Storming for Walleye
Ogoki Lake, Ogoki Lake Outfitters, August 2018
One trend that I have noticed when researching trips is that the common sentiment is the further north west you go in Ontario the better the fishing gets. Overall that makes sense to me as tougher access = less fishing pressure.
Our trip to Shekak Lake in 2016 hadn’t lived up to our expectations – we did well but expected more (Shekak Lake Trip Report) So, with that in mind we really started looking at camps out of Nakina, Armstrong and Winnipeg.
After some web research I reached out to Mike Borger of Canadian Fishing Guide
Mike's Website – he recommended quite a few places but at the tail end of the call, almost a throwaway line he said “You guys may like Ogoki Lake”
From there we (I) kicked into serious research mode. As discussed, this meant spending times on various forums, calling outfitters and connecting with some folks who had fished the lake.
Folowing our groups process, we met sometime in the late fall of 2017 to review of options, make our votes and choose our lake. It was almost unanimous - Ogoki Lake with John and Gloria was our destination Ogoki Lake Outfitters
After we booked we met just about every month at a local pub – they must have thought we were crazy, large maps of the lake strewn across the table between beer and wings, handing out various lures, trading off good articles or YouTube videos on late summer walleye fishing or looking at excel spreadsheets with menus, gear to bring and boat assignments.
One thing we liked about Nakina vs Armstrong was the fact that we felt like we could drive it. At 12.5 hours it meant if we were in the same vehicle, we would only need to do a stint of 2.5 hours driving to reach Nakina. The only challenge – what type of vehicle takes 5 guys and a crap load of gear? No problem – we booked a 12 passenger Ford Transit Van; some seats came out and our issue was solved
Leading up to the trip I am sure I drove Gloria nuts with follow up questions and requests - can we get beer and pop flown in ahead of time (Yes) is there a generator on site (Yes), do the boats still have swivel seats (Yes). Gloria offered up a nugget as well – with no guests in camp the week before we headed in, we could go in a day early if we wanted? Quick logistics check and we were in, rather than burning another vacation day we would just leave earlier on Thursday, drive through the night to get to Leuenbergers Air Base at a reasonable time. We figured getting in early and being set up and ready to go Saturday AM instead of waiting to fly out was worth the effort of an all-night drive
The last month leading up seemed to fly and sure enough we met up and headed out at 9:30 PM on the Thursday. A long but uneventful drive put us in Nakina at 2:00 PM and in what seems like no time Leuenberger and our pilot Angus has us up and in the air.
A nice perk was that John and Gloria were in the camp when we arrived – was great to meet them, get a camp walk through and John gave us a few tips on where we should start fishing
John and Gloria’s camp in our opinion had everything you needed – solar powered water pump, lights with an inverter to charge stuff, shower house with sauna, propane fridge, stove and lights, a generator on site if needed (we used this to charge our electronics on one occasion when we hadn’t seen the sun in a few days and didn’t want to hit the solar power to hard). An outhouse that was fine, 3 14-foot Nadens w 2 stroke 9.9 engines which ran like a top, lots of cut wood for our camp fire. Rather than try to explain the cabin please see a video walkthrough in the link below – all I would say is that the cabin seemed bigger in person and we never felt like we were on top of each other.
John and Gloria’s camp is in a bay in the North East corner of Ogoki Lake. The bay is quite big (def bigger than Pickle Lake Pickle Lake Fly In and close to the size of Shekak) - with our gear unpacked we quickly tied up and headed out for a quick fish. We didn’t slaughter the fish but were pleasantly surprised that the fish we did get were quite big, including a 22-inch specimen caught by me within a cast of the dock
I won’t lie – we hit the sack early that night after the long drive – we were beat for the drive and wanted to be ready for our first full day of fishing
Our biggest concerns early on was twofold – 1) What if we got rough weather and 2) what if the fish were scattered. Well for 1) The Bay is sheltered and holds fish – we did better on the main lake, but the bay wasn’t bad at all. 2) It didn’t take long to realize that for us – Ogoki Lake was a fish factory. Basically, if a spot looked like it should hold walleye or pike it did. Sure, some spots were better than others but overall every point, island, shoal, hump and windblown shore held fish.
