Bucket List Trip: Rainy Lake

  • CAMPFIRE ISLAND: Big Fish, Lots of Fish
  • Delicious Food, Lots of Food
  • Great Fishing Spots, Great Guides, Hot Lures 

By Jamie Wilson

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 1of6As anglers we all have a list of lakes, rivers and streams that have the potential to satisfy our ultimate desire; to completely outdo ourselves. This past season (early June) I encountered one such body of water; beautiful Rainy Lake which borders Ontario and Minnesota.

A group of writers, tackle company owners and reps were invited to the Share The Outdoors Media Event to field test new products from companies such as Clam, St.Croix, Live Target Lures, Gamma Fishing Line and Frabill. The accommodation for this event was Campfire Island which is a hop, skip and a jump from Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada.

The first thing that jumped out at me, besides the beauty and splendor of the lake, was the emphasis for success on the water by owner and operator of Campfire Island, Wayne Howard.  Wayne left no stone unturned pertaining to potential hot spots around the lake along with various presentations, depths and key structure/cover to focus on. He made sure that when we left his dock, we had – at the very least, a crystal clear picture of where to start and how to tempt the Rainy Lake fish contingency.

Campfire Island is geared towards a fishing experience not to be forgotten, as is described on their website “pack the appropriate clothing for the time of year, pack a toothbrush, find your favorite rods and reels, and leave the rest to us”.

The Accommodations

Now, obviously, world class fishing is a high priority, but to most people, so is being well fed and comfortable.  When they say “leave the rest to us” they weren’t kidding. Aside from the amazing fishing related insights from Wayne (which we will get to in a minute), we really didn’t have to think about anything, but, well, fishing.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 2of6Picture this, you have a fantastic night sleep in a big comfy bed, then you wake up to hot coffee in your cabin.  Next, you are treated to a big delicious breakfast just in time for your guide to grab your gear and whisk you away to the promised land of smallmouth bass, pike and walleye.  Oh, and I should mention, they send you on your way with a packed lunch and maybe even a wise crack from Wayne (if you are lucky).

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 3of6Fast forward to your return from a day of fast, furious fishing, the kind that one can only daydream about, and you are greeted by Wayne, who wants to get the lowdown on your day.  The main lodge is the perfect meeting place after a day on the water to tell as many lies as you want about your exploits.  Here you will find a counter full of snacks, a fridge full of whatever you fancy (beer for our group) and a beautiful view as a backdrop to all the fish stories you can stand.  To me, this is paradise and exactly what the doctor ordered.  What’s next?  Well, a delicious three-course dinner in a beautiful wood cabin that’s what.  I tell you, I must have gained five pounds during our event and I was not complaining.  The cabins are spacious and comfortable, the food is plentiful and so are the fish.  Win, win, win and that’s that.

Fishing Rainy Lake

Campfire Island is located on the Ontario side of Rainy Lake in close proximity to the Ontario/Minnesota border.  A quick boat ride from Sorting Gap Marina in Fort Frances and you’ve arrived at fishing heaven.  Being situated just south of the Noden Causeway, Campfire Island is the only Ontario fishing camp with easy access to both the southern and northern arms of Rainy Lake.

Campfire Island spells it out like this, “Our mantra: world class smallmouth bass, trophy northern pike, extraordinary walleye.  Our goal: to have our guests experience the world class fishery on Rainy Lake to its fullest extent”.  I will attest to that.  Day one of my trip was nothing short of amazing.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 4of6After breakfast we got prepped and headed out only to be greeted with some of the most horrendous weather I have ever fished in by choice.  Severe cold front, high winds and rain had me in doubt and I tell you this, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My partner in crime on this trip, Gary Abernethy (Live Target and those great “Bait Cloud” lures) and I lost count of our catches.  It was simply unbelievable.  We boated an estimated 90+ fish that day which included smallmouth, pike and walleye.  I can’t describe how much fun it was to cast out a crankbait or tandem willow spinnerbait into shallow banks, points and reefs having no idea what would attack it next.  Our big fish producer for smallmouth that day was the Live Target Crawfish Square Bill in brown/chartreuse while various spinnerbaits with silver flashy blades accounted for large numbers of pike, smallmouth and the odd walleye.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 5of6My set-up for spinnerbaits/jerkbaits was a 7’ St.Croix (med/heavy) “Mojo Bass” rod which performed flawlessly the duration of the trip.  I matched it with an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reel spooled with 20-pound braid and paired with a 12-pound fluorocarbon leader (Gamma Edge).  For the crankbaits, I matched a 5.4:1 cranking reel (baitcaster) spooled with 10-pound fluorocarbon and paired up with a 6’6” medium-action (Jason Mitchell) rod which was buttery perfection for those square bills.  Day two was all about shallow diving jerkbaits, which by the way produced one of the biggest smallmouth of the entire trip.  Actually, it was a Live Target silver/blue Rainbow Smelt that triggered a post spawn smallmouth to attack.  Thanks again Gary.

For STO 02032017, FISHING and TRAVEL, Picture 6of6This short but successful outing was done on the southern arm with ace guide, Jamie Bruce. Again, we had only a couple of hours on the water and Rainy Lake produced once again. Really, this lake is nothing short of amazing.

Comfortable lodging, great food, beautiful surroundings and off the charts fishing.  What more can you ask for?  Do yourself a favor, put Rainy Lake on your bucket list, give Campfire Island a call, and tell them the good folks at Share the Outdoors (www.sharetheoutdoors.com) sent you.

Here is the Campfire Island website link: http://www.campfireisland.com/.