We had just portaged around a large set of rapids in Wabakimi Provincial Park and were excited to fish below it. My canoe partner’s rod was jigging off bottom and almost immediately snagged the bottom. Her rod bent double, she turned to tell me to paddle forward when her ‘snag’ started taking off downstream on a line-peeling run! I turned the canoe as fast as I could and we spent the next ten minutes being towed downstream by a trophy-sized pike. We ended up getting that fish into the shallows and into our hands where I promptly dropped it before my partner could snap a photo! To this day that is the biggest pike I have ever seen.
I love fishing from a canoe, especially on remote wilderness trips. They are the perfect vessel for travelling through river systems and gaining access to places that are unfishable by motorized boats. We have found river eddies that have produced multiple doubleheaders on almost every cast, and secluded weed edges where pike hit anything you choose to throw at them. Fishing from a canoe is about going back to the basics. No fish finders, no trolling motors, just a rod and your paddle. Every trip we take into Wabakimi we learn more and more about the best ways to be successful fishing from a canoe. Here are some of our favourite tips.
Trolling crankbaits is a great fit for canoe tripping as it allows you to find where the fish are hiding while travelling to your next campsite. One of our favourite crankbaits to use is a chartreuse Berkley Flicker Minnow. It has great action at the speed of a moving canoe to get down deep. Play around with how much line you let out to get your lure down into the strike zone. Look for your rod tip ticking as the crankbait consistently bounces off bottom then reel up just a couple turns and your lure will be in the perfect position while you paddle to your next camp. If possible, alter your course just enough to go over likely fish structure such as off of rocky points and along drop-offs. We have also found mid-lake humps and shoals with this technique. The most important part is to make sure your rod is secure enough to not go flying out of the canoe when a fish hits!
One of the most effective ways we have found to catch walleye from a canoe is by drifting. Drifting a pink 3/8 ounce jig and white twister is a deadly technique anywhere there is current. With your canoe sideways to the current, drop the jig just upstream of the boat and let it sink. The key to this technique is to keep a tight, vertical line, so use heavier jigs in faster water. Keep your rod tip high and feel for the bottom as the canoe drifts with the current. Often, the canoe will drift faster so if you don’t feel the bottom for a while, don’t let out more line. Reel back in and start again. This technique is also really effective on a lake using the wind. Paddle upwind of a point or location where you’ve caught a walleye or had success trolling and drift over it in the exact same manner.
Canoe Trip Fish Tacos
Don’t get me wrong, I love a classic shore lunch of fried fish, potatoes and baked beans but if you are looking to branch out, making fish tacos on trip can be just as easy and delicious. This recipe is great for canoe tripping lunch because all the ingredients keep really well and can also be used in many other meals. The coleslaw is adaptable to what you have left in your pantry on trip and vegetables such as the cabbage and onions can be used multiple times. You can batter the fish any way you like or just pan fry it with butter and some seasoning. We have included one of our favourite batters. It is a great lunch for days where the fishing is good and you have time to stop and have a nice cooked lunch.
For the Fish:
- Filleted walleye or pike, portioned into bite-sized pieces
- Dry batter
- Equal parts flour & cornmeal
- Dried Parsley
- Salt & Pepper
- Franks Hot Sauce
For the Coleslaw:
- Red Cabbage
- White Onion
- Canned Pineapple
- Salt & Pepper
- Corn or flour tortillas
- Spicy Mayonnaise
Finely cut or grate the cabbage, onion and carrot together into a bowl. Drain and add pineapple the mix. Add lime, a dash of cayenne and season with salt and pepper.
Heat up oil in large pan. In a bowl, coat the fish in the hot sauce. Dredge through the dry batter mix and fry until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot on tortillas with avocado, coleslaw and spicy mayo.
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