Coming Home to Fletcher Lake Lodge…OPEN after June 21st

  • Loons, Lynx, Trophy Fish…Unforgettable Fun at Fletcher Lake Lodge, Canada
  • Arrive by air (bush plane) from Kenora, Ontario…exciting and fun!
  • Visitors find hugs, smiles, peace, quiet…and great food

By Larry Whiteley

Between fishing for and catching trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and musky, there are sightings of moose, bear, lynx, bald eagles, fantastic scenery, sunsets and sunrises, and the love sounds of the many loons. Not to mention sitting around a campfire. It’s unforgettable fun.

Jeanne MacLean has owned and operated Fletcher Lake Lodge in Northwestern Ontario for 39 years. During all those years she has always looked forward to welcoming guests that return year after year. It is like going back home for them. They have become like family to Jeanne and her staff.

Her “family” and first-time visitors all arrive by Canadian bush planes out of Kenora, Ontario. When “family” arrive there are lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. When “first timers” step off the plane onto the dock and look around, big smiles appear and you hear them saying things like “WOW, this is awesome!” or “Oh my gosh, this is perfect!” And, that is before they have even been on the water catching trophy smallmouth, walleye, northern pike and muskie.

The “first-timers” soon realize what Jeanne’s “family” already know: This special lodge on this special lake and the memories they will make will remain in their hearts and minds forever. They are now “family” too.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here are what some of Jeanne’s guests have to say –

“Jeanne, thanks again to you and your staff for my 15th consecutive, knockout fishing trip with you at Fletcher Lake. Of course, the fishing was fantastic. I must tell you that the facilities, staff, food and lodge are frosting on the cake. I can hardly wait to come back 15 more times.” – Paul

“For the past 35 years, three generations of our family have come to Fletcher Lake Lodge. During these trips, the ladies of the family have enjoyed their experience as much as the men and can’t wait to come back again. The walleye, northern pike and smallmouth fishing has continued to improve with each trip and our family always catch trophy fish in each species every year. Jeanne and her staff provide a warm family welcome. We can’t wait to keep coming back. – Nancy

“Fletcher Lake Lodge is an outdoor paradise, made even better by Jeanne and her staff. They are hands down the best hosts anyone could ask for. You really feel like you are part of the family when you stay here. – Abby

“I just wanted to thank you again for the top notch fishing trip. Will definitely be spreading the good word about Fletcher Lake Lodge and the fantastic people who make it a family like atmosphere. See you next trip.” – Jason

Fletcher Lake Lodge was established in the mid 1960’s and is the only lodge on the lake. Jeanne purchased it in 1982. In 1995 they implemented a conservation fishing practice in order to ensure a healthy fishery for many years to come. Five years later Jeanne teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program that has dramatically increased both the quality and the quantity of fish in Fletcher Lake. It has set this area of Canada apart from many other regions in regards to trophy fish being caught, documented, pictures taken just in case they want a replica mount made and the fish are then released back into the water to be caught again another day.

Guests have a choice of a full service, fly-in American plan or a housekeeping package. The lodge is nestled into a bay with a sand beach and great fishing right from the dock.

During the 2019 fishing season guests caught over 261 trophy walleye, northern and smallmouth along with many eaters and that doesn’t include all the other fish that were released. There are also two portage lakes north of Fletcher Lake that provide fantastic muskie and perch fishing. You can eat fish everyday, if you want, or enjoy all the other delicious home-cooked meals too.

Even though a high percentage of guests are “family” and return every year, there is room for “first-timer’s”. Go to https://www.fletcherlake.com/ and check it all out. Then call Jeanne at her office in Minnesota at (218) 386-1538 or at the lodge (807) 224-3400 and tell her you want to come home.

                                           SPECIAL NOTE

As I write this, the Canadian border and Canadian provinces remain closed because of COVID-19, but Fletcher Lake Lodge “family” and “first timers” will be able to return on June 21st, 2020.

The lodge will be open into September and there are a few openings for “first timers” throughout the summer if you would like to be one of them. Right now, Jeanne is busy taking care of her “family” and letting them know that there is a new beginning in sight with regard to COVID-19 rules.