A gentleman named Chris Brock had given lots of great info about Ogoki and provided a marked map. One of our members used a combo of the map Chris provided, an MNR map downloaded from Adam Dempsey’s site (link above) and google earth. Every time we met in that pub, we made sure we spent 15 to 20 minutes going through the map and marking little spots or sections we felt should be good. I must say and not in a bragging way (maybe a little) every single spot we marked held fish except for those we didn’t try because the water levels were down so much it was not fishable
The way the map was configured also really helped:6 sections of the lake, each spot then correlated to a section and a number (re 5a). On such a big lake we found it helpful to say okay – today we hit spots 4 a, 4b and 4 c and if nothing pans out, we can run to spot 5d. Using the maps and the handheld radios (A must for us, especially on a big lake) took some of the awe out of fishing such a massive lake (to us at least)
Moving onto the fishing. I am going to break it out by day by day as I think it provides some good insight for anyone who wants to take on a lake like Ogoki. During the trip we all kept daily notes on our phones and usually at the end of the day put together a summary. I personally find this really helpful during the trip but also for future trips as we typically go during the same time of the year.
We were up and firing on all cylinders this day, quick breakfast of bagels or clif bars, sandwiches packed in a cooler and we were on the water at 7:30. The weather was cooperating – about 15 degrees rising to 20, moderate breeze and water temps were 65 and holding. We decided we wanted to check a few area’s that were on the main lake but not too far of a run. It was an interesting start – I was the solo boat that day and for whatever reason I struggled. Amplifying my struggle was that the radios were on fire with the other boats getting into fish – even the depths were all over the map – fish in 30 feet and fish in 6 feet.
By the time we met for lunch I was way behind – only two fish and a few that got off before I even saw what they were. We landed on a beach – well we walked the boats into a beach – with the water levels down most of the shoreline was impossible to put a boat on without paddling or walking the boats in.
After lunch and chatting with the guys I decided to go with an old faithful for me – a 2-ounce bottom bouncer with a crawler harness. Wise move – within an hour or so following some of the area’s the guys were fishing I started to pick off fish – and in what would be an overall theme for the week the were a good average size – we had a shore lunch planned for the next day so we wanted 5 fish on the stringer. In all honesty it was tough to get some fish under 18 inches. Once I got going fishing a ledge that went from 18 feet to 9 feet, I had 5 fish in a row that were between 19 and 21 inches. After a while we ran a bit further to an island we had marked – and for me it was awesome. I was still looking for slow tapering flats and where the wind was hitting the corner of the island, I could drag my bouncer from 20 feet to 12 feet over about 200 yards. The goal was to make it to the tip of the island and then try to follow the contour – I never actually made it to the corner – every time I hit the slope, I got fish – sometimes right in 20, sometimes in 15 but I was even getting bites in 7. The other guys were fishing a similar pattern but on a deeper break on either side of the island and doing just as well. Two spots were born – the Trough and Bread and Butter island. We headed back to the cabin with 73 fish in total and we were pumped! Another thing that would prove to work all week was fishing on the back side of points, islands or rock piles where the wind was hitting. Generally, we found that in this little eddy (not sure if there was an eddy but that’s what we called them) they held fish that were generally aggressive
We are fire guys – and after a successful Saturday we weren’t on the water near as early on Sunday. The breeze had switched a bit, but it was still manageable, temps were relatively stable. Boat mates switched and I was no longer the solo guy. We decided to run a bit further south into the lake, a few areas were highlighted and off we went. Our first spot was a large bay framed in by two distinct rock reefs. John had marked this for pike and walleye. As we probed the area, we noticed that with the water down it was quite shallow. I could see bread and butter island over my shoulder, so we decided to run over. The other boats were fishing outside the bay still – focusing on sharp ledges near the rock reefs – they were picking up fish, but it was slower. Bread and butter island were on fire again – the main difference was that instead of 20 – 18 being the key break the fish were up shallower and 18 – 12 was the hot run.
One of the nice surprises on the trip was that Chris Brock was going to be on Kayedon Lake (connected to Ogoki lake via the river in the south) - we had chatted a ton and as I mentioned Chris was great to us. That morning as my brother and I were fishing one of the other boats radioed to say Chris was on his way over to us. We had a good chat, talked about what we had seen so far. A better guy than Chris I don’t think you can meet.
