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The Monster Pike
of Minor Bay by Don H. Meredith © 2009
(stammphoto.com photos are used here with permission)
(first published in the May 2009 Alberta Outdoorsmen)

The dock at Minor Bay

The mosaic of deep blues and greens drifted by the aircraft window and extended beyond the horizon to the north. It was the greens of the boreal forest broken by the cobalt blue of lake after lake, some only separated by a thin strip of land dotted with spruce and pine. We were flying north from Saskatoon into the incredible wilderness of northern Saskatchewan—a place I had always wanted to visit.

Northern SaskatchewanAlthough I had been in northern Alberta several times as a biologist and angler, I had not been in northern Saskatchewan, where this incredible northern landscape is in stark contrast to the stereotypical Saskatchewan image of prairie wheat fields. So, when I was contacted by Tourism Saskatchewan to be part of a group of American and Canadian outdoor writers touring some of the many fishing lodges in northern Saskatchewan, I jumped at the opportunity.

Transwest Airlines flew us north and dropped small groups of writers and photographers off at air strips along the way. Our group of four got off at a place called Points North Landing just west and a bit north of our destination, Minor Bay Lodge on Wollaston Lake, near the northeast corner of the province. Points North is a central staging area mostly for the uranium mines in the area. It's a busy place with a paved airstrip next to a lake with a float plane dock, where an assortment of planes awaited their customers. We were met by Minor Bay lodge manager, Moe Rosolowski, who escorted us to the lodge's float plane, a de Havilland Beaver.

The flight to the lodge was short but it did give us some fine views of Wollaston Lake and its many arms and bays. Minor Bay Lodge is located on the west shore of the lake, and offers some fine accommodations, including private cabins with all the amenities, and excellent food in the dining room. Upon our arrival, we were treated to a lunch where we got acquainted with one another. Bill Hilts Sr. and Jr. are two outdoor writers from New York State, and Doug Stamm is a professional outdoor photographer from Wisconsin (www.stammphoto.com). Doug and I paired up as fishing partners for our two days at the lodge.

Pike on a flyAfter lunch and a weather delay when thunderstorms threatened the waters, we were introduced to our guides and the 18 foot aluminum boats and 50 horse outboard motors that would take us about the lake. Our first trip was out to some waters known for lake trout. It was late June, and the ice had just left so the trout were still close to the surface. We trolled Williams Wablers and other flashy lures and caught some trout we estimated to be six to ten pounds. Although there are large lakers in this lake, none rose to our bait that evening, and those we did catch were released. It is lodge policy to release all fish, except for a few smaller ones for shore lunches. Such a policy is necessary if lodges wish to maintain quality trophy fisheries on lakes where the growing season is short and it takes many years to grow a big fish.

While a respectable game fish by anyone's standards, lake trout are not what this lodge or lake is known for. "Home of the Monster Pike" is what the sign says on the dock in front of the lodge. So, the next day we went out in search of those monsters.

Wollaston is a huge lake with many arms, bays and backwaters. It is easy to become confused as to where you are and where you should be going because one spruce lined shore looks just about like any other. A good guide who knows the lake is essential if you are going to have quality fishing in a short period of time. Doug and I partnered with Roland Boland, a very capable guide indeed. On this day we started out in the morning on relatively calm waters heading for some bays where the pike were congregating for spawning. We caught some nice fish but nothing like the lunkers we were looking for.

As our morning progressed we noticed the small cumulous clouds dotting the sky being replaced by dark thunderheads. Now, exposed on a large lake in an aluminum boat is nowhere to be when thunderstorms approach, so it wasn't long before we headed for shore. There we sat out the storm in our rain suits tied tightly about us as the rain turned to hail and back again. Good gear is a must on these lakes.

After the storm passed we moved on to have our shore lunch on a perfect rocky peninsula that gave us great views of the spacious Saskatchewan sky. Roland fixed us a meal of walleye fillets and fried potatoes. It was a great way to top off the morning fishing.

In the afternoon, Roland took us to a bay where he knew some big fish should be hanging out.

Monster pikeIt wasn't long before both Doug and I hooked up with some quality pike in the 30 inch class. Because the policy is catch-and-release, fish are quickly measured but not weighed, so their time out of the water is minimized. I was impressed with the care Roland and the other guides took to ensure all fish are returned safely to the water. Handling and time out of the water (for measuring and photography) are minimized.

This bay was indeed a treat, with lots of large shadows moving about as our various pike lures thrashed the water. However, we still were not finding the fish Roland wanted us to find.

The next morning we awoke to a clear skies and little wind. Roland, Doug and I boarded the Beaver along with lodge manager Moe and flew to Wayne's Lake on the Wheeler River, one of the lodge's outpost lakes, about a twenty-minute flight away. There we loaded up the boats awaiting us and headed out to some shallow bays noted for harboring big pike. These outpost lakes are only occasionally fished, and Moe assured us we would find the monster pike we were looking for. We were not disappointed. It wasn't long before we each hooked up with 30 and 40 inch class fish.

Doug Stamm with his monster pikeNot only is Minor Bay Lodge noted for its "Monster Pike", it is also noted for the opportunities it provides fly anglers to catch those monsters on a fly. Although I fly fish, I have never seriously considered fly fishing for pike. Well, all that changed when Roland demonstrated for Doug and me how a nine-weight fly rod and a large flashy streamer can bring those monsters in fast and hard. Roland explained that a properly presented pike streamer moves much slower through the water than a heavy pike lure that must move at certain speed to obtain the action required. Thus with a streamer, the pike has more time to make the decision to strike. And strike they did. Doug was so impressed, he borrowed Roland's outfit and soon landed a nice a 43 inch "gator".

Arctic grayling on the Wheeler RiverTo round out the day, Moe took us to some rapids on the Wheeler River where we fly fished for Arctic grayling. I had fished grayling years ago but never had the luck we had on this river. We found a nice hole behind some boulders in the rapids where a school was actively feeding, and we caught several of the beautiful fish that offered good fights. All were released to fight another day. It was the perfect end to a perfect day of fishing.

If you enjoy top notch trophy fishing with fine accommodations and gourmet meals, give Minor Bay Lodge a look. Check out their website at www.gwnlodges.com or telephone 1-888-BIG-PIKE (1-888-244-7453). Also check out Tourism Saskatchewan's Fishing in Saskatchewan web site.


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Dog Runner