Episode 544 – Uncle Mark’s Outpost Camp

Brought to you by Destination Ontario

This trip was our last scheduled shoot of the year. It brought us about as far away from home as we have been all season, and we didn’t even have to leave the province – Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario.

FNC1 en-route to Uncle Mark's Outpost camp

The makings of this trip started way back in April of 2023 when fishing YouTuber and fellow Canadian, Jay Siemens, joined an episode of the Outdoor Journal Radio podcast to discuss one of his latest ventures. The project was called “Uncle Mark’s Outpost”, an island getaway on the beautiful Lake of the Woods that would soon be equipped with a fully-functioning outpost cabin, a hot shower, a fleet of top-of-the-line fishing kayaks, and quick access to some of the best smallmouth, walleye, and muskie water our province has to offer.

It is safe to say, we had to check this out…

Uncle Mark’s Outpost cabin on Lake Of The Woods

Fast forward to August and the whole crew is loading up the truck, set to begin a 24-hour road trip to our province’s boundary waters. Two days, ten Timmies stops, and one White River layover, we finally make it to Kenora. Only one thing left to do… make a quick call to Lake of the Woods expert and Canadian fishing legend, “The Doc” Gord Pyzer.

Phone calls with Gord are as much for our entertainment as they are for information. Gordie through truck phone speakers, is the exact same as Gordie through a PA system in an arena… mesmerizing! As anyone who has ever read Outdoor Canada Magazine, listened to Outdoor Journal Radio, or caught a seminar at a sportsman’s show knows that Gord’s passion and knowledge of the outdoors are unmatched. We especially relish our time to hear him talk about his home waterways.

Gord “The Doc” Pyzer

This particular “private podcast” with Gord, yielded some very interesting information. Yes, the bass fishing was clicking. And, yes, Gord and Liam had the lake’s biggest muskie identified by name. But it was something else Gord said that really caught our attention.

While telling us about the good bass fishing he and Liam had been finding on the lake, Gord began mentioning a unique crayfish pattern that had both giant smallmouth and walleye sharing water and dialed into the exact same food source. The species causing this feeding frenzy was one relatively new to the Lake of the Woods system, the invasive Rusty Crayfish.

Relatively is a key word here, as these invasives have now called Lake of the Woods home for over 20 years. As with other invasives such as the Round Goby, the Rusty Crayfish’s negative traits, such as their tendency to mow down vast swaths of vegetation, have been somewhat overshadowed by their tendency to fill fish bellies and, in turn, the trophy albums of local anglers.

The nemesis of Lake Of The Woods, the Rusty Crayfish

This invasion was something we were about to see first-hand as we began catching them on our baits and watching them traverse, by the dozens, across the lake bottom using our underwater cameras.

But, before we could see all that, we had to get to Uncle Mark’s.

Lake Of The Woods could well be classed as a geographic maze with the amount of islands present. Thankfully now-a-days, companies like Garmin have accurate mapping to ensure confident navigation

After getting off the phone with Gord, Jay sent us some waypoints to punch into our Garmin chartplotter. The ride to the outpost is about 20 miles by boat from the public boat launch in Kenora, which offers plenty of long-term parking free of charge!

To some, 20 miles might sound like a bit of a trek, but, on Lake of the Woods, time really does fly. For starters, this massive body of water never truly shows its size, with hundreds of scattered islands making every mile feel like a new lake. As a scenic bonus, the timing of our trip this year put us right at the beginning of the fall transition, giving us plenty of views of bears, grouse, and bald eagles scattered throughout the tall pines and slowly yellowing birches.

LET THE FISHING BEGIN

Our mornings on Fish’n Canada shoots always begin the same way, a cup of coffee on the deck of the boat surrounded by dozens of scattered fishing rods and open tackle boxes. Usually, these coffee conversations revolve around Ang and Pete’s theories on bait migration, seasonal colouration, and bait preferences that allow us to best match the hatch. On this day, however, there was no guesswork involved… we had a live sample.

When pondering what to throw for the day in Smallmouth country, either Ang, or Pete, or both, will 9 times out of 10, tie on a Yo-Zuri jerkbait.

While Ang and Pete were deliberating, tying, and retying, one of our crew members, Dean Taylor, decided to “test” one of the Ned Rigs sitting on the dock. Casting toward a beaver dam, the expectant thump of a smallmouth on the other end of the line was replaced by a subtle tap and a doubling of the Ned Rig’s weight. When he brought it up, we saw firsthand what Gord had been talking about – a reddish-brown Rusty Crayfish hanging from its lone claw on the end of the rig. Time for more retying…

The Ned Rig on light line is often a last resort when the bite seems to die off of everything else

As it goes with most of these shoots, the first day is all about experimentation. This used to mean days full of casting, rigging, and running, though now, fewer casts are made during these sessions and our eyes remain glued to our sonars rather than the water. Much to some anglers’ chagrin, modern technology, and especially Garmin Livescope, allows anglers to gather incredible amounts of information about fish behavior and location without ever having to drop a line.

Even the Perch are big on LOTW

All of this is great for days when fish are active, but, as we were soon to find out, being able to see every fish that refuses your bait is more tortuous than educational.

This day ended with a good amount of fish but certainly nothing to call “that’s a wrap” early into the shoot. We are ALWAYS on the prowl for big fish… of all species.

We got back for a nice dinner prepared by Uncle Ang at Uncle Mark’s and called it a night.

With a chartplotter full of waypoints and enough walleye, bass, and perch from the previous day under our belt to keep our spirits high, we set out on day two with intentions of a day-long, non-stop milk run across every spot we had acquired.

