Two follows and a swirl, a good day muskie fishing? That’s what I was told the first time I went to chase these elusive creatures. Muskie fishing is a bit of a special pursuit; you torment yourself for hours, days or years on end, for the chance at even putting eyes on one of these beasts. But when you do, the thrill of that encounter is worth it all.
Northwestern Ontario boasts a mecca of trophy muskie water, with plenty of opportunity for anglers looking to chase these creatures. Whether you’re from Ontario, Manitoba, or beyond, there are plenty of opportunities to fish these behemoths across Northwestern Ontario.
Muskie season opens the 3rd Saturday in June, and runs until December 15th, with fishing opportunities being good nearly throughout this entire season. Whether you like casting or trolling, there are ideal times for both, but anglers can do just about anything, at any part of the season. Casting in the shallows is typically best early in the season, and casting remains productive all summer long, casting around vegetation, and over rocky points, shoals and other structure. Casting can also produce fish in the fall, but most muskie anglers transition to trolling come fall. Talking to most hardcore muskie guys, there is not really a bad time to go. If you can get out, and it’s muskie season, go for it. There’s never a sure thing, but it’s always a good time to be out, logging hours on the water.
Here is a list of some of the more famous lakes in the region.
Lac Seul sits just outside of Sioux Lookout, about an hour North of Hwy 17, about a half hour East of Dryden. It is a well-known fishery, and boasts big water, and big fish. The lake was flooded when the Ear Falls Hydro dam was built in the early 1900’s.
It’s a big, complex piece of water, divided into several different sections, with the eastern end, near Sioux Lookout being home to most of the muskie water, and is home to numerous lodges and outfitters on the lake and in the area. I’ve fished several times with Ben Beattie (benbeattieoutdoors.com) whose home is on Lac Seul. He’s been guiding for years, and currently guides out of Winoga Lodge on Lac Seul (winoga.com). “Catching muskie on Lac Seul is an adrenaline filled experience” Beattie says. “Low fishing pressure and true trophy potential make it a must fish on any muskie anglers list”.
Lake of the Woods
LOTW is a well-known lake, covering a massive area, with some exceptional muskie angling opportunities. I spoke with Darcy Cox of Tank Industries Guide Service (muskyguide.ca). He had some info to share on LOTW that has me even more fired up to get to this truly amazing piece of water.
“Musky fishing on LOTW is second to none” Cox says. “We have plenty of fish over the 50” range, it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, the wildlife is diverse and plentiful, and it’s a massive lake that can sustain thousands of Musky anglers at any given time if needed (which never is the case!). With 14,632 islands you’ll always be able to get away from the crowds and be in big fish territory”. If you like big fish, Cox describes Muskies in certain sections of the lake as being built like railroad ties. “Even when these types of fish are at their lowest weight, they still look massive from head to tail.” If you like excitement, this is the place. “Muskies on LOTW LOVE to eat at boat-side. More than 60% of the fish we catch eat right at our feet! Catching them this way is easily one the most (if not THE most) exhilarating freshwater experiences that exist”. If you have never experienced the rush this brings, it is a must do. Seeing, and catching fish an arms-length away is indescribable. Add it to your bucket list.
When to go?
When asked when’s the best time to be on the lake, it sounds like it’s always. “If you know what the fish are doing, there really isn’t a bad time to be fishing Muskies on LOTW. I’ve had times of the year that totally shocked me with how active they were compared to previous years, and had what I thought were my active times totally go dead. Weather is the biggest thing that dictates what the bite is going to be like. Stability, pre frontal, or frontal are when you want to be out there. Weather always trumps all!” With the lake offering everything from clear water (oligotrophic) to heavily stained (mesotrophic) sections, you can pick your poison relating to what is going on at that time of year or individual day.
Now I’ve never fished muskie into the dark, but Cox says he fishes into and past last light. “This is extremely important to put the odds in your favour especially if you’re targeting a section of the lake that is oligotrophic.
Eagle Lake is another Northwestern Ontario muskie lake worth adding to your list, sitting between Dryden and Kenora, just South of Hwy 17. It is an interesting piece of water, that holds good numbers, and big fish. North Shore Lodge (northshorelodge.ca) is a great destination if Eagle Lake is on your list, with lodging, meals, boat rentals, and giant muskie on the walls to get you dreaming. It’s close to Hwy 17, and an easy drive-to muskie destination. The lake has a variety of different water to fish, from gin clear sections to the darker, tea stained water, all holding big fish.
Wabigoon sits very near the town of Dryden, and offers some great opportunities for anglers. Len and Nancy Davis run Bonny Bay Camp, (bonnybay.com) and gave me some insight on Wabigoon. “Wabigoon Lake is the best-kept muskie hotspot in Ontario. With a high population of feeder fish such as walleye, bass and perch, the muskie have an endless banquet of food, which allows them to grow fast and grow big”. With over 50,000 acres of water it is a big piece of water, with plenty of room to explore. The lake is spotted with hundreds of islands, rocky points and shoals and feeder streams. “The best place to catch a Muskie is in-or-on the edge of large water-cabbage patches that grow off the rocky points leading into deep bays, with many such places on the lake.” The lake boasts good numbers of fish, and anglers from Bonny Bay seem to do quite well, consistently catching fish that average between 36 and 40-inches, with fish released up to 50 inches each year Wabigoon is an easily accessible lake, with great muskie opportunities.
Muskie fishing is a unique and challenging pursuit, but one that you absolutely must try. Having to travel several hours to get to muskie waters, it took me awhile to get out and try it, but after that first trip, I was hooked. It’s an indescribable fishing experience, and if you like the challenge, and rush that come with crafty, big fish, you need to go.