WILTZ: Catching lake trout on the Reindeer Lake tripAt 5 a.m. on June 14, Vern Carpenter and I left Armour, in my Dodge pickup. Our destination, 1,225 miles due north, was Lynn Lake, Manitoba. Though I had driven to the end of the road in both Ontario and Saskatchewan, I had never headed north out of Winnipeg, and I was looking forward to it. At Lynn Lake we would board a float plane and fly to Reindeer Lake’s Tate Island, the location of our lodge near the west bank and about half way up the huge lake that runs north and south.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
At 5 a.m. on June 14, Vern Carpenter and I left Armour, in my Dodge pickup. Our destination, 1,225 miles due north, was Lynn Lake, Manitoba. Though I had driven to the end of the road in both Ontario and Saskatchewan, I had never headed north out of Winnipeg, and I was looking forward to it. At Lynn Lake we would board a float plane and fly to Reindeer Lake’s Tate Island, the location of our lodge near the west bank and about half way up the huge lake that runs north and south.
We had an option. Drive to Lynn Lake in time to make a 7 a.m. departure on June 16, or take a Bear Skin Air jet from Winnipeg to Lynn Lake for an additional $675 apiece added to our Tate Island Lodge (jimandgail@TateIslandLodge.com) package price. We stayed in the Lynn Lake hotel the night before departure to avoid being late.
If I ever make this trip again, I will probably take the jet. The road from Thompson to Lynn Lake was poor, gas was about $5 a gallon, Lynn Lake’s Bronx Hotel gouged us for $130, and my pickup was broken into. Fortunately the thieves left our tackle alone and took only some beer that mattered not. On the plus side of driving, we saw new territory, not to mention an occasional wolf along the road.
During our five-day stay, we shared the lodge with a father and son bear hunting/fishing duo from Hershey, Pa., and three retired brothers and a son-in-law from Durango, Colo., Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Houston, respectively. All were fine gentlemen. Ray arrowed a fine bear on his first day while his son was still hunting when we left. I suspect the fishing got in the way of his bear hunting.
Tate Island Lodge left nothing to be desired. Gail’s food was awesome, the cabins were simple, clean and functional, the boats were in new condition, and our young Cree Indian guide, David Roy, was as good and talented as a guide could be. The weather was cool, though pleasant, with a modest rain on our last day. The big screen TV in the main lodge, along with the use of computers, seemed almost out of place on a remote wilderness island. Had I known about their presence, I could have sent my column directly to newspapers from the island.
We followed a pleasant routine. Jim started the diesel generator, far enough from the lodge and cabins so it wasn’t a disturbance, around 6 a.m. Breakfast was served at 7:30 a.m. and the guides were ready with the boats at 8 a.m. The guides prepared a shore lunch of fresh fish shortly after noon, and it was back to fishing until around 5 p.m. I had originally planned to fish after supper, which was served at 6:30, but good company and an awesome lodge modified my plans. If I had a problem, it was trying to get to sleep at 10:30 with sun beams flooding our quaint cabin.
Other than our being a bit too early for Arctic grayling (the ice had just gone out), I don’t know that the fishing could have been any better. On day one, David asked us if we had any particular goals. Both Vern and I had previously caught lake trout, but neither of us had ever taken a laker that weighed 10 pounds. We both had the same goal, a goal that David felt we could accomplish.
While lake trout go deep when the water warms up, they were on the surface and easily caught. We both used medium rods, bait-castling reels, and 15- to 20-pound test line. Much of our time was spent trolling over reefs or around islands. Doubles were frequent, and I often hooked a second fish by casting while Vern battled a fish he hooked while trolling.
Lake trout, incredibly strong fighters, are misnamed as they are not a trout at all. They are char, and closely resemble Arctic char in appearance. Big lakers were not abundant, but we both fulfilled our goal. Our biggest laker was a 20-pounder that was returned to the water like 97 percent of our fish. Talk to Vern and he’ll probably tell you about a fish he lost at boat side that was bigger yet. Fat five to seven pound lakers were a most pleasant nuisance.
Northern pike were a disappointment in that most of the big brutes had not yet returned to shallow water in numbers. While some of the other guys caught pike up to 25 pounds, our pike, which we didn’t spend a lot of time chasing, only went to 10 pounds. A week later may have been the perfect timing. I did enjoy a spell of 30-inch plus pike on every cast for a while on the last day.
There was plenty of time for creativity, and I tried just about every lure in my tackle box. Most of them worked, some not as well as others, but a Rapala “Clackin’ Rap” out-fished all others three to one. This highly touted lure had done nothing for me on our Missouri River, but it was pure poison on Reindeer Lake trout. I feel, especially in Vern’s case, that this lure made the difference between a good trip and a great trip.
One other lure deserves mention. It is a Rapala seven-inch long floating minnow with a red head, chartreuse sides, a chrome silver bottom, and three treble hooks. The lure was made in Ireland. All of my big lake trout came on this lure as well as my pike.
On the final afternoon I trolled for lakers with an ultra-light rod and reel loaded with four-pound test line. David thought I was crazy. Every fish waged a heroic battle on the diminutive rig, and David removed the hooks of all of them without boating them. What a climax to an awesome adventure!
Occasionally I’m asked, “Roger, what do you like best … fishing or hunting?” I don’t know that I have an answer, but I can tell you this. I’ve had no greater sporting thrill, not even my bull moose, red stag, trophy gemsbok, or near record book pronghorn, than the trophy lake trout I caught last month on Saskatchewan’s Reindeer Lake. Make this trip if you can!
On this trip Vern brought a few fish home. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife people paid a lot of attention to them at the border. I’ll tell you about it next week.