As rash decisions go, this one turned out better than most I’ve made over the years. With the encouragement of my wife and our son whose 39th birthday I would miss, it took less than five minutes to accept an invitation from U-T columnist Bryce Miller to tag along with he and fellow native Iowan Ken Pink as they made their third visit to Evergreen Lodge on Ontario’s Lac Seul which in English translates to Lonesome Lake. Lac Seul sprawls over more than 400,000 acres and was created nearly 100 years ago when a dam was placed across the English River. Today it is uniquely designated as a trophy fishery where walleye over 18 inches and northern pike over 27.5 inches are expected to be released. The lake also boasts smallmouth bass and the very tasty yellow perch along with the occasional muskie, though we saw none of the latter.
Make no mistake about it, walleye are the primary target of anglers who travel to Lac Seul while most other species are something of an off-target catch that may or may not be appreciated by the interruption in their efforts to catch yet another walleye whose numbers are phenomenal. Our boat of three anglers averaged roughly 100 walleye per day. A local guide I spoke to who has fished the lake all of his life claims he is disappointed if the clients in his boat don’t catch 300 a day. I should mention that the guide goes by the name “Fishy.”
Whether catching 100 or 300 walleye a day, both the bag and possession limit is four. As a matter of law, all walleye between 18.01 and 21 inches must be released immediately and only one over 21 inches may be kept, which puts a premium on fish as close to 18 inches as possible without exceeding that length. As a matter of policy, resorts in the area we fished urge that anglers release all walleye over 18 inches to protect the quality of the fishing they offer.
If the object is to go home with some filets, and they are irresistibly delicious to walleye aficionados, the exercise is a remarkable numbers game in which size matters. It is a game in which Miller and Pink are pros as they carefully measure every fish that comes aboard while keeping in mind that there is a week of fishing to be had. Fish from 17.5 to 18 inches are candidates for the freezer, but not to be kept so early in the trip that you have to quit fishing because you have reached the possession limit. The ideal is to eat walleye regularly to avoid surpassing the possession limit at any given time and we did exactly that for dinner on all but two of the six days we fished, thus reducing the number of fish in our possession by simply eating them.
That’s enough about numbers and arguably too much. The key to this is catching plenty of walleye which proved easy enough for someone like me who had never caught one before – simply do what most walleye fishermen have done for years – hook a minnow on a ¼ ounce jig head, lob it out and work it slowly back to the boat as if you were fishing a plastic worm for largemouth. At some point in the retrieve there is a tap-tap at which point you drop the rod tip until the rod and line are in a straight line, draw tight and set the hook. Walleye put up a decent fight I’d rate a notch or two behind a largemouth bass of the same size, and unlike a largemouth I never saw one go airborne to spit the hook.
Fishing in depths that ranged from 10 to 20 feet, the same jig and minnow combo was intercepted by yellow perch and on a few occasions by the northern pike like the 38 incher that surprised me and was big enough to top the blackboard at the local tackle shop as the big pike of the day. Coincidentally, it shared the board with the career-best 28.5 inch walleye boated by Pink the same day.
While the jig and minnow combo is the most common method (SDFish member Greydog suggested same before my trip), many anglers prefer to troll spinner rigs trailed by a night crawler, minnow or leech and some fish artificials exclusively finding success with crankbaits and plastics.
When it comes to pure fishing fun, it was tough to beat big topwater baits for the ultra-aggressive pike which like barracuda are slimy and toothy enough to require a wire leader when purposely fishing for them. A big and noisy Woodchopper produced for me while Miller had success with the more subtle rat which also proved seductive to a fat smallmouth.
Trip Planning Details
Getting There – Considering that the town of Ear Falls, Ontario, Canada is 2,299 miles by highway from San Diego, the best bet might be a flight to International Falls, Minnesota and the rental of a car to cover the remaining 210 miles. Ear Falls is within a few miles of roughly a dozen camps on Lac Seul and many more on other lakes in the region, including departure points for numerous fly-in lakes and camps reached only by float plane.
Accommodations – The many fish camps in the area of Lac Seul we fished seemed to be generally comparable to the extent that their grounds were attractive and fishing packages included a cabin along with a boat and motor plus live bait in the basic price of admission.
Tackle – As usual, and probably much like you might do, I took far too much gear, including four rods, six reels and a box full of bass hardbaits and plastics. Next time I will take a medium-light rod of about seven feet fitted with a matching reel (I used a Shimano Sedona 1500) filled with six-pound test and an extra spool filled with eight-pound test which was preferred by Miller and Pink. A second combo would be a much heavier duty baitcasting rig capable of handling big lures with heavy braid attached to a 12 inch wire leader specifically for the pike. Any outfit suitable for big swimbaits outfit would work fine.
