For many experienced Canadian anglers passing through Fort Francis, Ontario…all they know about Rainy Lake is what they see from the Noden Causeway. Most are headed to places like Vermilion Bay, Sioux Lookout and Red Lake – but for those three and a half miles – Rainy Lake comes to life with breathtaking views of water, islands and reefs.
The majority of anglers driving along don’t know Rainy is a trophy fishery and what I believe is Ontario’s most underrated big fish destination. Especially for smallmouth bass, but there are huge walleye, and 10 lb pike are common.
What makes Rainy such a fabulous fishery? For one it is huge, over 250,000 acres huge. The lake is littered with islands, reefs and shoals providing perfect big fish habitat. Some of you may think of Rainy Lake as a U.S. fishery, but actually over 70% of the lake is located in Ontario and 90% of the lake’s islands are located in Canada.
With so much of the lake residing in Canada, little development has occurred and the lake retains a wilderness feel. There are only a handful of Canadian lodges and the jewel of them all is Campfire Island located in the heart of Rainy at the crossroads of the North and South Arms. The guides there specialize in trophy smallmouth fishing and are tournament hardened anglers themselves with a passion and nose for big fish. They’ve spent their entire lives fishing Rainy and take guests to both arms in search for walleye, pike and of course trophy smallmouth bass.
Campfire Island keeps things simple, taking only 12 guests per week in three cabins – so you literally have the island to yourself. The place has an interesting past as well…the story goes that Kentucky construction magnate Brown Baggett won the lodge in a 1950s card game from Peabody Coal and then turned the 11 acre island into a private camp where he built the classic log lodge still used today
Since 1997 Campfire Island Lodge has been expertly owned and operated by Canadian’s Wayne and Pat Howard and guests enjoy American plan accommodations including all meals, lodging and guides with boat, motor and gas. My wife Janet and I are headed to Campfire Island in August and I can’t wait to set the hook on a four pound smallie!
Stay tuned, I’ll provide a firsthand report of Rainy’s trophy potential when I return. If you are planning an adventure of your own, and trophy smallmouth bass is what you are after, give the Howard’s a call. There are still a few prime spots open yet this summer.
Campfire Island Lodge
Tel: (807) 274-9500
Joel Prunty spent 20-years in the Canadian fishing lodge industry and has visited over 300 of Canada’s BEST lodges, resorts and outfitters. Now as an expert in Canadian lodges, he writes features to help improve the travels of U.S. anglers to Canada.