Episode 543 – Early Esox on Georgian Bay

Our first shoot of the year took us to the Sportsman’s Inn Resort & Marina in Killarney, Ontario.

If you have already watched this episode, you would have seen that it was all about shaking the rust off. And, in our opinion, there is no better species to do this with than the Northern Pike. For starters, they are one of the first species to have an open season during the calendar. But more than that, these early-spawning, hard-fighting fish allow you to put your gear to the test and get your year moving in the right direction.

The Sportsman’s Inn Resort & Marina was our headquarters for this adventure

Our trip started out as they often do, a meeting with some locals over some good food to get a lay of the land and a status update on our target species. This shoot, that local was a man called not by his name but by his hair colour – Red.

Red Proulx is a lifelong Killarney resident who has made his living as a fishing guide who knows the north shore of Georgian Bay like the backs of his weather-beaten hands. He told us that we were just two weeks removed from ice out and that these recently-spawned fish were just about to re-enter “feed mode”. Best of all, the places where these fish were doing their replenishing were shallow, clear, and all reasonably close to camp.

LET THE FISHING BEGIN

The next morning, we met Red at the docks at sunrise, eager to get an early start and get the first-day, first-shoot jitters out of the way. Toques were still necessary despite the calendar’s recent turn to May and frost still covered the seats of our Princecraft. Spring was certainly here, but winter has not fully given up just yet.

Seats cleared and hoods tightened, we left the docks in the wake of Red’s aluminum, tiller-driven boat. He wound around the rust-coloured boulders like his boat was on tracks and we carefully stayed in the white bubbles that trailed his motor.

Red Proulx head guide at Sportsman’s Inn and Killarney Mountain Lodge giving us the low-down on what’s happening with the Pike on Georgian Bay.

Red is a rare breed these days as he still operates without GPS or chartplotter. Every route we ran was mapped out in nowhere but his mind and he knew every rock we narrowly, but expertly, skirted around by name. Modern technology has certainly enhanced the ways we fish but Red’s navigation skills are hard not to envy and are something we hope are not being lost.

Our first location was one that Pete was familiar with, a small, rocky bay just two miles from the lodge where he had fished with Red on a muskie, pike and smallmouth shoot years prior. 

Pete’s first trip to the Killarney area

This time, everything about the bay’s boulder-strewn shorelines, burgeoning weed growth, and incoming creek screamed early-season Northern Pike.

Unfortunately, what screams pike in the north of Ontario also screams Smallmouth Bass, and we quickly learned that this was soon to be their spawning domain. After a quick bunch of casts and a couple of Smallie encounters, it was time to move on.

Our first stop; Killarney Bay with frigid water temps!

Our second spot looked similar to the first, but this time we immediately knew pike were the dominant species. This was an easy assessment as, just moments after Ang killed the motor and stood up on the deck of the boat, a 20-pound pike skirted out from beneath the boat, her block-shaped back hiding through 2 feet of gin-clear water. We followed her around for as long as we could stay on her trail, but we knew that no bait was going to land this lethargic, energy-depleted female fresh off her annual spawn. Thankfully, she had a smaller friend who was feeling up to an appearance on The Fish’n Canada Show. 

First Pike… check!

Not a hawg but a good start!


Georgian Bay can be a mean body of water, but we were blessed with a rare, relatively windless afternoon so our big water convoy rolled on about as smoothly as the Great Lakes allow. Tucked into a small channel off the main lake, we wound through a maze of rocks and began our afternoon fish.

Such a unique fishing destination

OUR FIRST BIG FISH ENCOUNTER

The sun was high in the sky and we were finally able to feel some of the welcome heat. This time of the year, pike love the sun as much as the anglers do and we had high hopes for what was to come.

Sure enough, the pike activity started to pick up and Ang stuck a couple of fish quickly, and one was big! This fish completely inhaled the Yo-Zuri Twitchbait, leaving none of its five-inch length visible as we landed her in the net.

How’s this for a Pike caught in a destination that only takes about 4 hours of highway driving from Toronto???

Although we could only muster up one big fish, the ensuing onslaught of smaller Pike was honestly, quite fun. With that said, the boys thought they had a pattern established… Ang’s translucent Yo-Zuri twitchbait… it was on fire! 

There was only one problem: we only had one of them…

Just a few casts after Ang muttered those very words, a small, hammer-handle pike took a run at the gliding bait, missed high, and sliced through his line, swimming off with our last twitch bait that hung like a dog toy from the side of its face. Back to the drawing board.

Ang’s last moment with his magic Yo-Zuri Twitch bait

Our second day on Georgian Bay proved the notion that consistent weather means consistent fishing. The skies stayed clear, the winds stayed low, and the pike stayed stubborn.

After a productive morning of numbers of fish, we had still yet to land a real “showstopper”. Plus, we were still due for one of Red’s famous Northern Pike shore lunches. To check both off the list, we decided to divide and conquer, Ang and Pete doing some trophy hunting while Dean, Nik, and Red took care of lunch.

When Red Proulx fillets a Pike, it’s done to perfection!

Thankfully, both of these goals could also be achieved in the same bay. Red built a fire while Dean and Nik cast from the rocky shoreline into an emerging weed bed just offshore. It was not long before the smell of potatoes and onions was radiating from the rocks and as if on queue Dean and Nik quickly hooked up with the three small pike which they added to the masterful lakeside lunch menu.

Meanwhile, Ang and Pete continued fan casting nearby in search of “the big one.”

There’s never a lack of effort from Ang and Pete when looking for a big camera fish.

