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Opinion: The 'Magnificent Eight' head to Canada

We were munching fresh, pan-fried walleye during a shore lunch when someone yelled, "Moose!"

A cow and calf were frolicking in the water off an island a quarter-mile southeast of us. Some of the guys jumped into a boat and sped toward the duo for pictures. One of our boats had earlier observed woodland caribou. A boreal paradise surrounded us.

On June 30, eight of us -- Austin, Jordan, Jeff, Roger, Ron, Bill, Vern and I -- headed north in two vehicles. We left Wagner around 7 p.m., and I drove the first leg of the trip to Grand Forks, N.D., in an old Chevy van. Our ages ranged from late teens to early 80s, making us a diverse group in both age and experience. We got along just fine during the duration of our week-long trip, and parted as great friends.

After driving through the night and well into the next day, we arrived at Pickle Lake, Ontario -- the end of the road. From there, we hired bush pilot Pete Johnson to fly us in to the camp and cabin owned by Jeff's father and his partners. We would spend the evening of that day and the next four days fishing Kwinigans Lake for northern pike and walleye. On Tuesday morning, July 6, we flew out and headed home.

I could write 10 columns about this trip, but if I did, the central theme of each would be 10 men, forgetting the clock, the trials and tribulations we left back home and behaving as boys. We literally threw the clock out the window as we fished until 9:30 p.m., had supper around midnight and then played liar's dice until the wee hours of the morning. Life resumed around 11 a.m.

I doubt whether satellites documented our midday or midnight skinny dipping, but I am slightly worried about Vern's camera. I don't believe The Daily Republic would print them, but I can't speak for the weekly publications. If Vern wants to fish with me again, he had best be careful. Speaking of pictures, Bill got some great shots of the moose I hope to run in a future column.

The fishing action was great by most anyone's standards, but when compared to previous outings on Kwinigans, it was somewhat slow. I believe that weather has a profound effect on fishing, and the weather was unstable throughout the duration of the trip. Clear skies vanished in a hurry, yielding at times to thunder and violent lightning. On one particular race to the cabin, I found myself praying as lightning flashed around us.

Let me explain the above paragraph. In a column from a few years back, I described Ed Kniffen of Tyndall and I jigging over the side of the boat in Kwinigans. We hauled in walleyes one after another without trolling or casting, and had 100 fish in an hour. On last week's trip, we worked for our fish, although Vern, Jeff and I played triples a number of times while casting or trolling. I would call the typical Kwinigan Lake walleye "eatin' size" as they run between a pound-and-a-half to two-plus pounds.

The Kwinigan walleyes do get larger, although our group didn't catch any. Jeff's dad, Francis, pulled a six-pound walleye from the lake earlier this summer, only to have his partner follow with a seven-pound fish. Many of the walleyes we pulled in showed signs of savage attacks by northern pike as jaw scars and teeth marks garnished their back sides. The food chain is clearly visible.

Unlike Saskatchewan's pricey $77 annual fishing license, Ontario offers an eight-day sportsman license for $37. This license is basically a catch-and-release license, although it allows the angler to take home two walleyes and two northern. Most of us had little interest in the hassle of taking fish home. At the border, U.S. Customs asked about our fish, but they didn't ask to see them. If they had, our fish were packaged to the letter of the law.

A passport is required for entering Canada. If you are planning a Canadian trip, get that passport and apply well ahead of time. I went to the Internet and looked up the U.S./Canada exchange rate before we left. An American dollar was worth $1.05 Canadian funds. If you use cash, you will probably lose the nickel on the dollar. A credit card will solve that problem.

Next week's column will be "Canada Trip Part II." I'll talk about the northern pike as well as the marvelous chefs in our group. Kings never ate so well.

West River deer applications are out. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote of tipping the boat over with Betsy in it? Well, someone left a boat seat on my back steps. Thanks!

See you next week.