Over the past 25-years, I’ve chased walleye all over Canada; on all kinds of waterways; from ice out to ice in. These adventures have taught me a few things about finding big walleye, but my adventure last summer to Slippery Winds Wilderness Resort turned all this knowledge upside down.
My understanding – and that of most walleye aficionados – is that you’ll find the biggest walleyes on Canada’s biggest lakes and river systems. These big systems do produce trophies, no doubt, but targeting them is a challenge.
It’s easiest early and late season when walleye are shallow and feeding heavily. The vast majority of my biggest walleye have come during these seasons. As the water warms, the biggest walleye begin to chase bait fish and relate to mid lake structure, thermocline and current. These factors make them very difficult to target, especially with a camp boat out on big water.
This is where last summer’s trip to Slipper Winds turned my walleye-world upside down. The lodge is neither on a huge lake system, nor are its water difficult to fish, or is it located in Canada’s hard to reach wilderness. Most anglers’ first instinct is to head to “the end of the road”. But, what if “trophy walleye” can be found at “the beginning of the road”? In Northwest Ontario the beginning of the road starts at Fort Francis, just across the border from International Falls, MN.
Slippery Winds airbase there is only 4.5 hours from Minneapolis, just 9 hours from Chicago and a mere 11.5 hours from St Louis.
It’s hard to determine what accounts for the trophy size walleye on Yoke Lake where Slippery Winds resides. The water is obviously fertile and the walleye are genetically larger than any I’ve ever seen. Personally, I think it has to do with the surrounding waters. Yoke is actually on a group of varying lakes that feed it and all are fishable via portages.
Yoke Lake is the prize of the group for big walleye. Its “U” shape makes it easy to fish and most points and reefs produce walleye. The key to catching a trophy here is the evening bite. An hour before dusk the big walleye move into the prime feeding spots and a simple jig and a minnow is all it takes to land one. My wife Janet and I fished every evening and each night we understood the bite better and caught bigger and bigger walleye. The final night produced my personal best ever a gorgeous 29 incher we photographed and let slip back into Yoke Lake. Both Janet and I caught multiple fish each evening ranging from 27-29 inches. Those are monster walleye!
The daytime bite is much slower, but regular resort guests have developed a slow trolling method with a very light floating leader and crawler harness to be productive. Using these methods other guests in camp produced big fish all day.
The beauty for us though of Slippery Winds is the portage lakes. We fished the evening bite on Yoke for trophy walleye and then hit the portage lakes during the day for walleye, large and Smallmouth bass, and lake trout.
Straw Lake to the east is shallow and stained, rich with nutrients and full of small and largemouth bass. Over the past several years it has also produced trophy walleye as well. A trip to the end of Straw brings you to Sucan providing similar offering.
The other portage lakes (Crossroute, Bluffpoint and Sullivan) are clear, deep water lakes that hold big Smallmouth bass and good supplies of eater size lake trout. Janet and I headed to Sullivan Lake one morning and the double portage is just spectacular. One stretch takes you right along the connecting creek and waterfall. Several passes between two points trolling spoons produced nice eater size lakers.
Slippery Winds Wilderness Resort is a small American plan (meals and maid service) resort with just four cabins providing the basics. The lodge is a classic Canadian log structure that adds to the wilderness atmosphere. The homey Kitchen and dining room cranks out excellent traditional fare and more than you can possibly eat.
Just across the U.S. border, this place is a true wilderness experience only access is by floatplane which completes the adventure.
If your fishing bucket list contains catching a trophy walleye, I recommend heading to Slippery Winds, it’s easy to fish without a guide and you will have a great chance to catch a Monster Ontario Walleye.