By Mike Mladnik, Wisconsin Fishing Guide
I am on Northwoods’ water on a daily basis, and I never tire of it. In fact, ask a fishing guide what they do on vacation, and most will tell you they go fishing! But, no matter how much you enjoy your work, you need a break in the routine. By mid-August, after 3-1/2 months of non-stop guiding, it’s time to take off! For me, there’s no better place to head than South Shore Lodge in Northwestern Ontario.
Eagle Lake is famous for its scenic beauty, spanning 63,000+ acres, with more than 490 islands dotting the landscape, and numerous bays, channels, weed beds and drop-offs, creating lush fishing grounds. South Shore Lodge is located on its remote south shore. I have spent many summers fishing at South Shore Lodge and have developed a friendship with owners, Jim and Gail Weinkauf. For the past few years, I have also had the pleasure of fishing with Gord Makara, who has guided for years on Eagle Lake.
South Shore Lodge spans a quarter-mile or so of prime waterfront. Their cabins are scattered along the peninsula, each with its own dock. The cabins offer personality, comfort and privacy. The main lodge is smack in the middle of things, on a high point of the peninsula, offering an expansive view of the lake, its little islands and inlets. The Lodge serves amazing meals – choice roasts, BBQ ribs, a Sunday turkey dinner like Grandma’s Thanksgiving and select cuts of the finest beef.
As great as South Shore Lodge is though, it’s Eagle Lake that draws me here. It offers something for everyone. With an average depth of 22 feet – and shallows of 10’ or less, to a maximum of 110’, you’re always in range of a hot spot. But it’s the variety of species that makes this such a fantastic fish zone. Why, you can target a different species every day!
Walleye fishermen have the option of hunting pan-sized fish or looking for a trophy. Each year there are many 10-pound-plus fish caught. Northern pike are prolific and even novice anglers have little trouble finding action. Smallmouth bass are underrated on Eagle Lake and few fishermen spend time looking for them. However, there are five-pound fish present for those who persevere. The muskie population is as good as ever. Besides a shot at 50-inch-plus fish, you’ll also find plenty of action with smaller fish. So, as you can imagine, the only problem we fishermen encounter is deciding what to fish for!
Of all these species, it is the walleye that attracts the most people to Eagle Lake. According to Gord, this past year was excellent for walleye. “The fishing started out good at the season opener and remained consistent all summer,” explained Gord. He knows the lake well and is quick to point out a few prime walleye spots. He will also explain the best techniques for the prevailing conditions.
The best feature about this great walleye fishing is how close it is to the lodge. Guests won’t have to travel very far too get into great walleye fishing. I found this out during my trip in August. After a hearty breakfast, I met Gord on the dock and after a short drive to a sand flat, we were quickly on active walleye. In a short amount of time, we hit our limit for a shore lunch!
Being late August, the walleye were in transition, and holding to deeper water. I have fished deep-water walleye on many lakes, but seldom have I found them as active as they were here in August. We were backtrolling minnows on slip sinker rigs. Gord also caught a few walleye with a nightcrawler harness. I switched over to a silver Tin Man Jig and also caught a few walleyes. What could be better than catching wallies on a variety of presentations!
Over the years, I have also had great success fishing for northern pike on Eagle Lake. They are abundant and hit a variety of presentations. For action, cast spinnerbaits or spoons over a weedbed. Here again, anglers need not venture very far from South Shore Lodge to get into hot pike action. After a morning of walleye fishing, spend the afternoon casting for pike!
Are you ready for a challenge? Large pike are also present in Eagle Lake, but you’ll need to refine your presentation. Big pike hold to the edge of deeper weedlines. I found this out while fishing for muskies. My largest Eagle Lake pike, a 42-incher, was caught fishing for muskies with a jerkbait in 15 foot of water. So if you are having lots of action, but are thirsting for something bigger, move deeper, and cast jerkbaits or crankbaits over the deeper weeds.
I have seen more 50+inch muskies on Eagle Lake than on any other lake I have fished. These big muskies are not easy to catch, as they seldom are, but the potential for a world record fish is real. You can smell it in the air! Due to the genetics and abundant forage, these monsters seem almost common. I have raised big fish from reef, deep weedlines and back bays. Each year, the highlight of my trip is the hunt for giant muskies.
Last, but not least, brings us to smallmouth bass. Being a smallmouth fanatic, if I know they’re present, I’ve got to try to grab one! Like the other species, smallmouth also reach trophy size in Eagle Lake. In spring, smallmouth are concentrated in shallow bays and will hit plastics and crankbaits. In summer, I have caught smallmouth on rock ledges, in weeds and on reefs. In late summer, they stack up and are caught on minnows.
I know I’ll be pulling ‘em in at South Shore Lodge come August. The combination of action, big fish, scenic beauty and warm hospitality is calling!