Lunker Lakers: SUP Fishing in Yellowknife, NWT
My trip up north originated with a phone call from Benji Straker, co owner with Ivan Gloeden, of Old Town Paddle Co in Yellowknife, NWT. Benji proposed “hey, how about a two night, three day sup exploration and fishing trip in the remote East Arm of Great Slave Lake?” “I’m in!,” was all I said. This would be my second trip to Yellowknife and our plan was to paddle, camp and fish our way, thirty kilometres along the scenic north shore of Blanchet Island. Last year I came up for a few days to do a touring instructor course for Old Town Paddle Co and we would be carrying on that training while having a great adventure and the opportunity to explore the area by sup. I was blown away by the vastness of Great Slave Lake and the endless opportunities for paddling. The highlight of my trip for sure was the pike fishing trip we did on the north arm, guided by Benji’s older brother Randy. Having grown up fishing my whole life it was hands down one of the greatest fishing sessions I have ever had. The final cast of the day resulted in a 48 inch 35 pound monster.
My relationship with Benji and Ivan started in Squamish when they came down for one of my flatwater instructor courses and has blossomed into a great friendship. I was excited for another trip back up to Yellowknife.
After a quick flight to Yellowknife from Vancouver Benji picked me up and we met Ivan and Randy at the new NWT Brew Pub for a last minute planning session to make sure we all had the appropriate gear, food and safety equipment. With everything ready to go we loaded up the boat with our inflatables and all the gear for the three hour boat ride out to our drop off area. We were headed to Blanchet Island, half way up the stunning East Arm of Great Slave Lake. We left late in the evening and we searched out a beautiful spot to set camp for the first night under a stunning sunset. At this time of the year it pretty much stays light out the whole night.
After good sleep in and a leisurely breakfast we packed up camp, pumped up the inflatables and hit the water. Randy is a diehard fisherman and knows these waters well. He showed me the rig we would be using, a spinning rod with a weight attached to the leader and a cisco rig which would be trolled 15-20 feet deep behind the paddleboard. The cisco is basically a freshwater herring and this set up worked really well for the Lake Trout we were targeting. I had never caught a Lake Trout before so I was excited to try to catch one off the paddle board.
We paddled and fished along the stunning, remote, and volcanic shoreline of Blanchet Island. Randy was the first to hook into a fish, a beauty that was close to 20 lbs and ended up being the biggest fish of the trip. Soon, I got into my first laker and after a short fight, landed the beautiful fish on the deck of my paddleboard.
Trolling off the paddle board and the challenge of setting the hook was a fun way to catch these fiesty fish. Just before lunch we landed the paddleboards and set off on a short exploration hike on the island with fishing rod in hand to Le Nez inlet to look for fish. We were not as successful as we had hoped to be so we returned to the shoreline where Benji was in the process of cooking up one of his catches from the morning for one of the most delicious shore lunches I have had in a long time.
We paddled and fished twenty five kilometres down the shore and soon found a picture perfect campsite on a rocky point attached to a calm secluded bay for our second nights accommodation. After setting up our tents and ditching all of our gear Benji and I headed out to catch a few more fish while Randy worked on getting some drone shots. Our day ended with a late dinner over a hot fire while the setting sun provided yet another incredible backdrop to the lake.
We woke to a beautiful morning and after packing camp up a light tail wind pushed us a few kilometres into Shelter Bay. Shelter Bay was the highlight of our trip, being out of the main channel of the east arm it was a lot warmer. The fishing was incredible, the temperatures were perfect and there were numerous islands and bays to explore. We found the best spot for lunch on the backside of an island and took our time, lounging in the sun, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful weather. We fished the afternoon away and Benji and I caught a few fish to bring home. I could have stayed in this bay for days but soon we were packing all our gear up and getting ready to meet Andy for our trip back to Yellowknife.
Yellowknife has really grown on me. I love the big lake and I love the incredible fishing up there, the North West Territories is vast and beautiful, with few people. Benji and Ivan have created an amazing sup business up there and they are incredible ambassadors of the sport and provide great instruction. I will be back up there next year! Stay posted for a Norm Hann Expedition/Old Town Paddle Co sup adventure for 2017.
Thanks a lot to Captain Andy for the ride out to the fishing grounds and of course to the Old Town Paddle crew, Benji, Ivan and Randy.