Canadian Fly-in Outpost Fishing for the “First-Timer”

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Being an avid fisherman means at some point in your life, you and your fishing buddies think about taking the big step of going on a remote outpost or Fly-in fishing trip in Canada.  You’ve read or heard stories of the great fishing for walleye, Northern Pike, smallmouth bass, and Lake Trout and you’re ready to pack up your gear and go.  You may have even gone to The All-Canada Show, or some similar gathering of outfitters and trip providers.  Then it hits you…you’ve been fishing for Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, or other denizens of the central Midwest, and you really have no idea how to approach fishing for the toothy beasts of the Great White North.  Well friends, let someone who has gone through this conundrum offer some guidance and general tips to ease the pain and lower the learning curve for you.  What follows is a good general guide on gear, fishing tackle and overall advice on planning and executing your first trip to a Canadian Fly-in Outpost fishing camp or cabin.

  1. Find and hire a reputable outpost provider.  This is a daunting task in and of itself.  You want to look for a provider who offers a full cabin, not a half cabin or tent camping.  The additional work (and gear) required for tent camping is a real game changer in the amount of fishing time you’ll have available.  Unless you are a die-hard camper, you should probably pass on this type of trip.  It is recommended to go with an outfitter who provides full cabins with propane stoves and refrigerators, boats with motors, and either solar or generator powered lights for the cabin.  This step will most likely take several weeks of internet searching, or a full day at a sporting show.   Talk to several outfitters that offer the above type cabins.  There are lots out there.  If you want a recommendation, my group has used Walsten Outpost Camps for over 20 years, and they have great outpost camps on some of the best fishing lakes in Ontario.  Do yourself a favor and talk to them first.  They are easily located on the web via any internet search.
  2. Here is the real meat and potatoes…what gear do I need and will my bass/crappie/trout fishing gear work?  The simple answer is yes, it will work, but you need to adjust your bass gear to what works best for walleyes and northern pike.
    1. Leave your worm box at home.  Remember you are not fishing for bass.
    2. Get some 9″ to 12” metal leaders for pike fishing.  Pike have teeth.  Real teeth.  Real Sharp Teeth.  They will bite through 20 pound test monofilament in the same way you bite through spaghetti.   Oh, but you fish with braided line, or some other “wonder” line.  Trust me, get the metal leaders.  I’ve seen small pike wreck a spinner bait, twisting it beyond recognition. GET THE METAL LEADERS.
    3. You might ask if you need metal leaders for walleye.  No you don’t.  I’ve caught hundreds of walleyes without metal leaders.  Yes you might lose a couple, but Mr. Walleye has pretty good sight, and doesn’t like the look of a leader.  Mr. Pike is so aggressive he doesn’t care and will hit most anything dropped in front of him.
    4. My advice is to take 2 or 3 rods at most.  Two spinning rigs and a bait-casting rig.  For walleyes you want a 6 foot medium-fast to fast action rod.  I prefer St. Croix rods myself and have gotten great results with them over many years.  Walleyes can be particularly light biters and a sensitive rod with a fast action makes for a lightning fast hook set.  Any good spinning reel will do, I prefer the Shimano Sedona, Sahara or Symetre reels.  Your good bass bait casting rod and reel makes a great tool for northern pike.  Just be sure to add that metal leader that I told you about.
    5. Terminal tackle…if I could take only one type of terminal tackle fishing in Canada it would be a one-quarter ounce jig.  I’ve caught walleyes, northern pike, perch, suckers, and small mouth bass on the humble ¼ ounce jig.  So get some.  Get a few different colors; you can’t go wrong with orange, red, white, fluorescent yellow, and chartreuse.  Pair the jig head with a 3 or 4 inch plastic jig body and you’ve got all you need.  Wait, you want more options?  Ok…get some Canadian spoons in Fire-Tiger and Red-n-white.  Get some countdown and suspending crank baits, but expect that they will get wrecked.   Maybe throw in a few top water buzz baits or jerk baits.  Pike love these in the evenings amongst the weedlines, rocks, and lily pads.
    6. Line…spool all your rods with new line and take a spool or two as back up with you.  Remember that you’re going to be 50 to 100 miles out in the bush, and Wal-Mart is not a short drive away.  I like 6 lb test for walleye fishing and 12 lb minimum for pike.
    7. Live bait…I recommend buying 3 to 4 pounds of water leeches once you get into Canada.  Canadian law severely restricts the type of live bait one can bring across the border.  Just buy your leeches in Canada.  Yes, they are expensive.  Incredibly expensive.  You will spend several HUNDRED dollars on leeches.  Get over it,

because walleyes love them.  Get more bang for your buck by cutting them in two as you use them.  Finally, get over the yuck factor.  The part of the leech that is the visible sucker is his foot, not his mouth.  His mouth is at the non-sucker end, and he won’t be able to bite you and start sucking your blood in the time it takes to get him out of the leech bucket and onto your hook.

