February 06, 2017
By Doug Stange
Once or twice a year the fishing should be so manic that no thinking is required. You just let yourself go, cast after cast, time in a warp, rod bent, another marvelous fish—unbelievable, you keep saying out loud—until, exhausted at the pace, you must stop and take it all in. You are among a handful of anglers on this giant lake in the Far North, this bay with an incoming stream full of walleyes, one of thousands of spots like this scattered across the north—endless bush country on the Canadian Shield. A floatplane flight away from civilization—although roads also penetrate some of the wilderness, allowing anglers to drive to many waters. It's you and the fish, a timeless quest in tranquil surroundings.
Wood gathered, a couple of smaller fish cleaned, fire crackling bankside, fillets suddenly sizzling in hot oil, coffee brewing in an old pot alongside a can of beans, you sit back against an old log, overlooking the water, enjoying the freshest fish on the face of the earth. Peace and quiet solitude. Serenity. But one need only hit the reset button and there are many more fish to come. This is the face of northern Saskatchewan, where lodges host anglers, or anglers do their own thing on lakes with outpost cabins. Camping is an option, too, in numerous provincial parks.
Farther south anglers drive to the fishing. Again, a comfortable cabin beckons, or perhaps a campsite set bankside, a breeze blowing off the water, where mystery and adventure await. The target fish could be pike, could even be record-class rainbow trout in giant Lake Diefenbaker, but most often the fish of favor is the walleye, which is both plentiful and can grow to prodigious sizes.
Logistically, Saskatchewan might be the far northwestern part of the walleye universe, but it's the center of the walleye world when it comes to a legacy of waters where they thrive. The North and South Saskatchewan rivers become the Saskatchewan River, coursing through the province from west to northeast, forming reservoirs and supporting tributary rivers. Walleyes thrive in most of these waters and sustain modest fishing pressure at best, including on Lake Diefenbaker, which not only produces big numbers of walleyes but fish surpassing 10 pounds.
Tobin Lake, another impoundment of the Saskatchewan River, is famous for production of giant walleyes, including the Saskatchewan record of 18.3 pounds, which surpassed another Tobin fish of 18.06 pounds. The fall fishing is especially productive, as fish concentrate in the riverine portions of the reservoir to feed.
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in the south, becoming high prairie a bit farther north, before turning into boundless forest set on bedrock of the Canadian Shield. Farthest south, Rafferty Reservoir, near Estevan, is classic prairie water, growing walleyes fast with resulting fast-action, especially during early summer.
Another fantastic drive-to fishery is just 40 minutes northwest of the provincial capital of Regina. Last Mountain Lake is only a mile or so wide, but it runs for more than 50 miles from north to south, with a deep glacial cut 50 to 80 feet deep in the central and southern portion of the lake, supporting plentiful populations of ciscoes and whitefish. Those forage fish fuel walleye growth and sustain healthy fish that can grow old. Even smaller fish usually have substantial body fat, with fish only 28 inches long at times approaching 10 pounds. There may be no other place in North America with better potential to produce fish from 8 to 13 pounds. And the fishing isn't just good; it can be spectacular all season long.
As always when it comes to catching fish, every day's an ongoing experiment in action. But there are no secrets to catching Saskatchewan's plentiful walleyes. Anglers can bring to bear a host of presentation options to catch fish, depending on the season and where the fish are holding in individual bodies of water.
With so many fish to target, many anglers forgo trolling in favor of casting crankbaits and jigs dressed with soft trailers. One favorite, especially for fish of gargantuan proportions, are paddletail swimbaits rigged on jigheads weighing, 1/2, 3/4, or 1 ounce. Fish these aggressively by making long casts and swimming the lures along; several feet above the bottom.
Above and beyond the exceptional fishing, Saskatchewan is a notoriously friendly place to visit. There's no need to keep resources under wraps when you have so much to share. All total there are 100,000 lake and rivers spread across this great province, many with walleyes that have never seen a lure.
Fly-in travel options? Run the gamut from plush high-end lodges, to do-it-yourself ventures where you do your thing at an outpost cabin. You can also drive as far north as the roads will take you, partaking of lodges along the way, boating into lodges on primitive waters, or sticking to more accessible fisheries near cities spread across the southern two thirds of Saskatchewan.
All you have to do is dream big and make plans to get there—to manic walleye fishing just waiting.
[navionics zoom="6" long="-106.5" lat="52.1"]