The magazine and print industry in general continues to tank – this was a story I wrote for a mag – that was supposed to be published – but for reasons beyond my control, never was. So rather than waste it or try to find another outlet, I’ll simply post it here, on my blog. I understand the proprietors Darryl, John and I stayed with flew sold to another outfit, but I haven’t checked. At any rate, if any of you readers want to book a trip into Metionga, just Google the lake name.
Hope you enjoy the read.
“You should join us. Fishing is fantastic!”
It was Darryl Choronzey on the line.
Darryl – “Cronzy” – founded and ran ‘Ontario Fisherman’ magazine and then went on to host the TV show “Going Fishing”. These days, Darryl is retired, but keeps active in fishing world through a network of contacts he made during his career. He still likes to fish.
I’d met Darryl when I was a biologist for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. I had lined up some media personalities to help promote our new fisheries management strategy; mostly, it meant me fishing with celebrities.
That’s how Darryl and I wound up spending a day on Lake of the Woods after walleye, plus a couple of fly-ins for trout and muskie; we had a great time fishing, filming and swapping stories.
30 years went by and while we had kept in touch, we hadn’t fished together again. So when Darryl suggested I join him and his good friend John, on a fly-in fishing trip to Metionga Lake, I had to say yes. I really didn’t have a choice.
Any hesitation I might have had had been dispelled when Darryl described, in the colourful narrative he’s known for, how Metionga was the best walleye and pike fishing he’d ever had.
I said yes and Darryl made arrangements. The plan was to meet in the town of Ignace, which is on the TransCanada Highway two hours west of Thunder Bay; a 3 hour easterly drive for me from Kenora. Our rendezvous point was Ignace Outposts, an airbase on the shores of Agimak Lake. Once there, we’d load up a DHC-3 de Havilland Otter and take a 40 minute flight to Metionga Lake.
After a long morning drive on the big day I found myself checking in with the airway and outpost camp proprietors Brad and Karen Greaves. They told me Cronzy was at a motel in town.
It wasn’t much of a wait and although we hadn’t seen each other in decades, there wasn’t much time to reminisce. We had a lot of gear to pack into the plane. With a bit of hustling we were soon good to go and by early afternoon were airborne.
Hustling, again, we unpacked in time to head out for an evening of fishing.
While we were putting away our gear in Cabin 2, Darryl was recounting his previous experiences on Metionga.
‘We did one show up top with Bobber Annie; caught 50 fish in less than 2 hours! Down below, 1/4 mile from the cabin, I did 3 shows with Dan Gapen [ed. note: a Minnesota Fishing Hall of Famer] with the same number of walleye – during the 2nd we also caught 5 northerns from 44 up to 49 inches – they were actually grabbing our hooked walleye on the way up right into the net…it was outrageous, but true…’
And they weren’t little walleye they were catching, either. Cronzy said most were over 20 inches.
That year, he’d been fishing in mid-June, it was now well into the third week of July. I wondered if the time difference would matter.
Apparently, it did.
The summer of 2018 was a hot one. The water was over 200 C, and after an hour with only a couple of small fish, we realized the fish simply weren’t there, or they weren’t biting.
But we weren’t fazed. Some of the other guests that we’d briefly talked to had told us fishing had been great – in the lake proper – the river hadn’t been producing.
With daylight slowly fading, we moved, trying spots out in the main lake, still close to our cabin. Using jigs adorned with a live or plastic worm, started catching walleyes and soon had enough for supper.
While fishing and back at camp, Darryl entertained us with more stories. One, about a short-lived radio show called “Fish, or Porn?”, really broke me up.
The next morning I fished alone while John and Darryl struck out on their own.
By noon, I had boated 30 walleye, mostly from the edges of humps in 13-17 feet of water. A couple of the largest came from a boulder field. The fish were biting on my go-to walleye rig – a painted ¼ oz round-head jig adorned with a 3” plastic grub.
After lunch, camp hand Ted Lachapelle dropped by. Ted offered to take me up the lake to try some ‘hot spots’ he’d found in the past and I jumped at the chance.
We headed north in Ted’s boat to the most westerly basin of the lake. Ken pointed out a few big, sandy beaches where woodland caribou had recently been seen. He also described a number of his fishing high-points over the past years, including the time he was by himself when he boated and released a 52 inch northern!
We tried a few spots with some luck, and then hit the jackpot off a point with a couple of offshore humps. For over an hour it was fish after fish – nice, plump, dark yellow Metionga Lake walleye.
Darryl and John had also had a great day. Back at camp and cleaning walleyes, they told me about a spot, again, off a hump where the fish were thick. The fish had been deep, around 30 feet, in contrast to the 12-20 foot range Ken and I had fished.
John and I tried Little Metionga Lake on our 3rd day and had a hot bite on a large mid-lake reef in mostly less than 10 feet of water. Darryl had stayed on Metionga and had similarly ‘hammered’ them.
On the last day we were rained out, but had a great time in camp with food and drink and tall tales.
Darryl had told us Metionga was a ‘bucket list’ lake for walleye.
He wasn’t kidding.
Lake Descriptions and Fishing Facts
Metionga covers 5,013 acres (2030 ha). It’s very remote and part of a waterway provincial park called Brightsand River, about 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Ignace. The Brightsand is immediately south of the wilderness of Wabakimi Provincial Park, the 2nd largest in Ontario.
There’s no road access to Metionga. Ignace Outposts has three cabins at the south end of the lake; Rusty Myers Flying Services has another cabin to the north.
Metionga is a walleye factory. It has the most fantastic structure of any lake I’ve ever fished. It has deep holes, boulder fields, sandy points, weedy bays and a myriad of underwater humps and bumps that seem to all be plastered with walleye. And there’s always some fish in the currents of the Brightsand River.
Three other lakes, also teeming with walleye and pike – with cached boats and motors – are accessible by short portages. There’s also whitefish, but they’re seldom caught by anglers.
Tales of big pike abound, but we simply didn’t try hard. I caught a couple of small fish right off the dock on a Skid-Stick and Ken saw a huge northern take a swipe at a walleye one afternoon, but that was it. Mostly, we were on a walleye quest.
Although not an absolute requirement – because fish are everywhere – a fish-finder really enhances the experience on Metionga. A GPS will help navigate through some wicked rock-strewn areas, like the 2 km narrows you need to snake through to get to the main basin on Little Metionga, and to mark hidden reefs and humps you can leave and come back to.
I’d also recommend an electric trolling motor; the 4 strokes worked well, but there were times I would have liked a little electric.