Recently my wife received a call from her sister and during the course of the conversation, my sister-in-law mentioned that her husband was in Canada fishing with some friends. This immediately brought back some really enjoyable memories of fishing trips about 40 years ago to Lake Kabinakagami in Ontario north of the Sault about 200 miles as shown on the map above and the aerial photo of the lodge below. The place is still operating and essentially unchanged as this short promotional video depicts.
We would drive through Michigan upper peninsula and into Canada to White River, Ontario, where an amphibious plane would be ready for the flight to the lodge. At the time, White River supposedly held the record for the coldest spot in Canada at -72 degrees, but has since been upstaged by Snag, Yukon at -81.
But first, we had to buy beer since Canada did not allow alcoholic beverages to be transported across the border. Because there was a strict 100 pound weight limit for each passenger’s carry-on gear and supplies, we painstakingly limited our gear to the bare necessities to make room for more Labatt's as shown in the photo below.
Finally arriving at the lodge, the fishing began in earnest. There were two to a boat and we’d troll for walleye in the many bays around the expansive 42 sq. mi. lake.
Each day we’d enjoy a mouthwatering shore lunch on an open fire frying up the fresh fish we caught that morning, washed down with some cold Labatt’s.
At that time, the daily limit was six walleye per man, not counting the fish eaten at the shore lunch. So we’d only keep the biggest fish. For example, the walleye on my left would be released while the one on my right would be a keeper.
Occasionally we’d have a double header, meaning both anglers were landing a fish at the same time. To get a sense for what that's like, here’ s a video of a triple header from the lodge’s website. Once we limited out, we’d go fishing for perch or whitefish, many times off the dock by the lodge. There was a day when one of the guys did get shutout (almost) as evidenced in this photo.
That evening we’d clean the fish, put them in plastic bags with our name tag, to be frozen in the camp’s freezer until the trip back home. The amount of fish we’d bring back equalled exactly the weight of the beer we brought (and consumed), so we could maintain that 100 pound limit for the flight back. Since those days, the limit on walleye brought out of Canada is six per person and strictly enforced by Canadian wildlife officers as evidenced by this recent arrest and $10,000 fine reported in the local paper.
Digging through my old tackle box (more on that relic next week), I discovered the above map of the lake showing all the best fishing spots as well as the location of the daily shore lunch. Don’t tell anyone as these spots are all top secret!
The wildlife that far up north was amazing. We’d see deer, moose and bear almost daily, but the highlight was seeing the eagles soar above the lake and dive for fish like shown in this video. Eagles were never seen further south because of the prevalent use of DDT pesticides for agriculture. The pesticide got into the bloodstream of the eagles causing their egg shells to be very thin and fragile. So eagle reproduction in the US virtually came to a halt for years after DDT was outlawed in 1972. Although it took years, thankfully the eagles have returned, as witnessed by my sister, who sends photos all the time of the eagles nesting around their home on Lake Loramie.
We stopped going to that lake after a few years because the fishing dropped off substantially, supposedly due to acid rain washing down airborne chemicals in the clouds from power plants. Since Lake Kabinakagami's predominant winds are from the southeast, the likely source for the pollution was midwestern US. Now that power plants have been cleaned up, like the eagles, the fish have returned with abundance.
Regarding my brother-in-laws fishing trip, check out this honker northern pike he caught in a Canadian Lake north of Minnesota that qualified him for the Fish Report Wall of Fame:
Maybe it’s time to make some new memories on another Canadian lake?