Big Pike and a Little Canoe (Quetico Provincial Park): Part 1
I feel a lot of satisfaction when completing a wilderness canoe trip. Being self sufficient for 7 days, navigating over a fairly long distance, setting up a camp, cooking meals over the fire, catching fish for dinner, purifying water to drink, just reaching my destination without becoming lost or suffering some sort of set back. All of this contributes to a sense of accomplishment. Now to top that, I built my own canoe and used it on a seven day wilderness trip this year. I will take you along with my son and I through the words, photos and videos that follow.
We arrived in Atikokan, Ontario about 1:00 on Friday and went immediately to the Quetico park office to pick up our camping permits and fishing licenses, but it was closed for lunch. We went to our hotel to check-in, the White Otter Inn, not exactly 5 star accommodations for the $100 / night rate. Lunch in the dining room at the hotel was not the best either, service was poor, but the food was ok. We picked up some instant drink mix (crystal lite, Gatorade) at the grocery store and made a short trip to the LCBO to purchase a small bottle of adult beverage to assist the evening relaxation for me. Back at the park office we purchased our camping permits, kind of pricey at $14 / day / person. While we were there a fella slipped in behind us and sat in a chair along the wall waiting his turn. It was Jim Clark, a local outfitter who I have developed sort of a friendship with. We’ve rented canoes and transportation from him over the past 5 years. This time I did not use his service, and he seemed a bit disappointed, but understanding. Dan and I spent the rest of the evening at the hotel, using his laptop to get on-line, browsing and checking e-mail.
We checkout at 6:00 am and headed for the NymLake parking lot. A quick cup of coffee brewed in the hotel room and a granola bar was hardly enough to charge me up for the start of this day. We saved out some small individually packed zip-loc bags containing about 1-1/2 cups of homemade trail mix to eat for lunch along the way. The start was sunny and calm but we could see a high overcast slowly approaching. I had my usual type of worries: windy weather and waves, was the car going to be ok in the parking lot for a week? was my short homemade canoe adequate for this trip? would we find it too heavy to carry on the portages? would we make it to the days planned destination? We made the almost ½ mile portage from Nym Lake to Batchewaung Lake without too much trouble and started to develop our portage routine, double portage, which bags and equipment to carry on which trip, what can stay strapped in the canoe like seats and spare paddle, etc. The canoe was heavy. At about 2/3 of portage I felt my shoulders aching but pressed on. Whoever first cut these trails had an evil trick in mind for the travelers suffering pain from the loads they bared. Just as you think you are approaching the end and relief is moments away, because you see the tree top canopy starting to open near the lake or you catch a glimpse of water, the trail cuts away from the lake and the suffering continues for a few extra unexpected moments.
At Batchewaung Lake the water was calm and the weather was still sunny and clear. We loaded the canoe and started the paddle, now officially on Quetico Provincial Park water. We decided to troll and within a few minutes I landed a small Lake Trout. I thought this is a great start, I love to catch Lakers, and to catch one so soon was a sign to great things to come. That was to be the only one I caught for the entire trip. Soon we were cruising across the open waters of Bathewaung Bay toward Pickerel Narrows where we paused to throw a few casts. Dan used his usual large plugs while I just used an orange jig head with yellow plastic twister tail. I don’t like all the work it takes to cast large plugs all day long, but he is almost 30 years younger so he can do it. Dan had a large Northern Pike follow his retrieve several times but never took the bait. I cast my jig out a long distance, gave it a few twitches and bang, it took it. It was a 38” fish and provided a nice little battle for a guy using a lightweight rig with 6 lb. test line. We also paddled into Mosquito bay, where we had seen some monster Northerns spawning on our early May trip from two years before. There were some weed beds that we didn’t expect to find, so we fished them for a while. I managed to jig up a 37” Northern and Dan hooked a monster but lost it when it ran under the canoe.
We continued to the portage from Batchewaung Bay to Maria Lake, paddled a short distance across the lake, and took the next portage to Jesse Lake. The day was warm by now, we had consumed all of our trail mix, and each pumped another liter of water from the lake to quench our thirst. We were both hungry by the time we paddled Jesse Lake, our planned destination for the day. Within a short time we found our campsite, set up camp and went back out on the water, determined to catch some Walleye for dinner. We went to I point where I caught quite a few fish last year and sure enough they were there again. We caught about 6 or 7 and kept 4 for dinner. By the time the fish and pasta was ready we were starving. The little canoe, although a bit heavy to carry on the portages, performed well on the water. It was somewhat slowere to paddle but it had plenty of stability for fishing. I slept pretty well that night.
- Using My Cedar Strip Canoe in Canada 2010 Trip Day 2
Link to day 2
- Building a Cedar Strip Canoe: The Basics
Building the canoe