Fishing the Manitou
I grabbed my bags, loaded my truck, and headed west to Fort Frances from Thunder Bay. The 3.5-hour drive was something I hadn’t done in a long time and strangely it was missed. Driving alone gives an individual time to think and reflect. As I passed familiar landmarks I recollected memories of travelling highway 11 so many times before. Laughing along the way with my beautiful fiancé, asking mom and dad if we were there yet, fighting over something with my little sister who has grown and I am so proud of. Again thinking of how valuable time has become.
I arrived at my family home late that night, mom and dad were there to greet me with open arms. We caught up as much as we could before it was time to get some sleep for the day ahead. I woke up early the following morning to get some quick errands done before we set out. Across the border to International Falls, MN I went. I finished my errands and made sure to stop in at Sandy’s Place for some of the best homemade pancakes around. I was greeted and treated with kindness and amazing food. I recommend stopping by if you are in the area.
After returning home, dad and I loaded up his truck, traversed across town onto Highway 502, then navigated to Esox landing to be picked up by boat from a member of the staff at Manitou Weather Station Fishing Resort. The landing was filled with vehicles from all over both Canada and the USA. We unloaded our gear and then waited for our water buggy to arrive. One boat arrived and we were asked our names and if we were bear hunting. We explained that we were there for fishing but were inquisitive of how things were going for bear season. We had a short conversation with the gentleman before we got picked up.
The ride from Esox landing to the Weather Station was just shy of an hour and gave us time to be introduced to the woman navigating the boat. The saying “small world” comes in to play all too often and this was one of those instances. As it turned out the family home of my fiancé was within a stone’s throw of our driver’s. She navigated the lake with expertise. I was at peace, taking in the spectacular views of crystal clear water and flourishing conifer horizons. Before we knew it, the boat was throttled down and we arrived at the point of a cove with a dock extending from a beautifully crafted cabin. Out came the gear once again. “This one is yours, take your time and once your settled come by the main lodge” our driver explained. So we did exactly as we were told. Unpacked, settled in, and took a moment to appreciate the accommodations that were bestowed upon us.
The cabin consisted of a large three season porch, the main living room area, a kitchen with dining table, two bedrooms with multiple beds, and a bathroom complete with a shower. Hundreds of kilometers away from the closest community and yet we had the luxuries of being at home. Large exposed beams, varnished pine, cedar shakes, live edge tables, paintings of Canada’s game species, a map of the water system, and a “Take a lure leave a lure log” were some of the highlighting features. Towards the lake a deck was built to provide for a sitting area outdoors that joined with the dock. The shoreline was filled with shale, providing an excellent opportunity to see who could skip a rock the farthest.
After settling in we made our way to the main lodge, another finely crafted building. The attention to detail throughout the resort was impressive. We explored the peninsula, checking out the sauna building, wood stove hot tub, mechanics shop, various cabin locations, as well as a piece of history. The Royal Sovereign Gold Mine operated in the Manitou Lake area throughout the late 1800’s and from that time there still remains an abandoned horizontal and vertical shaft within walking distance of the resort. We also learned that the name of the resort originated from a weather station the Ontario Ministry of Natural resources utilized previously in the 80’s. Later on in the evening we ate a wonderful dinner, relaxed, and took full advantage of having a sauna.
The following morning we once again went to the main lodge. Breakfast is an important part of the day especially when you have a busy day of fishing ahead of you. Coffee, home baked cookies, and a hearty meal were the perfect start to an amazing day. We returned to our cabin, packed up our fishing gear and some snacks for the day. We were greeted at 7 am dockside by our guide. He explained to us that he had been guiding for about 4 years. We had spoken with him the evening before to establish a game plan. We loaded up and were on our way in no time. We traversed a short distance before ending up in a shallow bay with weeds. The bottom was easy to observe through the lucid water. As I watched intently a school of fish came in to view. “Look at that! Fish! Wow! There’s tons of them!” Everyone in the boat stood up to see sucker fish darting in different angles away from the boat. “I’d say that is the good start to a day of fishing!” I blurted. We came up to a path that was cleared on shore to portage into a neighbouring lake. Our plan was to target musky and then lake trout.
We hauled fishing rods, life jackets, tackle boxes, a fishing net, and some snacks through a well maintained trail. It was only a couple hundred yards if that before another lake came into view with a boat parked on shore. This lake too had extremely clear water which was exciting. Being able to see your lure several feet below you and away from you offered a tactical advantage. Structure as well as hazards were easy to distinguish. We paddled out from shore before our guide started the motor to bring us to a weed bed not far from the landing. “Okay this is a good weed bed, there’s some structure that way, and some deeper water that way. Go ahead and start casting” our guide explained. Within a few casts, musky could be seen following our lures right up to the side of the boat. “Do a figure eight! Let out a bit more line! Awe good try, you’ll get him on the next one!” I was smiling from ear to ear. Dad was the first one to hook into a musky, I managed to catch one a short while later. For both of us it was the first time ever seeing one in person, let alone catching one.
