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walleye, walleyes, jigging, jig, jigs

The Canadian Experience - Anderson's Lodge, Ontario

By Scott Richardson 

Midwest Outdoors Magazine Canadian guide

Paul Meldazy, knelt beside a small fire. Diced potatoes, onions and fresh fish fillets sizzled in the pan. Cans of baked beans were opened and placed close to the flame to warm. It was time for shore lunch and Meldazy's kitchen was a finger of black granite jutting into Lac Seul near Sioux Lookout, Ontario. We were just miles from Meldazy's headquarters at Anderson's Lodge. The mid-day sky was bright blue with a wisp of white. The cries of loons drifted across the water as an eagle circled high above an endless forest. Cedar and birch trees jutted 40 feet in the air, growing nearer together than blades of grass. Reflecting on the past four days of fishing, it was hard to believe they were more than a dream. Meldazy had led us and Chicago outdoor sports personality Mike Norris to walleyes up to 8 pounds, smallmouth bass over 5 pounds, northern pike up to 36 inches and lake trout over 7 pounds. We had just one small, feisty musky. But, one group at one of Anderson's outpost camps caught a musky measuring 52 inches and another 49. Meldazy's best musky day of 1997 featured 26 for three fishermen. ``We have lots of fish here, and lots of big fish,'' said Dick Fahlman, our host who bought Anderson's in the fall of 1975. Not only can you get numbers at Lac Seul, you can get monsters. Walleyes of 7, 8 and even 9 pounds are possible. That contrasts with other Canadian resort lakes where you can get numbers, but no big ones. Lac Seul is 358,000 acres of water with 3,000 miles of shoreline. Three hours north of International Falls, Minn., about a 14-hour drive from Chicago, the massive reservoir was first created for logging before it became a means to generate electricity. In English, Lac Seul translates as ``Lake Alone.'' Its only neighbors are legendary in their own right - Big and Little Vermilion and Pelican Lakes where guests at Anderson's also fish. Lac Seul stands alone in another way, too - some say its beauty is without equal . "God must be good to have made all of this,'' said Meldazy as he scooped potatoes and fillets onto our plates. Meldazy chose the isolated life of a guide at Anderson's Lodge after graduating from college with a degree in aquaculture nine years ago. Bearded, his long dark hair held in place with a leather baseball cap sporting the insignia of Anderson's Lodge, the 27-year-old Meldazy looked his part. He told us stories about growing up on Lac Seul as well as some stories told by his uncle, a long-time bush pilot who lived in Sioux Lookout. It is easy to see why Meldazy came. This is a place where anglers can see bear or moose standing on the water's edge. Eagles are plentiful and loons are commonplace. Still, it's the fishing that draws people to this remote spot in Northwest Ontario. "Almost anywhere I stop, I can catch a walleye,'' Meldazy said. Smallies are his favorite. He once tied the Ontario record of 6 pounds, 14 ounces, a mark broken just two weeks later. He caught his largest musky as a kid of 11. The local newspaper took a picture, guessing it at 40 pounds. Did it bother him that his father released it? "No way, it was a minnow,'' Meldazy said as he compares it to one he sees lurking in a certain weed-covered bay. It sometimes follows his lures. But, it never strikes. "It drives me...CRAZY!'' Ted Takasaki first visited Anderson's in 1983 after his friend Scott Mitchell and his dad invited him and longtime friend, walleye professional John Campbell. It was their first Canadian trip. Anderson's Lodge became a place he practiced and refined many of the techniques for catching walleyes first used on the Masters Walleye Circuit with Campbell and later on the Professional Walleye Trail. The walleye, northerns, musky, lakers and smallies were so good, Ted has returned to Anderson's many times. Fahlman has been the constant - always friendly and attentive to customer satisfaction. But, he and the great fishing are all that have remained the same. The resort began as a simple camp for workers building roads. The site changed hands twice before Dick purchased it. It has been completely renovated since 1990. The 12 cabins, which accommodate more than 60 people in camp at a time, are on par with any five-star hotel. Completely modern, they feature spacious bedrooms, comfortable living areas, modern baths and kitchens. Anderson's central lodge offers the finest restaurant for miles around as well as a bar and a tackle shop. When it comes to fishing, the theme is to keep it simple. A jig and minnow combination is dynamite when fished along rocky points and bars for walleyes. Lindy rigs will work as well. Jigs and live-bait rigs of a split shot, hook and leech work for smallies. Jumbo jigs down deep work well for summer lakers. In-line, buck-tail spinners, such as a Mepps #5, and spoons cast over large weed beds will get you numbers of Northern Pike. Canadian officials aim to keep the opportunities at Lac Seul as good as they are for years to come. Muskies are entirely C & R. Walleyes between 18 and 21 inches must be freed. Visitors are permitted to keep only one over the 21-inch mark and five under. Anglers begin arriving at the lodge as soon as ice is out. Early birds seek big lakers before the third weekend of May when walleye season opens. Northerns, lake trout and smallies provide added fun all summer long. Musky season opens the third week of June and really heats up later in the fall. The main lodge closes near the end of September. Canadian Walleye and Northerns - Nothing Finer! Walleye were first found in the vast area that stretched from near the Alaskan border on the north to the Deep South of America's Dixieland. Stocking has increased that range to include all but a handful of American