During the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to spend five days on Rowdy Lake in Ontario, Canada fishing all day. When I say all day, I literally mean every minute of the day other than eating and sleeping.
I understand five intense days of fishing sounds draining, but we were determined to take advantage of every minute available. We were the only people on the lake and I caught more fish in five days than I’ve caught in all other years of my life combined.
For this travel experience, I share what our setup was on Rowdy Lake and what our typical day was like. I highlight two types of fish we caught, the methods of fishing, and other wildlife. Finally, I end with valuable lessons learned from fishing that apply to many other aspects of our lives.
A Canadian fishing trip was always a childhood dream of mine. Now that I’ve turned this into reality, check out my current Dream Destinations.
Setup and Schedule
After two days driving from Chicago to Canada, our group of ten finally arrived in Kenora, Ontario for our last leg of travel. The lake we were fishing at was not accessible by land. This meant we needed to fly in a sea plane from Kenora to Rowdy Lake, where we would stay and fish for five days.
After a 45 minute flight, we landed on Rowdy Lake and instantly began unloading supplies, gear, and other necessities for the week.
Our camp consisted of two cabins for sleeping, a small dining area for meals, an ice house for cleaning fish and storing bait, and a cabin for the guide and his wife. All in all, a total of 10 guests could stay at once.
The fishing guide and his wife lived on Rowdy Lake most of summer to show new people around each week. Our group had some guys (including my Dad) who traveled to Rowdy Lake every year, so we didn’t need to rely too much on the guide. We did have to rely on our food being made every day though!
Once we unpacked a few things, we immediately got our fishing gear together and set out on the lake. Our goal of the trip was to spend as much time fishing as possible!
Our daily schedule looked something like this:
7:00am – Wake up and eat breakfast
8:00am – Begin morning fishing session
12:00pm – Lunch
1:30pm – Begin afternoon fishing session
5:30pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Begin evening fishing session
10:00pm – Sunset – Be back at camp before it’s too dark
Overall, we fished for about 11-12 hours of each day!
Now, depending on if you enjoy fishing, this schedule could sound like a personal hell, or a trip of a lifetime!
Let’s take a closer look into some of the fishing we actually did and why we consider 12 hour fishing days fun!
When you picture fishing, you might think of long, frustrating days, where you barely get any bites. By the end, you feel like you haven’t actually fished much and have nothing to show for your effort.
Any person who fishes experiences these days and knows how frustrating they are.
The reason why we traveled all the way to a secluded lake in Canada was so we could avoid this and experience some of the best fishing of our lives.
Rowdy Lake is also home to a good amount of Trophy Fish. A fish is a “Trophy” when it reaches or surpasses a certain size, generally well above the average size for that fish.
Are bonita fish big?
The main fish we caught at Rowdy Lake were Walleye and Northern Pike. A trophy walleye for us equaled at least 27 inches in length. A northern pike equaled at least 38 inches.
Walleye populate most of Rowdy Lake and are generally found in deeper water along an underwater ridge of some sort. Walleye is relatively easy to catch and put up a good fight depending on their size.
The main method of fishing used for Walleye is jigging, and it’s quite simple. Put a frozen minnow on the end of a jig hook, let your line out until the bait is a bit above the bottom, and move the pole in a short, jerking motion to mimic an injured fish.
Here’s the most HYPE video of jigging methods I’ve ever come across (sound on):
Most of the time we would jig because it’s a great way to catch a lot of fish. When you’re fishing in a school of walleye, you pull one out of the water almost every minute. Sometimes you have a fish on before your jig even hits the bottom. This is super exciting and gives you a great shot to land a trophy walleye.
One thing we noticed was how walleye in a school would generally all be around the same size. If we pulled out ten 19 inch walleye in a row, it’s likely no larger fish are in the school. Although we could catch a lot of fish, we would move on if we were searching for trophies.
Each day during our morning session, we needed to catch our lunch for the day. Each boat (two people) was responsible for bringing back 3-4 walleye a day for lunch. Lunch walleye could only be 18 inches or less due to governmental catch and release regulations. We never had a morning where we didn’t catch lunch.
Northern Pike are also well-populated in Rowdy Lake, but require a completely different style of fishing. To catch pike, we primarily cast lures in calm-water bays. For lures, we used different types of spoons, spinners, and buzz baits (these sit on top of the water and make a loud buzzing sound to attract fish).
Pike do not travel in schools like walleye, so it’s a much more targeted and deliberate type of fishing. We would take our boat a bit into the weeds and cast into spots where we pictured a giant pike resting.
Pike are more difficult to catch and put up a completely different type of fight from other fish. Even the smallest pike will take you for a ride and make you work for a catch. I’ve had battles with pike that lasted over 20 minutes. They are strong and take a lot of work to tire out.
Even when you get a pike close to the boat, it might zoom off again on a huge run. All you can do is hold on tight and listen to your line buzz.
On this trip I actually caught a trophy pike, which was my first and only trophy fish I’ve ever caught!