  1. Gear…several things here fellers…

i.      Get a quality set of Gore-Tex rain gear, Jacket and Pants.  The weather can change fast, and some days it can rain all day.  You’re dropping $1,800 on a week of outpost camp fishing, you’re likely to be fishing in the rain at least one or two days.  You want good rain gear that will keep you dry in a monsoon, not some $5 poncho that you bought at the bait shop.

ii.      Good water-repellant boots.  Same story as above.  Gore-Tex boots. (we like the Danner 454 GORE-TEX Hiking boots)

iii.      Get a good set of mosquito netting for your bed.  The little buggers are the national bird of Canada and they are everywhere during the summer. (the ThermaCELL mosquito repellent is a great product

iv.      A really good SHARP fillet knife.  Not an electric knife.  Remember you are 50 to 100 miles out in the bush, and the fish cleaning hut is 99.9% sure to NOT have electricity.  I like a 7 or 9 inch Rapala filet knife.  They can be sharpened to a razor edge and are a fine choice.

  1. General advice…remember that you are going to be flying out to your fishing destination on a small aircraft.  This means weight restrictions.  Most outfitters allow 300 lbs per person, INCLUDING your body weight.  Go light on the gear.  Go light on clothes, but be sure to pack that good rain gear.  Take no more than two pairs of shoes, one being your Gore-Tex boots.  Take at least one T-shirt per day, but only take one or two pairs of jeans, take a couple of sweatshirts or hoodies.  You want the ability to layer up if it gets cold, and remember, you’re in Canada, at some point it’s likely to get cold.  I’ve seen it SNOW in June up there.

i.      Other tips:  plan your food menu out for the week in advance.  Keep your menu simple.  Plan to eat fish most days, but have a back up meal or two in case a storm blows in and the fish won’t bite.  Our group likes to have a breakfast like biscuits and jelly with bacon maybe twice in the week.  The rest of the time we have granola bars or ready-to eat oatmeal.  We make lunch our big meal of the day.  We’ll fish until about 1pm, then come in and make our big fish meal for the day.  Fried walleye, corn fritters, fried potatoes and onions, maybe some beans.  Some days we’ll grill the walleye.  After lunch we’ll relax a couple of hours then go out and fish the late afternoon/evening bite.  Since it stays light up there until 10pm or later depending on the month, you might not get back for supper until 10:30 or so.  Eat a light dinner like sandwiches and chips, or sausage and cheese with crackers.

ii.      Booze.  You’re on your own here.  Just remember that Canadian Law limits the amount of booze you can bring across the border from the U.S. into Canada.  They also don’t allow you to bring live bait across and certain agricultural products like raw potatoes.  Do your research on these topics and act accordingly.  Remember you are guests wanting to come into THEIR country.  Their rules apply.  Know the rules and abide by them.  Also, radar detectors are illegal in Canada.  Don’t find that out the hard way.  Canadian law enforcement agents utilize radar detector detectors, so don’t press your luck.

iii.      Fishing Licenses.  Do your research for the province you plan to fish in.  Most outfitters can help you some here, but the internet is a wonderful tool to learn what you need to know.  Google “Ontario Non-resident Fishing license”, or the appropriate province if not Ontario.    Provincial Fish and Game authorities will conduct checks at your outfitters dock, and they have airplanes to fly in and do remote camp checks too.  They do not fool around with people who break their laws.  Know your daily and possession limits and abide by them.  Respect their laws, it’s their country and you are a guest there.

iv.      Passport.  A U.S. passport is required to enter Canada and to re-enter the U.S.  U.S. border agents may also check any fish you bring back from your trip to make sure that you are abiding by the appropriate laws and limits.  Again, know the laws, limits and procedures for bringing fish out of Canada into the USA.

And that’s it…a first timers guide to planning and prepping for your first remote outpost fly-in fishing trip.  It’s sufficient information to keep you from taking too much gear, the wrong gear, and lets you know you have a lot of research to do.  As far as catching the fish, read a few articles on jigging for walleyes, and walleye behavior in general.  Maybe check back to the blog, and we just might post up some successful Canadian Outpost Fishing techniques for Walleye, and Northern Pike.

Tight Lines boys and girls!

Many of the products listed in this article can be purchased at Cabela’s.