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CANADIAN FISHING TRIPS

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Are you looking for a fishing vacation in Canada? You'll find drive-in and fly-in lodges, fly-fishing trips, outpost and saltwater charters, as well as ice fishing. Canada has 125,570 miles (202,080 km) of coastline and 20 per cent of the world's freshwater, so there is no shortage of places to go fishing. Here are some to get you started:

Fresh-cooked walleye at La Reserve Beauchene, Quebec.
Fresh-cooked walleye at La Réserve Beauchêne, Quebec.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Two men are fishing for walleye (pickerel) from a boat at La Réserve Beauchêne, in Quebec. They have the entire lake to themselves, except for the resident loons (water birds). The lake is only one of 35 backcountry lakes in the 80 square-mile (206 sq-km) property. Each lake has its own fishing party.

Catching walleye

The fishermen catch and release fish, keeping only a prime walleye for a shore lunch. With their crimson boat pulled up on a beach at a picnic area, they build a fire.

The filleted walleye sizzles until golden, in a fry pan. Served with fried potatoes, green peppers, onions and baked beans, the hearty lunch sustains them until they feast on a bountiful home-cooked dinner in the lodge that evening.

Fly-in lodges

In northern Saskatchewan, anglers load their tackle into a floatplane. It rises over a pristine wilderness of forests, bordering the Churchill River, coming to a smooth stop by the dock of Twin Falls Lodge. It's one of dozens of fly-in lodges in northern Canada.

Northern pike and lake trout caught in these clear, cold waters are enormous. Lodge guides know where to find them, but dinner conversations invariably include at least one tale about "the one that got away."

Fishing in Saskatchewan

Tourism Saskatchewan publishes a website with information on recreational freshwater fishing. Readers learn about species of fish caught in Saskatchewan, fishing seasons, rules and regulations, cost of angling licenses, where to fish, guides, lodges, camps, outfitters, ice fishing, fly fishing, fly-in and drive-in lodges, trophy fish records, weather and fishing packages.

The website also includes tips, videos, photos, gear, equipment and techniques advice, a forum, recipes and a list of fishing derbies, tournaments and festivals in Saskatchewan.

Near Canmore, Alberta, an angler casts a fly into the Upper Bow River and, minutes later, pulls up a wild brown trout. During long summer days, the wildlife viewing (bears, beavers, otters, muskrats, elk, eagles, osprey and kingfishers) is as pleasurable as the fishing.

Where to catch salmon

On the west coast of British Columbia, schools of Pacific and bottlenose dolphins, pods of orcas and grizzly bears distract fishermen — until a powerful king salmon attacks the bait. It's only one of five species of salmon in British Columbia. Full-service fishing lodge staff fillet, vacuum-seal and flash-freeze the catch to bring home.

Fishing in Canada isn't confined to the warmer spring, summer and fall months. In Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, for example, you'll find groups of people peppering the surface of frozen lakes, dropping lines into holes chiselled into the ice. Some are snugly ensconced in huts, which can be rented from Canadian fishing outfitters. Others are outdoors and warmly dressed, sipping hot coffee from insulated bottles.

Peering through the holes, they watch perch, ling (freshwater cod) and herring swim tantalizingly close to the bait at the end of lines, never knowing when they'll bite. The ones that do, lie on the ice, frozen rock-hard by the cold air. Throughout the winter, ice fishing derbies offer prizes for the heaviest catches.

Catching walleye at sunset
Catching walleye at sunset
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Salmon rivers

What makes Canadian fishing so unique is the diversity of fish and techniques used to catch them. In Nova Scotia, anglers can haul in a hungry saltwater mackerel from a dock, with a rod and reel, or play with smallmouth bass in a lake.

Prince Edward Island adventures range from deep-sea fishing for giant bluefin tuna to river angling for trout and salmon. Newfoundland and Labrador are home to nearly 200 salmon rivers, while the Miramichi River in New Brunswick entices Atlantic salmon fishermen from around the world.

Arctic char jigging

In the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, outfitters transport fishermen by dogsleds and snowmobiles to ice holes for char-jigging on sunny, cold spring days. During the warmer summer months, open-water fishing under the midnight sun yields record-size Arctic grayling, Arctic char, lake trout, northern pike and whitefish. Floatplanes transport fishermen to secluded wilderness lodges.

Fishing in northern Canada spans the four seasons. In summer, 24-hour daylight allows around-the-clock casting. Fall and spring are good times for ice fishing.

NWT angling

Trophy lake trout, Arctic char, great northern pike, pickerel and whitefish draw anglers to the Northwest Territories. Fall and spring are good times for ice fishing. Outfitters and lodges offer packages to Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, Mackenzie Delta and numerous rivers, streams and small lakes.

Fishing in the Mackenzie River, Northwest Territories
Fishing in the Mackenzie River, Northwest Territories
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Fishing lodges

Anglers can stay at drive-in or fly-in full-service fishing lodges. Besides accommodations, most lodges provide American Plan meals, boats, motors, fuel and guides. Some even include saunas, hot tubs, fireplaces, smokehouses, conference facilities, massages, tackle and gear.

Housekeeping fish camps supply accommodations with kitchen facilities. Depending on the camp, fishing packages may include boats, motors, guides, satellite TV and wireless Internet. Licensed outfitters can arrange fishing day trips, fly-fishing, instruction and ice fishing. Fishermen can also rent boats, motors, and equipment for independent trips.

How to pick the best package

It's important to find a fishing package with both the style of fishing and type of fish you prefer, as well as the best accommodations for your budget.

Lodgings include platform tents, rustic outpost cabins, cottages, houseboats, live-aboard floating resorts, hotels and motels, and luxurious lodges with maid service and full meal plans.

Fishing packages abound. Some are for families. Others are for hard-core fishermen. Some focus on one type of fish (e.g., salmon), while others offer a variety of species. Always ask if there's a minimum stay or a minimum number of people required. Prices usually relate to what's included.

Besides accommodations, you should ask about the following: transportation (float planes, boat transfers etc.), boat, motor and gas, bait, guides, meals, fish preparation, freezing and storage, rain gear, topographical maps and fishing licences. Participants usually bring their own fishing gear.

Finding an outfitter

Fishing regulations and seasons vary with each province and territory. Your best bet is to work with an experienced fishing outfitter in the region.

Many provinces and territories publish annual fishing guides, which list packages, lodges and outfitters. The Fishing Ontario brochure, for example, lists nearly 150. That's diversity.