I Got Hooked On Canadian Walleye Fishing

Robert WellerFishing

Hawk Air’s fish camp

When I met my wife, we would get together and play cards with her parents and once in a while.  As time went on and we got married, that tradition continued. My father in law, Robert and I  share an interest in the outdoors so the conversation over those card games eventually turned  to hunting or fishing. I’m more of a deer hunter than a fisherman but fishing has been something  that I have enjoyed since I was a small boy when my grandfather used to take me. Robert loves  to fish and has been to Canada on several fishing trips with his friend Kurt, along with Kurt’s  father. The fourth in their party seemed to change over the years so it seemed there might be  room for me to join the party one day. When the conversation turned to fishing, Robert would  almost always end up pulling out old photo albums from his previous fishing trips to Canada.  These trips always intrigued me and I never got tired of hearing the stories he would tell about  big pike or the walleye dinners .There was just something about the idea of being flown into a  lake and having it all to ourselves for an entire week. It was certainly something I hoped to be  able to do one day. But as the years went by my father in law just kept dangling that carrot  saying “some year, it will be your turn and you’ll get to go”. 

Robert had not taken a trip in several years and it seemed his friend, Kurt, was dragging his feet  on making a return trip, partially due to his father’s failing health. It seemed as if my chance of  ever going on one of these trips was slowly dwindling away. Until one evening when we were  playing cards and you guessed it, the conversation led to fishing. It didn’t take long before my  father in law got up from the table to retrieve one of the photo albums that I had now seen  multiple times. This time the conversation took a turn that changed everything. It seemed my  mother in law (bless her heart) had heard enough of Robert’s stories and enough of him telling  me “someday”. She stopped him before he could retrieve his photo album and said very boldly  “NO, you sit back down. You’ve teased him enough with your fishing trips. You keep telling him  that someday he’ll get to go and every year you don’t take him. Either figure out a way to take  him fishing or quit talking about it!” I was floored. My father in law sat back down and we  continued our card game but that was the end of the fishing conversation for the evening. 

The next day, the phone rang and it was Robert on the other end. He asked me “what do you  think about going on a fly-in fishing trip if it were just you and I?” Without hesitating, I said  “sounds good to me!” He went on to tell me about an outfitter named Hawk Air and said that he  and Kurt’s family had flown with Hawk once. It wasn’t the outfitter Kurt’s dad usually used but  Hawk did offer multiple lakes at the time that they would allow a smaller party of two people on.  Most lakes required a minimum of four people. Over the next few months, plans were set in  motion, reservations were made, passport cards were obtained, lists of what would be needed  were made and so on and so forth. Of course a trip like this meant some new fishing gear was  in order so there was at least one trip to Cabela’s. I needed lots of new fishing lures because  those Canadian walleye and pike weren’t going to want to bite anything that had been in  Michigan waters. 

The time had finally come and early in September of 2011, Robert and I made our way north  across the Canada / US border and into Wawa, Canada. I was so excited I could hardly stand it.  I was finally going to get to experience this long awaited remote fishing that I had heard so  much about. We drove up on Friday and stayed the night in a local motel within a short distance  of the air base as we were scheduled for an early flight out the next morning. I don’t know that I  slept a whole lot that night but it didn’t matter because I was so excited the next day I was probably running on pure adrenaline. When we arrived at the airbase, we were directed to a  dock where all of our gear was weighed and loaded on a float plane. It wasn’t long before we  were airborne for what would end up being my first of many float plane rides with Hawk Air. The  camp we had chosen was roughly a thirty-five minute flight and we were flying with a group of  guys that were headed to a lake not far from ours. There was a little chit chat with the others but  for the most part I think we all just stared out the windows. I had never seen so many lakes and  land that seemed untouched. I kept asking myself, “I wonder how many people in the history of  man have ever seen this view?” Not many in the grand scheme of things I thought. Thirty-five  minutes went by in a blink and before I knew it the pilot had landed us on our lake. When we  arrived at camp, we were greeted by some more Hawk Air employees that had been there for a  few days preparing the camp for hunters that would be coming in later that month for the rapidly  approaching moose season. They stayed with us while the pilot flew to a couple of other lakes  to drop off and pick up other fishermen. They were very helpful in showing us around our home  for the week and even told us the best spot on the lake to catch walleye. Within a couple of  hours, the pilot returned and picked up the workers. As the plane lifted off the lake and slowly  disappeared over the hills, I turned to look at Robert as he looked at me and said “this is it, they  just leave you here and you’re on your own.” And so it was, I was in the Canadian bush with  only my father in law and no other contact with the outside world. It’s really cool but I’ll admit it’s  a somewhat eerie feeling the first time you experience it. 