states. But, where walleyes are mentioned, only one place still leaps to mind. Canada. More than any other species, it's walleyes that send crowds to the cool northland to enjoy the warm hospitality above the 46th parallel. Dick Fahlman knows that firsthand. He is the owner of Anderson's Lodge outside Sioux Lookout, Ontario, within striking distance of Lac Seul, Pelican Lake, both Little and Big Vermilion lakes and several more which are equally good, but lesser known. Fahlman stresses the Sioux Lookout region also has tremendous angling for musky, smallmouth bass and lake trout. And, many guests at Anderson's go there to sample incredible trophy northern pike fishing, Anderson's second strongest draw. But while Elizabeth may sit on the throne in England, in Canada, walleye is king. Easy to see why. Guide Paul Meldazy says you can catch a walleye on almost any point along Lac Seul's nearly 3,000 miles of shoreline which encompasses 358,290 acres of water. After only a few days in a boat with him, you are a believer. Canadian conservation officials are committed to keeping it that way. A slot limit has been imposed that requires all walleyes from 18- to 21 inches to be returned to the water. Anglers may keep six walleyes to take home, but only one may be over slot. The purpose is to protect female walleyes through their most productive years and allow more fish to reach trophy size. Growth rates for smaller fish is boosted, too, because they experience the heaviest fishing pressure so there are fewer of them and less competition for food, said Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Brad Allan. The MNR at Sioux Lookout is in the midst of a three-year study of Lac Seul walleyes, and Allan says prospects are looking good. If a lake has a 12-walleye-per-net catch rate, the population is considered ``sustainable.'' Lac Seul recorded a catch rate of 20 walleyes per net, a result that can only be termed ``great,'' he said. That comes despite the discovery that walleyes throughout Northwest Ontario experienced two poor back-to-back year classes in 1992-1993. Scientists think cold weather in the region slowed growth rates so much that young of the year walleyes were unable to store enough fat to survive the winters. Though the absence of those year classes means a lot of fish caught are in the protected slot, fish from later years are beginning fill the gap, and the slot restrictions are earning high marks among area guides who say their clients still routinely fill their legal limits and trophies are plentiful enough to keep action interesting. "The slot limit is a good thing,'' said Meldazy. ``Nine years ago, everyone was looking for limits of `4s' and `5s' to take home. Now, everybody gets at least 1 over slot.'' In one trip to Anderson's over Labor Day week 1997, Muldazy led us to fast action that included walleye after walleye in the 2- to 5 pound range, and one member of our party boated an 8 pounder within the first two hours. That fish qualified for a Master Angler Award, a program to encourage catch and release by giving a patch to commemorate trophies which are released. For walleyes, the catch must exceed 27.5 inches. Each year, official results list walleyes up to 32- and 33 inches and more. Lac Seul is top producer more often than not. But, even if you don't get that trophy of a lifetime, the number of good-sized smaller fish is awesome. Fun begins the third weekend in May when walleye season opens just after ice out. Huge schools of walleyes move closer to the lodge to spawn. A jig from 1/2- to 5/8ths ounces and a minnow is usually a simple, potent weapon. Just drift or use an electric trolling motor to creep along the many islands and rocky points in water 12- to 30 feet deep. Sometimes current at spots like Lac Seul's Chamberlain Narrows is the key. Just cast a 1/4 oz. jig up into the moving water, retrieve it through the adjacent eddies and hold on. Early in spring and fall, you don't have to travel far - schools move close to Anderson's Lodge. Later in spring and summer, they disperse throughout the system. Muldazy often does a 60- to 100-mile round trip through the wondrous Canadian scenery to find fish. But, the jig pattern does well far into the warm months. Lindy rigs with a minnow, pulled through the same areas are a good second choice. Whether jig or live bait, let the walleyes inhale the bait before setting the hook. Spend just one week at Anderson's Lodge and you'll agree that there is only one word to describe Lac Seul's walleye fishery - awesome. Not only can you get numbers, but `7s', `8s', and `9s' are within reach, and that means excitement runs high from the first time you lower a jig into the water. Compare that to other areas of Canada where you can get lots of fish, but not a bruiser. Action at Anderson's can be so fierce that everyone in your group can limit out by noon, take time to eat a tremendous shore lunch and then spend the afternoon in search of northerns. This is a place for big pike. They must be 40 inches to qualify as a Master Angler Award winner, and a recent Master Angler program brochure listed a 52-incher, a 47, two 46s and several 45s. In early spring, northerns can be found in Lac Seul near fast moving water, anywhere current is coming into the lake. At that time, suckers are spawning and they are thick at those spots. Start off with a big jerkbait like a Reef Hog or a swimming bait like a short-billed High Fin Scamper. Any swimming or wobbling shallow-running crankbait will do. After action slows, then use a jig and plastic (creature or twister tail) combination to take five or six more fish. Try a sucker rig with dead or frozen herring suspended about 2 feet below a float. Fast to slow to a dead bait. In-line spinners and spoons are a good choice as big pike patrol weedbeds. Cast to the edges first. Then move closer and retrieve spinners fast enough to stay above the vegetation. 

