The Late, Late Show (On Ice)

Sunset County’s finest-ice options are easily accessible, just point your truck north and go.

Recently, I wrote a web feature titled “Four Top Late-Ice Fishing Destinations.” In it, I listed locations that have historically provided great fishing during the last weeks of good ice.

I also mentioned that I’d be fishing a couple new locations this late ice—the sloughs of South Dakota/North Dakota and Sabaskong Bay, Ontario.

Given the heat wave in early March, I didn’t get to fish the sloughs around Webster and Clark, South Dakota. As I write this, many of those waters are literally waters – no ice whatsoever.

But I did get the chance to venture north, just across the U.S. border an hour or so to Nestor Falls, Ontario, to fish Sabaskong Bay out of Mike & Erin Gate’s Sunset Cove Resort.

Couldn’t have come at a better time. I had gone through a little health scare and needed a break. My uncle Danny, cousin Paul, fishing buddy “Boilermaker” John and I had been planning the trip for a couple months, so when it finally arrived, we were pretty excited.

I’m no stranger to Nestor Falls. I started fishing the area every fall with my dad and a group of guys (including one WW1 vet named “Pops”) in 1981 at 7 years old—a tradition that was carried well into the ‘90s. We stayed at Muskie Bay Lodge on Crow (Kakagi) and fished lake trout up to the closing of the season on October 1st each year. As I grew older, I also developed a love for Crow’s gorgeous smallies and trophy-class muskies.

During those years, I heard tell of Sabaskong’s incredible crappie fishing. A lot of guys in camp would fish trout and muskies for a few days on Crow and then pop over to Sabaskong for big fall slabs. And I heard the ice fishing was just as good. A crappie nut from day one, I knew I’d have to try it some day.

Boy, am I glad I did!

What we found on Sabaskong was not only some great crappie fishing, but a surprising population of 10- to 13 inch perch, walleyes, and a grand slam of other species, including smallies, tulibees, saugers and pike. We also chased lake trout on nearby Whitefish Bay.

In a word: Action. And lots of it.

Mike Gate’s 14-year-old stepson Chandler asked me: “What’s your favorite fish to fish for?”

“Whatever’s biting,” I told the kid.

And that’s pretty much the truth. I might launch the boat or venture out on the ice with a specific game plan in mind—only fishing for big walleyes, whatever—but at the end of the day, the tug is the drug. Give me a good, consistent bite and I’m like a kid in a candy store.

And in a nutshell, that’s Sabaskong Bay. Lots of bites, lots of different kinds of fish.

Most memorable, though, is the crappie fishing, with solid 12- to 14-inch gold slabs bottle-rocketing up to crush giant baits like 1/4-ounce pink Slender Spoons and plastics impaled to 1/4-ounce jig heads! It’s a power fishing game—leave the 2-pound test and tiny baits at home!

We couldn’t have been happier with Gate’s Sunset Cove Resort.

Everything said and done, it cost each of us $100/day, and that’s including our gas from Minneapolis and enough groceries for four days. We didn’t skimp either—3-inch thick bone-in pork chops, BBQ ribs, corned beef and cabbage … $50 a night per guy for a clean cabin with hot water and bedding supplied. Hard-house fishhouses rent for $50-$80 a day. Check out all of their rates here.

The highlight? Mike Gate put on a Wednesday night fish fry for camp guests that you just can’t put a price tag on! Nothing beats fresh fish out of clean winter waters.

And for guys who consider bringing home a legal limit maximized ROI, that’s not hard to do on Sabaskong either.

Sunset Cove also makes an affordable and convenient base camp location to venture out and test other waters during the open-water or hardwater season. Crow Lake is just down the road, as well Whitefish and Regina Bays. The options are endless.

Can’t wait to get back this summer!

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