An adventure to Minor Bay Lodge on Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan this past summer brought into focus 25 years experience of pike fishing in Canada. Four days of chasing monster sized gators on arguably the top pike fishing water in the world helped me define…what world-class means. More on that in a little bit.
Minor Bay is a classic Canadian lodge. The log structures sit on the southwestern shores of Wollaston Lake creating a scene worthy of Cabela’s catalog cover. Once inside, the open beam dining room has the smell of a fine restaurant and the buzz of trophy fish stories. The screened verandah provides a great spot to wind down after a day on the water. Modern cabins surround the lodge and include separate bedrooms, full baths, a sitting area and fridge.
Minor Bay Lodge is located in the heart of Wollaston Lake’s most productive trophy pike water. In fact, more than a few of our trophies were landed within a few miles of camp in nearby sheltered bays. The lake itself is 1,035 square miles (over a half million acres) in area -and Wollaston is the largest lake in the world that drains in two directions. Main lake depths reach over 310 ft.
My nephew, Joey Thimm and I fished Minor Bay Lodge in mid-July, where we spent four days casting over shallow, fertile cabbage beds teaming with trophies. The big pike here prefer smaller baits than the muskie tackle I packed. Lodge manager Randy Duvell prepared us though, saying, “Bring up plenty of Mepps #3 inline spinners in bright colors, pink if you can find them. And, 9” Slug-go worms in white and bubble gum are hot now too…we fish them un-weighted, Texas rigged, using #4 Tru-Turn hooks.”
My biggest pike of the week – an absolute pig at 46 inches – came off the white sluggo. The bait was just incredible; you could see it working through the shallow, crystal clear water from a mile away. Every time a pike struck we saw the gills flair and that alligator mouth impale the snake like lure.
The hottest bait of all actually came from our guide Aaron Ziegler who provided Joey a double jointed Savage he imported from Germany. The lure was lights out; with a slow lazy retrieve big pike could not resist the easy meal of the suspending plug. At one point Joey caught trophy pike on consecutive casts! He urged me to give it a try all week, but I was perfectly content watching him catch monsters on his first trophy pike adventure.
One clear sign of the trophy numbers Minor Bay produces…Aaron’s “nonchalant” reaction to landing each one we caught. You almost had to beg him to bring them in. For starters, he loves trophy pike and watching them battle, he seemed mesmerized with every one. Most of his time was spent taking pictures and shooting video. I had to remind myself, “Joel, he’s landed enough gators to know when they’re ready.” But, when you have a 25-pound lightning bolt, running you around every corner of the boat, you want to see the net in your guides hand. To Aaron’s credit we never lost a trophy at the boat.
All this big fish talk reminds me of how this trip to Minor Bay Lodge helped me define world-class pike fishing. There’s a big difference between average, good, trophy and world-class. Here are my definitions of each:
Average Pike Fishing – a majority of Canadian lodges offer pike fishing in this classification. The lake is not large enough to hold quantities of trophy pike, or there is too much pressure and the pike never get to trophy proportions. Definition: In a typical summer, lodge guests may catch one or two trophy pike (40 plus inches), and you can count on pictures of each plastered all over the lodge website.
Good Pike Fishing – these lodges are located on large lakes with good shallow water cabbage structure, they are generally drive-in with enough fishing pressure to limit trophy numbers. Lake-of-the Woods, Eagle Lake and Rainy Lake are a few that come to mind. Definition: At these lodges there is a good chance a lodge guest will catch a trophy pike during your stay. If you know what you’re doing…that angler might just be you.
Trophy Pike Fishing – Lodges on these waters have lots going for them; big water systems (think over 100,000 acres), lots of shallow bays with healthy cabbage weeds. They are generally accessible only by air which greatly reduces fishing pressure. Saskatchewan is loaded with these systems, Manitoba and NWT have them as well and a few are in Ontario. Definition: At these lodges someone in your group is going to catch a trophy maybe even a few of you.
World Class Pike Fishing – These waters are special, like Wollaston Lake they’ve got it all. You’ll find these lodges on huge lakes or river systems with massive cabbage bays, some measured in miles. The pike are genetically larger and heavier than pike found elsewhere. Pike from world-class waters generally weight over 20 lbs before they even get to 40 inches. Definition: Unless you encounter unusual weather conditions…every cast you make has the potential to land you a trophy and everyone in camp is going home with one. Many will catch multiple.
On our trip to Minor Bay everyone in camp caught a trophy, most all caught multiples in the 42 plus range with the biggest being an amazing 47 inches. I’ve got a feeling the fishing will be that way for some time to come. As we slowly drifted each bay our guide Aaron would reach out and collect seeds from the budding cabbage weeds then “sprinkle his gator dust about”.
If you love chasing huge pike – give Randy a call, you will not be disappointed.