Ontario’s Array of Fishing Opportunities
Editor's Note: Remember Fish'n Canada's first-ever pandemic episode back in 2020? The one where Angelo and Pete break down the many different Ontario fishing opportunities available? They summed up everything from drive-to, fly-in, and train-in lodges, to American or Housekeeping Plans, to outpost camps, and more are explained. The guys explain many of the important aspects of travel-to-fishing destinations, especially when restrictions are in place.
Now that we've all resumed a normal lifestyle, this article is simply a great all-around guide to the many types of fishing opportunities that the province of Ontario offers.
Simply put, bear in mind that when travelling to these beautiful remote places, especially up north, it’s easy to forget that safety protocols were commonplace in all major cities and urban areas of our country. Social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently have become the new norm even up in the far north.
For those of you lucky enough to be visiting a lodge or fishing resort or even an outback fishing camp this year, some things may have changed from previous years. In some cases that might be opening and closing dates might have changed, meal preparation and dining arrangements as well as check-in and out procedures. The best thing to do is not to assume anything, just reach out to the operator and ask for an update.
Something For Everyone
Now let’s talk about the things that you can expect that are still the same when visiting one of the many Ontario fishing destinations, outstanding hospitality, great food, pristine wilderness, and above all an exceptional fishing adventure.
There are some tremendous fishing opportunities and great ways to experience some of Ontario’s near and far north. First, let's break down the different types of fishing opportunities available.
As anglers, we are extremely lucky to have hundreds upon hundreds of north-country, rubber tire trips to choose from. Get in your car, truck, or van, strap on a canoe, drop a boat trailer on your hitch, or simply go sans boat. For the most part, drive-to's are popular because they are economical, have less time spent getting to and from, have no restrictions on luggage, and are Ideal for bigger groups like families and friends. These are those special moments that stay with you for a lifetime.
You can travel to these convenient areas with only a vehicle or you can tow your boat for that feeling of extra confidence once on the water.
For trips that are a little more adventurous, a little more exciting, and in some cases a little more expensive…the fly-in fishing lodge experience is on the other side of the fishing trip spectrum. The excitement of driving to an airbase, hopping on a floatplane, and then dropping into a gin-clear northern Ontario lake and finally ending up in a true outdoorsy oasis, is an experience like no other.
This fishing trip is a must on any serious angler’s bucket list. Whether you book into the main camp lodge or stay on a lake all by yourself, the fly-in to a remote lake is an adventure on its own, the vistas just can’t be beaten.
And finally, one of our favourite types of fishing adventures is the train-in. Generally booked by people who have plenty of time to get in and get out of a fishing lodge. Speed is not of the essence on this one.
We have taken a few train-in fishing trips to lodge destinations and quite honestly, it is by far the most entertaining and convenient way to go. You park your vehicle at a designated train station, the train station loads up your gear and you then sit back, play some cards, eat some lunch, get social, have a snooze, etc., etc. Quite honestly, can you think of a better way to go?
The best part is getting to your destination. Often, you are simply dropped off at the trackside into the “bush” and then greeted by the lodge employees. Honestly, you will think you’re lost before they get there.
American Plan VS Housekeeping Plan
One of the interesting and in some cases unique aspects of any of these trips is that you can book most of the two different ways, the American Plan and the Housekeeping Plan.
The American plan option offers full daily food service. Most American Plan options include a hearty breakfast in the morning, a box lunch for out on the boat, and dinner served in the evening. Camps that offer fishing guides often throw in the classic Ontario "shore lunch" option of fried fish for the midday meal at least once or twice during the stay. An authentic Ontario shore lunch is what most great fishing memories are made from.
All this service comes at a cost, the American Plan is the most expensive way to enjoy an Ontario fishing experience. Although it’s great to have exquisite meals without cooking and cleaning, the American Plan does tie you to a regular eating schedule served at pre-determined times. This is not optional even if the fish are biting.
Housekeeping packages on the other hand provide lodging only and you do your cooking and cleaning. What is nice about this is that you can come and go as you please, giving you the option of fishing early or late in the day depending on weather conditions and how late the poker game ran the night before. You can also plan special meals that quickly become trip traditions among the group.
These camps come equipped with a refrigerator-freezer combination, a propane oven/stove, a barbecue grill, and all the pots, pans, dishes and utensils. You bring all the food, do not forget the coffee or it’s going to be a long 4 days.
Most Housekeeping Plans also feature a cabin with electricity, inside plumbing, hot and cold running water, and showers. However, some of the more remote fly-in camps commonly referred to as Outpost camps only provide outside toilets or outhouses, not everybody’s cup of tea… ATTENTION ANGELO!
Obviously, there are a lot of decisions that go into booking that trip of a lifetime or the annual fishing trip with family and friends, but we would like to start with one decision that usually gets overlooked, and it’s a pet peeve of ours, hiring the services of a good guide. This can make the difference between an okay trip and the most outstanding fishing trip of your life.
A good guide can be worth his or her weight in gold. Not only do they have unique and wonderful personalities, great stories to share, know all of the local folklore, and usually have a long list of jokes that‘ll keep you in stitches for hours but most importantly they have their finger on the pulse of the fishery in that area. When you spend all that money on a trip, hiring a guide for a day is a very sound investment that will usually yield you a big return. Aside from catching fish, you will learn about fishing in a day.
One final thing we’d like to leave you with during these incredibly uncertain times, if you are contemplating a vacation in the weeks or months ahead and haven’t quite made up your mind about where to go or what to do, please, consider taking a trip to an Ontario fishing lodge this year, it’s simply one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have and know that your decision could help one of the many operators who are struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic. These are really good honest people, most of them running family-operated businesses, who would love to share their little piece of heaven with you.
Consider them when you’re looking for a place to invest your hard-earned vacation money this year, I promise you won’t regret it.
How To Get There And Hotspots
Brace Lake Outfitters, Brace Lake
To get to Brace Lake Outfitters non-stop walleye and pike fishing on Brace Lake, we took Highway 400 North to Highway 11. We then headed northwest to Highway 584 at Geraldton. From there we drove north to the town of Nakina and finally took Cordingley Lake Road to the Nakina Air Seaplane Base. From there it was a short flight into Brace Lake Outfitters.
This hotspot is directly in front of Brace Lake Lodge. This waypoint will get you there.
This is a very well-known and consistent area to catch big northern pike and if you’re lucky, a chunky walleye or two could be in the mix as well. Trolling big wobbling plugs is your best bet here and you can cover a vast amount of water in a limited amount of time.
Make sure you vary your trolling speeds and throw in the odd turn or even a figure 8 with the boat. Once you contact a big fish, mark the area, and try a few more passes close by, as these monsters could be working a school of baitfish in the vicinity. Casting or drifting here are secondary options but are overall less effective than trolling.
Lauzon Aviation, Hastie Lake
Hotspot coordinates can be found in the link. This Hotspot is an area of Hastie Lake in the Algoma region of Ontario that always seems to have some beauty fish on it. Under normal conditions, we would highly recommend a popping topwater like a Pop R, but if that doesn’t work then pull out the Yamamoto Senko. Rig it wacky-style on either a jig-head or a drop shot rig. And for the ultimate advantage, try marinating your soft plastics with a natural bait scent.
To get to the awesome walleye fishing on Esnagi Lake, we first took Highway 400 north to Highway 69. We then took Highway 17 northwest to White River. We then turned right onto Hwy 631 and finally took a left on Tukanee Road to the White River Airbase. From there it’s a short flight into the luxurious Lodge 88.