Near lunch time (today was a shore lunch) we met up and decided that perhaps with the waves down we make a run to try and go into the Ogoki river where it enters Ogoki Lake as Chris said it was worth it. After a few wasted minutes we finally got in the general area of the river – we really couldn’t make out the mouth the water was down so far – but eventually Chris and his group (great to meet you as well Chuck and Kewley) came through and told us that that was indeed the mouth of the river but leading into it the water was only a foot/foot and a half deep.
We decided to run all the way across the lake to where the river exits the lake as we had some good spots highlighted but more importantly there were 3 beaches to choose from for a shore lunch. We had an awesome lunch on just a beautiful beach. We then hit the island that frames the river exit and nailed quite a few walleyes. Again, the main pattern was finding the breaks, better if wind was into them. What would be our biggest walleye of the trip was caught this day at 25 inches plus loads of fat fish between 18 and 22. Off the north side of the island there was a gentle hump that went from 19 feet to 10 and back down to 20 – not a sharp depth changes but it held fish. With all our beverage sources exhausted we decided to run back to the cabin (about a 45-minute boat ride) to re hydrate and start dinner. Total fish for the day 55 which we felt good about with the amount of driving we did
Awake to hit the bathroom at 5 AM I noticed a flash of lightning followed by distant thunder – Uh oh I thought this may make the morning interesting. Turned out I was right – by the time we were up and moving around 7:30 the storm was in full blast, high winds, Thunder and lightning w heavy rains. We made a game time decision to have a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs at the cabin and wee what happened. Sometime around 10:30 we all got quite the shock loafing around sipping coffee – a large crack followed by a louder bang. Quickly looking out the window we saw that a 60-foot Poplar had snapped about 20 feet up and had fallen on the shower/sauna house. The tree hit the chimney stack for the sauna and had twisted the stove almost 180 degrees ruining any chances of a sauna – oh well could have been worse. By 11 the storm had moved out, so we decided to spend our efforts in the bay. A good call – with the wind whipped up certain rocky points and neckdowns were an easy place to start. My brother and his boat partner decided to fish the far end of the bay where the wind was really crashing into for pike. They were soon on the radio breathlessly describing the 37-inch pike they just caught in 2 feet of water. Length wise it was the biggest fish in all our trips but what set it apart was just how thick it was!
The other two boats were doing well with walleye trolling cranks, bouncers with spinners and casting. The two pike guys also witnessed a phenomenon we had never seen – 17 to 20-inch walleye chasing big spoons and cranks back to the boat so hard they launched themselves out of the water to try to grab the lure. Around 2 PM we headed back to camp to reload our beverages and our worms. As my boat partner and I were chatting with another member of our crew on the dock we noticed a storm cloud in the distance but moving fast to the bay. I had marked a big drop off at the entrance of the bay which was only a few minutes’ ride from the cabin – we decided to check it out and keep an eye on the weather. No sooner had I dropped my bouncer down to pick off a 19-inch walleye when it hit. The best way to describe it was every hair on the back of my neck stood up, it felt like someone opened a freezer door in my face and the boat suddenly spun completely around. Storm on. In the time it took us to reel up and batten down to get back to the dock we were soaked – it looked like we went swimming in our rain gear. Everyone ran back to the cottage to get out of the storm – no more fishing for the day as it raged on until after dinner. Total fish for the day 50
By the time we woke up Monday morning the front was on top of us. The thermometer outside of the cabin read 6 degrees, down from 18 Sunday afternoon. Water temps had also started to fall and by the end of the day they were hovering between 59 and 60 degrees. It didn’t look like we were going to get more storms but to be safe we decided to head out to an area we had fished on our first full day – if the wind picked up or storms rolled through we could get back to the cabin fairly quickly or shelter at one of the beaches or old camps in the area. We also decided to try to try some new techniques if we could find fish – we had done some experimenting but for the most part we were having our best luck trolling with bouncers and spinners. Overall, we found the fish holding in the same general areas – subtle breaks near the main basin. One thing we did notice – bigger fish were holding on the deeper breaks, smaller fish up higher. After my boat partner and I got an area where we were hitting quite a few fish we decided to try jigging with Rapala ice jigs. Basically, we kept a short line behind the boat and slowly trolled over productive area’s actively jigging the bait. We caught two fish immediately and through this is it – but a few lures quick lost on the rocks and no more strikes we decided to try a new technique – casting paddle tail swim baits to structure. Again a few quick fish and nothing – not sure if it was the fish preferring the crawler harness or our technique. After a quick lunch together anchored off an island to get out of the wind, we split into groups to try a few areas. Again, the fish were there, and we didn’t notice much of a tail off from the days before – if anything the day was harder on the anglers, lots of wind and 7-degree temps made it a cold day. We pulled up early and decided to head to the cabin for some coffee and a fish in the bay – not the best call – coffee was great, but we didn’t find as many concentrations of fish in the bay. Total fish count 50
Sometime goals are a good thing – we awoke Tuesday with a focus - my boat partner and I 50 fish and as a group we wanted 100 fish. While it was still cold, and the water temps were still down we felt like we could get on some fish if we just focused our efforts. We headed into a new area of the lake - a decent run to two islands located near the deepest water on the lake. We all circled the islands (and an unmarked collection of rocks dubbed Seagull island) and got a lay of the land. We all got into fish right away – two guys trolled the islands shore moving from 15 to 7 feet of water trolling and pitching jigs. Another member fished the channel off the island in deeper water trolling a harness. My partner and I started to run the saddle between the island and sea gull island. We picked off some good-sized fish in the deeper water, but the action really picked up the closer we got to the big shoal off seagull island. It was something - fish from 18 to 5 feet, developing tendinitis of the wrist from smashing bottom bouncers off the rocks.
