Black Bay Perch

Long-time fishing buddies Gord Ellis and Sandro Fragale often talk up the jumbo perch fishing in Lake Superior’s Black Bay. Today, though, is when the rubber meets the road. I’m on the back of Gord’s snowmobile following Sandro as he zips across the hard-packed snow of an expansive stretch of frozen water east of Thunder Bay. After several kilometres, Sandro throttles back, consults his handheld GPS and stops over a nondescript patch of ice.

Although we’re in the middle of a broad bay, far from shore, the series of holes we drill range from 12 down to 20 feet deep. We’re all equipped with fish finders and it quickly becomes apparent that Sandro has delivered us to the right spot. “I’ve got some fish going here,” says Ellis as he stares at his fish finder and manipulates his jigging rod before setting hard into a good fish. The fat perch that surfaces is pushing 14 inches – a true jumbo.

It’s not long before Sandro and I follow suit, icing similar specimens no smaller than 11 inches. As the accumulation of quality perch proceeds, I look around at the vast expanse of Black Bay. I see signs of where others have fished and distant clusters of ice fishing shacks, but it’s by no means crowded. “The perch fishing on this bay is endless, James,” Sandro mentions as he teases another jumbo into committing.

Superior Perch

Lake Superior is probably not the first place people think of as a perch fishing destination. However, Black Bay differs from the icy depths that dominate most of Superior. At over 50 kilometres (over 30 miles) long, and 20 kilometres (nearly 12.5 miles) wide this huge bay is relatively shallow and supports a warm water fishery that was once the target of commercial fishing. As the commercial fishery wound down, the walleye, perch and pike fishery rebounded. Over the last decade the popularity of Black Bay has steadily increased and the fishing is getting better and better.

Accessible Angling

Experienced and equipped do-it-yourself anglers can reach the bay from the public access point at Hurkett, just off the TransCanada Highway. More and more families and novice anglers are enjoying fishing for Black Bay perch with the help of outfitters. Hamilton Baits and Ice Hut Rentals and Bear Trak Outfitters have ice fishing day huts to keep you out of the cold and over the fish and even overnight huts with sleeping and cooking facilities — less than an hour east of Thunder Bay.

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

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