This episode was born from past Fish’n Canada shoots wherein our good friends from Cooper Tire joined us on some excellent Canadian fishing adventures. Those good friends are Roy Armes, Chairman, CEO and President of Cooper Tire & Rubber Company; and Director of Product Management, Scott Jamieson.
Roy was actually the driving force behind getting us here. Since he had business to take care of in Western Canada anyway, the four of us (Angelo, Pete, Roy and Scott) all got together and planned this Alberta Pike and Walleye shoot around his schedule.
We chose Winefred Lake in northeastern Alberta as our destination for a number of reasons worth noting for anybody planning a trip. First of all, this is a real wilderness lake in a remote area between Cold Lake and Fort McMurray in the southern Wood Buffalo region of Alberta, meaning fishing pressure is almost non-existent. It is essentially a big bowl gouged out by glaciers and has about 47 square miles of surface to fish on. But it’s the management of the fishery more than anything that makes this lake so special.
With only a handful of trophy Northern Pike lakes in this part of the country, narrowing it down to Winefred wasn’t that difficult.
We met at the small airport in Peterborough, Ontario. We arrived in our Ram and the Cooper guys arrived in their Bombardier Challenger 200 twin-jet aircraft. And we thought our truck was a cool ride! This was gonna be good.
After a very relaxing flight, we landed in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Next, we took a four-hour drive and finally arrived at beautiful Winefred Lake Lodge.
Our good friend and Alberta fishing guide Ray Kohlruss drove in from north of Edmonton to meet us at the Lodge with our Princecraft boats. Then we were good to go. Winefred Lake Lodge, a five-star wilderness fishing resort, has imposed their own limits on Walleye and Pike. The fish in this lake grow very slowly since they have a relatively short growing season of three to four months, which makes the self-imposed no-kill policy on Walleye, and only one kill per day on Pike 21 inches or less, even more compelling. Catch and release with a zero bag limit was fundamental to establishing a trophy lake here. The average size of Walleye is now three to four pounds and the average length of Pike is 40 inches. Coming here was a no-brainer for us!
LET THE FISH’N CHALLENGE BEGIN!
A couple years ago, on a previous Fish’n Canada shoot, Roy caught the biggest Pike of his life, a 48-incher on Lake Muskoka. All this did was stoke a fire in his belly; ever since then, he’s been obsessed with catching the holy grail of Pike: a 50″+ monster Northern. And there aren’t too many places better than Winefred to shoot for that goal.
“Since there were four us on this trip,” says Angelo, “I thought it might be fun if Roy and I teamed up and had a little friendly competition. You know, the men against the boys. Needless to say, we got no arguments!” The Cooper/Fish’n Canada challenge was about to begin.
We had a little map session and based on Ang’s previous experiences here, we laid out a game plan. Since he was the only one with previous experience, it was simple: “I made sure Roy and I had the prime spot,” says Angelo.
As the apex predators here, these trophy Northerns aren’t any different than most other Pike. They use weed patches as ambush points to chow down. And the biggest accumulation of those is off Eagle Point up towards the northeast corner of the lake. This point didn’t get its name by accident; eagles and eagle nests are visible along its entire length. It’s more like a peninsula that runs northwest with weed patches running virtually its whole length on the southeast side. The weeds start about 10-15 feet offshore and run out from there another hundred feet or so. It’s a huge area and a great place to begin the hunt and try to win this competition!
Pete and Scott started their fishing in the middle of the lake casting swimbaits and spoons on a big rise with some weed growth that Ray Kohlruss recommended. “This was an awesome looking area, especially for Walleye,” Pete says. “And if there’s Walleye, there should be some Pike as well.”
This spot turned out good when the boys could find the weeds, but as the day went on, the strong winds pushed them off the mid-lake stuff and into more secluded areas. Nothing matched the hump or Eagle point.
As for the end results of the Cooper Fish’n Canada Challenge, Roy and Ang definitely claimed the top prize with a giant that Roy boated. Ang estimated it to be over 50 inches long. Scott and Pete brought forth a beauty as well, with Scott catching a bulbous, girthy Northern that would definitely measure in the mid-40s. We would bet that there wouldn’t be much difference in dead weight with these fish, but since Roy’s did hit the holy grail of 50 inches, his fish would have to take top honours.