The wind switched an hour or so later and the bite shut down for us. I looked over my shoulder and, in the distance, there was bread and butter island from Saturday and Sunday. C’mon I said to my boat mate – we are going that way for lunch anyway – let’s check it out. Well worth the run – again we were into loads of nice thick walleye. Within an hour we ran out of worms as we had nailed walleyes and the occasional pike on bouncers. The main difference was the fish had moved up – we were getting them from 12 to 5 feet unlike days before, but the sheer size was great – we didn’t have a fish under 18 inches for a run of 12 fish. We had 3 double headers and two failed double headers where one of us (most likely me) lost a fish. Without worms and wanting a break from the heavier waves we decided to make our way back to the bay. This day it really didn’t slow us down to much. We had a few spots that had looked good earlier in the week, so we spread out and continued to hit the fish – by days end my partner and I had hit 50 fish exactly and as a group we fell just shy of 100 at 99. There was debate about going back out after dinner to get that one last fish – we decided against it. We will get em tomorrow we thought.
We awoke to a bit warmer day but a much heavier wind. Even in our little bay the boats were a rocking. After chatting we decided to hit the main lake – there was an area we had yet to hit and depending on the wind we would head for it. Well that plan didn’t last too long. As we cleared the narrows into the main lake the wind hit you full force. It was a roiling ocean of whitecaps and breakers. I was solo boat that day and even with two full tanks of gas up front the front end was still doing its best bucking bronco impersonation. We got on the radio and decided to fish in the main lake but in a more sheltered area. What a call. As usual we dispersed and started to check out different areas. Being solo guy, I ran up a shoreline that had coughed up a fish a few days before in a lesser but similar wind direction and because of the points off the shoreline it was a bit of a reprieve from the wind. Sometimes you just get lucky and the Hot Corner was born. As I cruised along the shore trolling a spinner I weaved up and down the breaks – generally 22 up to 10. At one point I had a good hit - I had a long pause of dead weight that turned out to be a fish – however just as I saw my bottom bouncer the fish was off without me knowing what it was. This happened 2 more times around the same corner – as I was losing faith one of the other boats came around behind me and said – Man we are getting hit but it’s a soft bite and so far, we have lost like 6 fish in a row. Okay good – it’s not me. I turned the boat to get the nose into the wind and aimed for the Hot Corner – what happened next was epic.
In just over an hour I had 19 fish in my boat, the other boat doing as well or better. We called over the other boat – get on this troll, drop in 22 and run until you hit 10 feet off that corner. Honestly it was just stupid. We took a break to have lunch – a great shore lunch on a nearby beach. When we got back the wind was worse, and the bite had slowed. Across the shoreline was the shore of the island that guarded the entrance to our bay – John and Chris had it marked for fish and depending on the wind/depth it may be an easier fish.
