Even raging wildfires in the Manitoba wilderness couldn’t stop this angler’s trophy quest


It’s the next morning and a firefighting crew has arrived—seemingly out of nowhere—to set up water pumps and install sprinklers on top of the main lodge and surrounding cabins. It’s a bit unnerving, but Gangler says it’s just a precaution, and that our fishing plans shouldn’t be affected. We’re a little delayed by the smoke again, but we finally get in the air to Belsham Lake around 10 a.m.


On this fly-out, Merasty and I are joined by Tamara Soroka, Travel Manitoba’s media content specialist. Along with three other Travel Manitoba staff, she’s here to learn about Gangler’s new eco-adventure program. Though Soroka is not a hard-core angler, she says she’s excited to get some fishing time in.

We spend the morning at a set of narrows in heavy current, dropping jigs, throwing crankbaits and catching walleye on nearly every cast. Again, we keep a couple of fish for shorelunch, then meet up with rest of the Travel Manitoba team and Canadian Geographic editor (and former Outdoor Canada managing editor) Aaron Kylie, who’s also here to check out the lodge’s offerings.

Both Kylie and I have already checked pike and walleye off our lists, so we soon board another float plane with Merasty to try for lake trout on Blackfish Lake. Here, we head for a deep hole at the intersection of four narrow bays and drop heavy spoons and jigs to the bottom. We’re not having much luck, however, so I start experimenting with retrieval speeds and soon learn the fish want it fast.


In no time, I have a chunky laker on the line (above), and as I’m bringing it in, Kylie casts and hooks up with a follower. A double-header. After releasing my fish, I once again drop my jig and white grub to the bottom and start quickly reeling in, pausing and repeating, until sure enough, I catch another fish and Kylie lands another follower. We have a good pattern going, and in all, I catch 12 decent trout and two whitefish in the span of two hours, with Kylie catching roughly the same.

When we get back to the lodge, the sand around the cabins is damp, but the sprinklers have stopped hissing, the firefighting crew has left and the flames are still far away. And, fortunately, they stay that way.


Gangler later tells me the 2017 forest fire season was an aberration and that the lodge would open as usual in early June this year, ready to once again welcome anglers with the promise of a hot bite—smoke and flames not included.

To catch trophy fish, Outdoor Canada managing editor Bob Sexton would brave most any natural disaster.


Lodge luxury

Built in 1997, Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge has been listed by the luxury magazine Robb Report as one of the top 10 fishing lodges in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Nestled on Egenolf Lake about 100 kilometres south of the Nunavut border, the resort is truly in the middle of Manitoba’s untouched northern wilderness. The closest road is 320 kilometres away, but there’s a 1,645-metre private runway that can accommodate direct flights from Winnipeg.

Comprising a main lodge and eight comfortable cabins with private baths, the resort can host 24 guests at a time, a number owner Ken Gangler (above) keeps intentionally low to ensure more personal service. Along with excellent meals and a full bar, the lodge features a pool table, library, tackle shop and big stone fireplace. There are also six outpost cabins and more than 30 fly-out lakes to choose from.

While fishing and hunting remain the primary focus, the lodge has recently branched out to attract a broader clientele, offering more eco-adventure activities such as kayaking, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, hiking and ATV tours of the surrounding eskers.

To learn more about Gangler’s North Seal River lodge’s hunting, fishing and new eco-adventure offerings, go to www.ganglers.com.