Northwestern Ontario’s Walleye Wonderland

Northwestern Ontarios Walleye Wonderland

“Me and my ultra-rugged fishing buddy, Mike (Plexy) Plexman with a juicy Ogoki River walleye. (Mattice Lake Outfitters)”

I don’t know how many walleyes I’ve caught in my life. Thousands and thousands, I’m sure. And, the vast majority of them were caught somewhere in northwestern Ontario, deep in the Canadian Shield, north of Thunder Bay. I’m not sure how many walleyes I eaten in my life. Not thousands… but, hundreds? Damn straight, Jack!

My preferred fly-in fishing trip is to an outpost camp rather than the American Plan lodge. If you’re not sure of the difference, an outpost camp is more of a do-it-yourself type of trip where you are dropped off on a remote lake and left on your own for the duration of your trip. You’ll bring in your own food, fishing tackle, sleeping bag, pillow, towel and even floatation vests, in some cases. The cabin will be fairly small, but big enough to sleep maybe 8 or 10 guys… fully equipped with running hot and cold water, propane fridge and stove and whatever you’d need to cook and serve your meals. You’d be handling all of the camp duties like cooking, cleaning fish, and taking care of the boats. This type of trip is almost always unguided. But don’t worry too much about that if you have even a half decent skill set when it comes to fishing and general wilderness know-how. So, in other words, if you think a mini-van is rugged, don’t go on this trip!

Northwestern Ontarios Walleye Wonderland

“Come on, let’s go! (Ogoki Frontier)”

On the other hand, the American Plan lodge is fully serviced. There will be a main lodge, often upscale, and there will be guides, cooks, food servers, cabin attendants on and on… plus, there will normally be lots of other guests in camp at the same time. This type of fishing trip is more suited to the people who don’t have a lot of bush skills or, simply prefer to have staff around to help them do this or that. I like the outpost far better because I like the peace and quiet of the remote cabin setting, plus, I like to come and go when I want to. The American Plan lodges normally have set schedules… breakfast is at… fishing starts at… fishing ends at… dinner is served at… no thanks.

So, I really do prefer the outpost camp, mainly because I’m rugged. Rugged to the bone! I’d rather be in the bush and on my own any day. Now, about the “unguided” part… don’t worry about this too much. If you can manage to operate a small aluminum boat, probably a 14 footer, with a 15 HP on it, you’ll be fine. If you bring in a portable sonar unit, fish will be easy to find. Back at the base camp, there will be an orientation before you board the float plane where the camp manager will discuss a list of things with you. Safety is always at the top of that list. But, they’ll also provide you with a map of the lake and some known hot spots will be marked, along with any big rocks or reefs you need to know about.

Northwestern Ontarios Walleye Wonderland

“A float plane is about as rugged as it gets! (Ignace Outposts)”

It’s very likely that on your 5, 6 or 7 day trip to an outpost, you’ll be the only group on the lake. Now, that’s rugged. Ultra-rugged, in fact! Some lakes, however, especially, the larger ones, may have a few camps on them, often owned by different outfitters. Look into this before you book your trip. Once, and only once, I was disappointed to learn (once we got there!) that there were five cabins on the same lake and the lake wasn’t a huge one. Sometimes, there might may be an American Plan lodge 10 miles down the lake… if so, you’ll see other boats buzzing around every day. Try to find a camp that’s private. Wouldn’t it be sweet to rent a whole lake for one week?

Hell ya!

Northwestern Ontario has killer fishing for northern pike, lake trout, speckled trout, musky, smallmouth bass and even largemouth bass in the Kenora area. But, it’s the walleye that the area is famous for. The “bread ‘n butter” fish, many camps will say. Walleyes are easily the best eating fish on the planet, at least if you’re asking me, they are! I can promise you, there are few experiences that are more rugged than catching a stringer of walleyes, then heading to shore and cooking them an hour later… on an open fire with a big-ass cast iron pan!

Northwestern Ontarios Walleye Wonderland

“Ultra-rugged cameraman Adam, with the world’s tastiest fish!”

Walleyes are very easy to catch. Jigs are the main weapon of choice, but they’ll hit minnow baits, spoons and crankbaits too. Live bait, like minnows, worms and leeches are popular, but not needed. Besides, bringing in live bait costs money and you have to keep them fresh (and alive.) Sometimes, your minnows are half dead by the time the float plane arrives at the camp. If you do use live bait, I’d go for worms and leeches. They keep well and walleyes do love ‘em. Most of your walleye fishing will be on or near bottom in anywhere from 8 – 20 feet of water.

I’ve put together a list of outpost camps that I’ve been to… my recommendations, basically. I’ve been to a few crappy places too and I wouldn’t wish that anyone! But, I feel 100% confident that if you go to one of the camps below, you’ll have a great trip. Each operator has around 10 cabins on various lakes and I have been to at least 4 or 5 cabins run by each them… accept for Thousand Lakes Outposts. They only have two cabins, but I’ve been to them both. Weather can really screw things up, but other than that, you can pretty much relax. These people have their act together and all of them are veterans of the business, having providing ultra-rugged fishing trips for several decades.

Northwestern Ontarios Walleye Wonderland

“Shore lunch is required… if this does not look incredibly delicious, you need some serious food counselling”

If you want some private information, send an email in to the site with your phone number and I’ll give you a very rugged phone call, likely the most rugged phone call you’ll ever receive.

So, in no particular order:

Mattice Lake Outfitters based near Armstrong, Ontario.

Ogoki Frontier, also based near Armstrong, Ontario

Ignace Outposts, based in… you guessed it, Ignace Ontario

Thousand Lakes outposts operates out of Armstrong, Ontario

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