Overall, pike fishing is more of a challenge to find and hook the fish. This makes actually landing one of these lunkers much more rewarding and exciting to battle!
Portage & Other Wildlife
One day during the trip, we ventured beyond Rowdy Lake and fished at a different spot nearby called Joyce Lake. This venture is a portage, and involves hiking with your gear to reach otherwise inaccessible fishing spots.
Luckily for us, our guide placed a working boat on Joyce Lake at the beginning of the season. This meant we didn’t need to lug an entire boat across land, but only had to carry our fishing gear and lunch.
Portages are useful to find lakes with different types of fish, or lakes with a better chance to catch a trophy. Joyce Lake produced some monster trophy pike throughout the years, which is why we chose to portage here. A portage is also a great way to add some variety and break up the schedule a bit.
Throughout the week on Rowdy and Joyce Lake, we often spotted some unique wildlife. The main wildlife we saw included Bald Eagles, Moose, and Black Bears. We were lucky enough to get pictures of the moose and eagle, but the black bears ran off before I snapped a picture.
Valuable Insights from Fishing
While I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into my fishing trip, I’m going to switch gears and focus on some life-lessons I’ve learned from fishing. Spending a significant amount of time on anything you enjoy will teach you valuable lessons that transfer to many other aspects of your life.
The main thing I’ve learned from fishing, and have begun seeing in all aspects of my life, is focusing solely on things I can control. When it boils down to it, there are really only three things we can control in fishing (and our life). Shout out to my friend Daniel for introducing this concept to me.
The three things we can control is our actions, reactions, and mindset.
In fishing, our actions include things like deciding where to fish (deep vs. shallow water), bait to use (minnows vs. worms), style of fishing (jigging vs. casting), and how long to commit to a spot. After that, there’s really not a whole lot of things we can control. We just have to sit, wait, and hope our actions allow us to catch a fish.
This is why fishing is so frustrating sometimes. Even if we choose the best gear and spot possible, sometimes the fish just aren’t there. We are leaving a lot up to chance and hope – which requires incredible patience and willingness to wait.
Imagine battling a potential trophy pike for 20 minutes, only to have your line break when the pike is a foot away from your boat. You literally watch the pike swim away from you with the lure still in its mouth.
Our first reaction is probably going to revolve around anger, frustration, and disappointment. This reaction is quite common and can take a hold of anyone. I’ve seen grown men swear they were going to quit fishing for the rest of their life because of a lost fish. I’ve let a lost fish ruin my entire day because I couldn’t get over how mad I was.
As difficult as it is to realize, how we react to certain scenarios is our decision. It just requires us to recognize we are in an emotional situation, consciously realize we have a choice, and then choose which response to take.
Do we lash out, throw our pole in the water, and let the rest of our day get ruined?
Or do we tie a new lure on, keep casting, and move on with our day because we know there’s nothing else we can do?
Always strive to choose positive reactions, because these ultimately decide our next actions and reactions. We don’t want to get stuck going down a negative reaction/action cycle, because that will eventually alter our mindset in a damaging way. This can lead to greater consequences and decreased mental health.
The last thing we can control in fishing and life is our mindset, or attitude. At its basis, how we choose to view and think about things determines our happiness and affects our future actions/reactions.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations in our mind that set us up for disappointment. We can believe with all our might that every fish we catch will be a trophy. When we inevitably catch non-trophy fish, we won’t be able to appreciate what we actually have in front of us.
A 36 inch pike is still an incredibly impressive fish to land. Don’t undermine what you’ve done just because it doesn’t live up to an unrealistic expectation.
On the flip side, if our mindset is to have fun and enjoy each fish we catch, it won’t matter if we catch an 11 inch or 29 inch walleye. We aren’t expecting a lunker on every cast, so each fish is unique and we appreciate it for what it is.
No matter what situation we are in or going into, adjust our mindset towards being open, positive, and adaptable. This allows us to have a fun and positive experience no matter what actually happens.
I know its easy for me to type this out and pretend we will start doing this perfectly tomorrow, but we all know it’s not that easy. To actually live and practice focusing on what we can control is difficult.
I’m working every day to improve my actions, reactions, and mindset. I still have plenty of instances where I immediately respond to my first emotions, despite knowing it’s not the best response. What’s valuable right now is recognizing why I think I chose wrongly, and working out how I can improve next time a similar scenario happens.
Being educated on controlling our actions, reactions, and mindset is a great starting place and will guide us down a path to a happier life.
Fishing is a unique and exciting activity that tests us in ways no other activity does. Not a lot is in our control. We are continually tested to stay patient and positive no matter the outcome.
Many different types of fish and methods exist, and each give us a special challenge. Rowdy Lake gave me an incredible opportunity to catch the most walleye and northern pike in my entire life! Being one of ten people on an open lake is a humbling experience and put me up close and personal with nature.
Even if you aren’t able to make it to a spot like Rowdy Lake, fishing is still a fun activity and will teach you how to focus on your actions, reactions, and mindset.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into walleye and northern pike fishing in Canada! If you want to hear more or ask any questions, leave a comment below!