The province of Ontario is thought to have gotten its name from an Iroquois word meaning “Beautiful water”—and we couldn’t imagine a more fitting title. With over a quarter of a million unique lakes containing one-fifth of the planet’s fresh water, Ontario is a bottomless treasure chest for anglers of all types, delivering wonders and surprises year after year.
This season, the Fish’n Canada team travelled to just ten of Ontario’s 250,000+ bodies of water, but our trips ran the gamut of fishing experiences: We tracked down elusive jewels in the remote reaches of Northern Ontario; we fought with monsters mere feet from the shores of Central and Southern Ontario’s urban centres; not to mention everything in-between.
With this Fish’n Canada episode, we celebrate some of the many highlights and unseen moments from our year-long journey through both the cities and the winding wilderness of this great province.
ROOTHOUSE LAKE – BLUE FOX CAMP
We began our year with a journey to the remote wilderness of Northern Ontario’s Algoma region. With the one-of-a-kind Blue Fox Camp as his headquarters, Ang embarked on a mission to set his hook on an elusive Nipigon-strain Brook Trout.
Even for a seasoned veteran, these treasure hunts can pose a real challenge—a test not just of your angling skills, but of your angling patience.
“My time on Roothouse was no exception,” says Ang. “Although the Lake Trout were more than willing to do battle with me, the giant brookies? Not so much. They pushed me to the limit. But when it was all said and done, mission accomplished. A sweet victory.”
Ang finished the episode with what he thinks is the second biggest Brook Trout he’s ever caught.
WABATONGUSHI LAKE – LOCH ISLAND LODGE
The second stop on the Algoma leg of this province-wide journey brought us to Wabatongushi Lake, where Pete, stationed at the Loch Island Lodge, set out on his own mission: deploy the latest technology on unsuspecting Walleye.
Accompanied by Danny Thompson, a leading expert of all things Garmin, he launched FNC1 (our unique Princecraft) on the uncharted waters of Wabatongushi and used Garmin’s cutting-edge technology to map the contours of the lake with surgical precision. Then they were able to pinpoint the location of their target—in this case, a giant Walleye.
Pete dropped an ice-fishing jig directly into the hooks on the screen to take this great fish.
OTONABEE RIVER – CITY OF PETERBOROUGH
Having scratched some of the most remote locations off our list, we changed gears, deciding to tackle a more urban setting and one of the most underappreciated species of our time: the Common Carp. Demonstrating the ease with which urbanites can access this exciting form of angling, Pete fished exclusively from a shore located near the downtown core of the beautiful Central Ontario city of Peterborough. He launched the FNC1 only for the purpose of deploying bait for these Otonabee River monsters with the aid of local Carping Guide Will Muschett.
“If you bait it, they will come,” joked Muschett. And come they did. Pete and Will probably caught more than twenty Common Carp when it was all said and done. Most came on some kind of corn oriented bait.
MARTEN RIVER LODGE
It’s not every day that the owner of a lodge welcomes you back from a long day of fishing with an outstanding rendition of “A Boy Named Sue.” But that’s exactly what Ang and Pete got when they headed north once again, this time to the historic Marten River Lodge, owned and operated by the very talented Ray Sapiano.
It’s also not every day that an angler is treated to such an array of fishery options. After an adventurous ATV expedition, the guys found themselves entertained by the most active smallies they encountered all year.
It was fish leaping from the water and total chaos as Ang and Pete hooked one Smallmouth after another. “This is crazy,” exclaimed Pete. “These fish jump higher than we’ve ever seen!”
With great accommodations, an amazing fishery, and the bonus luxury of some foot-tapping evening entertainment, the Marten River Lodge is truly an Ontario Triple Threat.
CLEAR/STONEY LAKE – CLEARVIEW COTTAGE RESORT & MARINA
There has to be something mystical about the Kawarthas. After whetting their appetites for Bass in the north, Angelo steered southward; much like a Salmon returns to its native waters, he was returning to his—the exceptional waters of the Kawarthas. This time Clear and Stoney Lakes.
With special guest Roy Armes, the CEO of Cooper Tires on the cusp of his retirement, Ang launched FNC1 at Clearview Cottage Resort & Marina hoping to satisfy his continued hunger for Smallmouth Bass. What he found was a limitless supply of fertile weed beds, stuffed with both smallies and Largemouth Bass alike.
OTTAWA RIVER MUSKY FACTORY
“I don’t know how many times we’ve referred to it as the fish of 10,000 casts,” says Ang. “But the elusive muskie is a challenge unlike any other that we faced in Ontario this year. This couldn’t stop Pete, though, who, undeterred by the overwhelming challenge, answered the call, once again hoping to set his hook on a personal best.”