EDITOR NOTE: All photographs are courtesy of Fletcher Lake Lodge

 

Born to Fish, a True Story

  • Do we have to go in Mom? Please, can I stay on the dock?
  • A reference book on North American Fish made me an 8-year-old “whizz-kid.” That was fun!
  • Fishing bonded me with my mom, dad and so many other family members, and their friends too, from a very young age.
At 3-years-old here, I learned to love fishing from my earliest days, before a medical condition took away some of my leg mobility. I never wanted to leave the dock! Still don’t.

By Wade Robertson

Mom and I were taking a ride last week. Elsie Robertson is 94 years old and still pretty sharp.

Somehow the subject of fishing came up – perhaps this is unavoidable if you talk to me for any length of time, and we were reminiscing about family vacations. I can just remember Mom dragging me off of the dock during a week-long vacation on Chautauqua Lake. I was fishing for sunfish, though I was barely old enough to hold a miniature pole. I’d been fishing since daylight, was being roasted by the sun and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Mom feared I had sunstroke and knew I must be starving, but I resisted, almost violently, to being taken inside. Mom literally had to wrap me up in her arms and haul my kicking, writhing body inside, accompanied, of course, by my yells and crying protests.

Once food and drink were set in front of me, I realized I was, in fact, exceedingly hungry and had a headache from the blazing sun. I even fell asleep for my usual nap. Once I awoke, back out I went. There were fish out there and I was determined to find them.

Mom laughed at the memory and told me every time we drove by a stream, pond or lake, I’d always say the same thing; “Should-a brung my rod.” Mom would turn and rebuke me. “Should have brought your rod! How many times do I have to tell you that?”

I’d grin and smile, but habits are hard to break.

“Do you think I was born a fishing fanatic Mom?” I asked her.

Mom didn’t even hesitate before answering. “Yes”, she answered. The fascination had always been there, easily noticeable from my earliest years. Dad bought me a reference book on North American fish as soon as I could read and I pretty much memorized it in a week or two. That knowledge would come in handy in many surprising ways.

Soon after this, my grandfather and his cronies returned from an early fishing trip to Quebec. Jim McKittrick had caught a large fish on a spoon and no one knew what it was. Pop Hayes told his friends that his 8-year-old grandson would be able to identify the mystery fish, and they laughed at him. He insisted I could and upon their arrival home immediately called Mom. It was early on a Saturday. She smiled at me when she understood the situation and quickly drove me down to investigate. Mom had watched me sit for hours going through that fish field guide, page by page, totally engrossed.

When we arrived Pop stood confidently with his friends, his smoking pipe in hand, grinning. He fully expected me to recognize the unknown fish while his friends were just as confident that I couldn’t. How could an 8-year-old recognize a fish that none of them, the grown men, has ever seen either?

I jumped from the car and ran over to the waiting trucks filled with anticipation. I knew they’d have pike, bass and walleyes, maybe even a lake trout. The big chests were filled with fish and ice, covered with heavy canvass tarps in the truck beds.

Pop waved me to his side and savoring the moment introduced me to all his friends, most of whom I already knew. Pop, always the showman, loved to embellish any situation and this was too good an opportunity to miss. He elaborated on their trip and finally got around to describing how Jim hooked this large fish while trolling, and how well it fought.

By now, his impatient friends were barely able to restrain themselves. Could the kid identify the fish or not? There were some knowing smiles over Pop’s antics, but they knew him well and were attempting to be patient.

Having set the stage, Pop began filling his pipe. Jim snorted, threw his arms up and led me to his truck, pulling the heavy tarp off 1 of the chests and opening it. Inside, on top was a large-scaled, silver fish with a small head, a chub-like mouth and a large eye. The fish was around 30-inches long.

More than six decades later, the streams and lakes still beckon to my immediate focus. I learned to love the outdoors at a very early age and I extend extra efforts now to help youngsters and their families find a way to discover the fun of fishing.

Pop’s eye was fixed upon me and I saw a split-second shadow of concern flicker in them. His reputation was at stake here, he’d played the showman, trusting in my fascination with fish and the knowledge that I’d acquired. On occasion, I’d recited to him the many facts I’d learned about different species and quizzed him about his experiences. He was impressed with what I already knew, but had he overplayed his hand? I immediately felt the weight of that trust and his faith in me, we were both on the spot and the pressure was on. Did I know?

