This Tales from the Road column starts with me making a second trip to Lake Okeechobee to take Mark Bruno and his brother John out for a day of fishing. Mark won a day of fishing with me through a contest run by the folks at Navionics and he’s a pretty fanatical fisherman. John likes to fish too, but he’s definitely not as hard-core as his brother. We went into this area way back through some reeds, into a shallow water bay that was probably 20-acres in size. It was pretty windy so we drifted through the bay then fished our way back up, then drifted through again, kind of doing a grid pattern. We used Berkley Havoc Grass Pigs and Berkley Powerbait Rib Shads for the whole day and the bass were on! The fishing was so good, we lost count after 50 fish. The biggest was caught by the least hard-core of the three of us in the boat, John Bruno. He had one that was over 6-pounds that hit a Grass Pig right at the boat. It was pretty exciting to see this fish clobber his swimbait right beside the boat! John and Mark were going to go golfing the next day but I said I was going back out fishing and asked them if they wanted to join me and my wife Sandy for another half day fishing. They agreed, so we went to another area of the lake and caught another bunch of fish on swimbaits. Mission accomplished!
After spending a few extra days in Florida, it was time to make the long drive back home. About 10 in the evening we were driving through Kentucky, with the Ranger in tow, when the transmission on my truck gave out. We limped to the next exit, got a room and headed to the dealership the next morning. It turned out that they needed to order the parts and, because it was a Friday, nothing would happen until the next week. I had some commitments on the following Monday and Tuesday nights so, at around noon, we called my son, Darren, to see if he could make the 10-hour drive down to Kentucky with my wife’s Suburban to pick us up. He said he could and he was down there by 11 o’clock. The next morning we hooked up the Ranger, left the truck down there to get fixed, and headed home.
On Monday and Tuesday evenings I did some product knowledge and sales seminars for the fishing staff at the Sail stores in the Greater Toronto Area. Most of the Sail fishing staff are very knowledgeable anglers and it was a real pleasure talking to them about products, techniques and how to treat customers. One thing that impresses me is that Sail is very aware of customer service and want to provide the best customer service they can.
Then it was back in the vehicle for a trip to Gimli, Manitoba. We decided to drive as far as Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the first day while my brother Wayne and his friend, Jerry Collins, headed to Manitoba to pick up a new SnoBear and trailer in Winkler, Manitoba from Agassiz trailers. Ed Martens of Agassiz cargo trailers and I had a chance to fish together more than two-decades ago in the Duck Mountains, Manitoba, for trout. He got involved in the trailer business and now he makes incredible trailers. He made an enclosed trailer for our SnoBear that is absolutely wonderful for keeping the machine clean and safe while trailering.
We ended up meeting Wayne and Jerry in Winnipeg. They were getting something to eat and we needed to get our Manitoba fishing licences, and somehow we converged at the same time in the same plaza. It’s funny how, after over 1000 miles of driving we met up by chance before we headed to the hotel in Gimli. After a quick stop to see our friend Jason Gauthier who is the co-owner of the Howard Johnsons and Hat Tricks Sports Bar & Grill in Winnipeg, it was time to head up to the annual SnoBear Jamboree in Gimli, on Lake Winnipeg.
Lake Winnipeg is an absolute walleye factory and as soon as we started to fish Wayne hooked up with what turned out to be the biggest walleye of our trip – an 11-plus pound greenback. It’s funny how sometimes the biggest fish gets caught first. We had some pretty good fishing over the next few days but Wayne’s was definitely the biggest of the trip.
After breakfast on Sunday morning we packed up and headed to Kenora to hook up with Gord and Lynn Pyzer and Cameron Tait for dinner. Early the next morning we started filming for lakers on a very icy lake that had more than one of us slip sliding and landing on our rear ends. We only caught one laker but still had a great day. Cameron Tait is a culinary art instructor at Red River College in Winnipeg who has won two gold medals in cooking. This guy is amazing. We set up a couple of Coleman Gladiator Hyperflame stoves on the side of the lake and Cameron prepared an incredible shore lunch. We had walleyes from Lake Winnipeg and the fresh lake trout that Gord Pyzer had caught. It was a truly memorable meal as only a chef like Cameron could make.
That evening we headed through Minnesota and the next day we drove on to London, Kentucky to pick up my truck while Wayne and Jerry headed home. After getting my truck, we headed back home too.
On Sunday we packed up again and headed for Griffith, Ontario, to fish with my former neighbour, Mark Alford. Now that he’s retired, all he does is hunts and fishes, and he’s put thousands of miles on his ATV exploring the different lakes in that region. We fished with him for a couple of days, catching whitefish and perch before heading home.
On Easter Monday long-time Real Fishing Radio co-host Gord Pyzer arrived to do some taping for the Real Fishing Radio Show. Then I had a few meetings and a bit of office work to do before taking some of my daughter’s boyfriend’s family members fishing out of St. Catharines. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and we got blown off the water by high winds.
Then I boarded a flight to Ottawa for dinner with a number of people that are involved with the Outdoor Caucus. They asked if I would speak the next morning at their meeting at the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. I’m always amazed at how Senators and MPs from all ridings support the Outdoor Caucus. I’m not a real political guy so it’s pretty cool to have an opportunity to talk about how important these outdoor activities are to Canadians and how we need to protect our right to enjoy these activities across the country.
After getting home for a few more meetings, a family dinner and a dentist’s appointment, it was time to hit the road up to Huntsville, Ontario, to fish for ice-out lake trout with Dave Kennedy. I’ve known Dave for a long time through tournament fishing, but I’ve never had an opportunity to fish with him so this was a lot of fun. We had a tough day of fishing but we managed to put three in the boat and got our show segment shot.
