I have spent many days chasing trophy lake trout from the high mountain lakes of Oregon to the far reaches of the Northwest Territories. I know many people who have been to other famous lodges and compare stories on a regular basis, but this season on Lake Athabasca will be one that is etched into history.
As we reached the outer edge of Lake Athabasca aboard the luxurious Caravan float plane, my A.D.D. was getting the best of me while I was nervously pointing out hot spots, sand points and rocky reefs. I liked to fish these areas soon after ice out but this was a new time of year for me, being the first of August and I was not one hundred percent sure what to expect.
We arrived a bit late to Lakers Unlimited due to a slight fog delay but were greeted with a warm welcome from my good buddy Captain Bruce, the owner of this little slice of heaven. With the film crew unloaded and camera gear accounted for, we strategically developed a plan for the afternoon and made our way to the south side of Long Island. We began fishing with the standard clown dodger, just like I had never left. We were working the big size of dodger tight on the bottom and within 20 minutes a magnificent specimen of 25 pounds is cradled next to the boat. I am beside myself and excited as this is a great fish but still average for this body of water. As we checked with the secondary camera guy in boat two for the “hook set” shot we needed, he indicated success with a thumbs up and we are on our way. The team dropped the dodgers back in and Capt. Bruce calls one out lying on the bottom around 60 feet deep. As I drop the lure back, trying to time it just right, another of the most impressive strikes hammers the dodger. The fight lasts a bit longer and as we see the glimmer down deep, Bruce and I in unison say “that’s a big fish.” We cradle the laker next to the boat and it weighs in at 31 pounds, with a hook set from camera two again we are heading in the right direction. We finished the day with three more fish: 27, 17 and 19 pounds, not bad for four hours of fishing.
As the week progressed we fished for trout three more days with one of them being the single most impressive day of fishing in my life. The previous day boasted west winds around 40 MPH, so we pike fished in the bays for fun with no cameras. The next day cleared and Bruce made the comment that due to the west wind the trout fishing should be on fire. We dropped the old clown dodger over the edge of the boat and within 10 minutes had one of the most ferocious strikes I had ever experienced, followed by some aggressive line stripping. This fish was fighting down and taking line every time she moved, the unmistakable sign of a big fish. After 15 minutes of playing her I finally was able to see the beast, still about 20 feet down but we knew she was a giant. As she approached the boat and slid her into the cradle I couldn’t control myself even knowing the cameras were rolling and rejoiced with a series of high fiving and celebrating. Bruce lifted her up in the cradle weighing in at a thunderous 36lbs! But the day wasn’t over yet, as Alan dropped in soon after he landed a 34 lb bruiser! We landed another 33 lb trophy along with a 26 lb, two 22lb and a handful of mid-teens in one day. This is the kind of fishing they have come to expect at Lakers Unlimited over the years and this is why I love Lake Athabasca.
What makes Lake Athabasca so special?
- Lake Athabasca is the 9th largest lake in North America with an unbelievable amount of inflowing rivers and streams. This makes for a greater forage base that allows the fish of Athabasca to reach such impressive sizes at a faster rate. Fisheries such as Great Bear Lake have the occasional big fish but lack the fertility to grow big fish as fast.
- Lake Athabasca is still a remote fly-in fishery with basically one guide operating around the Johnston Island area, making for very little fishing pressure.
- Lakers Unlimited have been practicing barbless hooks, cradles and catch and release ethics since the beginning. Lake trout of the Canadian north on average grow a half pound a year and by protecting these great fish they are ensuring the fish to continually get bigger.
These few things have proven success this year as the guides have boated the following so far this season:
- 4 fish over 40 lbs
- 73 fish over 30 lbs
Lake Athabasca is in our opinion the BEST Lake Trout fishery in the world! Oh, and did we mention we landed 3 pike of 20 lbs while we were there as well?
Images courtesy Wild Fish Wild Places