The fish grow big in - and out of - Canada

FATHER’S DAZE
Emmitt B. Feldner • forThe Review

Like most fishing resorts in Canada, Big Hook Wilderness Camps has a strict trophy fish catch-and-release policy.

We just got back from a week at Big Hook, a fly-in fishing resort in northeast Ontario owned by Terry’s brother and sister-in-law.

The policy means that any fish you catch there over a certain length goes back in the water, both to grow even bigger and to breed even bigger fish.

But as we learned, there’s a third reason for the catch-andrelease policy – so that the trophy fish can grow even bigger in the re-telling of the catch.

We arrived at Big Hook, located in the Opasquia Provincial Park on the Ontario-Manitoba border – and you can look that up on the map yourself, I’m not here to give Canadian geography lessons – on a Saturday afternoon.

We got our bags and gear off the plane – you got the last 50 or so miles on a float plane, after a 180-mile flight on another plane from the end of the road in Red Lake – and jumped into the boat to head out on the lake fishing.

I have to explain that fishing is really the only thing there is to do at Big Hook.

There’s no mall down the road – more like 100 or more miles down the nearest road, which itself is more than 200 miles away – to head to while away some time, and no restaurants, tourist attractions, movie theaters, casinos or any other distractions, either.

There’s just the lake and all the fish in it.

Fortunately, there’s more than enough fish that even someone like me, who has only fished in his entire lifetime those times we’ve gone to Steve and Evie’s place, can catch a few.

So that’s what we were doing as soon as we could after we arrived.

I’m proud to say that I caught the first fish between the two of us, but that was only because Terry was running the boat and I got my line in the water before she had a chance to get hers in.

And to be honest, it was the last time all week I was ahead of her in catching fish.

In my defense, Terry grew up fishing with her family, while I had never fished until the first time they dragged me along up to Canada.

That was more than a quarter of a century ago, but I still haven’t graduated from my FIT – Fisherman in Training – classification according to her.

I did manage to catch more than a few fish during the week and contributed my fair share to what we consumed while we were there.

We did bring food along with us for the week, but mostly we were eating fish – for some unexplained reason.

We had fish for breakfast, we had fish for lunch and we had fish for dinner – fortunately, not for all of those meals and not all of those meals on any one day.

We had fried fish, baked fish, fish cakes, fish chowder and fish tacos.

About the only thing we didn’t have was fish pancakes.

But we did have blueberry pancakes several days after Terry took a little excursion with her sisterin law and nephew to pick wild blueberries – several pails full.

At least they didn’t make us eat any blueberry-encrusted walleye, but that might have been on the menu if we’d stayed a little longer.

We went out several times with Steve, with Evie and with their son Nathan – who helps them run the place.

I have to admit we caught more fish when we were with them than when we were on our own, but then, as much time as they spend up there, they ought to know the best fishing spots by now.

It was on one of those excursions with Terry’s brother that she pulled in what proved to be the biggest fish either of us caught on the trip – a Northern Pike.

Steve estimated that it was about 36 inches long, which is well above the trophy maximum of 28 inches, so she had to throw it back.

But even before she threw it back – without measuring it – she got her brother to concede that it might have been 37 or 38 inches long.

Which means that, by the time it gets to the retelling back here in the states to family, friends and neighbors, that Northern will have grown to at least 40 inches in length.

Which only goes to show that the trophy fish in Canada grow almost as much out of the water as they do in the water.

NEXT WEEK: More misadventures in the great north.


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