It is difficult to imagine visiting Kesagami Wilderness Lodge and not fishing for the lake’s trophy northern pike – legendary fish – some in the 50-inch / 30-pound range. Much of the lake’s international reputation and the success of Kesagami Wilderness Lodge must be attributed to the world-class pike fishing that so many TV fishing shows and outdoor magazines have featured in recent years. Lately, however, the popularity of Kesagami amongst walleye anglers has grown steadily – so much so that, presently, a large proportion of angling guests come to Kesagami to fish specifically for walleyes.
We visited in mid-July / 97 to put to the test claims of 100, even 200 walleyes per boat per day. Kesagami has been the site of a progressive selective harvest / catch & release program for the past five seasons. No, this would be a “summer” trip – short sleeves, sunny skies, sunburnt noses, sunglasses and sunscreen, cold drinks in the cooler, and fantastic shore lunches. And, we were taking a “rookie” – a first-time fly-in angler who had never once fished a jig or caught a north-country walleye. A good test of the 100 to 200 walleyes per day claims – at least in our opinion.
Strictly a catch and release site, no fish are kept, except for a few walleyes for shore lunch (under 18 inches). Kesagami’s trophy pike and incredible walleye fisheries are proof that such conservation measures are effective in preserving, even improving, the best fishing lakes.
In order to fairly sample and judge Kesagami’s walleye fishery, we chose to bypass the always outstanding early season / June walleye fishing that so many fly-in sites enjoy (and showcase in their promotional materials). Confidently, we ignored reports of ice-out walleyes stacked up in the river like cordwood, gigantic pike cruising in knee-deep water in Kesagami’s many spawning bays, multiple limits of walleyes caught off the dock, the attendance of fishing / TV celebrities there “on a shoot”.
I must admit, though, we were certainly tempted to grab the mid-June slot – a full month earlier – to witness and experience it all. Instead, however, a mid-July date was chosen – more in keeping with summer vacations and the kind of weather that most folks would most enjoy on a remote trip. No long underwear, no fires in the woodstove at night to ward off the chill, subsequent to the black-fly hordes of the early season.
Although we arrived late at camp due to bad weather and delayed flights, that first evening’s fishing proved to be a sign of things to come. Fishing only 1/8 or 1/4-ounce, 3 and 4-inch twistertail jigs, our first stop at the nearest point (Big Island) quickly produced walleyes – fish in the 14 to 21-inch range – and lots of them. After an hour or so, we had tallied almost forty. Moving on to Pickerel Point, we struck the mother lode of “Kesagami gold”. One walleye after another pounced on our jigs with abandon, and by 8:30 we had caught and released over eighty walleyes. Perhaps a 100 walleyes wasn’t such a lofty goal, but what about 200 ?
Call it Providence, luck or good planning, but the next day brought grey skies, a modest breeze and temperatures in the low 70’s – perfect walleye conditions most places. This would be the day, and 200 walleyes would be the goal. We began fishing and counting on the nearest point of Big Island, where, incredibly, we caught and released 44 walleyes in the first hour. Our next stop was the Big Island point we had fished the night before, but in an hour we caught only 30 fish ! Pickerel Point was our last stop before lunch, and once again provided non-stop walleye action until it was time to for lunch. Count: 113 walleyes – a great start!
After shore lunch and a quick shower, we deviated from our mission and went on a lengthy tour of the”river”. About 3:00 pm we resumed fishing for walleyes, stopping for a few minutes at various points along the way. Although we caught walleyes (and smaller pike) everywhere, by suppertime, our walleye count stood at just 157 (by my reckoning) – and we had lost enough fish to have reached the 200 mark.
At 7:15 pm, following an incredible dinner, we took up the “200 challenge” with a vengeance, returning to the Big Island points immediately out from the lodge. Before curfew (8:30), the three of us had easily met the challenge of catching and releasing 200 walleyes in a (comparatively) leisurely day’s fishing. Now I wonder. Did the brochure mean 200 walleyes per boat per day with just two guys fishing ?
So what constitutes an impossible fishing challenge ? Here’s one. Find a better walleye / northern pike lake than Kesagami Lake or a better run, more accommodating lodge than Kesagami Wilderness Lodge. Sorry, it can’t be done – at least not here in Ontario (and, perhaps, nowhere !)
A visit to Kesagami is more than just a fishing trip – it is a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience – and something that every serious angler and outdoor enthusiast should try. On a scale from 1 to 200 – it’s a 200 (or more) !!