In the same lake, we navigated to a spot further away from the landing and found ourselves fishing in the 50-60ft of water mark. Our guide asked if either of us have gone fishing for lake trout previously. My dad had gone a number of times but I was “green” as some might say. Having only gone once or twice in my childhood and not having the best memory of it. I explained I brought some spoons and asked for our guide’s thoughts. He said “Sure try that, it looks nice. Those colors work well.” It wasn’t long before the Luhr-Jensen Krocodile spoon worked its magic. A nice lake trout for shore lunch was put on the stringer. A few trolls later, a beautiful 29.5” fish was brought into the boat and released for someone else to have the joy of catching another day. By late morning we ended up leaving the lake with a feed for shore lunch.
We arrived at an established shore lunch spot with benches, tables, and a place to clean fish. A propane burner and a fire pit were our heat sources for frying up a little taste of heaven. Staff from the resort met us there and we helped them bring supplies up to the tables and shortly after everyone got to work. The fire was started, propane burner hooked up and ignited, potatoes cut, bread cut, canned goods prepped for the fire, and fish filleted. I watched attentively as our guide made quick work of the trout we were blessed to have harvested. Shore lunch is one of those delicacies that I look forward to each and every time I have the chance to go out fishing. It takes a little bit of extra time and room to pack for but it is hard to find a meal that compares to the taste of fresh caught fish accompanied with the aroma of cooking over an open flame. We ate like kings and queens, socialized, and then together cleaned up. Leaving the spot as we found it. The afternoon proved to be tougher than the morning for fishing but we still had a great time hooking into some more trout, as well as getting some fish on the line that we didn’t land but had a chance to catch a glimpse of.
The following day went much like the day before. We woke up early, headed to the main lodge for our breakfast, and then back to our cabin to meet our guide. We fished the main lake this time and the saying of the day was “Big water, big fish.” The first spot we arrived at was about 110ft of water. I opened the bail on my reel and waited patiently as the spoon fluttered its way to the bottom of the lake. Not long after, a mass declared itself upon the end of my fishing rod in a way I hadn’t experienced. The fish felt like I was dragging up an anchor from the bottom. A few turns of the reel, and just as fast as the fish had hit, it was gone. Leaving me shouting with excitement and frustration, thinking to myself that is exactly why it’s called fishing and not catching. That instance will remain as a deep-seated memory, serving as one of the many reasons that keeps fishing exciting.
We proceeded on to another spot where I decided to try the three way swivel method I had previously read up on when learning about fishing for brookies. The rig consisted of using a mono leader connected to a three way swivel. Of the two remaining leads, one lead had approximately 3 feet of mono leader material to a 1 ¼ ounce troll weight, and the other lead had about 2 ¾ feet of mono leader material to a spoon. I found keeping the weight and lure leads different lengths prevented the two leads from hooking into each other and tangling. This combination worked well even when casting. The 1 ¼ ounce weight allowed for the rig to get to the bottom quickly. I then walked it along the bottom back to the boat. It took me a few minutes to rig up but proved to be worthwhile as the first and second cast each landed a trout for lunch.
By the end of shore lunch on day two of fishing we decided we would prefer to head back to the main lodge to relax and enjoy the rest of our trip soaking up some sun and catching a much needed power nap. I had time before dinner to take out one of the resorts paddle boards for a spin on the lake. That evening we once again enjoyed a great dinner with desert and socialized.
It is hard to express just how much I enjoyed my stay at Manitou Weather Station. The fact that I was able to spend quality time with my dad which I cherish was special in itself. Being able to spend that time at a resort where we were treated with the upmost level of hospitality made the experience that much more memorable. We met people whom I am happy to call friends that in time I hope to see again. As time progresses, the earth revolves, and our environment transforms with new growth year after year. We advance through the seasons, standing spectator to the extraordinary planet we call home. We distinguish the importance of time. A small four-letter word that is always moving too fast and no one ever has enough of. It is the most valuable of commodities, yet it often is taken for granted. We allow our vision to narrow, prioritizing the wrong elements in our life as time continues. Time, a four-letter word that holds so much value in our lives must be utilized to its fullest potential. Friends, family, and your passions should hold the most significance. Take a moment to disconnect yet reconnect. Life is too short, always seek, find, and pursue what drives you.