I believe many anglers in the states have considered traveling up to Canada to fish for pike and walleye on one of the countless pristine remote lakes. I also think many folks get “boggled” down what they perceive to be a complex travel itinerary and deem the trip “up north” to fish too expensive and complicated. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way!
I just returned from my second trip up to fish in Saskatchewan and thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, including the travel. On this outing, we fished at Iskwatikan Lake Lodge www.iskwatikanlake.com which is a 25 minute float plane trip from Otter Lake. Where is Otter Lake, you ask? Well, let’s break this trip down from the beginning.
Saskatoon is the primary hub for travelers to Saskatchewan flying in from the States. Towns such as Prince Albert and La Ronge offer flights to more remote settlements where anglers board float planes and head out to remote waters.
There are many fishing lodges scattered across the providence. Some are full scale catered operations that offer 5 star meals, guides and the works. Others are designed more for the average fisherman that wishes a “do it yourself” fishing experience. When I first began learning about fishing at Iskwatikan Lake Lodge, I felt this was the perfect place for my second fishing trip to Canada. Lodge owner Bryce Liddell offers 4 day fishing trips for just over $1,000 U.S. dollars that include a very comfortable cabin, boat with motor, gasoline and fish cleaning. Traveling anglers need only furnish their fishing gear and food.
GETTING THERE From Saskatoon, we rented a car and dropped by the grocery store on the way up to Otter Bay. Stocked up on food supplies, we were on our way to Otter Bay where a comfortable room awaited. Of course, corn meal, flour and cooking oil, beans and potatoes were staples; we enjoyed fried or grilled walleye or pike everyday!
The drive to Otter Bay provided some awesome scenery which included a bull moose in velvet. We arrived early enough to spend an hour or so on the deck of the cabin, watching float planes come and go. After a good night’s sleep and great breakfast at Otter Bay we boarded our float plane and were off across miles and miles of remote, awesome country dotted with lakes of every size and configuration. The sight of Iskwatikan Lake from the air was breathtaking. I spotted “Airplane Falls” on the lower end of the lake. Later on a tour with Bryce Liddell, we learned the rich history of the falls and how it got its name. Way back in 1962 a floatplane that had landed nearby experienced a stalled engine and actually went over the lower falls but the pilot was able to secure the floating aircraft to a tree before it traveled several hundred yards to the major falls where tragedy awaited. The plane was eventually disassembled and a haul road cut through the forest to truck it out.
Once we settled into our cabins, we were given some fishing tips and were soon out on the water. The first day of our trip followed a series of stormy days and the plentiful walleye were on a “soft” bottom hugging bite. We struggled a bit because of lack of experience fishing these gin clear waters but by the second day, we had learned to use a “bottom bumping” rig that consisted of a piece of lead molded onto a bent wire with a swivel attached. We snapped on a Mepps drift rig that consisted of a spinner with primary and stinger hooks and a light floater that gave the bait just enough buoyancy to keep it drifting a foot or so up from bottom. This technique proved lethal for catching the lakes plentiful “jumbo” size walleye. The fish averaged 3 pounds up to about 6 and we caught and released a ton of them. Of course, we kept a few for our shore lunches each day.
Shoreline lunches are common in Canada and thanks to my good friend Brad Fenson, his wife Stephanie and the good folks from Camp Chef that brought their grills and cookers; we enjoyed some memorial meals of fresh fish. Evening meals included grilled elk steaks, musk ox roast, asparagus and an assortment of veggies. Being from Texas, we knew all about bacon wrapped steaks but we had never tasted bacon wrapped walleye; it is the stuff culinary dreams are made of!
We packed several of the larger Mepps Syclops spoons and big Aglia spnners for catching Pike and the baits proved absolutely lethal. In retrospect, I truly believe the only baits we needed were the Mepps trolling rigs for the walleye and the big spinners and spoons for the pike. Color combinations didn’t really seem to matter. Keep the trolling rigs a foot or so up from bottom and we caught walleye. Throw the big flashy baits in areas with pike and, we caught pike.
These “do it yourself” fishing trips are tailored for guys and gals that know at least the basics of catching fish and at least one in the group needs to be proficient at running a small tiller steered outboard. Bryce gives a tour of the lake and points out hotspots for catching the various species. There is also a healthy population of lake trout and several were landed but our crew just couldn’t get enough of the fast paced walleye catching and the battles with the pike.
I did a cost estimate for the trip and I’m sure that most anyone could make the round trip from anywhere in US for about $2,500 and this includes airfare. So, if you have always dreamed of heading “north” to fish the pristine waters of a wilderness lake, here is your opportunity. Bryce and his helpers could not be more helpful or accommodating.
Begin by visiting the website for Iskwatikan Lake Lodge www.iskwatikanlake.com and make sure and visit the Saskatchewan Department of Tourism site www.tourismsaskatchewan.com . I will warn you though, there is one problem with fishing these northern waters; I am afraid one trip won’t be enough. The floats on the plane had no more than left the waters at Iskwatikan Lake when I found myself planning next year’s return visit!
PACK A BAITCASTER
Most anglers north of the US/Canada border use spinning gear exclusively for all their fishing, regardless the species but our group of traveling Texans decided to pack our bait casters as well. I guess it’s “what you’re used to” when it comes to choosing reels for fishing. Most Texas feel lost, regardless the waters we fish, without out trusty bait casters. But to my way of thinking a good bait caster is worth its weight in gold when it comes to “feeling” the bottom. And, staying in contact with the bottom for walleye fishing was a primary concern on this fishing trip. I packed my Johnny Morris signature BPS bait caster as well as my standby spinning rig, the Bass Pro Shop’s Johnny Morris signature reel. Mounted on Bass Pro Shops 7 ft. 2 inch medium action rods with fast tips, they both performed flawlessly as they always do; that’s why they have become my “go to” combo regardless the waters I’m fishing. These rods have enough backbone to stand up to big pike and enough sensitivity to detect a soft walleye bight.
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