Miniss Lake Fly in Trip Report 2022
Walleye On The Rocks
“Dave – I see the boulders, should be in the right spot” – within two seconds both of us hooked into walleye in 5 feet of water – double header! One net! We manage to slip both fish into the net, a fat 20 incher and a skinny 21 incher, sweet. The theme of finding boulders was prevalent all week at Miniss – hard bottom – okay, mud bottom, limited bites, boulders on the bottom – hang on! Miniss Lake with Slate Falls Outposts was everything we had hoped for over the last 2 years.
The Long Wait
I have probably over mentioned how much planning goes into our trips. I have 4 posts to prove it! Trip Plan Part 1 Trip Plan Part 2 Trip Plan Part 3 Trip Plan Part 4 Out big trips (Fly ins) happen every two years and we do a lot of work to make them special. 2022 was simpler than 2020 on paper Root Bay 2020 We were on the downside of Covid, we had made the trip before and we had refined our plan. Not – then came multiple flight changes as airports and airlines struggled with new demand, 2 of our group decided to forgo the flight to T Bay and drive all the way to Sioux Lookout and once again our flight into Thunder Bay was anything but smooth,
The drivers (Dave, Scott) took the bulk of our gear and headed out Thursday AM which left the fliers (Mark, Colin and I) to catch an 8:15 AM flight from Pearson to Thunder Bay. We checked into a hotel near the airport on Thursday night, a few beers and off to bed to catch the 5:30 AM shuttle to the airport. The lineups at Pearson were crazy – even with no checked bags it took us 1.5 hours to get through security but thankfully we had plenty of time. Flight was smooth all the way to Thunder Bay where like last trip we could not land in the fog. We headed for Sault St Marie and had a tense hour wait on the tarmac (options floating around were fly right back, stay the night in the Sault or return to Toronto). We texted the drivers and solid dues they are they went to get groceries and wait it out. We headed back to T Bay and stuck the landing – phew.
Picking up our rental car was easy, we loaded up, met the guys by the LCBO, grabbed our important provisions and had a smooth 4.5-hour drive to Sioux Lookout. We checked into the Lamplighter Motel (fine establishment, not the Ritz but clean and serviceable). A few beers and we headed to find dinner, more beers and early bed. Ryan at Slate Falls https://slatefallsoutposts.com/ asked us to come to the air base for 8:15 to chat, mark up a map and head into our home for the week – Miniss Lake West Cabin.
We were up early with excitement, met our neighbours at the hotel (A group from Wisconsin heading into the Eagle Island camp w SFO. If you happen to read this, please shoot me an email, I ruined the business card with an unexpected swim on Day 1!) and picked up some much-needed coffee from Tim Hortons in town. Soon enough it was time to head to the airbase and get set. Ryan walked us through a map (his spots were gold all week long) and said we would be loading up on the next plane in. Soon enough we loaded the Otter and did the 30-minute flight to Miniss. It was an interesting flight – about halfway the fog was everywhere, and we ended up flying over it for 50% of the flight – right underneath the plane it was obvious it was fog, in the distance it looked as if we were flying over a field of snow. Soon we cleared the fog and made our descent to Miniss – as the lake revealed herself to us it met all expectations, rocky islands everywhere, points, rock bars, pine crested shorelines, she was glorious.
We taxied to the dock and quickly got out gear to the cabin and started to unpack. The Miniss West cabin was very functional – 3 bedrooms with 6 bunks, a huge dining table, wood stove, little bar area with a large wall map of the lake, a couch, two lounge chairs and a solid kitchen. One of the features we loved at Root Bay was a big, covered porch and Miniss West had one as well with a great patio set – perfect. Once the housekeeping was done it was time to get our gear prepped to fish – it was 11 AM so we ate as we worked and were on the water by noon.