Ding Ding Ding… was the quasi sound of the dinner bell as the shorelunch crew walkie-talkie relayed a message to Ang and Pete, summoning them to the shores of culinary ecstasy!

Northern Pike shorelunch… to us it’s every bit as good as Walleye!

This honestly is one of our absolute favourite parts of our Ontario-based fishing adventures. As you can see in this episode, it doesn’t always have to extend into the furthest reaches of the north (although she’s a guarantee when you’re up there). As long as there’s cold water, and Pike or Walleye, it’s on!

Shore lunch is such a highlight of our Ontario shoots


THE FISH ARE THERE!!!

Funny story. After Shorelunch, we dropped Vova, our drone operator, off on shore. We instantly heard a buzz from our radio and a Ukrainian accent telling us to look 45 degrees out from the nose of our boat. These were specific instructions, even for Vova, but when we obliged we instantly saw why. Swimming just in front of the boat were two GIANT pike… unfortunately, not only could we not see them, but like the true predators they are, this pair disappeared into the abyss.

Note the vermiculation type of patterns on this Pike’s back? It happens on Brook Trout as well. Nature rocks!

RIGHT SIZE… WRONG COLOUR

The boys managed a few smaller fish in the late afternoon, but the real highlight was a gorgeous muskie that Pete had hooked into. When they saw his rod bend, they thought for sure he had hooked into the show-stopper fish they had been after, but soon realized they were tangling with the wrong Esox.

Muskie season was about to open 2 days after this shoot… unfortunately it was bad timing.

A gorgeous Muskie caught on a Yo-Zuri 3DB Twitchbait.The boys released it at boatside for the safety of the fish.

Incidental catches of out-of-season fish are often unavoidable when fishing for early-season pike, as they share their territory with so many of our late-spawning gamefish. That being said, it is crucial to take care when dealing with these out-of-season fish as their seasons are closed for a reason. 

Muskie, for example, at this time of year, are either weeks away from, in the middle of, or finished spawning and require all the energy they can muster. In the case of this fish, Ang and Pete made the effort to do the least amount of damage possible and did their best to get it to the boat side quickly and release it rather than getting tangled in a net. This beauty was going to need all its energy in the coming weeks and we want these muskie waters to keep their prestige for years to come.

Here are 3 of the best producing baits of our shoot, the Yo-Zuri 3DB Twitchbait in Prism Silver Black (top) and Bone (bottom), as well as a Blue 3DB 110 Suspending Jerkbait in the middle

CONCLUSION

This Killarney Ontario shoot at Sportsman’s Inn was the perfect trip to commence the Fish’n Canada filming season.

It was early in the year giving the crew a good head start, it had the perfect starter species in Pike, the winds cooperated, and it was in a geographic setting that truly is second to none, Georgian Bay.

With a bunch of “fun” sized fish on camera, an incidental apex predator Muskie for some added entertainment and Ang’s beautiful, bait-chomping, big Northern Pike, we’d say this was a great start to the season. 

From the Killarney Channel, to Killarney Bay and then finally into the great Georgian Bay, such a unique area.

KILLARNEY ONTARIO

Killarney is referred to as the gateway to the North Channel. It is located on the northern shore of Georgian Bay in the Sudbury District of Ontario. Killarney Provincial Park is located to the east of the town. It covers an extremely large area. The eastern portion of the La Cloche Mountain Range is also located within the municipality of Killarney.

If you plan on visiting Killarney, then you must stop in at both the Pitfield’s General Store and then Herbert Fisheries for a nice fish & chips lunch (voted one of the top 10 fish and chip restaurants in Canada by Canadian Living Magazine).

It’s about a 4 ½ hour drive north from the center of Toronto, making this beautiful destination easily accessible to southern Ontarians.

EPISODE GETTIN’ THERE: Killarney ON, Sportsman’s Inn Resort and Marina

To get to this gorgeous Pike fishing destination, we first drove north from the GTA on hwy 400 which eventually turns into hwy 69.

We next turned west on hwy 637. 

We followed 637 all the way into the town of Killarney.

We next turned right on Channel St and finally ended up at the gorgeous Sportsman’s Inn Resort and Marina. From there, you have access to some amazing multi-species fishing waters.

The Sportsman Inn sits perched atop the pebbled shores of the North Channel, surrounded by glistening waters and windswept pines that characterize Georgian Bay. Anchored by history and rich with community, the Inn is a lively hub of local stories, folklore and entertainment. 

The Sportsman’s Inn is a full-service resort offering modern amenities and affordable docking rates, along with a world-class marina in the Killarney Channel. Whether you’re stopping by during a cruise or planning an extended stay, the Sportsman’s Inn promises to provide an exceptional, all-season resort experience rooted in curiosity and comfort.

Dining at the Sportsman’s Inn is an experience that extends beyond delicious food. Many of the guests highlight the varying dining options and their associated experiences as some of the most memorable moments during their stay. With live music taking place on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer season, guests are not only offered top notch food, but also outstanding entertainment.

Sporto’s Bar & Grill, a popular stopping point for boaters in the Killarney channel.

All in all, the Sportsman’s Inn is as much a family destination as it is a fishing destination. It’s a must visit!

The Sportsman’s Inn before renovations.

Special Thanks & Links

Destination Ontario https://www.destinationontario.com/en-ca 

Sportsman’s Inn https://www.sportsmansinn.ca/ 

Killarney Triple Threat https://fishncanada.com/tv/episode-459/ 

Rainbow Country https://amazingontario.com/rainbow-country-a-complete-travel-guide/

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