In today’s post, year-round multispecies angler and writer Ashley Rae of SheLovesToFish.com recounts a killer 2018 trip.
There’s nothing I love more than venturing off on a road trip to somewhere new.
This week’s adventure began at my home in Ottawa. Eric and I loaded up our truck and headed off to Windy Lake Provincial Park.
This beautiful park is located about 45 minutes northwest of Sudbury. As we headed north, the beautiful views seemed to cleanse the soul. The rugged scenery is breathtaking, no matter the season.
I much prefer this view over the brake lights and skyscrapers found in the city!
Upon arriving at the park late afternoon, we checked in with the lovely staff at the office.
Eric and I unloaded our gear onto sleds to transport to our home for the next couple of days: a yurt. My first time staying a yurt was only last year, and I must say, it’s now my preferred method for camping. They’re quite spacious, cozy, and super warm.
During the winter months, the trails at Windy Lake Provincial Park become pathways for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The yurts are located just 500 m from the parking lot at the Chalet. The Chalet provides a great place to warm up with a blazing hot wood stove and cozy atmosphere.
The park also offers a brand new waterfront cabin just steps away from the shores of Windy Lake. I had the chance to peek inside, and I love this rustic, quaint cabin. Tucked in the trees with a stunning view of the lake, it’s the perfect spot for a getaway.
Ice fishing program
Windy Lake Provincial Park has a unique ice fishing program in place. They offer a full ice fishing kit, including portable shelters and equipment. Tow the self-contained kit in its own toboggan out onto the lake ice, pop up the shelter, drill a hole in the ice with the hand auger, set up the fishing rods and you’re set!
Staff will even tell you where their favourite fishing spots are.
This is a fantastic opportunity for those looking to give ice fishing a try. Perhaps you love to fish, but just don’t have the necessary ice fishing gear. They’ve got you covered! At Windy Lake, all you need to bring is your fishing license.
Locating the Lake Trout
Eric and I are avid anglers year-round, and we brought along our own gear. We researched the lake before our trip and decided on some locations we wanted to explore in pursuit of Lake Trout.
Steep contour lines adjacent to deep basins are classic locations where Lake Trout can typically be found this time of year. We set out on the lake before sunrise and made our way to a location that looked promising on the map. After drilling various holes, we found a good drop. We set up my pop-up shelter as a warm-up station on this cold morning.
We hopped from hole to hole with our ice fishing sonars to look for activity below. It didn’t take too long for both of us to mark fish. They’d race up to our baits, before sinking back down. I swapped out my lure several times only to realize the first one I had on, a blade bait, was still piquing their interest the most.
By late morning, I hooked and landed my first fish, a nice little Lake Trout. Yahoo! I sent this one back down from where it came from in 62 feet of water. Quite literally, moments later, the snow began coming down heavily. We wanted to do some more exploring, but the snow would make it tricky to drag our gear around on foot.
Park Superintendent Ryan and Assistant Superintendent Rob came out to check in and offered to bring out and set up one of the rental shelters for us to use over the afternoon. Both are knowledgeable anglers, and recommended a location that had been producing fish recently.
I was impressed with the rental shelter: an insulated Frabill with built-in seats and a sled. I set up my propane heater inside and was nice and toasty in no time. The blizzard continued and, at this point, it was a total whiteout across the lake.
Eric was outside hole-hopping, looking for some active trout. I fished in comfort (just how I like it!).
The big one
After getting my gear set up, I marked a couple of fish, but they didn’t stick around long. At this point, I was eating a sandwich and studying my sonar while jigging my blade bait constantly. On my second rod, I had a live minnow set on the bottom with hopes a burbot would come along. After hearing the lake holds burbot, I was anxious to catch one, as this would be a new species for me!
All of a sudden, my sonar displayed a huge red mark creeping up to my blade bait that I was jigging 10 feet off bottom over 52 feet of water. I continued working it just as I had been: a quick lift, then allowing it to flutter back down, followed by pounding the rod tip between lifts for even more fluttering action.
I continued with this motion, slowly raising it as the fish followed, not allowing my bait to drop below the fish. As the red mark continued to rise, I dropped my sandwich as I could see this fish was getting pretty serious. After working it for a minute or two, the fish came tearing up and SMASHED my lure!
I set the hook and the battle began. Line was peeling off my reel and I could hardly contain the excitement. As I reeled away, I hollered, attempting to get Eric’s attention, as he was somewhere outside the shelter fishing away. I continued to shout while reeling away on this fish. After a few moments, Eric came barreling over.
My heart was pounding out of my chest with each turn of my reel handle. It seemed for every foot I reeled up, the fish tore off with another five. I reeled and reeled, and finally, the fish approached the bottom of the hole. Eric caught the first glimpse.
“ASH! It’s a MONSTER! BIG TROUT! BIG TROUT!”
I can’t describe the emotions that came over me upon hearing those words. I knew it was big, but his confirmation got me even more excited. A couple more tail-kicks from the fish and I was able to steer its head up the hole so that Eric could get a hold of it. As soon as he had a good grip, we both began cheering and celebrating.
Posted by Ashley Rae on January 22, 2018
This is certainly a fish and memory that I’ll never forget! A couple of quick photos and back this fish went into Windy Lake to live on and hopefully be a memorable catch for another angler!
A big thanks to Ryan, Rob, and staff, for such a wonderful experience! We will definitely be back.