I have failed to mention the weather – it was hot, about 26 degrees Celsius and there was almost no wind – not the best weather for walleye fishing. We would be running 3 boats – 2 pairs and a single so we decided to split up and fish spots that Ryan had marked close to camp. I headed to a dominant point, Dave and Mark ran to a set of islands which Ryan had marked and Colin and Scott – well we did not know where they went, more on that in a bit. Scouting out the point my thought was the fish would be deep and I started to bottom bounce. One pass and I hooked into a nice 20 incher. I thought it would be the start of something great, but it really was not I landed a few more fish but fast and furious it wasn’t. Dave and Mark found the same thing – pick off a fish or two but that was it. We ran to another island further into the bay and it was more of the same – a few fish here and there. At this stage we checked in with the other boat. They had ventured farther and were doing well off a rock reef. So well in fact that they had caught a PB pike of 41.5 inches and a PB walleye of 25.5 inches! PB Rock was born and since Colin caught the bulk of his fish trolling a Hot N Tot – so was his nickname – the Hot n Toto Kid! We all headed down and picked off a few more fish. Mark, Dave and I decided to head to a new area that Ryan had marked – a neckdown with some depth on the backside of an island. We got into fish, but they were mainly small, under 14 inches (nicknamed cigars) Eventually it was time to run back to camp. We had a dinner of steak hash (mushrooms for the veggie crew) a nice fire (pit at Miniss West is great) and wandered down to the dock around 11 PM to take in the light show – no northern lights but the most defined milky way I have witnessed.
Total Fish Count – 63
It was an early morning for me, up at 4:00 AM, then 4:30 and finally at 5:15 I just decided to get out of bed. I headed down to the dock to see if I could get a good time lapse video of sunrise. Unfortunately, the sun was rising outside of my purview, but I enjoyed a nice coffee, did some map study and even made a video. As I made a coffee, I heard a slight rustle from the shelf with all our dry foods – sure enough a little head popped out of our chocolate bars – a mouse I nicknamed Despereaux. Cute as he was, Despereaux and his family visited often during our week getting into chocolate, chips and even butter. With no traps we would just need to learn to live together, it was fine albeit a bit gross to wake up to mouse poop on the counters every morning/ We did our best to store our food, put what we could in the fridge (SFO cabins always have nice full-size fridges)
A few sunrise shots below:
With no human movement inside, I jumped in the solo boat and ran to the point – within 30 minutes I had 6 fish including my best to date, a thick 22 incher. I could see movement in camp and headed back to get started for the day. I was going to fish with Scott, Mark and Colin were together and Dave was solo. It was still hot and calm. We decided to head back to the point and bottom bounce again. We got into a few and Dave did better but it still was not furious fishing. Just around the corner there is a short portage which goes around the rapids heading out of Miniss. Colin and Mark decided to check it out. They caught a lot of fish, but it was not without its challenges. They could not get the motor on the portage boat to start, then a paddle broke and then Colin snapped his brand-new St Croix rod. They caught a lot of fish in brief time but headed back frustrated with all their follies. We ran further from the cabin to a bay Ryan had said was good for pike and had some solid walleye structure nearby. After circling a few times (Miniss is an easy lake to get turned around in) we found the area and fished. We picked off the odd walleye, a few small pike but man it was hot. As we discussed finding a shore for lunch we made a new plan, head to the cabin for lunch, have a quick siesta to wait out the heat and fish until dusk. It was a smart plan.
We headed back out around 6 PM and fished a rock reef close to camp. Using jigs tipped w worms or minnows we got into a better bite. Scott and I felt like we were missing fish as it was a tentative bite but we caught enough to keep us happy. This is where we started to see the boulder pattern. The moment we could feel our jigs bounce on the rocks we get hits, drift into a flat bottom and it died. Interesting. Eventually we were treated to one of the best sunsets I have ever witnessed. The sky glowed orange, then pink, then purple – mother nature at her finest. Back to the cabin for a late dinner of udon noodles, left over steak and veg. We lit a fire again and were treated to another light show.
