Canada is just not that far away for anyone to not go there at least once in a lifetime.
Obviously, if you live in the boundary waters or even close to them, Canada is a short trip, but for us Southern boys, it’s a good day’s drive and maybe even a bit more. You have to understand that Chris and I drive across this country all the time fishing tournaments. And when she was competing on Bass’n Gal, we really logged some miles. So, don’t be a wimpy … take your family to Canada this summer! You will love it, and they will, too. Even the kids!
We have always gone to Canada North Lodge, located about 200 miles north of International Falls, Minn. The drive is easy and scenic, and you will see lots of wildlife: bears, moose, deer, ducks, geese, lynx and the list goes on. Take your camera!
The only bad part of the drive is an area where you will have a trek of 98 miles and no available fuel; otherwise, the trip is a piece of cake. All paved roads, but when you get to the lodge, the pavement ends and the rest of the roads that continue on are loggers’ roads.
Lots of moose. Or is it “meese”?
The nuts and bolts of Canadian lodge visits are about the same at all lodges. They furnish boats, motors and guides, plus meals. You don’t have to take a guide every day, but I recommend you do on your first trip.
Fishing is mostly with minnows tipped on jigs, spoons, crankbaits and slimy back leeches that are the best bait ever for walleye and pike. The species available are pike, walleye, yellow perch, lake trout, and in some areas, smallmouth bass. Muskies are found in some areas along with a few other species of trout. There is a lot of trolling, so you diehard bass fishermen … be open minded.
Fishing is from about 6 a.m. or a bit later to about 5 p.m. There is a wonderful shore lunch in the middle of the day and a relaxation period.
Mornings are all about catching a mess of walleye for the shore lunch.
Afternoons are about either catching walleye to take home or catching trophy pike — up to 25 pounds or so are not unusual. And that size pike will stretch your line!
Smallmouths are not large but plentiful in the lakes that have them.
Bear in mind that these lakes are in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by tundra-laden lands, you are in one isolated area of the world. Don’t fret; medical help is nearby as are modern-day facilities and foods. Not a wilderness; then again, it is exactly that. If you book a portage to a nearby lake, you will hike through the woods where you will learn about all the tundra, bear markings on trees and the size of moose hoof prints.
The season is from mid-May to mid-September. Anything before or after that is too cold.
And even at that, the May and June dates are cold. You will need good jackets and headwear.
Bring your thermos because hot coffee is a wonderful thing about 10 o’clock in the morning.
You can get it refilled at the shore lunch. They will cook a nice big pot for ya! Shore lunch is fried potatoes in big chunks, beans, walleye or pike, bread and soft drinks. No beer.
Now, don’t get disappointed! Here are the details of the shore lunch your doctor doesn’t want to know: The potatoes are canned whole potatoes cut up and fried to crispy in lard. Yes ... lard. The beans are out of a can and seasoned with BBQ sauce and brown sugar. And the fish are breaded with bread crumbs and fried in lard until crispy. Plain white bread slices are served. But, all are eaten outdoors on the banks of a lake formed by glaciers many, many years ago, and the smell of fresh coffee is just absolutely wonderful.
And the water is so clean and pure that you can drink it. And cold! It comes right out of the lake with no chance of impurities. The water in the lake is constantly flowing in and out as the snow melts north of there or from nearby glaciers.
But when you get back home and cook your fillets you brought home, they won’t taste the same. There is something about the clean air and water that makes them taste so good.
Accommodations are usually log cabins. Your whole family will be assigned to a cabin.
You will have a maid assigned to your cabin, and a server will be assigned to you at meals.
The meals are just really good. Ham, steaks, roast beef, baked chicken or turkey and all the trimmings and pies to die for. Iced tea or coffee or water. Sodas are available, too.
After dinner, gather up the family and check out a boat to use and head back out near the lodge so you can find your way back. After a few days, you can venture a bit more, but be sure to let the lodge know you are going out so they can keep an eye out for you.
Fish all the bulrushes and cattails — they are filled with pike. Spinnerbaits or topwaters are the key lures.
Areas of water with current are good for walleye. Jigs and baits like the Road Runner are perfect. … which reminds me: Bring your own lures. Lures in Canada are expensive. So you need to know that you have been duly warned.
Most lodges don’t have many souvenirs; you can buy those in the small towns you pass through as you travel home. The lodge does string your fish up on a log stand and take a picture of you with their lodge name painted on the pole and the date and year. They will send you pictures to you when you get home free of charge.
When you check out, you will need to pay for the lodge fee, which includes the use of a boat and motor. You will pay a daily gas fee (~$10) and a guide fee (~$50). Note: You don’t have to take a guide every day. You will be expected to leave a tip for the maid and the servers in the restaurant. You don’t do this daily. You do it one lump sum at the end of your stay. A nice sum is $200 to $300; any less would not be good. And any more would be excessive. You might spoil them. Note: Prices I quoted above may be different that current rates.
The lodge will fillet your fish at the end of the day and wrap them for you in freezer paper and freeze them for you. You are only allowed to bring back six of any species, except lake trout, and you can only bring back three lake trout. These quantities change from year to year, but the lodge will advise you when you arrive.
Bear hunting is allowed if you schedule a hunt when you sign up for the dates you asked for. The bear season is in May. Now, don’t be alarmed, but hunting hours are from about 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. or so.
Remember you are very, very north and the days are very long. The northern lights can be seen easily about 12 or so. Daylight is from 5 a.m. to midnight.
Regardless of what lodge you use in Canada, they all are about the same, and the further north you go, the better the fishing. Fly outs are available from local pilots who fly you even farther north to other lakes. Once you are airborne, and you gaze out across the horizon, you will be amazed at the number of lakes there are. Unbelievable. You will even fret a bit, wondering if the pilot will know which lake to pick you up at. (They drop you off about 9 a.m. and pick you up at 4:30 p.m. or so to get you back for the evening meal. The lodge will pack lunches for you, or you can opt for a shore lunch of fried foods, etc.)
When you get home, you will be relaxed — maybe the first vacation that you come home from completely relaxed as opposed to being exhausted.
Go this year. You’ll love it.
by Jimmy Houston