The Over-Planner’s Guide to Canadian Fishing Trips
Lately you’ve found yourself dreaming of Canada: the lakes, the vistas, and most especially the muskies. The vast unexplored Canadian wilderness is something that calls to many outdoorsmen for a chance to get away from the hustle of the US and experience some of the best musky waters in North America. It is most certainly an adventure that most can afford, but for those that haven’t been there, and for those who rely heavily on their partners for creature comforts, let this article be your guide to navigating some of the surprises and more unpleasant realities of traveling through the Southern fisheries of Canada.
Canadian holidays are fantastic for those traveling from the Northern States to enjoy as it is a quick jaunt over the boarder to many lakes with muskies ripe for the taking, but I’ll share a few pointers to keep the newly traveled fisherman a float.
If you are not prepared for grocery shopping in Canada, it can be a sobering experience. With Kroger, Walmart, Trigs, and fancy Kwik Trips, giving us an unending selection of food and goods, Americans are not always prepared for the limitations of grocery shopping near your Canadian camp. Larger towns are scattered in Canada, and even Walmart is stark and stocked more like an Aldi with locating your desired groceries taking hours. Also, Canadian goods that appeal to Americans are trucked in causing a price hike that is eye-popping. To help ease the pain and hit to the pocketbook, I recommend taking canned food and staples packed heavily throughout your car and boat. A trunk and a covered boat can hold weeks’ worth of canned ravioli, Saltine crackers and frozen breakfast sandwiches, so do yourself a favor and shop before you leave.
Parts and Repair
Prior to setting out for Canada, make sure you have a good understanding of your trolling motor and outboard. Many Canadian lakes hold boulders the size of a 3-story house with nothing noticeable above water causing you to lose a prop or a skeg. I recommend if you don’t have it already, equipping your outboard with a stainless prop and a skeg guard, as well as keeping an extra trolling prop and outboard prop and the tools needed to change them. You might be able to find what you need at a Canadian Tire, but it will cost you twice as much and no one will be around to put it on for you.
It helps to find the best lake maps you can prior to your trip to help guide you across some of the more treacherous lakes in Canada; from the previous paragraph, the lakes can be boulder filled or hard to navigate, so make sure you are prepared for something new by getting the best navigational maps available. Many of the lake lodges can also be helpful with pointing out areas that can cause a future headache.
Reservations and Lodges
All lodgings in Canada are not equal. There are accommodations for all types of travelers; but if it is your first time, I highly recommend finding a nice lodge that will make sure you are fed and cared for during your time off the water. It would also help to find a lake lodge with a productive guide to help you learn more about the area you want to fish and the lures that work best on that particular Canadian lake. Never expect to become an expert on a vast lake after your first trip. Many fishermen make the trek every year and still have trouble boating fish due to constant changing conditions.
Also, make sure when you find a lake lodge that looks great, to make a point to ask about the “facilities”. Many Canadian locations don’t have access to running water, so you might have an outdoor toilet, electric shower (these are hard to control the water temp), or any number of unusual situations. Many lodges are like "roughing it" while others are like a condo in Florida, it’s all about the type of experience you want to have. So, make sure you are booking your stay with all of the relevant information, not just a picture from a webpage. You will be out of the country, so it’s very important to connect with the hosts and make sure your needs and requirements will be met at the property you’ve chosen.
Also, expect a few unwelcomed visitors to be part of your stay. Being in the wilderness sometimes mean a few rodents, spiders, mosquitos and maybe coyotes in or near camp. Make sure not to leave boxed goods on the counters unless you plan to share with a mouse!
Be aware of long days in Ontario Canada, depending on the time of year, daylight can last at some lakes until late into the evening. Nights are shorter, so winding down and going to bed can be difficult. It can be effective to bring an extra blanket for a window blackout as well if you need your beauty rest as the sunset may not happen until 9:30PM. Otherwise, utilize this extra time to get more hours on the lake, because you’re there to musky fish. FYI, there is an exceptionally late bite, so get back on the water after dinner if you’ve got the gusto.
Daily Weather Changes
The musky season in Canada is short and sweet with just a few months of good fishing; but a head’s up, the weather can change on a dime. You might be wearing shorts and a t-shirt one day and the next will have you suited up in your ice fishing gear. It is uncommon for that amount of cold in the heart of summer but as the season gets towards the end, you never know what you’ll be facing.
When packing for Canada, take a wide variety of garments from hoodies and padded jeans, to shorts and t-shirts. You will thank me later when you catch a musky in extreme conditions as the weather under the water is consistent, so the muskies are always biting.
Getting through the boarder isn’t tricky but it does require some paperwork to participate in Canadian Musky Fishing. A standard passport will get you over the boarder but there are two required cards to musky fish. Ontario, Canada requires a renewable “Outdoors Card” that will give you the ability to purchase a fishing license. Both cards must be presented if you are discovered fishing Canadian waters. Both can be purchased online and are a bit on the expensive side for what you might be used to. There are two types of fishing licenses in Ontario: sport and conservation. If you are planning to catch your lunch, you must purchase a sport license to eat your catch. If you are only fishing for catch and release, a conservation license is your ticket. Getting your outdoors card well in advance will help prevent a hassle in Canada, it will be mailed to your house and you can have it at the ready. It must be presented if you plan to purchase a short-term license once you get over the border.
Most health insurance plans are not accepted once you cross the Canadian border, so all expenses for medical emergencies must be paid out of pocket. If you have existing medical issues or are just a clumsy fisherman, it might be a good idea to buy Canadian Traveler Insurance. Hospital stays in Canada can be equally expensive as those in the US if you are a foreigner. So, expect emergency room style fees for any major treatment.
If you plan to wing it without insurance, please take an appropriately large first aid kit to Canada. If there is a doctor in the family, get your hands on some sutures. If not, get lots of butterfly bandages. Muskies can give you nasty cuts, so make sure electrical tape is on the boat for lack of other first aid. Keep a waterproof container with lots of quick use items from alcohol to numbing cream. Trust me, when you are on a boat for a week straight, accidents are bound to happen.
Phone, Cards, and Entertainment
When you plan your trip, make sure your bank cards and phone will work over the border. Nothing is worse than being declined when you need toilet paper. Check with your bank and your cellular service to make sure you won’t be hung out to dry. Also, be prepared that a majority of the time, despite adding international service, your phone will not work. If you are traveling with multiple boats, it’s always a nice touch to keep some long-distance walkies for keeping in touch with your fellow man.
Also, as your internet might be spotty at best, plan for some alternative entertainment after hours as you won’t be utilizing phone apps. If you aren’t used to the wilderness and need something to fall asleep, books on tape are always a welcomed distraction and can help you wind down. Alternatively, make sure the company you keep are compatible companions for long hours of talk or you might wish you rescinded that invite after a few days.
Guess that about gets around all of the unexpected parts of traveling to Canada. Maybe many of these particular tips you’ve heard before, or if you are an experienced traveler, you knew already, but as the title states they are meant to help you plan. Some folks depend on the people around them more than others, and if you’re roughing it alone or with different company, it always helps to get the unexpected out of the way so you can just enjoy the sites and splashes on your next Canadian Lake.