Catching Big Fish No Problem in Canadian Waters


We were three casts into our Canadian fishing adventure.   Well, I should say, my son Hank was three casts into our Canadian fishing adventure, I was still tying on a lure and preparing to make my first cast into the pristine waters of Pebonashewie Lake, about a 20-minute flight from the Gogama Lodge in northern Ontario.

"GOOD FISH!" Hank yelled as he yanked hard against stiff resistance. 

Moments later, my fishing protégé had hauled in what was arguably the biggest smallmouth bass he had ever caught.   Two casts later, he bested his personal record and I knew we were in for a treat.

Gogama, the small village 8-hours north of the Canadian border is in the heart of the Canadian "Crown Lands".  There are millions of acres dotted with thousands of natural lakes–most of them inaccessible by vehicle traffic.  The isolation of these waters makes them a paradise for anglers–and a magnet for Derry Air Services which has been flying anglers into the remote locations since 1964.

Dick Harlock established the Gogama Lodge and Derry Air and was one of those largely responsible for shepherding in the trophy fish that now thrive in abundance in these pristine waters.   Harlock can loosely be considered the "father of the smallmouth bass" in many of the Canadian waters.

"That’s pretty accurate," he laughed when put into those terms. "We’re in the Arctic Watershed.  All of the waters here flow north into the Hudson Bay. The Arctic watershed has no native muskellunge or native smallmouth."

During the early days of his career, Harlock set out to do something about that and worked closely with the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources to make his lakes a haven for the hard fighting fish.

"The government about 60 or 70 years ago stocked smallmouth in a few of the lakes around here–one of which I had an outpost camp on," said Harlock. "The government has since stocked about 30 lakes with bass out of my one lake."

Harlock helped with the effort flying the fish from lake to lake.  Similar operations were undertaken over the years with walleye and lake trout.    Harlock actually ran his own hatchery that helped spawn the efforts.

"No you can go in there and catch 16, 17, and 18-inch walleye and they get even bigger at  time moves along," Harlock said.

The walleye aren’t as easy to target as smallmouth bass and northern pike.   The walleye require an angler to be fishing under the right conditions according to Harlock.

"If you hit a flat, hot, sunny day with no wind, you’ll catch bass and pike," Harlock explained. "If you get an overcast miserable day with some chop, you can catch 50 to 60 walleyes a day in that lake."

There are some fish that are native.  The Northern Pike is in many cases the prize fish of Canada.  Some of the lake to which Derry Air flies feature the chance of catching a pike over 40 or 50 inches in length, but every lake has pike, white fish, and suckers.    Smallmouths are an addition and walleyes over the years are an addition.

The Sebile Magic Swimmer

The choice of baits is up to the angler.   Derry Air provides live minnows and night crawlers, but many artificial baits will also suffice.   The fish in these lakes prefer anything bright and flashy.   A Sebile Magic Swimmer in blaze orange, Berkeley ribbon tail grubs on quarter oz. jig heads, chartreuse 3-inch Senko worms, and the regular R-Bend spinner baits produced the bulk of our catch.   A three day total catch:  more than 200 smallmouth bass, averaging 15 to 17 inches, 40-to-50 Northern Pike averaging 20 to 35 inches, and two walleyes.  

Learn more at the Gogama Lodge website. 


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