Let me preface this by telling you that I haven’t been to Canada for a fishing trip in over 10 years. I had become frustrated with the border crossing difficulties, inexplicable variable exchange rates, the US cash-only payment system and just the hassles of the trip for the rewards gained. I was quite happy fishing state-side with the Mississippi River, Green Bay and Erie offering truly “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities at every turn. I also was spending more time at the family complex in Minnesota so I really hadn’t missed the Canadian experience. However, in the fall of 2015 while tailgating with some old high school buddies they asked if I would consider planning a trip to Canada in 2016. These are a great group of people and I knew I’d have a great time with them wherever we decided to go so I relented and agreed to go North. I explained to them that I was getting older and softer and didn’t want to just go to some outback shack to spend a week regardless of how good the fishing and scenery might be. I needed a little luxury for the old bones! They were in agreement and I set off on the mission of finding a truly wilderness experience with some of the luxuries of state side fishing. I worked the interwebz, talked with friends and spent some time scouting sport shows. I narrowed down the list of possible locations and let everyone voice their thoughts before we came to a consensus agreement: Thousand Lakes Outposts camp at Kearns Lake Ontario. Thousand Lakes Outposts is the first foray into outfitting for former bush pilot, Dwayne Bolen and his wife. They have two camps with the large camp at Kearns Lake and a smaller camp on a nearby lake. The Kearns outpost will sleep up to 12 comfortably and has all of the amenities expected in a “luxury” back country cabin: indoor plumbing with flush toilet
(back up outdoor facilities as well), running water with basically unlimited hot water, propane appliances, electric system run by solar and generator, electric appliances in conjunction with the generator, satellite phone and satellite TV. The cabin has a large deck area, appropriate fish frying and steak grilling equipment, as well as a fish cleaning house. A big plus were the boats with excellent seating and quality 20Hp Yamaha motors. All boat gas is on site and everything needed for a successful fishing trip is available at the cabin. We drove to Thunder Bay and met Dwayne the night before our fly-in was scheduled. While Dwayne is a pilot and has a Cessna although he contracts with the Mattice Lake Air Service to fly-in his guests. Mattice flies out of an airbase just south of Armstrong, Ontario (about a 2 ½ hour drive north of Thunder Bay). The advantage of Mattice is that they fly the de Havilland turbo Otters that are faster, allow for a larger weather window and allow more room for guys and gear than the smaller Beavers and Cessnas of the world…more comfort! Note: Mattice also services over a dozen of their own outpost camps and they have some interesting options as well.
While the cabin at Kearns got my attention it was the fishing that closed the deal. This is a classic Canadian shield walleye/northern fishery. While there are reported to be both small mouth bass and yellow perch in the lake our party never encountered either species. What we did encounter were lots and lots of walleyes and larger than average northern pike. The lake is about 5 miles long and around 1-2 miles wide with several islands and bays to allow you to fish in just about any weather or wind. I’ve always preferred fishing Canadian shield lakes in mid-late summer when the fish have taken up residence on their summer feeding areas and are easily found and patterned. We found walleyes throughout the water column from 4’ to 60’ but our bigger fish and the most fish were in the 20-30’ depth and related to structural elements but not necessarily right on the structure. We found lots of walleyes in the “eater” range of 16-20” and a few fish in the 21-25” range but nothing larger. The walleyes were taken with several different presentations but ¼ oz jigs(variable colors but gold was the best) and 4” grubs/worms/twister tails were the easiest and most consistent with any type of live bait(crawlers/leeches) presentation coming in a close second. Our largest walleye came while trolling a Hot’n’Tot on braid in 25’ of water. The fishing at Kearns is like many other Ontario fly-in camps where the number of fish caught is just mind-boggling and after a day or two you are trying to find a lure or presentation they won’t bite! The “Jacks” were the attraction of the trip because of their size and typical demeanor. We caught lots of Northerns over 30” with fish up to 39”. The length of the fish is somewhat misleading because of the width or “brawn” that these fish displayed…they were heavy! The primary forage in Kearns Lake is the cisco (Coregonus artedi) and as a result the fish were super healthy and very fat. We caught the Jacks on all types of presentations but the bigger fish came from the deeper water (30-40’) and most were taken on dorkrigged crankbaits and spoons. We actually had to work to get Northerns small enough to clean for dinner and for those that wanted to freeze and bring fish home. The outfitter asks that all Jacks over 30” be released and the Ontario regs for the lake allow only one fish over 27.5” per license. Because of the lake’s reputation for large Jacks I elected to take in my own landing nets that were large enough and stout enough for these bigger fish. This was a good decision, although the nets in the camp were in good repair and adequate for almost all but the biggest fish. I kept my gear pretty simple for this outing with 7’medium light/fast action, 2 piece, St Croix Legend Tournament (LTWS70MLF2) and a 6’6” medium heavy/fast action, 2 piece, St Croix Avid (AVS66MHF2) for rods. I elected to use Lew’s Speed Spin reels because they come with an extra spool and allowed me to spool both mono and braid as well as provide options for line test/diameter. I packed the usual fly-in style tackle with the only luxuries being a couple of marker buoy and my Lowrance Elite 5 portable sonar/gps unit.
Kearns Lake with Thousand Lakes Outfitters! Got me back to Ontario and will get me to return again.