Canadian Bronze Bombers and Nuclear Subs

By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richards

Two kinds of fish stand out as bullies of the block from all others that live in fresh water. Like Hulk Hogan on Monday Night Wrestling, muskies and smallmouth bass are always ready for a fight. And, both thrive in Canada which include several lakes near Anderson's Lodge near Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Sure, the land up-north may be best known for walleyes or northern pike. But make no mistake - awesome muskie and smallmouth fishing await you in the clear waters of the Canadian northwoods. Ontario's annual Master Angler Program, which promotes catch and release, regularly lists smallies up to 21 inches from Big/Little Vermilion and Lac Seul. Muskies are often recorded at up to 50 inches with fish 50+ caught every year. Fish of 10,000 casts? Could be...but Canadian guide, Paul Muldazy, had a day when he and two clients nabbed 26 muskies and still had time to fish for smallmouth and northerns. Smallmouth Bass - the Bronze Bomber For years, Canada has attracted anglers from the northern United States for years for a taste of incredible walleye fishing. But, Anderson's Lodge owner, Dick Fahlman, says more and more fishermen are coming from the black-bass country south of the Mason-Dixon Line to take advantage of a smallmouth fishery that remains virtually untapped. Muldazy had a 23-incher that weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces that tied the Ontario record in 1995. It was broken a week later. One day more recently, he and two clients nabbed 101 smallmouth bass, including four over 18 inches. Each qualified for Master Angler Awards. "It was like shooting crows,'' he said. Stickbaits work great early in the year. Smallies inhale Floating Rapalas and Tiny Torpedos, while you toss them out and jerk 'em back in the shallow spawning areas. A 1/4 oz. Fuzz-E-Grub or jig & silver twister tail are excellent choices as well. Later in the year, Fat Raps, Rat-L-Traps and Rattlin' Raps will do the trick. But, Muldazy prefers livebait, a leech in particular. "When a smallmouth sees a leech, he's just got to have it.'' In just two hours, we experienced some of the area's finest smallmouth fishing when we stayed at Anderson's Lodge last Labor Day weekend with friend and pro fisherman, Mike Norris. More than 40 fish from 14 to 18-3/4 inches were boated. Muldazy's favorite livebait delivery system is a small 1/32nd or 1/16th oz. jig. But, that was bringing only sporadic results for us when we cast them to shallow, rocky shoreline at during the midday, so Norris decided it was time to experiment. He crimped on a small split shot about three feet above a #4 hook with a leech and dropped it over the side. He intended on leaving it on the bottom as a dead stick. But, he didn't have time to set it in a rod holder before the first fish was on. It was a dandy 17-incher. From then on it was like the Fourth of July with smallies shooting from the water's surface like bronze roman candles. We had doubles and triples every time we pulled the Lindy livebait rigs across a 200-yard stretch of rock that rose from about 20 feet to a 10-foot flat . Expect fish to move deeper in fall . That's when Lindy rigs featuring sucker minnows are key. Catch and release is important with these fish. A 14-inch smallmouth bass in Canada is eight-yrs+. In Tennessee, that same fish could reach 14 inches in just two years. Muskies - Canada's Nuclear Subs Go ahead, ask Muldazy to describe a musky. "Muskies are like northerns, `cept muskies have nitro glycerin for blood.'' Yep, that about says it all. Sharp teeth attached to a single, powerful muscle. The record books show Anderson's is the place to headquarter for that trophy you've been looking for. It takes a muskie over 50 inches to top Ontario's Master Angler Award competition every year. Muldazy uses heavy rods and casts #5 bucktail spinners, attached to wire leaders , to reefs and weedy sections of the lake. Bright colors are key on the darker waters of Lac Seul. Cast. And cast. And cast. Don't think that just one toss to a spot is enough. These fish will strike out of anger even if they aren't looking for an easy meal. Try areas with 10 feet of water or less and "burn'' the spinner right below the surface. You've probably heard of making a figure "8" at boatside to give muskies that are trailing the spinner a last chance to hit? Muldazy says don't do it. Big muskies can't turn on a dime. Instead, make a simple letter "O" instead. Trolling is preferred when muskies are hard to locate. Use heavy line like 30-pound test Stren Magnathin, a wire leader and a 3-ounce torpedo-shaped weight above the bucktail spinner. Let out enough line to tick the bottom at fast speeds, then reel a few feet back onto the reel. Then, burn gasoline at 3 mph, traveling along reefs, weed lines and islands. "You don't fish for muskies,'' Muldazy pointed out. ``You hunt them. It can take a long while to get a big one...but, when you do, it's just awesome.'' 

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