After a white-knuckle ride across to the spot I settled in and started trolling in 12 feet. Within a few feet I picked up a small walleye, then another one and so on. The other boats behind were having the same luck – the deeper boat getting a bit better size. The only challenge was the wind – it was still ripping good down The Wall – and solo I was a bit worried about standing at all and started to reel any fish in sitting down. One pass to the end of the wall coughed up my second biggest walleye of the trip – a long skinny 22.5 incher. At this point I told the guys – I am done here, need to get back to the bay. We all packed up and made the run. I have grown up fishing in boats my whole life, but man was it a nervy ride back. Heading straight into the waves wasn’t an issue but when I need to turn to hit the channel leading back to our bay was scary. By the time I hit the shelter of the channel I was soaked to the bone and almost every piece of gear was rattling around on the floor. We continued to fish the bay for a bit more but to be honest we were beat – and besides we had such an epic day at the Hot Corner and the Wall we were okay with it. Total fish count for the day 111
Our last full day of fishing and unfortunately it was like the day before wind wise. The main lake was churning so again we headed towards the Hot Corner. Today is was somewhere between warm and lukewarm. The fish seemed a bit deeper and while we got size (my brother got a nice 23.5 in 30 feet of water) it wasn’t as much action as the day before, and as the wind had picked up boat control was even tougher. Good but nowhere near as good as the day before. We quickly hit the wall and while it was okay, we found we were primarily getting undersize fish (12 – 15 inches). After a few passes we decided to hit the bay but focus our efforts in the far end where the wind was really hitting structure. Overall, we did okay – one thing we found was the fish were tight to the structure and trolling wasn’t super effective. We tried to pull in and anchor off the eddy – casting out just about everything – jigs, swimbaits, spoons and crankbaits and while we picked off a few fish it didn’t seem to draw in big numbers. We kept at it for the afternoon but headed in a bit early to start the packing up process and get a fire going – last night in camp is always a bit of a celebration for us. Total fish count 78
Total fish count for the week was 514 fish. Would guess 90% walleye, 8 % pike and 2% sauger
Saturday - No fishing
The next day we got up relatively early and had a leisurely breakfast – John had asked us to pull the boats out onto his ramps and put the engines in the shed as there was no one coming in after us. We were supposed to be picked up between 11:30 and 12. By 12:30 we decided to call Leuenbergers – turns out that everything was delayed by 4 hours and most likely we weren’t getting picked up before 3 PM (Damn wish we hadn’t lifted the boats out) We played some cards, told some jokes and reminisced and finally at 5 PM Leuenbergers Otter showed up with John. By 6 PM the van was loaded, and we were on the road for another all nighter. By the time I got to Mississauga it was 8 AM and I had been up for 24 hours. Not ideal not enough to dull what was a great trip.
We buy into the go further North West – while I am not sure we have accurate numbers from previous trips we experience better fishing all around – by a lot
Check out John and Gloria Ritchs Ogoki Lake Outfitters – wonderful people and I can’t say enough about camp and its location. We saw quite a few other cabins on the lake including Wilderness North’s 3 and personally I think John and Gloria’s is way better situated. While their website is quite dated the camp was excellent and John and Gloria are great people - and that means something. Ogoki Lake Outfitters
We really liked the big lake – exploring is part of the journey and Ogoki certainly has lots of it. With the bay we also felt like we could fish should the lake get too rough or if it was threatening to storm
Overall if there was a general pattern it was all about fishing wind blown structure to get started and then moving up and down the contours - if the basin was 20 generally, we seemed to hit fish when your depth finder just started to show 19 or 18 feet or again from 12 to 8 feet and so forth. Getting on the back or corner side of points, rock piles and islands to fish the eddy also worked well.
Our group needs to up our jigging game for our next trip. While we were thrilled w our numbers, we all agreed that on a few days if we had confidence, we really could have sat on them w jigs and had a magical 100 fish day.
Our map study and meetings ahead (regardless of what our wives think) was helpful – just having a few places to start along with the knowledge of why we wanted to start really helped.
Good maps for the boats and two-way radios are a must for us
Part of the joy of the trip is the experience – our group started to fight over who would dump the fish guts because 2 Bald eagles and eventually two Golden eagles along w a variety of other birds put on a show worthy of Martin Perkins every night
Overall, we loved our time on Ogoki and would recommend John and Gloria’s cabin. A few months back we booked our 2020 trip – Miniss Lake with Slate Falls Outposts. We are changing it up again, flying commercial to Thunder Bay and then renting a van and making the 4-hour drive to Sioux Lookout. Will be different and we have already started to try to figure out the logistics! Ideally the lead up and the trip are worth at least 5 – 7 pieces of content...