Scenery and Wildlife – It was on our second stop on the lake that I felt we were in a Hamm’s Beer commercial. A large stream cascaded over rocks into an inlet surrounded by a dense forest of fir, pine, birch and other trees that cover the shoreline as well as every island of consequence. Later the same day we saw a black bear scavenging along the shoreline and a few days after that Miller and Pink came across a cow moose and her gangly calf. Bald eagles are rarely not in view suggesting a greater density in the area than pigeons at Horton Plaza.
Clothes and Weather – As with most regions of a similar nature, if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes because it will change, making for a wardrobe of layers and more dressing and undressing than a runway model. The availability of rain gear is a must at all times.
Fishing Supplies – The regional hub for fishing gear and information is the Four Seasons Sport Shop which is well-stocked with tackle and ably managed by Pam and Mike Havenor. Pam is a native of the area and Mike is a transplant from Wisconsin first attracted to the area for the quality of its fishing. The outside front of the store features a black board for recognition of the best catches each day. I could think of no questions about fishing in the region that they were unable to answer. If you have one, they can be reached by phone at (807) 222-2200 or by email at FourSeasonsEF@outlook.com.
Evergreen Lodge – I went to Evergreen Lodge simply because it is the one settled on by Miller and Pink after considerable investigation three years ago and it did not take long to understand why. The camp is owned and operated by Pat Beardsley who moved to the area with her husband after 22 years as a Mail Carrier in Iowa and directs every aspect of the camp’s operation which includes 56 beds spread across eight cabins with kitchens, three fully furnished mobile homes and three “camper cabins” which come with hot plates and a BBQ, but no stove. While other resorts may be similar in many ways, there is one feature that sets Evergreen Lodge apart from the others and it is an important one – a fleet of 19 foot-long Starcraft boats with an open deck, three pedestal seats, fore and aft live bait tanks, a measuring board and an anchor heavy enough to hold the boat in place in any condition you’d want to fish in. All boats are powered by 60 horsepower Yamaha motors with tiller steering. Beardsley calls the well-maintained fleet her “floating billboards.” The boats come with the cabin rental and each morning receive two dozen minnows for each angler along with two bags of ice. Other camp features include a boathouse with fishing supplies, a fish cleaning room, a small camp office and laundry room. In addition to fishing from May through October, the camp seasonally accommodates grouse, bear and moose hunters.
For information about Evergreen Lodge, call (888) 522-7385, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.lacseulwalleye.com.
Licenses and Fees Prices – The cost for an eight-day non-resident fishing license was $55.95. The price for the Deluxe Fisherman’s Plan which included the cabin, boat and motor, gas, bait, ice and freezer service came to $795 for each of us.
Navionics – The best and most valuable accessory to me in terms of boating safety was the Navionics App that both Miller and Pink had loaded into their cell phones. As mentioned earlier the lake is loaded with islands, some named, some unnamed and some that just barely peak the surface – along with plenty of shoals and rocks that lurk just under the surface and pose a significant risk to unwary boaters. With Pink operating the boat and Miller acting as navigator we were easily able to find the fishing hotspots and safely traverse the lake.
Bugs Ugh! – On a seasonal basis, bugs can be an issue almost anywhere and that is true of Lac Seul as well. During our stay the third week of June, they were a minor issue and even mosquitos were scarce, though that may not be true as the season wears on when a headnet and supply of bug spray might be called for.
The biggest bug problem we faced came in the afternoon of a single day near the end of the trip when we encountered what I believe were black flies that had the ability to bite through clothing when they didn’t find a patch of bare skin to their liking. I attracted far more of them than my partners which I attribute to wearing waterproof bib overalls and a jacket that by that point held plenty of dried and smelly fish slime. As a result, I had more flies swarming around me than a Mission Beach trash can.
Beware of the Poutine
Those traveling to Canada for the first time are advised to beware of the Poutine. Not long after passing through Customs at the border (you’ll need your passport for this fishing adventure) we stopped at a restaurant for dinner. As we reviewed the menu, Miller suggested that I try some poutine which he described as a very tasty Canadian favorite we could share while awaiting our meals. When in Canada, do as the Canadians do, right? Soon a bowl consisting of French fries and cheese curds smothered in brown gravy was in front of us. Miller had a taste and Pink a bit more, leaving the bulk of the tasty mess to me, so I obliged by eating all of it. It was then that Miller further described the dish as “Canada’s favorite laxative.” It was not long before I realized just how right he was. Traveler’s Tip – Although it didn’t look very appetizing, the poutine tasted pretty good making it worth a try – but be sure to OD on some Immodium first.