The in-laws arrived to the house for a few days and after they left I picked up a new Suburban at Bolton GM. It’s amazing how many miles I’ve already put on it. In the 20-days since I picked it up I’ve already put on over 8,000 kilometers. If I keep going at this rate I’ll have about 100 and some odd thousand kilometers on it by the end of the year.
Then a group of us decided to take a bunch of boats down to the New York side of Lake Erie to fish for smallmouth and walleye. We ended up having a spectacular day with every boat catching numerous walleyes and smallmouth bass. The biggest smallmouth was just over six-pounds and the biggest walleye was in the eight-pound range. Close to 90% of the fish were caught on a gold Johnson ThinFisher blade bait worked slowly off the bottom.
Then it was back home for a production meeting and an early birthday party for my son Darren. After that, Derek Strub and I started our drive to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament.
We had the worst practice we’ve ever had for his tournament and on day-one we weighed in just under 19-pounds for our six fish limit, which put us in 91st place. We were pretty bummed out so the next day we decided to fish a different area and ended up with six bass that weighed 26.99 pounds. We moved up to the last paying place – which was 32nd spot – in the large, talented field of smallmouth anglers.
After the tournament I got back home for one night heading up to Reid’s Birch Island Resort in Ontario’s Sunset Country. I’ve known Phil Reid for close to three-decades and his family have been deeply entrenched in the fishing lodge business going back three generations.
On this particular outing we had a number of friends join us, along with some prize winners from a Toro dealer’s contest we were involved with. We focused on walleye fishing in the morning, and then switched to pike fishing after the water heated up in the afternoon. It was pretty much jig and minnow fishing for the walleyes, and the fishing was quite good every day.
The pike fishing was very easy too. At one point my cameraman and I hit three small bays in an hour and caught in the neighbourhood of 20 pike by covering water with lipless, rattling Sebile Flatt Shads and Berkley Powerbait Rib Shads. For the rest of the afternoon and the following afternoon I proceeded to run as many bays as I could, targeting these post-spawn pike. It was textbook pike fishing and you could literally catch as many as you wanted.
For me, the absolute highlights of the trip were the meals we had at the lodge. Chef Dave Rosewarne is one of the best chefs I have ever met. On the first night we were there we had Beef Wellington and it was cooked to perfection. The next day we had a quartet of four different meats on our plates – beef tenderloin with a Hollandaise sauce, chicken parmesan, a lamb chop and pork tenderloin, with side dishes that were absolutely delectable. I cannot tell you how incredible the meals were.
Birch Island Resort has four rooms in the main lodge, four on the upper level of the boathouse and six more off the back of the main lodge, each with its own private bathroom. We stayed in one of the boathouse rooms and it was incredibly comfortable. Birch Island is an absolutely beautiful place to stay. This is an ideal resort for families, weddings, corporate getaways or just a fishing trip with your fishing buddies.
After shooting video until around two in the afternoon on day three of our trip to Birch Island, it was time to get on the road to Laurentian Lodge, just north of Elliot Lake, to meet up with fishing guide and tournament angler, Frank Clark.
Laurentian Lodge is located about 20-minutes north of the city of Elliot Lake in the Algoma district of northern Ontario. It was originally built as a fly-in fishing and hunting lodge back in the 1930s and it’s been transformed into quite a resort. Located on Flack Lake, it’s great place for a family getaway or for an avid sportsperson to go fishing or hunting. You can even have your wedding up there.
Flack Lake offers brook trout, lake trout and smallmouth bass, and there are several hundred other lakes in the area that you can go to for all kinds of species. What I’ve always liked about the Algoma region is the vast number of lakes that are available to fish. They are literally teeming with fish but receive very little pressure because of the low population base in the area.
The mosquitos and blackflies showed up at Laurentian Lodge just about the same time that we got up there so I had the OFF! Clip-on on my waist the whole time I was there. The funny thing is, I didn’t get bit but the fish were biting. I’ve always said that when the bugs are biting the fish are too, and it seemed to be true on this trip.
On this outing we started fishing right at the resort and caught 10 lake trout in about three-hours by slowly trolling Johnson Slama spoons tipped with a minnow behind the Motorguide Xi5 remote control electric motor.
After getting our lake trout taping done, I thought it would be fun to see about the smallmouth bass fishing. One of the cool aspects of this particular region is that the bass season is open year-‘round north of Highway 17, in Ontario’s zone 10 in Algoma Region.
Frank said that he had never fished for smallmouth on Flack Lake but he was willing to give it a try. Well, in a few short hours we caught more than 25 bass on Sebile Lipless Seeker and Sebile Flatt Shad crankbaits. It was incredibly easy fishing!
The next day we decided to venture to another one of the lakes in the area to fish for smallmouth bass but when we got on the water we were faced with 20-mile per hour winds, a cold front and some pretty tough fishing conditions, but the fish didn’t seem to mind. Frank and I ended up catching about 15 bass while my brother Wayne, and his buddy Jerry Collins, who were with us running the camera boat, caught a dozen. Did I mention that Wayne tends to fish way too much when he runs the camera boat?
The biggest fish in each boat was 6.2-pounds and we had several fives and numerous fours to go with them. Jerry’s five heaviest fish weighed 27.4-pounds and was the biggest five-fish bag he had ever caught. And he’s not even a hard-core bass fisherman! It was truly some incredible smallmouth bass fishing. This was one of those trips that had me wanting to stay longer but, because of my other commitments and tight schedule, I couldn’t. I can’t wait to go back and do some more fishing up there sometime. What can I say, it’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it – and I’m glad it’s me!