Typically, when planning trips like this to the outdoors, intentions are preceded by an important caveat, “weather permitting”. When you only have three days to film a television show, however, this phrase begins to slip from your vocabulary, resulting in 12-hour walleye fishing sessions on days that even the fish want nothing to do with: 35-degrees, windless, and not a single cloud in the sky.

Regardless of the weather, the boys caught lots of Smallies and Walleye

Given the weather, this day went about as well as you would expect. With surface temperatures climbing into the mid-70s, the fish we were after were headed for deep water, suspending in 30 feet or lethargically cruising the bottoms of rocky flats.

Although we could see the fish, the majority of them were completely inactive. After hours of watching fish approach and leave the beam of our transducer, we wanted to double-check things out, so we sent our underwater camera down to confirm what we were seeing on our screens. As soon as we sent it down, we saw what might have been the problem. Along every hump and flat sat hundreds of Rusty Crayfish, slowly making their way like zombies toward our camera, completely unphased by the bass and walleye aimlessly circling overhead. 

How can we compete?!?!

That is not to say we didn’t catch any fish. Throughout this long, hot day, both Ang and Pete netted plenty of walleye and bass that still had some excitement and energy left over for our lone, wandering crayfish patterns. 

A nice little Sauger made it to the tele… such a cool-looking fish!

Vova, our Ukrainian cameraman, made a very interesting observation when he first arrived in Canada last spring. He said “Canadian seasons give no warning”. 

No time is this more on display than in the dying days of August, when Sahara-like heat waves give way to frigid fall days in what can quite literally be a blink of an eye. Trading our shorts for long johns and our t-shirts for hoodies, we figured this shift in conditions was setting us up perfectly for the big fish day we had been waiting for.

Coats on, coats off, wind gone, wind up… the weather was all over the place on this trip

Typically, on shoots that are not going according to plan, the crew is forced to make a difficult decision. On one hand, we can persevere and keep grinding with what we know. On the other, we can change gears and try something completely different in the hope of landing a real show-stopper.

In this particular case, this meant deciding between hammering away at our walleye-filled humps and shoals, hoping for a big one, or picking up and driving 20 miles to unknown, but highly touted big fish water. On this trip, we opted for the former, hoping the drastic change in weather would be the ultimate catalyst.

Getting caught miles down the lake in a treacherous thunderstorm is not what we call productive time on the water.

Flat, windless conditions make fishing even on the best lake in the world sometimes stingy. Thankfully there are so many fish that you can still pick up some decent ones on any good-looking piece of structure.

By now, our Garmin was lighting up like it was on simulator mode, however, we knew this was no Tom foolery, these were Walleye… lots of Walleye. The only downside to this from a TV perspective, is the audience always pushes for “the big ones”! At one point we were literally pulling our baits away from Walleye knowing they just wouldn’t make the cut (a great problem for the average angler out for a meal BTW!!).

The rest of the day reminded us of an important lesson. While this lake is undoubtedly capable of giving anglers those fabled hundred fish days, those looking for a trophy may need to go against the age-old fishing mantra. Sometimes you need to leave fish to find fish.

Despite the lack of trophies, our trip to Uncle Mark’s Outpost was an outstanding one and our well stocked livewell of perfect eater-size walleye fuelled a shore-dinner for the ages with our gracious host Jay Siemens and the now-famous and always humble Uncle Mark.

EPISODE GETTIN’ THERE: Uncle Mark’s Outpost, Lake Of The Woods 

To get to this unique outpost fishing destination from our home area of the GTA, we drove north on hwy 400 which eventually turns into hwy 69.

We next turned west on Trans Canada hwy 17.

We continued on 17 all the way to the city of Kenora.

We next turned west on 5th St South, then turned south on 6th Avenue which eventually turns into Golf Course Road. This took us to the boat launch at Anicinabe Park.

From there we loaded the Princecraft with all of our overnight bags, shooting equipment, and of course fishing gear and headed on the 27 km journey to Uncle Mark’s Outpost Cabin on the fish-filled Lake Of The Woods.

Uncle Mark’s is like no other outpost cabin we’ve ever been to.

It offers low-pressure, world-renowned fishing and hunting opportunities.

It’s an off-grid cabin in the middle of Lake of the Woods that’s equipped with the finest modern amenities.

This modern Cabin offers a maximum Occupancy of 8 people with 6 Beds,  1 Queen, 2 Full and 3 Twins with bedding included.

There’s a full Kitchen with a Refrigerator, a BBQ with Propane, reliable and powerful Wifi, and Television for those rainy or cold and miserable days. 

There are also 4 Fishing Kayaks and 1 Canoe in case you don’t want to bring along your own fishing boat or you just want to slide out for a couple of hours on a beautiful northern Ontario evening.

There’s 110-volt power available at the dock for charging boats.

And “finally” Angelo’s (my) favourite feature, an incinerating, indoor toilet. The ultimate luxury in an outpost cabin.

Available add-ons for a trip to Uncle Mark’s are a Boat Taxi service from Lake of the Woods Marina, fishing guide service available upon request, and boat or Snowmobile Rentals available through Lake of the Woods Marina.

CONCLUSION

If you are looking for the ultimate outpost destination for a fishing, hunting, or just an outdoor adventure, we highly recommend Uncle Mark’s Outpost Cabin on Lake Of The Woods in Northwestern Ontario. If you plan to fish, you’ll catch lots, you may tie into a trophy Northern, Muskie, Walleye, or Smallie! Best of all, you’ll enjoy all the creature comforts that you wouldn’t expect when you’re 20 miles into the boonies!

Special Thanks & Links

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

Sunset Country https://visitsunsetcountry.com/ 

Jay Siemens YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@JaySiemens 

Uncle Marks Outpost https://www.unclemarksoutpost.com/ 

TV EXTRAS

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