“What is it?” Jim asked, glancing first at Pop Hayes and then back at me.

Pop was standing there confidently, smoking his pipe, apparently without a care in the world. The others all involuntarily stepped forward staring intently. I certainly was anxious, but needlessly. I knew at a glance what it was. The fish looked exactly like the picture in the book, came from the waters the map showed it inhabited.

I looked proudly up and answered with surety. “That’s a huge whitefish, maybe a record!”

Pop burst out laughing! He was filled with pride and vindication, shaking my hand, patting me proudly. One or two men were skeptical and asked if I was positive. I described the large scales, small head, shape of the dorsal fin and mouth; further informing these fishermen that whitefish was excellent eating as well. They were noted for their white flakey fillets, not fishy at all. They were commercially netted in the spring and their smoked fillets were sold in many fish shops, a delicacy.

When I confidently challenged them to come inside the house and check the encyclopedia no one any longer doubted me.

Suddenly, I became the whizz-kid. Even more questions were asked of me, all of which I answered. Everyone was impressed. Grandad looked down on me beaming, and suddenly there was a special bond between us that never diminished. The story spread all over town and for months afterward, people would ask if I was the kid who knew so much about fish.

“Yes, sir. Yes, Mam.” I’d reply. It was flattering for a young boy to be so noticed.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder if that knowledge wasn’t born within me and the book simply refreshed what I already somehow knew before coming to earth. I honestly believe that may be true.

Fletcher Lake Lodge, Ontario – Back Home in Kansas City

  • If You’re Not Catching 100 Fish a Day, We’ll send a Guide with You
  • Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Musky
  • Fly-In Paradise in Ontario, Canada
Amid the hemlocks and Canadian morning silence, Fletcher Lake trophy pike are among regular catches.

By David Gray

Every January, Jeanne MacLean leaves the far north and makes a trek back to her home state of Missouri.  Jeanne says it is like “coming back home.”  She comes to visit friends and to set up a display in the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow for her Fletcher Lake Lodge.

Jeanne has many ties to Missouri. She was born and raised in Trenton, Missouri.  Her father, Fuzz LePage, was a career Missouri Highway Patrolman.  Few knew his real first name, everyone just called him Fuzz.  He had a love for law enforcement and when off duty, he had a love for flying.

When Jeanne was 14 and Fuzz had 20 plus years as a Highway Patrol Officer, Fuzz retired from active law enforcement and moved the family to Warroad, Minnesota.  Fuzz purchased a flight service business and began serving lodges, as well as anglers and hunters, flying customers and gear into remote Canadian locations.

One day on a return flight, Fuzz pulled back the throttle on his float plane, dropped into Fletcher Lake and taxied to the lodge dock. Fuzz wanted to meet the owners and thought he might pick up a new customer, offering them his flight services. In this part of Ontario, there are thousands of lakes, many of them gems, with Fletcher Lake being one of those diamond gems. The lodge owner informed Fuzz that his wife had recently passed away and he was going sell the lodge.

Fuzz made a quick return flight and told Jeanne, “Get a bank loan quick and buy Fletcher Lake Lodge.”

Jeanne did just that, buying the lodge in 1981.   The first part of the lodge was constructed in 1960.

Jeanne MacLean and her granddaughter ask, “Who’s ready for home-cooked breakfast?!”

Prior to the 1983 fishing season, a forest fire swept thru the region burning the camp and destroyed the lodge. Only one of the 14 structures, a guest cabin survived.  Considering the size of the rebuild task, it was amazing that their crew pitched in to rebuild the lodge and enough cabins to take care of all the incoming guests.

After High School, Jeanne worked for a year as secretary and then for a year at a Montana Elk hunting outfitter.  Then her dad called about buying Fletcher Lake Lodge.

Fletcher Lake Lodge is the longest continuous exhibitor in the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow.  She says working the show is much about getting to see friends and customers.  Almost all of the lodge guests rebook every year.

