As my fishing buddy Phil Zimmerman and I rounded the point and entered a small secluded cove on Iskwatikan Lake in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, we were both thinking BIG PIKE. Shallow shoreline water with standing vegetation dropping quickly into deeper water; this area had everything a big northern pike could want.
This was our first time to fish this cove and because of the “fly-in“ remoteness of the area, it’s a pretty good bet the fish seldom see a lure. We were a couple days into our five-day fishing trip with several good friends at Iskwatikan Lake Lodge, owned by our friend Bryce Liddell.
As soon as we entered the cove, we began casting Mepps Syclops spoons, mine was a silver and blue pattern but we caught fish on every color pattern we used. Being in the front of the boat at the time, my spoon was the first to hit the water in a particularly “pikey” looking area.
My cast was a long one, landing a couple feet from the shoreline. As I began the retrieve, I would occasionally allow the big spoon to pause and I would “jiggle” it by twitching the rod tip. This technique accounted for countless smaller pike -- there is something about the pause of the lure that triggers them to strike. Pike are extremely aggressive fish, especially the bigger ones.
I continued my retrieve until I could see the lure about 10 feet out in the clear water. I remember allowing it to pause an instant and I popped the rod tip, causing it to dart around in place for a couple seconds. Then, faster than the mind’s eye can record such things, I saw what appeared to be a fast moving dark log heading straight at the dancing spoon. One second, my mind recorded a dark “log” heading to the bait, the next second, I was locked in mortal battle with one of the hardest pulling fish I’ve caught. A big pike is a brute, plain and simple and it will eat anything it can get in those toothy jaws.
As I have often said, anyone with a little luck can catch a big fish if they keep their drag set correctly so that the fish doesn’t break off. Just give the fish ample time to tire before attempting to bring it to the net. In a matter of five minutes or so, which seemed like five hours at the time, the big pike tired itself out enough to slide boat side into an awaiting landing net. The pike measured 40 inches and was the largest landed during our five glorious days of fishing.
Although a big fish certainly gets everyone’s adrenaline pumping, there is much more to a fishing trip in the wilds of Canada than one fish, regardless of the size. A few weeks ago, I did a column focused on how easy planning and making a trip to a fly in lodge such as Iskwatikan Lake Lodge can be. I was lucky the first time I traveled to Canada to fish. My friend Brad Fenson, who is a well known outdoors writer both in Canada and the U.S., has spent a lifetime hunting and fishing in Canada. Brad helped me set up my first trip several years ago and I have been addicted to the cry of the loon and awesome fishing provided by the “north country” ever since.
Like any outdoor endeavor, there are many options when it comes to fishing in Canada. Everything from lodges where everything is furnished to “do it yourself” lodges such as Iskwatikan is available and priced to suit just about every budget. My first time to fish Saskatchewan several years ago was at a lodge where meals and guides were provided.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but learned that with a bit of basic knowledge, the average fisherman could easily catch plenty of fish on their own. I have found pike and walleye and Arctic grayling when I fished for them, to be pretty naïve, compared to fishing lakes in the U.S. Most fish in these remote fly-in lakes truly have never seen a lure and they are often extremely easy to catch.
We trolled bottom bouncing rigs with flashy little spinners and hooks tipped with scented artificial earthworms or live night crawlers to catch the good eating walleye and big spinners or spoons for the pike. Fishing was not always red hot but when things slowed, a short boat ride to the next cove often put us in the action.
When planning meals before our trip, we vowed to eat fish every day and that’s just what we did, sometimes twice a day! Fried fish or my version of “blackened” walleye or pike was on the menu every day and Danny Hood’s specialty, “walleye on the half shell” was a huge hit with our crew; so was Danny’s stone ground yellow grits with plenty of butter! Danny hails from South Carolina and is very adept at preparing seafood, I’m anxious to learn a few more of his fish cooking tricks!
As a general rule, fishing in these remote camps begins in early June each summer, just after ice-out and continues through September and often the early part of October.
To learn more about planning your own fishing trip to Saskatchewan, feel free to contact Bryce Liddell through his website www.iskwatikanlake.com or email me through my radio website www.catfishradio.org. I’ll be happy to help you make plans. Another great resource is www.tourismsaskatchewan.com.