Hard work pays off—big time—on northern Ontario boat-in fishing trip
Portaging into even more remote water can really pay off
Along with staying in the only cabin on a really beautiful lake, one of the special things about Kanipahow’s Northwind outpost is the availability of nearby portage lakes. In total, there are four, and if I’d had another week, I’d have gotten to them all. As it was, we just sampled two other lakes: McNally and Half Hour (the latter is officially “Hourglass” Lake, but ever since a beaver dam separated its north and south basins, everyone calls Half Hour.)
It wasn’t until the third day of our trip that we ventured down the trails leading to theses gems, and if I have one regret about this trip, it’s that we didn’t try the portage lakes sooner. They were both bonkers—though in totally different ways.
Half Hour is about an easy 10 minute hike down a well-trodden trail. A half-kilometre-long oval, it’s really more of a pond. I’m a pretty well-travelled angler, but that little lake was full of pike in a way that I’ve rarely seen. There’s a tinner stashed at the lake, and for a giddy 90 minutes, my pal Wes Nelson and I caught splashing, writhing 18- to 24-inch pike on about every second cast, and on every lure we tried.
After that lunacy, our top priority quickly became getting into McNally Lake. About a click north of the cabin as the crow flies, the only access is via a pretty challenging 30-minute hike through dense, hilly and buggy forest.
We’d been told McNally was a trophy lake, but over the years, I’ve been told a lot of things, by a lot of outfitters, and learned to manage my expectations. But McNally was truly remarkable. How so? Put it this way: I’d love to have a fisheries biologist study it, and explain how a lake only 1½ kilometres long, and never more than 300 metres wide, could have so many big fish in it. That includes copious pike in the mid-30-inch range, and the two trophy specimens pictured here. I know anglers who’ve travelled to northern Saskatchewan or the NWT at great expense, and not landed fish like those. Yet we were only 10 hours’ drive (plus two boat rides, a portage and a hike) away from our southern Ontario homes. Astonishing.