This show was quite interesting right from the get-go. The spring to summer transition of 2013 in Ontario was rather elongated to say the least. The cool weather just wouldn’t go away. In fact, just days prior to Pete’s departure on his long drive north, he wasn’t a hundred percent sure he could even go.
STILL ICE ON THE LAKE
“I stayed closely in touch with Eric Lund at Esnagami Wilderness Lodge a full two weeks before my leaving day,” says Pete. “And it wasn’t until the day before that Eric finally said the ice is leaving the lake and we should be okay.”
Not the exact report Pete was looking for. With Speckled Trout, Walleye and Northern Pike to choose from, however, there was a good chance he could get out for at least one of those species. He loaded up the Ram and headed north to the Nakina Air Seaplane base, a trusted company that our guys have flown with before.
As the plane approached Esnagami Lake, Pete could see that there was, indeed, still a lot of ice on the lake. Yes, there was open water, but it didn’t look promising.
After a quick scout of the accessible parts of the lake, Pete decided that the specks would be best to target first since they were a more reliable quarry in cold water. Since they are a fall spawner, feeding should be the only thing on their minds.
A trip up the Esnagami River proved to be the right choice. Eric took Pete on a fantastic trip into some of the most gorgeous fast water he’s ever fished. “If you go to Esnagami Lodge, definitely take a day and do the Trout trip,” Pete says. “It was fish after fish for us—and that’s what Eric considered a slow day!”
The best Trout baits were small jigs, spinners and spoons. Colour almost seemed secondary; just getting it in front of an aggressive fish seemed to be the key!
Next came the Walleye. On day one, the water was 44 degrees—spawning temperature. Day two it went up considerably, however. Pete and Eric targeted rocky shorelines that dropped into about 14+ feet of water. Using jigs and minnows, they cleaned up on small-to-decent sized Walleye often connecting with doubleheaders. “It’s Walleye fishing the way it’s supposed to be,” says Pete.
Finally, the boys decided to venture into the back bays hunting for Northern Pike. Just after ice out in the north country is the perfect time to try and connect with a big beast. They are shallow and often hungry. “When the water is in the high forties to low fifties,” says Pete, “I like to use smaller baits like a #3 inline spinner or a 4.75 – 5 inch suspending jerkbait. You’ll catch a lot of smaller fish on these baits, but the big girls will come out to play as well.”
Jackfish Bay was their first stop. They found pockets of resting fish but nothing really big. In one instance Eric pointed out a pretty good Pike, but couldn’t tell which way the fish was facing because of the glare on the water. He could only see a silhouette. Eric pointed in the direction of the Pike, Pete made a perfect cast well past—but in front of—the fish in order to bring the bait “right into the fish’s wheelhouse.” He set the hook and put about a 15-pounder on camera.
Pete: “These fish are great to catch but, being so far north, you soon get the desire to move on and go bigger. You just know they’re close by!”
Eric next suggested the mouth of Jackfish. Pete said, “Let me guess: It’s a staging area before fish move in and a resting area once they’re out, right?” Eric smiled and gave the affirmative.
Tossing the little spinner, Pete set the hook into a gorgeous Northern well over 40 inches.
“It’s weird, but when you first see a big Pike fighting away from the boat, it doesn’t always look very big,” says Pete. “But once they get under and or around the boat, that’s a different story.”
This was an excellent experience for our crew in that they took adverse conditions and definitely made the best of them.