Total Fish Count – 58
I was up early again and once I had some coffee I decided to run back to the point. The weather had switched – it was cooler, grey and there was a decent NW wind. I dropped my bouncer in 30 feet of water and had a hit right away, nice! I started again and immediately got hit. As I hooked up another worm, I swore I heard someone yelling from the cabin. I killed the motor and listened but did not hear anything – tried the radio and no answer. Started the motor and there it was again, better go check. I motored back to the lake and saw Dave and Colin on the deck laughing. As I walked up, I heard Colin say, “I thought no one was going to help me” Apparently when Colin visited the outhouse the outside lock had closed, and he was trapped. The yelling I heard was him trying to wake up the guys in the cabin – priceless. Today it was Colin and I, Dave and Mark and Scott was solo. With sandwiches ready we decided to fish closer to camp for a bit and see if we could define a pattern. Dave and Mark headed to the point, Scott was trolling a rock reef and Colin and I went to fish a set of islands that had a large shoal off to the side. We started bouncing and picked off a few fish but as the wind came up, we decided to try drifting jigs. Good call – we got on a great spot where we started at the top of the reef in 7 feet of water and drifted out to 30. Generally, our fish came between 7 and 15 feet. No giants but lots of 16 – 20 inchers which was great as we needed fish for dinner. The other guys were also picking them off – the radios announcing fish more often than days 1 and 2 – a good sign. We met up at a point and had lunch. Once finished we made our way down to PB rock and it was on fire. Jigging was the ticket again, but it was truly a spot on a spot deal. Off a marker buoy that marked the high side of the reef the water dropped quickly from 5 feet to 30 and it was a good rocky bottom. We would start in 30, drift towards the buoy but like clockwork as soon as we hit 24 feet until about 11, we got fish. Miss the rocks, miss the fish, miss the depth, miss the fish. Frustrating at first but once we had it dialed in it was awesome. The other guys were hitting them as well. Colin and I decided to hit some new area’s trolling the hot n tot. We picked off a few walleyes and pike, so did the other guys. There was a huge pike lost due to a hole in the net, lots of dinner fish caught and so we headed back to the cabin for dinner. Fish tacos, probably my top dinner – so good. A cooler campfire at night, lots of laughs about the outhouse incident and our best day fishing so far – excellent.
Total Fish Count – 95
Colin was keen to make a run to a new section of the lake today. We called it the Colin Zone. We have come to enjoy fishing the bigger lakes and making a run, seeing new areas and scenery was part of the deal. It was another warm day with a SW wind – perfect to explore. It was also a shore lunch day – we packed our kit, but we needed 6 fish, pressure on. I was fishing with Dave; Colin was with Scott and Mark was the solo boat. We got ourselves orientated with the maps and our GPS units (I was using the Navionics app, Dave had a handheld, Mark used the fish finder and Colin had I Boating – well prepped we were this time). We ran through a labyrinth of islands, bays, deep, shallow and passed the Miniss East camp. Eventually we ended up in Colin’s zone. A widening of the lake dotted with islands. We split up and started to fish. Dave and I gravitated towards a shoal between two rock piles. We motored around trying to get a lay of the land. Once we had a sense of the drift, we dropped our jigs and… nothing. We repositioned trying to get a better line and…nothing. Reposition the boat and the bottom changed from flat to rocky – fish on. For us the next hour was epic. We had two double headers, lots of action and we were catching fish anywhere from 5 feet to 15. It was another spot on the spot affair. The shoal was probably 100 yards by 100 yards, but we only seemed to get into fish on a spot that was two boats wide by 75 yards. The highlight for me was catching bigger walleye (19 – 23 inches) in 5 feet of water – it was awesome. The other guys were also doing well. Colin and Scott were fishing a neckdown between two islands. They started in 40 feet of water and drifted into 3 feet. They had an eye on a few shore lunch spots so we met up with Mark, trolled around a white jug (3 walleye, 2 pike) and then motored down. Pulling into their area was crazy – the fish finder lit up like a Christmas tree – fish everywhere from 60 feet to 30 – suspended, on the bottom – everywhere. Dave and I jumped in for a drift and within no time we hooked into thick, 22-inch walleyes. As we pulled along Colin and Scott, we witnessed a rare double netting. As Colin was pulling in a walleye a 30-inch pike latched on long enough to get netted himself. We pulled onto a small island that looked good for shore lunch. With limited cooking material wee improvised – boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, then added them to the skillet with onions and beans. When that was done, we beer battered our fish (expertly fileted by Mark) and ate – so good. It was hot enough that we decided to go for a swim – well, more like we jumped in the water to cool off, froze and got out. As we ate the wind had died down and to a degree so had the spot.
