail.

woman releasing walleye
Francine Dubreuil releases a lovely walleye from Wanzatika Lake. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Francine spends a lot of time reading, relaxing, or catching pike and walleye from shore in front of the cabin. I spend most of my time in front of the six-horsepower and eventually make it around the entire lake. Even as the plane arrives to fly us out, I’m on the water over a newly-discovered piece of structure. The flight out gives me a final gaze at Wanzatika and the humps, ledges, and huge weed beds left untouched.

About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.


Visit James at www.jamessmedleyoutdoors.com

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