National treasures: Western Canada
Trout, pike and walleye destinations with incredible vistas, unique geography and amazing wildlife
From incredible vistas and unique landscapes to marine wonderlands, these are the top spots to fish and take in Canada’s awesome natural wonders
BANFF UPPER HOT SPRINGS, ALBERTA
Soothing mineral waters and trophy mountain fish
Situated on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain, Banff Upper Hot Springs have been luring relaxation seekers since the late 1800s. And once you step out of the historic bathhouse into the steamy pool of mineral water you’ll know why. At 1,585 metres above sea level, these are the highest hot springs in Canada—the perfect place for a soothing soak after visiting the area’s awesome fishing spots. Nearby Lake Minnewanka, for example, is home to trophy lakers and massive Rocky Mountain whitefish. The largest lake in Banff National Park, Minnewanka is 25 kilometres long and just two kilometres wide, plunging as deep as 400 feet. Banff Fishing Unlimited runs boat trips to Minnewanka, as well as float or walk-and-wade trout fishing on the Bow River.
Learn more: www.banff-fishing.com
CASTLE WILDERNESS, ALBERTA
Mountain biodiversity and catch-and-release trout
Naoto AokiIt’s known as the “Crown of the Continent,” an incredible 72,000-square-kilometre landscape of diverse Rocky Mountain ecosystems shared by northern Montana, southeastern B.C. and southwestern Alberta. Here you’ll find the fish-filled headwaters of three of North America’s major river systems, along with crucial wildlife corridors and habitat. Recognizing this significant biodiversity, Alberta created two new provincial parks last year in its portion of the Crown along the Castle River system, preserving more than 105,000 hectares for everything from the rare dwarf alpine poppy to grizzly bears, harlequin ducks, westslope cutthroat and bull trout. Catch-and-release anglers are welcome to tread lightly in the new Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park—and help conserve this heavenly slice of wilderness.
Learn more: www.albertaparks.ca
Ian Urquhuart/Alberta Wilderness Association
ATHABASCA SAND DUNES, SASKATCHEWAN
Ecological treasure and enormous pike and lakers
John ClevelandThe sheer enormity of the sand dunes straddling the southern shore of northwestern Saskatchewan’s Lake Athabasca is immediately evident from the air as you fly into one of the remote lake’s handful of fishing lodges. Stretching roughly 100 kilometres and climbing as high as 30 metres, the Athabasca Sand Dunes are among the world’s northernmost active dunes, not to mention Canada’s largest such ecosystem. Here you’ll find rare and at-risk plant species growing nowhere else on the planet—Mackenzie hairgrass, sand stitchwort, felt-leaf willow and floccose tansy, to name a few. Accessible only by boat or float plane, the dunes provide a fascinating distraction if you need a break from battling Athabasca’s huge and plentiful lake trout and northern pike.
Learn more: www.tourismsaskatchewan.com
Tourism Saskatchewan/J.F.Bergeron/Enviro Foto
LITTLE LIMESTONE LAKE, MANITOBA
Powder-blue water and silver northern pike
Aaron WiebeNestled in north-central Manitoba roughly 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, Little Limestone Lake is considered to be the largest marl lake in the world, and arguably the most beautiful. As the sun heats up calcite dissolved in the water from the limestone bedrock, the lake changes colour from a brilliant turquoise to a rich milky blue—visiting anglers could easily imagine they’re fishing in the Caribbean. The 4,000-hectare lake has populations of walleye, whitefish, perch and pike, and because of its relatively remote location, it sees very little recreational fishing pressure. For tactics, take a cue from Manitoba’s Aaron Wiebe: in his YouTube show Uncut Angling, he casts swimbaits to the lake’s silver-hued pike lurking in broadleaf weeds in 13 to 18 feet of water.
Learn more: www.huntfishmanitoba.com
POLAR BEAR COUNTRY, MANITOBA
Arctic apex predators and bountiful brook trout
Robert PostmaEver wanted to cast a line in rarely fished waters while viewing wild polar bears? Churchill Wild’s exclusive fly-fishing trip to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge might just be for you. Located 250 kilometres southeast of Churchill at the mouth of the Menahook River on the Hudson Bay coast, the lodge is usually only visited by hard-core wildlife watchers. But for six days in September, adventurous anglers can enjoy steady sea-run brook trout action as they walk and wade the Menahook and Mistikokan Rivers. And while the trout may not be giants—the average length is 18 inches—they are plentiful and aggressive. The first-ever trip was offered just last year, and for 2018, only four lucky anglers will be accepted. Exclusive indeed.
Learn more: www.churchillwild.com