I have been riding snowmobiles for as long as I can remember.
Growing up in Northwestern Ontario, I was afforded some of the best back country lake options for fishing that an individual could enjoy on this planet.
Species include, Lake Trout (my personal favorite), Walleye, Pike, Perch, Crappies and even the occasional Musky is possible through the ice, with some travel and a little portage hopping in this area.
People tend to underestimate what it takes to accomplish a proper trip in the back country in this area, my priority is safety. By safety, I mean that you need to have the proper gear to complete remote travel in the woods in this area. My form of winter travel is always a reliable snowmobile. One that I trust to get me out and get me back again. Often trips could be more than 60 miles by sled in each day.
My personal items that I will never go into the bush without are:
• Ax – this is very necessary for putting up enough firewood, should you have to spend the night outdoors in winter.
• Fire making kit – I like a fire steel and petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls.
• Food – enough calories to last 2-3 days. This is often, for me, beef jerky, granola bars etc. there’s lots of options out there in this regard, choose what you like and rotate it often.
• Stainless kettle – I have a small personal kit that contains tea bags and all the fixings for a hot drink in the woods.
• Snow shoes – a must have item should your sled breakdown, get stuck in slush or anything you could imagine.
• Packable snow shovel – useful for shelter building if needed or to assist if you’re stuck in deep snow.
Now that we have the gear bases covered, let’s talk a little about what lakes to choose and where to target fish in these lakes after you arrive at a given destination.
In the back country of most areas, there is not a single place that hasn’t been touched by human activity in some form. When I start to look at places to fish, I’ll start with how I am going to gain access.
This could be a portage trail or even making my own trails into the lake by sled in the winter. Most lakes in my area are accessible via portage trails and trap line trails. When accessing areas like this, I’ll often pack along a small chainsaw for cutting larger trees that have fallen across my chosen path.
Work smarter, not harder, is my motto when clearing portage trails. People think I’m crazy to do this, but I’m often rewarded with amazing fishing. A little work often goes a long way.
Enjoying these types of trips is often a team effort, bring along your family and friends. Get outdoors and enjoy these types of adventures. Make those memories!
After considering where I’m going to fish, I’ll immediately look it up on google earth. I like this for planning access, parking locations and choosing a most direct route to the given body of water I am wanting to fish.
Now with 21st century technology at hand, I use an iPhone and have an app on my phone that allows me to download and cache 1:50,000 topo maps to have on my Phone. With iPhone 6 and later, they have a built in GPS to locate yourself on the Topo maps App and it makes things easy when your boots are on the ground and everything looks the same in winter.
My back up plan for this is a reliable GPS with extra batteries. Do not just rely on your phone, as with any technology, batteries die, and things don’t always work right in the cold weather. Have a backup!
Now that we have talked about survival gear and navigation, let’s talk about fishing gear. As much as possible, I like to travel light. By light, I mean if it doesn’t fit directly on my snowmobile, it doesn’t come along on the trip.
Now this can widely vary based on temperatures and how remote the trip is. I really only want to take what I need and nothing extra. Basically a sleigh that is towed behind the sled is a last resort. I’ll only drag a flip style fish house if the temperatures warrant the need.
In the last number of seasons since the invention of the Clam Outdoors Drill plate, I have fished 98% of my seasons using nothing but a battery powered drill auger. It weighs 12lbs all in with an 8” K-Drill and I can drill a pile of holes quickly and efficiently without the need for a gas auger and associated gear. Plus I pull the trigger and it always starts! An added bonus when you’re planning on fishing a lake that is 50 miles by sled from your vehicle.
Next is a Vexilar, nothing much special here, they’ve been around for years now, right? While you’re correct on if I’m nuts mentioning this tool, it’s a definite bonus in many respects for finding depth, fish and shortening the learning curve on new water.
I had mentioned that I like to travel light, though right?
Well, that is correct. Remember that 21st century technology that I mentioned earlier, enter in Dakota Lithium Batteries. Weighing roughly 50% less than the traditional SLA battery that comes with your unit, it’s simply a must have item for extended fishing trips in the back country. I’ve gotten over 60 hours of use fishing on a single charge!
Ok, so we’ve got all the gear covered, navigation covered, the what, hows, and whys. Let’s talk about the special tips that I am going to share. The things I’ll look for to shorten that learning curve I mentioned, even more when I set foot for the first time on new water.
Remember when I mentioned earlier in the article that there’s not any places on this earth that haven’t seen human interaction? Well when I set foot on a new lake for the first time that is exactly what I look for.
Things like chain sawed tree stumps, blackened rocks from fire are the obvious signs that people have fished close to those areas. Let’s face it, the human race is lazy and they won’t often go far from where they’re spending time in the outdoors to get what they need to make a fire or to fish. Special tips right? This flat out works for me!
If you’re lucky, you may even find an old tea pail left behind or if you’re extra lucky, you may even find an original rock painting from the first of the nation’s people that have explored this great land before us.
I’ve seen several of these in my travels over the seasons and they deserve respect from us. Take photos, discuss, but, please never touch these or deface them in anyway. I’ve seen a few cases in recent years where this was done. It’s abhorrent to think that someone could do that—Destroy a piece of history marking a significant event in that traveller’s life.
To find these locations, I’ll cruise the shorelines closely on my power toboggan looking for evidence of human activity and simply fish in front of it or near its location. I’ve been rewarded with good fishing often, by paying attention to the signs of human activity on remote waters.
While catching fish is the goal on these types of trips, it’s not what drives me to do these kinds of things in the back country. I like to explore. I’ve always wanted to see what’s around the next bend in the road and that simply transfers to feed my need to explore in the winter. A simple snowmobile and some proper gear, friends and family—there’s nothing finer on this earth to experience in the winter.