Lake Of The Woods Fishing Report
A Five Day Fishing Vacation at Totem Lodge in Sioux Narrows on Lake of the Woods
Imagine winning an all-inclusive, 5 day fishing vacation in one of the most prolific fishing spots in the world!
That’s exactly what happened to us when my wife entered, and won, a contest sponsored by our favourite Canadian fish and chip restaurant, Joeys.
Our all-inclusive fishing vacation was at the world-class Totem Lodge in Sioux Narrows on the east side of Lake of The Woods. It included our own fishing boat and personal guide, all fishing equipment and bait, and all meals for our five day stay.
Totem Lodge is the premier fishing resort in Sioux Narrows and is one of four separate 5-star properties that comprise Totem resorts.
Lake Of The Woods Map
Situated on the border of the Canadian provinces of Ontario & Manitoba, and the U.S. state of Minnesota, Lake of the Woods is over seventy miles long and wide.
It contains more than 14,552 islands, has 65,000 miles of shoreline, hosts some of the best fishing in North America and is home to countless Bass, Muskie, Northern Pike and Walleye.
Off To A Rocky Start!
Although not really into fishing, my wife was looking forward to the trip to enjoying the magnificent scenery and sumptuous food promised in the Totem Resorts glossy brochure. As for me, I was, and still am, an enthusiastic fisherman frustrated by limited opportunity, so this truly was a trip of a lifetime for me.
Our trip started badly when a storm blew through on our travel day. As we drove through the driving rain on the three-hour bus ride to the fishing lodge, it soon became apparent that this wasn’t going to be the leisurely ‘shorts and t-shirt, sunbathing, read a book while floating gently on the lake’ type of trip that we had imagined.
The temperature dipped dramatically, and the wind grew steadily in intensity. When we hit the lake at 8 a.m. on our first morning, it was just 6 degrees celsius and we were wearing every item of clothes that we had packed, seven layers in total!
The waves were high and it was fortunate that neither of us suffer from seasickness. On top of that, the storm had caused the fish to move from their normal summer feeding holes.
Oh well, no one said fishing is easy!
Where are the Washrooms?
After two hours on the first morning, the moment that my wife had been dreading for 6 months had finally arrived. Plucking up courage, she asked our 73 year old guide if there were any washrooms that we could stop at.
Without missing a beat, he quickly replied “You’re in luck, there’s a washroom on every island!”
My wife was clearly relieved until he rammed the boat onto the nearest island, and said “Here we are, choose any tree you want!”
Every morning at 8 a.m., after a delicious buffet breakfast in the lodge, we headed out into the wilderness in search of the big ones. We focused our attention on catching Walleye, a near bottom-feeder that required us to jig just off the bottom using live minnows.
We never ceased to be amazed, and repulsed, by our guide when he would pick two minnows from the live well, put one in his mouth and the other on my wife’s hook. Then he would retrieve the other well-sucked minnow and put it on my hook!
We travelled some 20 miles out each day through various channels, stopping, checking the fish finder for fish, jigging for a while if there were fish showing and moving on if there wasn’t.
Typically we would have caught several fish by mid-day when it would be time to stop on the nearest island for a shore lunch. Fish caught in the afternoon lived to fight another day as we practised catch and release.
In addition to catching plenty of Walleye, we caught the occasional Northern Pike and even Bass.
The Famous Shore Lunch
I have to say that there isn’t a meal in the world that can equal a shore lunch of freshly caught fish! Maybe it’s because you’ve caught the fish yourself, having braved the cold weather and heaving waves, and lit your own fire. Or maybe it’s because it’s cooked in a pound of bacon fat and tastes like nothing one earth. Either way, it was the highlight of each and every day.
On the first day, our guide told us to light a fire while he cleaned the fish. Distracted by the scavenging pelicans, and clueless as to how to light a fire when everything is soaking wet, we did a poor job and would have starved to death if our guide didn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve. By the end of the week, we had learned the routine, knew how to light a fire in any condition, and were proud of our new found skills. Who would have known that the bark of the silver birch tree would burn under almost any conditions and is ideal to get a fire started?
The shore lunch consisted of a pound of bacon fat, melted and used to cook diced potatoes, baked beans and mushrooms. Then another frying pan was filled with fat to fry the breadcrumb-coated fish fillets. Another tip – put an unlit match into the fat – when it ignites, the fat is hot enough to add the fish!
The One That Got Away!
My wife soon got caught up in the excitement of fishing especially on the third morning when she hooked into her third walleye of the morning. As she was pulling it in, the rod suddenly bent in half as the fish struggled to get away. After much wrestling, and just as the fish reached the surface, it broke free and escaped. Much to my wife’s surprise, these was still a small walleye on the hook, with giant teeth marks across its body! Clearly, a large fish, probably a Northern Pike, but maybe even a Muskie, had latched on to her Walleye and almost made it into our landing net. Oh, the excitement and the disappointment!
Totem Lodge: World-Class Fishing Resort
We stayed in a beautiful wooden cabin with a gas stove and deck overlooking the water. Other accommodations included larger units for bigger groups, all luxuriously appointed. The lodge itself housed the main restaurant, bar and hot tub. Every night we ate like kings with a three-course meal that invariably offered the biggest steak imaginable – so big that only someone who has been out on the water all day could appreciate! And the desserts were to die for!
The grounds of the resort were a haven for wildlife which was an added bonus for us as we took our early evening walk before dinner. We saw several deer and even a rare (for us) grouse. We also saw a wide selection of birds and animals during our days fishing, including a bear on one of the islands, and several bald eagles in the trees.
The One That Didn’t Get Away!
During the week we had been steadily catching Walleye, but still nothing really to write home about. On the last afternoon, we entered a large bay where our guide recalled that last time he fished there, some 20 years previously, there had been some large fish. By lining up the spot using a flagpole and cottage on the far shore, he located the spot and we cast in. Almost immediately we caught a bigger Walleye and the excitement was palpable. Then, with literally the last cast of the whole fishing trip, I hooked into what was definitely my biggest fish of the week. After playing it for a few minutes, arms aching, I was relieved to get it into the landing net. Before we put it back we measured it at 28 inches in length, an estimated 8 pounds in weight. What a great way to finish a fabulous week!