The Woodsman Magazine

Whitewater Lake, Ontario’s Playground

 By Bob & Ginny Riege

 

            Canadian adventures are something that most anglers dream about.  They visit sportshows and look at brochures that describe the bountiful fish in every lake.  They are sold on aesthetics of the picturesque environment and the wonderful time they will have with friends and family.  The trouble with is that there are a veritable plethora of camps, lodges and outfitters to choose from.

            Allow me to cut through all the hype and to tell you about one of the best camps and outfitters in Ontario.  Mattice Lake Outfitters headquartered out of Armstrong,  Ontario, will give you what you want. Don, Annette, Yolanda, Jason and Austin Elliot are fantastic hosts and will make sure that your trip is a good one. Mattice Lake Outfitters have a variety of lakes to choose from and a host of knowledge share with you if you are interested in a Canadian adventure. We decided in 2009 that we would book a trip to Whitewater Lake.

            Whitewater Lake camp is located in the heart of Wabakimi Provincial Park. The lake covers over 26,000 acres and is almost 25 miles in length with the Ogoki River flowing in on the west end of the lake and out on the northeast end.

            Whitewater Lake provides some of the most spectacular northern pike fishing for those after the big one. Each season they see northern pike caught exceeding 30 lbs. Walleye are extremely abundant, averaging 2 1⁄2 to 3 lbs. The lake boasts some of the nicest sand beaches in the north.

             Whitewater Lake outpost camp you will find four, two bedroom guest cabins situated on one of the most spectacular sand beaches in the north. Each of these cabins has adequate separation from the other cabins for privacy between groups. This camp is suitable for those parties wishing to stay for 3 to 7 days and is capable of accommodating groups of 2 up to 28.  Recently, they just added a large cabin that I believe sleeps six.

             Last June Ginny and I drove to Mattice Lake Outfitters, the day before we were scheduled to fly out to Whitewater Lake.  We had the opportunity to stay in one of the housekeeping cabins at the fly base.  We always like to arrive the day before to make sure that we will fly out on the scheduled day.  The adjacent cabins to the Mattice Lake Outfitters seaplane base makes it very convenient to be on time for your flight.  While in our cabin at the fly base, we enjoyed a good meal and a needed nights sleep after our long drive from Southern Minnesota.

            Upon arrival at the camp attendant Richard and his faithful companion, a boxer dog by the name of Echo met us.  Richard and Echo showed us to our cabin and explained that wood would be placed in our firebox everyday and the boats would be filled with gas when we returned.

            Unpacking and getting out on the water was my first priority.  As Ginny made ice in trays and placed them in the freezer, I rigged the spinning and casting rods for our days outing.

            Fishing for walleyes on a Canadian lake in June can give you some trouble especially if you are not willing to try different tactics until you find one that works.  For example, sometimes it is necessary to fish very slowly for walleyes, especially when they're inactive.  But there are other times when you'll catch a lot more fish by moving the bait quickly.  When this happens, I like to change my methods a little.  I've found that these little changes will sometimes pay big rewards.  I use the philosophy you have to give them what they want.

            If walleyes smash my bait as I am looking for them they signal to me that they want fast moving baits and they will chase anything that will swim.  When walleyes react this way I change to fast moving baits, like spinner rigs, crankbaits, or jigs.  Experiment until you find which lure type works the best.

            Most of the time a jig will be tried first.  If the fish are active, I'll put a Max Gap Lindy Jig tipped with Berkley Gulp.  These baits don't rip off easily, and I don't have to rebait after every walleye.  Also, walleyes hit the plastic minnow very well, especially when the fish are on a "good bite". On “fly Ins”, we rarely use live bait, and I’ve become convinced in remote situations the stuff is more trouble than it’s worth.

            Work the jig quickly through the fish holding area.  Hop it or swim it, even snap the jig and don't pause as you usually would, but instead keep the bait moving.  The theory behind this type of action is, if the walleye is serious about hitting your bait it will be there when you move it quickly.  Many times when you are starting to snap the jig or swim it to you, the walleye is already hooked.  The strike will usually be quite firm.

            Jigs often work best fished quickly along weedbed edges, or over shallow humps.  When the fish are on spots like this, they're frequently active.  Casting is usually the best way to work jigs quickly along these areas.

            Crankbaits work well in the same areas as jigs for active walleyes, and the area over the tops of weeds can be added if crankbaits are being used.  Jigs can be worked over weeds, but depth control is easier with crankbaits.  Therefore, I prefer to use Shad Raps and Rattlin Fat Raps, because they simulate the minnows many of these walleyes chase.

            Walleyes seem very eager to smash a crankbait that has just been ripped free from a weed.  Don't get too concerned about the lure's color, but pay attention to lure size.  Use the biggest bait that the fish will hit.  When the walleyes are active, the bigger baits will often take the bigger fish.

            But for the hottest and fastest action, we worked mid lake humps trolling or casting crankbaits.  Shad Raps have been and excellent producer.  The # 5 runs about 4 to 5 feet deep and the # 7 runs 8 to 10 feet deep.  Walleye color has been my hands down favorite followed by crawdad.  Lately I have also made a switch to the Jointed Rapala especially in the crawdad color.  It seems that even in the heat of July and August the walleyes sense that they should be eating bigger shad to fatten up for the winter and the color of crawdad is something that they love.

            Again, trolling or casting crankbaits will get the job done in a hurry.  In stained or dirty water that has a lot of prey, zip that crankbait by them and they won't resist the active vibrations of a wounded minnow. 

            Trolling success usually depends on how well you fine-tune your presentation.  Simple things that will help you trigger fish might be pumping your rod, or allowing your crankbait to stunt.

            Pumping a trolling rod is not a new technique.  In fact, it's likely you have been using the method for years.  The trick is doing it right.

            I have found, through experience that you should sweep your rod in a 30-degree arc with a pause at the end.  The lure speeds up through the sweep and triggers the fish that there is an escaping prey.   Most strikes might occur as the rod is returned to the original position because it is at the end of the fall and the lure is easily sucked into the walleyes mouth.

            The stunting that you might want to try is to use a deep lip crankbait like a deep diving Storm Thunder Stick and troll this in an area that has a soft bottom like mud or sand.  The long bill will dive deep and stunt into the soft bottom.  This will cause an erratic motion, plus stir up the bottom and fish will move in to investigate.

           While fishing was the focus of our trip, we did some exploring as well. We spent a couple of hours one morning checking out Wendell Beckwith’s cabins on Best Island. Beckwith was something of a genius hermit, who spent several decades living in a couple of amazing cabins he constructed by hand. These are not your average cabins, as he was not your average guy. He was both eccentric and brilliant, and used the remote area to ponder and study everything sociology, psychology of man to advanced mathematics.

            Despite the fact we were fishing last June, if you remember the weather was cool the entire summer, we caught a lot of fish, and many of good size. We found a couple little humps in deeper water that were just crawling with walleye. Fish weren’t absolutely everywhere in the lake, but on reefs and points, we caught all the fish we wanted. We didn’t get any monster pike on our trip, but another party at the camp caught one over 45 inches. Richard and Echo became our friends over the course of the next week.  We even joined them on the water in the evening a couple of times to see which boat could catch and release more fish in a given time frame. 

            Our dreams of Whitewater Lake are now a reality and I hope that you will take the opportunity to stop by the Mattice Lake Outfitters booth at your next sportshow.   Or if you are like me you and you can't wait, contact: Don & Annette Elliot at: Mattice Lake Outfitters 1-800-411-0334 P.O. Box 157Armstrong, Ontario Canada POT 1AO Email: mattice@walleye.ca

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