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On the Wildside: Walleye wilderness expedition: Plenty of fish, indelible memories

Mike Bowen with a northern pike caught and released on Lac Seul. Rick Wallin photo

Eight of us convened early Friday morning a few weeks ago at Bowen's Garage on Main Street in River Falls. We loaded gear and food into two trucks and lashed rod cases on top of one.

Jim Renslow had organized another walleye fishing expedition into Canada. After many years of flying to a remote camp on Larus Lake north of Nestor Falls, Ontario, the friends decided to go again to Lac Seul in northwestern Ontario where you can drive to a landing and go to a fishing camp by water.

I had been up to Lac Seul a couple of times before with Renslow and friends a decade ago. We had great times and caught walleyes until our arms were tired. This year, the River Falls fishing crew included Renslow, Jim, Dan and Jerry Filkins, Mike Bowen, Rick Wallin, Dennis Anderson and me.

We drove up through International Falls, Minn., and north through Dryden, Ontario, and on to Sioux Lookout. We had dinner at a restaurant filled with high school students dressed for their senior prom. The next morning we saw a big black bear on the way to the boat landing. After stowing all the gear and people, we traveled in big boats for about an hour over the huge lake to get to Lac Seul Outposts Camp at Chamberlin Narrows.

Lac Seul is one of the biggest lakes in Ontario. Once a long wide valley with rivers and lakes filled with walleyes, the area was impounded to create a giant hydropower reservoir in 1929.

Lac Seul today is a big crescent-shaped lake about 150 miles east to west and with many islands, bays, inflowing rivers and connected lakes. The water is tea-colored by tannin from sphagnum bogs in the watershed. The light-sensitive walleyes there inhabit shallower water and feed during the day in contrast to their nocturnal deep water cousins in clear water lakes.

Lac Seul Outfitters Camp is on a sandy point in a riverine part of the lake. The current boils a bit going through a wide channel by the camp. You can catch walleyes right off the dock.

The camp has a dozen comfortable housekeeping cabins with running water and electricity. They offer guests good aluminum fishing boats with flat floors, pedestal seats and quiet 4-stroke outboard motors. I wouldn't bring my boat to rock-studded Lac Seul unless I brought multiple spare propellers.

Shortly after we landed and stowed our gear in the cabin we were out on the water fishing for walleyes. There are so many walleyes in Lac Seul that it's pretty easy to catch one or 100. A Lindy rig with a walking sinker, a single split shot and a floating jig head baited with a crawler or minnow was a sure-fire way to catch walleyes. We also caught big walleyes and northern pike on artificial lures.

We suffered through four days of clouds and cool winds out of the north and rain. The avid walleye anglers toughed it out, caught plenty of fish, dried their rain gear around the fire, ate plenty of walleyes, played cards and had fun. We enjoyed being out in a near-wilderness with beautiful water, rocks, trees and sky. Jim and Jerry Filkins saw a cow moose with twin calves romping around. We all saw bears browsing along the shores.

The last day was nice with sunshine. The morning fishing was a bit slow but in the afternoon we all caught a bunch of fish. Bowen caught and released a big northern. Anderson caught a 25-inch walleye.

The next morning we packed up to leave but were socked in by fog. After the fog lifted we rode boats back to the landing, loaded up and had an uneventful drive home. Most of us had bought Ontario conservation fishing licenses, so we brought back our limit of two walleyes each. We brought back much more, however. We have indelible memories of the good company and good times on another Canada fishing trip.

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