We catch 647 fish here in 4 days. On average, that’s a pike every 2.8 minutes. This place is wild, unspoiled, perhaps like this continent a thousand years ago and summer feels like spring.
Huge northern pike. Gorgeous scenery. What man can resist a fishing expedition?
I am visiting my favorite startup company—North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba. It’s a paradise—a northern pike factory in the breathtaking Canadian wilderness. No roads. Accessible only by air. Just one lodge on a 50-mile-long stretch of pure water where God and God alone stocks these hearty fish that grow to such prodigious proportions and feed so ferociously.
Six hundred forty seven fish. Don’t believe me? I assure you, we keep an accurate count. Got to. Boat bets. Loop Lonagan and Jim Kren will skin me alive for lying about a thing like that.
On day #2, a pike manages to hit my lure before swallowing its previous meal and yes, I count two fish caught on one cast. The bite is on!
Every day we pause to catch a few fat walleye and then land our boats at a likely island to participate in a great Canadian custom—shore lunch. The guide cuts wood, builds a fire, cleans, cooks, and serves the fish. My favorite restaurant of all time.
So many wonderful ways to cook fresh fish. Beer batter walleye, honey-garlic walleye, traditional walleye with all the trimmings. A different dish every day, followed by desert. If you have not yet experienced this wilderness feast, you are in for a treat!
Nothing tastes better than fresh walleye. It’s a delicacy elsewhere in the world, but nowhere near as good as walleye up here. These are fresh from of a cold clean body of water—live until cooked and eaten. Up here, they grow big and thick, with luscious and flaky meat. I have room for just one.
We spend our days on these pristine waters in open boats, making long casts with stout rods, our heavy lures retrieved at speed. Attacks by northern pike are sudden, savage, and frequent, with water churning at line’s end. To our surprise, walleye also strike our lures with tenacity and vigor.
But on day #3, the air grows unusually warm for this far north, and the bite slows. I put away my heavy tackle and slip out a fly rod. We glide into a calm bay, looking for big ones sunning and digesting an afternoon’s feed. We are hunting them.
My guide spots a monster pike 50 feet away and I cast a 10-inch fly at it. It refuses my offering and paddles away ever so slowly. “We’ll find it again!” says my companion.
And we do. I tie on a bigger fly (it looks more like a mop), cast it past this fish, and draw it into the kill zone, then twitch it to entice the lounging lunker. As I watch, the big fish gradually turns toward my bait and lazily moves on it. With great care, enormous jaws close over my lure. I set the hook hard, feel weight and life at the end of my line, and see the huge pike pull against me. Fish on!
A shiver runs down my shoulder. Then the big pike charges our boat and I strip line fast, spilling coils around my feet, trying to keep a load on my rod because any slack and that barbless hook can easily fall from a bony jaw. The pike continues to charge and swims directly under the boat. Plunging fly rod into water, I work around the bow. The pike continues to run in the same direction, taking line at will—line that burns through my grip until it spools off the floor, pulls taught, and tugs at the drag on my primitive reel. The reel gives me an advantage.
Powerful shakes and malicious tugs, then the pike’s 25 pounds rolls in my leader, but hook holds fast and this northern pike finally goes to bottom, still as rock. The water is clear in this shallow bay and I see my fish and keep pressure on.
Eventually the big pike concedes, and perhaps more out of curiosity than fatigue comes to our gunnels. My guide and I both gasp. There’s always something awesome about a thick, powerful fish measuring in the mid 40’s.
We net the pike, snap a quick photo, and the trophy goes right back in the lake to swim away and fight again. I can barely express the draining satisfaction of hunting, battling, and landing a pike this big. Maybe I’ll catch him again next year. Then primal shouts, a congratulatory handshake, and I relive the fight in my mind all the many miles back to our lodge.
After a hard day fishing, this old man needs food and rest. Management proves courteous and professional and refuses to let me suffer. We sit around our beautiful log cabin in blissful comfort, sipping beer and telling stories with suitable embellishments while eating steak, ribs, and other satisfying fare.
Up here, summer nights don’t get entirely dark. By eight o’clock in the afternoon, we’re playing at the pool table, shuffleboard table, and poker table. Then we shower under deliciously hot water and sleep soundly under warm quilts, on firm and expansive beds.
On the appointed day, we board our bush plane at the lodge’s private landing strip and fly home for dinner. If you live in Chicago, a true wilderness isn’t really that far away..
North Star Executive Outpost
Check for a cancellation if you want to book this year.
VERIFY MY NUMBERS:
Fish frequency calculation:
3 fishermen, 4 days on the water
less 1.5 hours/day for shore lunch
= 30 hours fishing and running around in the boat.
30 hrs / 647 fish = avg 2.8 min per fish caught
Photography by John Jonelis
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