As a young boy growing up in northeast Texas, I would read the outdoor magazines and dream of one day fishing in the remote, pristine waters of Canada. There was something about this wild country that has always drawn me like a magnet. The cry of the loon on a still evening while casting for pike, walleye and lake trout in waters where the fish have never seen a hook or, enjoying a noon meal of very fresh fried walleye or pike cooked over a campfire on an island surrounded by pristine water is something every angler should experience.
I made my first trip to northern Saskatchewan a few years ago and spent 5 glorious days fishing and soaking in the wilderness country. We hear much about a “bucket list” experience these days, I can tell you one thing from personal experience, once I actually fished up in this wild country, my “once in a lifetime” bucket list experience became a yearly event!
Like any type of outdoor endeavor, there are many options that affect the cost. Fishing up in Saskatchewan at a five star lodge with fancy meals and guides comes with what I consider a pretty hefty price tag but for those with the desire and the means, its money well spent. Last summer, I enjoyed more of a “do it yourself” type trip, headquartering at Iskwatikan Lake Lodge owned by Bryce Liddell. My friends and I enjoyed the adventure so much that we are planning a return trip in late June. For most of us, cost is always a factor. The fishing trip we enjoyed last summer and are planning again this June will cost, roughly $2,500. This includes airfare to and from Saskatoon. The cost of 5 days fishing which includes float plane to and from the lodge, a comfortable cabin, boat motor and fuel and fish cleaning costs around $1,000 US dollars. I think many of us are hesitant to try new experiences because of lack of information.
Most any fisherman with a little experience can “do” this trip. Guides are really not necessary on Iskwatikan Lake. Bryce gives a tour and points out the best areas for catching the various species. Boats are very safe aluminum V bottom with modern tiller steering outboards, gas and fish cleaning is included. We used a bottom bouncing rig for walleye and found trolling to be very effective for everything except the lake trout which hold on a couple of the deeper submerged humps on the lake and prefer a vertical jigging presentation.
GETTING THERE: We booked round trip flights to Saskatoon. Once in Saskatoon, we rented a car, purchased the groceries we needed for 5 days, and made the 4.5 hour drive to Otter Lake where we lodged for the night. The next morning, we loaded our gear in the float plane and about 25 minutes later, touched down on Iskwatikan Lake. We began fishing within minutes of getting our gear stowed in the cabin and soon learned that catching fish was about as easy as getting the right bait in the water.
This year, we plan to eat fish every day for the evening meal and possible enjoy a fish fry at lunch as well. We will purchase spices for blackened fish, baked fish, fried fish and probably grill some pike fillets over the campfire. Pork and beans, fried potatoes with onion and canned veggies will accompany our main course of fish. Breakfast will be simple with meals such as bagels and instant oatmeal. We are so anxious to get out on the water to fish each day that we usually wolf down a couple cups of coffee and the easy to prepare breakfast in record time! We really enjoyed our “self guided” trip last summer. It’s nice to choose your own hours to fish. The lodge is located on a centrally located island and after our tour; it was easy to navigate the waters. The farthest we traveled from the lodge to fish was no farther than two or three miles or a fifteen minute boat ride.
It’s really nice to have the fish filleted by folks at the lodge, especially the pike. Walleye fillet much like a bass or crappie but I have yet to master the art of cutting around the “Y” bones of the pike. Although walleye are known for their flavor, I found the smaller pike to be excellent eating also. The big lake trout will be finished with their spawn in late June and one member of our group, David Hanson the well known “big catfish” guide at Lake Tawakoni is excited about targeting the big trout. No doubt David will catch some jumbo trout but I’m betting that once he discovers the almost nonstop action on good eating walleye and northern pike, he will be downsizing at least some of the time to smaller spoons and spinners!
So, if you would finally make that fishing trip you have dreamed of “up north”, I strongly suggest you make it happen. I’m also betting your “bucket list” trip will become an annual event. The call of those loons and fast paced fishing will call you back, year after year.
Here is some information that will help you plan your trip.
Department of Tourism, Saskatchewan. www.tourismsaskatchewan.com
Iskwatikan Lake Lodge, Bryce Liddell www.iskwatikanlake.com