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How to Choose the Best Lake for Your Fly in Fishing Trip

One of the amazing or challenging things about choosing a destination for a fly in fishing trip is the sheer volume of lakes in Ontario. Throw in Manitoba or Saskatchewan and it feels impossible to decide. It’s a critical piece of the puzzle, probably the most important piece. Let’s face it, the lake is going to be either the star or the villain of your fishing trip show. I am not an expert by any means but over the course of 8 + trips there are a few key things I would consider imperative to making your final choice

How to choose a fly in fishing trip
One of my bigger walleyes on our Miniss Trip - but caught during a onslaught on fish from 6 inchers to this guy - my preferred type of fishing

Know What’s Important

As simple as it seems I think knowing what’s important to you and your group is critical when picking a lake. Do you like to explore? Is being the only cabin on the lake important? Are you chasing trophy fish or numbers of fish? What’s your primary target – pike, walleye, bass or trout? To me if you have a good sense of what your group wants and the lake that’s right for you becomes more apparent. After one trip with great numbers on a small lake we decided we needed a bigger lake and bigger fish – guess what, turns out we were wrong about one thing – trophies are nice, but we want action lol.

Colin with a nice pike caught after a really long run exploring Miniss

Size Of Lake

Our group has run the gamut in lake sizes since we started these trips - Small (less than 500 acres), Average (2000 acres) Huge (17,000) acres to Massive (140,000 acres). Over time our preference has shifted to the bigger lakes over 10,000 acres for a few reasons 1) We like to explore and 2) Our fishing success for size and numbers improved on bigger lakes (note we may have also improved a bit as anglers along the way. A few broad-based assumptions based on our experience:

1) If you want to be the only cabin on a lake its easier to find on small to medium size lakes

2) If its your first trip a small lake may be perfect. Our first trip was magical, small lake, great fishing, only cabin – it certainly “hooked us”

3) Bigger Lake = Bigger Fish

Still my biggest walleye to date caught on a tiny lake during our first ever fly in

A River Runs Through It

After our 2018 trip to Ogoki Lake we have chosen lakes that are part of a river system. I am not sure there is any science behind it, but we have had better fishing on lakes with a clear inflow and outflow. On our 2020 trip to Lake St Joseph a pinch point where the Root River exited the lake was our best spot by far - probably accounting for more than 50% of the fish we caught

1) Inflows and outflows are great places to catch walleye and pike

2) Current areas in the main lake are places fish just seem to prefer – neckdowns, island saddles all great places to find walleye and pike

3) Add a new species - many Northern Ontario river systems offer the possibility of catching Brook Trout - the Albany, The Ogoki, The Attwood , Keezhik- all big river systems with strong brook trout populations

A nice walleye caught in a current seem on Ogoki Lake- this spot was incredible all week long


Google is my friend and should be yours. Between social media, internet forums and outfitter sites there is usually decent information about most fly in lakes. Match what you are looking for in a lake to the reputation of the lake. We spend 80% to 90% of our time fishing for walleye. Action is more important than trophies. Picking a lake that is known for huge pike and walleye probably doesn’t line up to our style:

1) Define what you want – numbers, size, walleye, pike, other species etc

2) Google the area or outfitter you are considering – what is the reputation of the area, the outfitter– does it map to you

3) Once you narrow down your choices check out the specifics of the lakes you are interested in. Post in forums, ask for references. If possible, get firsthand intel of the lake. For the most part fellow anglers are open to talking specifics about the lake. Ogoki was a big leap of faith for us but 3 fellow anglers provided tons of intel and it was everything we hoped for and more

An amazing bay on Miniss Lake which ended up being a perfect match for our group

So those are the a few things I believe are imperative to matching the lake to the trip you want. I hope it goes without saying that you should know what you want – talk it out, be honest – if catching a pike over 40 inches is your top priority – say so. Small lakes can be easier for first timers but if you want to explore, experience different scenery and have shore lunches on rocky points a 500-acre lake may not be a fit.

Thanks, and tightlines


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Adam Dempsey
Adam Dempsey
Sep 15, 2022

Here is some mostly useless information for you. There are about 50 fly-in lakes in Ontario that are ~10,000 acres or larger, and only 15 of those are 20,000+ acres.

Sep 15, 2022
Replying to

Not useless at all Adam. I use your 50 biggest lakes article all the time when thinking about our next trip Cheers Andrew

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