On this Fish’n Canada episode I (Pete Bowman) had the opportunity to return to one of Ontario’s most iconic muskie waters, Eagle Lake in the northwest portion of the province. This time I’ll be fishing the northeast end of the lake based out of Colegrove’s Eagle Lake Lodge.
THE SECRET WEAPON
Since Eagle is such a large body of water, it helps if you can arrange to have your own secret weapon. Mine comes in the form of one of the most unique characters I’ve ever met: Captain Mike Richardson from the U.S. of A. He’s fished this lake for decades.
This funny-talkin’ West Virginian is truly one of a kind and it just so happens that muskies are the Captain’s specialty. He considers the province of Ontario the Muskie Big League. That’s why he makes the long voyage several times a year, sometimes staying up to twelve weeks. I wish I had all that spare time!
Mike’s not new to our program. It’s been nearly ten years since his previous Fish’n Canada appearance, and his “Muskie Fever” hasn’t subsided. Having fished them for over fifty years, he still lives for the thrill of the muskie chase.
For somebody like Captain Mike (and most other ardent muskie fanatics), there’s an adrenaline rush from even seeing one of these elusive fish. With Eagle Lake’s population, it wasn’t long before we started counting our sightings.
The weather was almost picture perfect for this shoot. Decent warm temperatures, some cloud cover with sun. And we were sitting very close to the major (muskie terminology for the period when the moon is halfway between rise and set). Muskie experts live to fish in these prime times. The major, the minor (the moonrise), the moon set, mornings, evenings, etc.
It didn’t take long for us to start seeing fish that followed our presentations to the boat (muskie are notorious for this), or should I say followed Mike’s baits in. He was throwing a legit, big-as-they-get, double-10 inline—a beast of a lure to cast all day long. I opted for either a downsized double-10 or double-8. Much easier to handle. They seem to catch more smaller muskies, yet can still catch giants.
Mike literally had all the follows throughout the early morning and they were big fish, but none committed to a strike.
When I finally had a follow, I spun that little 10 into a Figure-8 and Bam! A sweet little 38 to 39-incher pummeled it! In the net she went. Then back in the water after a brief on camera appearance. One down.
We spent the rest of the morning with only a few more follows—no more hook-ups. The prime muskie times of the morning were gone and there wouldn’t be another significant lunar period until the evening. It was an ideal time to give the muskie lures—and our tired arms—a break.
However, I’m not one to sit at the lodge during the daylight hours, especially when there are Smallmouth nearby. It was time to shift gears for a couple hours. I’d pick Mikey back up later to carry on muskie hunting, but in the meantime, I was going to take advantage of this opportunity to set my sights on some Eagle Lake smallies.
SMALLMOUTH ON EAGLE LAKE
The beauty of staying at Colegrove’s is the accessibility of multi-species fishing hotspots. The Smallmouth area I hit wasn’t far from the lodge. It did take some off-plane boating to get there because of the treacherous rock bottom in the area, but if I know there’s good fishing to be had I’ll take my time getting there.
I started out throwing a big ¾ ounce double willow spinnerbait for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a great search bait for smallies. Two, you never know when a big muskie or Pike wants a small meal.
For a slower presentation, Tyler Colgrove (local fishing guide) suggested a beaver style crawfish imitation rigged weightless—and that was the ticket!
By casting in among the standing reeds, submerged weeds, and rocky shoreline, my afternoon became very enjoyable with some quality Smallmouth.
THE EVENING FISH
Now that the Captain was all rested up—or maybe he was a little “tuned-up” after a few cold Canuck beverages—we were back on the water and looking for that fish of 10,000 casts, the legendary Muskellunge.
Lo and behold, at about 9:45 that evening I smacked my blades into another nice little Eagle Lake muskie. Mike called it a “snot rocket” because even though it wasn’t huge, it was feisty. “Those are the ones that’ll stick a hook in your hand or rip your skin with their teeth,” he said.
I definitely do get to meet all sorts of interesting characters on my travels, but none quite like ol’ Captain Mike. Excitable and hilarious, there’s no better companion for an Eagle Lake muskie fishing adventure. Although we didn’t catch any giant fish, we did get a couple of muskies and encountered a few of the monsters this lake is known for. And that’s the reason anglers keep coming back time and time again.
Until next time, “Aye-Aye Captain!”
FISHING SEASONS IN THE DRYDEN AREA
Lake Trout: January 1 to September 30
Muskellunge (Muskie): third Saturday in June to December 15
Northern Pike: Year-round
Walleye: January 1 to April 14 and the third Saturday in May to December 31