Catching big fish was not the main focus, but a big northern highlighted a weeklong fishing foray at Lake Suzie in Quebec.
Each warm-water season we try to plan and/or book at least two trips to new area waters or a fishing fly-in trip somewhere up north.
Last year, while lost on Quebec bush roads in search of a fly-in landing at Clova, we happened on to Ray Jablonski, a longtime Southtowns Walleye member and camp aide at Lake Suzie Outfitters.
Fortunately, Jablonski gave us good directions to Clova and saved us from spending the night in the Quebec wilds.
Usually, we seek out fly-in outfitters to ensure a pristine, bucolic setting for our angling ventures up north. Catching big fish is good photo filing, but the major goal up there is to catch nice, eater-sized walleye, pike and other species for shore lunches and for a few fillets to take home.
But the Lake Suzie thing looked good as a new/different kind of trip in 2014. We checked with Serge Dapra, operator of Lake Suzie, and prospects looked great. Dapra’s lease/complex is exclusive hunting and fishing property stretching some 15 miles that include nine well-appointed cabins (with generator and hot-water showers), some 100 lakes and about 50 fishable options in the area.
“I can take you on a quad to pike lakes that haven’t been fished for 20 years,” Dapra said as the week progressed. Our crew – Ken “Mach” Maciejewski of Blasdell, Peter Cook of Cheektowaga and John Wahl of North Tonawanda – opted to just fish a home-base lake called Vistorine for the week where the walleyes cooperated and each of us caught at least one pike, one bigger than the others.
They say fishing has a lot to do with luck and with circumstance. This trip proved both.
We left on the evening of Friday the 13th in a blazing bright full moon. The bear hunters had not been doing well at camp. Radical shifts in cooling and cold north winds kept the bruins from budging. Quebec’s bear season goes to June 30, but this was Dapra’s last week of bear bookings before keying on the fishing and camping crowd.
Despite continual breezes from the north/northeast, we began finding pockets of bait pods and accompanying schools of eater-sized ’eyes willing to bite.
A 14- to 20-inch catch slot imposed at Lake Suzie was no difficulty for our foursome; we look for those nice midteen measures for better-than-fair table fare.
The lake had an abundance of younger year classes, but fish fries never went shy of extras for sandwiches the next day.
The catching key was a small, dark (black or brown) jig tipped with a couple inches of nightcrawler. Every kind of spoon, spinner, crankbait, spinnerbait or stickbait just wobbled around in the water on this trip.
Mach has a patented program for walleye catching. Basically, it might be called “dead sticking.”
He picks out a brightly colored jig and threads on whatever live bait the fish currently find as forage (nightcrawler, minnow, leech, etc.), and he lets the lure bounce bottom.
The rest of us mostly cast to shorelines or structure humps and drop-offs.
After decades of applying these two fishing approaches, I still cannot say dead-sticking or side casting is the better catch option.
For John Wahl, the last-cast option resulted in the biggest big-fish story of the trip.
We found some nice structures and fish presence around a pyramid-shaped rock surrounded with depths of more that 20 feet well out in open water.
This pyramid had provided all four of us good walleye number early in the week, but the count was slowing as days passed.
On Tuesday evening Wahl took that proverbial last cast near that rock and hooked into a big fish that he fought with his ultra light rod with 6-pound test line for more than 15 minutes.
The story gets even more fish-like as Cook and Wahl did not have a landing net on board. Wahl eventually got a good grip on the gill cover and brought a monster northern pike into the boat and back to camp.
At 44 inches with a goodly girth this fish probably weighed in at 27 to 28 pounds and probably had been the scourge of walleye schools around that pyramid rock for years. During the cleaning process, we recovered from the stomach a freshly ingested, 16-inch walleye, the object of our fishing forays.
Not every angler logs a colossal catch such as this, but the Lake Suzie options offer fly-in like fish-trip setting at costs well below a plane-ride outing with nice catch opportunities. And you get to bring all your fishing and camp gear in your own vehicle.
As for bugs that week, the black flies were on a demise but the ’skeeters drew some blood. Many a repellent repelled, but a shot of Swamp Buddy Bug Chaser (swampbuddy.net) held off even the no-seem-ems.
For details on the many trip choices available at Lake Suzie this summer, check with Serge Dapra at (514) 312-8150 or go to lacsuzie-outfitter.com.