Watching folks stop at the Fletcher Lake Lodge booth in the sport show, it is obvious the customers are friends.  While interviewing Jeanne for this article, comments from customers were, “Absolutely the best walleye fishing” and “Magical fishing” and “Great fishing with wonderful lodge people” and much more.

Jeanne says her favorite day at the lodge is when the float plane arrives with new guests.  With a 90% plus rebook, the guests are all friends and each get a hug and give a hug when they get off the plane.  Nice way to start a fishing trip vacation!

Fletcher Lake is the only lodge on the lake. There are no roads to it. A short, but extremely scenic, 30 minute float plane ride from Kenora, Ontario, brings you to the lodge.

Two to five-pound Fletcher Lake smallmouth bass are fun to catch, especially when you can bring dozens to the boat in a day of peaceful fishing.

The lodge offers American Plan which is the most popular.  Breakfast and gourmet dinner is served in the lodge.  Lunch can be in the lodge, sandwiches packed for the day or the traditional shore lunch (PS – don’t ever miss a traditional shore lunch!).

There is absolutely nothing more delicious than a shore lunch cooked by one of the Fletcher Lake Lodge guides.

Fletcher Lake offers outstanding walleye, smallmouth and northern pike fishing.  It is Conservation fishing. You may keep only two fish a day for a dinner or shore lunch.  The lodge also has easy portages to a trophy lake and two musky lakes you can fish for the day.  The musky is said to be a fish of 10,000 casts, but Jeanne says at their musky lakes, “You won’t catch a 54-incher, but you will catch more musky in a day than you will believe.”  A rare and unique fishing experience only for guests of the lodge.  Most of the fishing is self-guiding, but Jeanne says if a boat with two anglers is not catching 100 fish a day, you are doing something wrong. We send out a guide to show places and how to catch them.

In 2018, three lady anglers (guests) were struggling a little on finding fish.  Jeanne sent them out with guides Shane and Kevin.  At the end of that day, total number of fish caught by the three ladies was 362.  Jeanne will not forget 362, as 362 was also Fuzz LePage’s Missouri Highway Patrol badge number. Now that’s pretty amazing.

Fletcher Lake Lodge has, along with other outfitters, teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program in the area.

Jeanne (left) shares dinner with guides, Kevin and Shane (back row), and 3 VERY HAPPY lady guests who caught 362 fish in one day!

Fletcher Lake Lodge is the only accommodation on Fletcher Lake and offers exceptional Canadian Fly-in fishing and hunting packages.  The remote location is only accessible by traditional Canadian bush planes and ensures exceptional fishing and hunting experiences.

Jeanne and Fletcher Lake Lodge can be reached in two ways: email and telephone. Their email address is: fish@fletcherlake.com and their phone contact is: Winter, 218-386-1538; Summer, 807-224-3400.

 

The Land of Giant Pike – Cree River Lodge, Saskatchewan

Giant Great Northern Pike are the norm for Cree River Lodge anglers.

  • Pike grow to OVER 50 inches here! TRUE GIANTS.
  • Catch 100’s of Fish Each Day of your Stay
  • Lindy Hammered Spoons and Muskie-Size Spinnerbaits Work Best for Pike
  • Catch Walleye Casting from the Dock!

By Mark Nelsen

Babe Winkleman and I share in the magical moment of catching a truly large Great Northern Pike. There are much larger pike here too. Ryan Schiller photo.

I’ve led a blessed life. As the former host (now retired) of Cabela’s Ultimate Adventures Television Show, I have fished and hunted around the globe, including a great number of fantastic fishing lodges in Canada.  My most recent fishing trip to Canada for a different TV show, has been by far, the most productive in terms of quantity and quality of fish.

When my phone rang recently and Fishing Hall of Fame legend Babe Winkleman was on the line, it didn’t take long to answer – the phone or his question. Would I accompany him to Saskatchewan to fish at the acclaimed Cree River Lodge with owner Pat Babcock? Cree River Lodge is noted for being the land of giant pike. In addition to monster pike, the lakes and rivers of this fishery are teeming with walleye and you can even find trophy grayling in a few spots. But Babe’s invite was to target big pike, and I was soon headed north to extreme northern Saskatchewan.