We made our way back to camp, fishing along the way. With a late lunch we decided to fish until dusk. We ran back to camp to put on some warmed clothes, grab some beverages and fish near the cabin. Eventually Dave and I fished a reef that had been good – another awesome run. We had another walleye and pike combo this night, two of them in fact. Dave managed to net the 14-inch walleye and the pike that had latched onto it. Unfortunately when it was Dave’s turn the pike let go before I could get them in the net (we did get the walleye though). The way the drift worked out we jigged along at 17 feet, sort of on the drop of the reef. When we saw boulders on the screen or our jigs started to bounce of rocks, you guess it - we got fish. Mark joined us and did well. Colin and Scott had been picking fish off trolling but headed back to camp to start dinner. The sunset show came back again and was just as good. We tagged a lot of fish, had some great laughs, and eventually made our way back to camp – fully satisfied with the day. Dinner was linguine with marinara sauce along w salad and garlic bread. I retired for the night a happy (and slightly drunk) man.
Total Fish Count – 108
We awoke to a cloudy and cool morning. We geared up in our rain gear and tuques prior to heading out. Today’s target area was the inflow of the Miniss river. A long run from the cabin but something we were all keen to see. I was solo. Dave w Scott and Colin w Mark. We made the run and passed more amazing scenery. In a few spots the lake really narrowed into fingers – surrounded by cliffs, jack pine and towering poplars. It was spectacular. Eventually we made it to the mouth – to our disappointment there was no distinct falls or current breaks, but we split up and patrolled. Wanting to try for more pike I tied on an orange/copper Doctor spoon and trolled the edges moving from 10 feet to 18 feet. I turned a corner into a bay and caught a nice 18-inch walleye. I cut across the bay and picked off a small pike. As I moved up the shore, I continued to catch walleyes and small pike. The other guys moved into the bay and ended up catching a lot of walleyes in 8 – 12 feet of water. The wind was blowing hard into this bay, so we moved back upriver (toward Miniss Lake) looking for similar areas and continued to pick off fish. I got a nice 30-inch pike as well as a few more small walleyes on the Dr Spoon. We eventually made it back to the main lake and started to poke around one area which had the deepest water we had noticed – 80 feet deep. Once again, the fish finders lit up, but generally the fish seemed to be suspending. From 35 feet (bottom) to 80 feet (bottom) fish were everywhere but after trying different tactics we could not get anything going. I must admit, I was not feeling great. I was cold, had a headache from the day before beverages and was thinking of running back. We met off a point and had lunch. I did make the run, fishing a few spots back to our cabin. I picked off some fish but with a heavy wind solo fishing was tough. The other guys continued to explore and eventually we met up at the cabin around 4:00 PM.
We had a snack and a siesta and headed back out for the evening bite. At this point we focused in on the shoal close to the cabin – picked off fish on the jig and bottom bouncing but it was a soft bite. Our theory was the wind shift and the cooler weather had slowed the bite. Biggest fish were a trio of 22 inchers, and we headed in for a chicken stir fry with BBQ chicken on the side and salad. No campfire tonight, we lit a fire in the wood stove and played cards – time well spent.
Total Fish Count - 75
Another hot one and we made another run. Today was another fish fry day – we had 2 fish prepped but needed more. We planned to run to the De Lesseps River and see if we could find some current. Another scenic run as we headed into a finger like section of Miniss Lake. Scott was solo, Mark and I were paired as were Dave and Colin. We eventually passed a point that had a shore lunch spot set up. Tables, propane cooker, two fire pits with grills we had found our lunch spot. We eventually found the entrance to the river. We motored through cautiously as it was only about 3 feet deep. Eventually we made it all the way to De Lesseps lake without finding fish, rapids or much else but it was a fun ride, and our adventurous spirit was satisfied. Back into Miniss. Mark and I headed to a point that looked good. Surround by deep water it had a steep breaking shoreline. My first guess was a bust but thankfully Mark decided to push us around to the opposite corner where a there was a small bay. By this time, we were always looking for boulders. Sure enough in 11 feet we found a rock pile and a. ark backtrolled us past he picked off a chunky walleye. Then I got a pike, then we move out to around 20 feet deep and had a double header. Another small rock reef was paying off. Scott was trolling for big pike and hooked into quite a few. Colin and Dave were trolling around some islands and picked off a mix of walleye and pike. Soon it was time to run to the shore lunch spot. With all the supporting gear lunch was easier than our DIY one (although not as satisfying). Once again it was a delicious meal. After lunch the weather flipped, rain came in and it cooled right off – no swim today. We took a quick group photo, got back into the boats, and made our way back to Colin’s zone.