“The camera crew and I steered our voyage to the small town of Plantagenet,” says Pete, “not far from the eastern-most point of the province, where we rendezvoused with a long-time friend and fishing buddy, muskie guide John Anderson. John and I gave ourselves three days on the Ottawa River to catch up and to catch ourselves one—or more—of these magnificent beasts.
“After three long days of casting, and even some trolling when our arms weren’t quite up to the challenge, a monstrous muskie finally struck my bait, right at the eleventh hour. It was an exhilarating climax we couldn’t have written to be any better.”
BAY OF QUINTE – MERLAND PARK
You might think that for a couple of guys who’ve been at this game as long as Pete and Ang have, it’d be near impossible to find new fishing challenges, new species, new adventures. But somehow they continue to be amazed time and time again by the countless fishing adventures found in this great country of ours. Specifically, this great province. In one of the final destinations of this year’s Ontario Road Trip, Pete found new joy in fishing for an underutilized species he’d never yet put in his sights: the much maligned—wait for it—Sheephead.
“I launched the Princecraft onto the Bay of Quinte from Merland Park near Picton,” explains Pete. “With Kevin Lavers, Merland Park owner and resident Sheephead enthusiast, I made my introduction to a whole new world of fishing.”
Pete and Kevin ventured not too far into Quinte, scanned the bottom with the Garmins and then dropped their blade baits vertically onto giant hooks they saw on the screen.
“We immediately started hooking into sheepies,” Pete says. “And what a hoot it is, setting into and fighting one of these beasts!”
We began our season-spanning tour of Ontario at the farthest destination from our production office in the GTA. Fittingly, we ended our tour just a stone’s throw away from home base, in the Whitby Harbour.
This last stop on our tour served as an incredible reminder of just how easy it can be to access amazing fishing. At one point, a spectacular frenzy of leaping Salmon surrounded Pete and the boat. Surely this outrageous spectacle could have been observed from nearby apartments.
Not quite so easily seen, though, is the multi-species smorgasbord that exists just below the surface in this and many similar harbours.
The results? How about a great catch of Northern Pike including some real tanks. In the end, Pete caught and released a gorgeous Pike, saying, “You could travel to the farthest reaches of Northern Ontario for this guy.”
FRENCH RIVER – CHAUDIERE LODGE
One of the biggest highlights of our Ontario-based adventures this year took place smack dab in the middle of our road trip when we interrupted our scheduled programming to host the 2016 edition of the Cooper Tires Fish’n Canada Bootcamp. For this, we returned to one of our favourite Ontario destinations: the unrivalled Chaudiere Lodge on the French River.
Presented in collaboration with our partners at Cooper Tires and featuring a dream-team of local and non-local expert guides, this year’s Fish’n Canada Bootcamp promised—and, in fact, did deliver—an unforgettable fishing experience for nearly thirty attendees, each invited by our sponsors to celebrate their contribution to the tire industry.
Our special guests, travelling from all across the country, coast to coast, arrived on a hot midsummer afternoon, greeted by champagne; warm, friendly embraces; and the guarantee of forging new bonds and lasting memories.
All guests gathered at the dock and raised their drinks as Ang declared, “Let the camp begin!”
LET THE (BOOT)CAMP BEGIN
That first evening on the French River, the sun set over a group of near-strangers, assembled with little idea exactly what to expect from their imminent Bootcamp experience. When the sun rose the next morning, however, the troops would be in for a rude awakening. Ang marched from cottage to cottage, waking up the guests with a siren/megaphone. We’re sure there were boots thrown his way!
After a quick breakfast on Day Two, the soldiers were armed with fishing rods and dispatched to the water with their appointed guides.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATTER
“Now you may be wondering where we were during all this,” says Angelo. “While Pete hosted a series of seminars for our novice anglers, I opted to don another hat for the occasion: my chef’s hat. That’s right, while our guests were out cooking under the hot August sun, I was cooking up a storm in the Chaudiere kitchen, preparing a home-style Italian feast for dinner. At least I could rest assured that for all my hard work in the kitchen, my fishing troops were hard at work on the water.”
After many long hours of fishing, our guests returned to shore each day with newfound knowledge, new stories to tell and, thankfully, a tremendous appetite. “Thankfully,” Pete says, “our mystery Bootcamp chef was more than willing to step up to the platter.”
OUR CHARIOT AWAITS
For residents of Ontario, it can be easy to forget just how expansive and diverse the province truly is. This year we visited just a select handful of Ontario’s thousands—scratch that, hundreds of thousands—of lakes. But we still managed to stumble upon exciting revelations and invigorating first-time experiences.
Knowing that so many adventures, challenges, and learning opportunities await anglers around every corner is enough to keep us excited and eager to keep exploring everything Ontario has to offer. “It’s why even after the cameras stop rolling and the last episode has hit the air,” says Ang, “Pete and I continue to hit the water in search of new angling adventures.”
Now, f you’ll excuse us, our chariot awaits…