Cree River Lodge is unique in that there is virtually zero fishing pressure on this incredible water. It’s the only fishing operation in the area and there are hundreds of miles of water at your disposal.

It’s hard to sleep at night at Cree River Lodge, even after a hard day of catching giant fish, because the nighttime sky show of the Northern Lights is so amazing. Ryan Schiller Photo.

If you like adventure travel combined with great fishing, this is a place that should be on your must-go list. Babe Winkleman has been here several times with TV cameras in tow to film his show Good Fishing, and I was honored to be his guest for a few days at Cree River Lodge.

The lodge itself is a comfortable hub, with an elevated boardwalk leading to each cabin. Cabins have electricity, running water, private baths and heaters if needed. The generous and delicious meals are served in the main lodge. Anglers can bring their own tackle or the lodge can provide everything you need. There’s even a tackle shop in the lodge with all the proven artificial baits for sale on the spot should you run out or need backup. Great boats, gear and guides round out this ideal location.

Pike fishing for giants is so much fun among good friends, from L to R: Joe Marshall, Mark Nelsen, Pat Babcock (owner of Cree River Lodge) and Babe Winkleman. Ryan Schiller Photo

Medium-light spinning outfits are the popular choice to target walleyes, while heavier baitcasting outfits are the perfect option for pike. We used both braid and mono for pike and both worked equally well. Jigheads with plastics worked perfectly for catching more shore-lunch sized walleyes than you could ever eat (you can literally catch a walleye every cast and catch enough for lunch in five minutes from the lodge dock). If you want to target large walleye, a lot of anglers opt to troll for them pulling Hot’N’Tots. For pike, we stuck mostly with Lindy Hammered spoons or muskie-size spinnerbaits, which worked great, but you will pick up pike while jigging for walleye as well, so be prepared to lose some rigs when that happens. I call it getting “zing-powed.” It happens.

The giant pike up here are noted for their sheer vicious power and indescribably coloration. We released all the pike that we caught. Ryan Schiller Photo.

The other thing that will happen to you is that a big pike will hit your hooked-up walleye as you bring them in. It occurs every day here, so be prepared when it happens boatside and you get the surprise of your life!

On our trip, I had a goal to beat my best-ever pike (which was 40”). I did that the first afternoon, shortly after arriving at the lodge. We were jigging for walleye when a 41.5” pike hammered my jig and I had an awesome 10-minute battle with that fish on my light spinning outfit. A quick measurement and we released her back to the water, as they do with all the big pike at Cree River Lodge.

Also known for Grayling fishing, this is a must-go-to destination if your ever wanted to catch giant Northern Pike. Mark Nelson Photo

I broke that new record over and over each day, finally ending with a 46.5” monster pike for my best of the week. They get bigger here – well over 50”, but neither Babe nor I never hooked up with a true giant on this trip.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of fish we caught, and the number of big pike we caught. As I said earlier, you can catch a walleye on every cast, even from the dock, and the pike catch rate is not far behind that. Catching hundreds of fish a day here is not an exaggeration, it’s the norm.

Cree River Lodge offers several options for length-of-trip, and owner Pat Babcock and his staff are easy to work with to customize whatever trip you have in mind.

There are a couple options to get here – you can fly commercial to Saskatoon, then continue on Transwest (a regional air carrier in Canada), to Stony Rapids. Cree River Lodge staff will meet you at Stony Rapids, transport you by van for about an hour to a river landing, then it’s a short boat ride to the lodge. Another option is a weekly charter out of Edmonton, with a floatplane connection directly to the lodge. The Saskatoon route demands an overnight each way in Saskatoon, while the Edmonton option should only require an overnight on the inbound trip.

Cree River Lodge also offers spring bear hunting for monster black bears. Check them out at: http://www.creeriverlodge.ca.

TIP-UP LOCATIONS FOR EARLY-ICE PIKE

Northern Pike Through the Ice!