The small cabin was equipped with a propane refrigerator, stove, water heater, gas lamps and  of course a wood burning stove. There was running water supplied to the cabin from the lake by  a 12 volt RV pump. The pump was powered by two marine batteries that were kept charged by  a small solar panel. There was also a small generator for 120 volt power for charging electronics  and running a few lights in the cabin as needed. You could not drink the water without first  boiling or filtering it but it was there for use to cook, do dishes and even shower. If you needed  to go to the bathroom, there were the bushes or of course the outhouse. Hawk described this as  a deluxe camp, and as far as I was concerned, for living in the wilderness completely off the  grid, it was certainly deluxe in my opinion. Hawk called this camp Wejin Lake, and there are  actually two lakes (South Wejin and North Wejin) that can be accessed directly from this cabin  as well as a third lake that was accessible after you boated across North Wejin. The third lake is  called Kabiskagomi and is shared by two or three other camps, however we only ever saw one  person on it and he was clear to the other end. Kabiskagomi was about a ten minute walk after  you pulled your boat out on the eastern shore of North Wejin. Most people called it the trout lake  because it was home to a nice population of lake trout. Both North and South Wejin held  northern pike and walleye in them. 

author with his best walleye

After quickly unpacking and setting up camp we got right to work assembling our fishing poles  and loaded our gear into one of the provided boats. We went straight to the spot the workers  had told us about and in no time at all were pulling walleye from the lake nearly one right after  the other. Now folks, I have been fortunate a few times in my life to catch fish like that back  home, usually pan fish on their beds. But let me tell you those little pan fish have got nothing on  a walleye. If you are lucky enough to tie into a 17 inch or larger walleye when you are jigging,  they really put up a pretty good fight. It was only our first day and I was already having the time  of my life. We kept a few fish for dinner and threw the rest back. Once we decided to call it for  the afternoon, we headed in to clean our catch. That would be the first of our daily walleye  dinners for the week. I can almost taste those filets now. A little Shore Lunch mix, some cooking  oil, a frying pan and we were in business. The next day, we decided we should give North Wejin  a try. Once again, it was as if the fish had gathered for us and were just waiting to be caught.  We found a nice weed bed in the center of the lake that was an awesome little spot to catch  pike. You could just cast a spoon in there and every couple of casts; you could expect to reel in a pike.

Author’s father-in-law, Robert

Most of them were 24 to 28 inches in length. We didn’t find a spot on North Wejin that  fished very well when jigging for walleye, but we didn’t have any trouble pulling them out of the  water by trolling around the lake. In fact, the fish were hitting just about any lure we put in the  water. At one point, they were biting so well that I could barely even get my line all the way out  behind the boat while trolling before I had a fish on. We were catching both pike and walleye by  trolling around the lake. They were biting as if they hadn’t eaten all year. Robert told me not to  get used to it, because he had never experienced fish biting like that before. Both lakes  continued to


produce fish every day in a similar fashion. We made a couple of trips to the trout  lake where Robert was fortunate enough to catch a 24 inch lake trout. The southern lake was  great for jigging and was where I caught the largest walleye of the week. It was 23 inches long  and it put up a great fight. I released it in hopes he would grow up and get bigger so another  fisherman could have the opportunity to catch him another day. A few days into the trip, I had  told Robert that I could see coming back to Canada for a future trip in a few years. By the end of  the week, I was already trying to figure out how I was going to tell my wife that I wanted to go  again next year. The last day of our stay, I caught a 30 inch pike; it was the biggest fish I had  ever caught at that point in my life. Later that evening on our last troll around North Wejin,  Robert ended up beating my record when he brought in a 30.5 inch pike. He had beaten me by  half an inch for the largest pike but I still held the walleye record for the trip with my 23 incher. 

The sunrises and sunsets were amazing and I have never seen as many stars back home as I  saw that week. We ended up catching 193 fish that week. Oddly enough we caught 96 walleye,  96 northern pike and 1 lake trout. What an amazing week it was. It was as if the waters and fish  of Canada wanted to make sure that I would be “hooked” on fishing there and that I would  return. Well folks it worked, I was certainly “hooked” on Canadian walleye and pike fishing. I  have since returned to Canada eight times for a total of nine trips at the time of writing this  article. Six of those trips were just Robert and I. On the other three trips we were joined by my  father and another friend of mine. My remote fly in Canadian fishing trips have certainly  changed my outlook on fishing. The folks at Hawk Air feel a little like extended family and it is  always nice to see them and have them call me by name. I still enjoy fishing in Michigan but I  will always look forward to my next trip in a float plane and a week in isolation on my own  private lake in Canada. Each time I go I hope to catch a bigger fish than my prior trips have  produced. If you can afford the time, expense, and can handle a week away from everyone and  everything back home, I highly recommend you try a fly in remote fishing trip at least once. Go  see some of the world few people will ever see. I hope the fish give you the kind of greeting they  gave me. But, just be prepared because, if they do, you might just end up “hooked” on  Canadian walleye and pike fishing just like me!! 

Good luck on the water, Happy Fishing and God Bless!!

Robert Weller
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