Fishing Tips by Jim Clark
You can use spin casting, bait casting, ultra lite and fly rods for fishing on canoe trips. I prefer a 6 foot medium action fast taper spinning rod and the best spinning reel that you can afford. Use 8 lb. test clear, low visibility monofilament line; if you have a spare spool, put 10 lb. test on it. You must know how to tie the best knot, or you won't get all the strength from your line.
See Animated Knots for trilene knot tying instructions.
A good quality 'pack rod' is also an option. While on your canoe trip, a rod and reel may be stored behind the stern seat, or put the reel in your packsack, and the rod may be tied under the thwarts along the gunwale with mini bungee cords or short ties. NEVER have hooks or lures attached! Your line can be secured to the spool with a rubber band or tied to a snap swivel.
Put your tackle in a small flat plastic box or a nylon 'soft box' case. A nail clipper, filet knife, small rope stinger, and needle nose pliers or a 'Leatherman' type multi tool are all handy to have. If you cast or jig alot, bring rope and tie to a rock for an anchor.
Surface Baits & Crankbaits
Crankbaits are the best all purpose lures to bring on a canoe trip. You can cast and troll these; use shallow runners in the spring, and deep divers in the summer and autumn. 'Rapala Husky Jerks' and 1/2 once 'Storm Hot N Tots' are best in natural, silver scale, gold, white, and green colors. Many other brands work well too, and don't be afraid to try something new. Use the rear treble ONLY with the barbs flattened and remove the other hooks. Makes it easier to live release those fish caught for sport.
I take a couple dozen jigs on my canoe trips. My favorites are Berkley 4 inch 'Power worms' with an 1/8 ounce head, and 'Gulp' or similar 3 inch tubes or grubs with 1/4 ounce heads. Best colors for worms are black and pumkinseed; for grubs or tubes use white, yellow, green and other light colors. Use white, fluorescent orange or green heads. These patterns work equally well for bass and walleye. In 'QUETICO' you may use barbless artificial lures only; NO leeches or nightcrawlers are allowed.
For monster pike and bass, use lures with a slow presentation. Big soft 'jerk' baits, white skirted spinner baits and 'Mepps' spinners are excellent. In the morning and evening or during any calm condition, nothing is as exciting as topwater fishing and 'Heddon Baby Topedoes' , 'Poppr's' and 'Chug Bugs' are best. Use chrome or light colors in the day, and black or darker patterns at night. Topwater lures are perfect for casting and fishing from shore during those times when you just don't want to sit in the canoe. I suggest you remove extra hooks; leave one rear treble hook only.
Lake trout will hit crankbaits and spoons when they are shallow in May. In the summer, use a 4 ounce trolling sinker 3 feet in front of a snap swivel clipped to a gold, green or white deep diving crankbait like a 'Hot N Tot'. You will need to slow troll this with about 100 feet of line out. You may also vertical jig with a 1/2 ounce 'Heddon Sonar' or a 4 inch white tube jig. Trout often die when caught in deep water, so be prepared to catch and eat ONLY your legal limit.
In 'Quetico', you may possess barbed hooks, but must crush/flatten/remove all barbs before you use them. This is easily done with a needle nose pliers. I use the rear treble hook ONLY on plugs and crankbaits; removing all others. Multiple treble hooks tend to snag fish injuring eyes and gills and they snag fishermen too!! Electronic portable depth locators are still allowed, and can be helpful in August and September.
If you use a fly rod, bring a 7 or 8 weight rod, 8 to 9 feet in length. You will need a fast sinking line and a floating line with 5 foot leaders and an 8# tippet. Use 'bunny leeches', muddler minnows, Mickey Finns, and 'Clouser deep minnows' on the sinking line for walleyes, and large, yellow hairy bugs, mouse imitations, poppers, and Dahlberg Divers for topwater bass. Bring some waders or a float tube if you want to 'walk flats' and wade shorelines for bass and pike fishing. (not everyone likes being in a canoe with a fly fisherman)
When keeping fish to eat, we recommend you stop along shore AWAY from any campsite, and clean your catch there. You can filet fish on an overturned canoe or a paddle blade. Put the meat in a plastic bag and throw fish remains out in deep water or in the bush AWAY from any campsite.
Most guests get the 'Conservation Sport Fishing License'. We issue them at our base in Atikokan. This license allows you to catch all the fish you want, and keep a few to eat. Remember that children under 18 may fish without a license under the direct supervision of an adult license holder, but may NOT keep a possession limit unless they purchase a license. Here are the current regulations for the conservation license:
WALLEYE - You may keep and have in your possession 2 fish: of which one may over 18 inches.
NORTHERN PIKE - You may keep and have in possession 2 pike: One fish over 35 1/2 inches , AND one fish under 27 1/2 inches , OR two fish under 27 1/2 inches. You must live release all fish between 27 1/2 and 35 1/2 inches in length.
SMALLMOUTH BASS - Until June 30, you may keep one bass under 14 inches. Beginning July 1, you may keep 2 bass of any size.
LAKE TROUT - You may keep one trout of any size.
If you want us to write your fishing licenses ahead of time, and have them waiting here for you, email me your full name, full address, zipcode, date of birth, height, eye color and phone number. Specify that you want an 8 day conservation licence or the seasonal conservation licence (for longer canoe trips). You can also just wait and we can do your fishing licence when you get to our base in Atikokan.
When we do your map routing in Atikokan, we will show you our best "fishing holes" along your route, and you'll discover many new ones on your own! Remember that "barbless hooks" and a needle nose pliers makes a live release of the fish you don't need to keep much easier.