By Dave Csanda, Target Walleye

The Inside Scoop, some fish-catching info for you GATOR-CHASERS:

Bill Lindner Photography
  • Large bays are good early-ice options because they tend to freeze first — well before main lake areas — and offer the safest early ice, often just a short walk from shore.
  • Avoid small weedbeds or areas of sparse cover at first ice. Prominent weedbeds at the mouths of bays, or in the deeper centers of bays, provide big pike with plenty of habitat and room to feed and roam.
  • If you’ve fished open water there…and remember which areas offered the best weed growth, make those your starting points…. If the weeds are still healthy, pike are likely still using them under the ice.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with the lake, note large underwater structures on your map offering broad areas, perhaps 6-18′, bordered by deeper water. Chances are these will have the most weed growth — typically broadleaf cabbage or coontail. More weeds typically equals more pike.
  • Focus along or slightly inside the deep edges of weedbeds, and dangle a dead sucker, cisco, goldeye or other large baitfish below a tip-up, using a wire or fluorocarbon leader rig to prevent bite-offs.
  • Some anglers question the use of dead bait for large pike, assuming that lively minnows would be better. The fact is, large pike are as much scavengers as they are predators, and regularly pick up and eat freshly-killed baitfish off the bottom.
  • 10-12″ dead sucker, cisco, alewife, shad, goldeye or other oily baitfish…you can obtain these baits in advance, keep them in your freezer, and pack up a sufficient amount for your next trip….

Dave breaks down the types of rigs he uses in the full write-up here.

Click below to sign up or Target Walleye and Target Walleye/Ice:

Fall Frenzy – Northern Pike

  • Catch more and bigger autumn pike by following their favorite prey

By Gord Pyzer

The author with a giant northern pike caught during their fall binge feeding period. Gord Pyzer Photo

When school resumes in the fall, have you ever noticed how moms and dads

eagerly wait at street corners for their kids to get off the buses? Northern pike can also be found congregating in specific places during the fall, but they’re certainly not waiting to hug their young. No, they’re waiting to ambush and devour their prey instead, making autumn the best time of the year to find and catch scores of the big toothy critters.

Indeed, unlike pike during late winter and early spring—two other prime periods—gargantuan fall northern’s are not side-tracked by events such as the upcoming spawn. Instead, they have only one thing on their minds: quickly shoveling as much food down their throats as possible. This makes for a great scenario for anglers, especially given how easy it is to locate the bus stops where the action is unfolding.

Location

Fall is the period of consolidation, when northern pike move away from the deep weed edges and main-lake structures they’ve been frequenting all summer. It’s an interesting transition, because different groups of fish are moving to the same gathering spots from multiple directions.

My favorite way to pinpoint the terminals is by noting the location of the best late-summer spots, then identifying the nearest main-lake or large island points that break into deep water. If there’s an associated ledge or feeding flat in 10 to 20 feet of water, so much the better.

It’s worth noting, too, that the migration out of the back bays has nothing to do with withering or decaying vegetation, or a decline in oxygen levels, as so many anglers mistakenly believe. Instead, the pike are merely following prey, including yellow perch and walleye, that are transitioning to their deep-water fall, and eventually winter, locations.

Even more importantly, however, the big toothy critters are setting the stage for a feast as they intercept pelagic ciscoes and whitefish—and in some cases, lake trout—that are shifting toward shallow rocks to spawn. And once you’ve found one of these bus stops, the great thing is, it will remain productive in perpetuity, as the fish will return to it every fall.

Conditions

I should mention, too, that this pattern begins falling into place once the water temperature drops below 15°C (59F). It then peaks at 10°C (50F) and continues until 7°C (44F) or so, especially when we’re blessed with unseasonably warm weather. By late fall, however, the fish will have finally moved to their winter locations.

Meanwhile, a good bus stop becomes a great bus stop when it’s exposed to wind and waves. And by parking your boat over deep water, casting up shallow and retrieving your lure out over the break, you’ll always get better results than you would if you stopped in the shallow water and started casting.

Gear

Few lures have accounted for more King Kong northern pike than 4½- or five-inch paddletail swimbaits sporting embedded jigheads, such as those in the LiveTarget and Storm WildEye swimbait series. Also effective are five- or six-inch Bass Magnet Shift’R Shads, XZone Swammers and …..

To continue to the end of Gord’s great pike story, please click on this link: http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/One-simple-trick-to-catch-more-and-bigger-northern-pike-this-fall.