Tales from "South Bend"


Beautiful lake trout caught in Northern Ontario, Canada
Jeff "Hehookshimself" Walker with a beautiful lake trout from Wine Lake Camp


Another Tale from post! I got some great feedback on my tales from featuring Chris Brock Tales from the Float Plane and Gord Bastable Tales from The Lodge so here is another one.


This time around I was lucky enough to speak to Jeff Walker or if you are familiar with forum handles – HeWhoHooksHimself. Jeff and I first connected after I had posted about some lakes, we were researching in Nakina and Armstrong. Jeff was incredibly helpful, and I have come to value his opinions about fishing Northern Ontario. After chatting his experiences heading to Northern Ontario to chase fish, I thought his perspective would be a great addition to the “Tales From” section. Not for nothing Jeff is also my first Tale From guest who hails from our neighbour to the South which I think adds some more flavour to this edition. So without further adieu here is my interview with Jeff.


Andrew:

Jeff – thanks for taking the time to do this. When we connected, I will say your address and former place of work was intriguing, especially for College Sports Fans – care to share?


Jeff

Andrew, thanks for having me. So yes, for the fans of the Fighting Irish I guess the fact that I live in South Bend, Indiana and worked for the University of Notre Dame is interesting to many. I am fortunate enough to have been to many games and I know that is on the bucket list of a lot of people. I once had the opportunity to share a malty beverage with Walleye Central legend PJ Shorthorn on a game day, so I know there are a few Irish fans on that forum. It is fickle though; it seems that no one is neutral about the Irish! You either love them or you hate them! In any case, I would invite anyone coming to town for a game, supporting the Irish or the opponent, to contact me to meet up on a game day. We could swap some stories about our adventures in Canada once or twice a year


Andrew:

So – what was the impetus for you to head to Northern Ontario on a fishing trip?


Jeff:

Back in the 70's my brother-in-law, Norm (also known as Dock) and I were shown a massive pike that a friend caught somewhere in Northwest Ontario. It was frozen and he was planning on mounting it, which was common in those days. That day we decided that by May of 1980 we were going there. We figured we could do it for $400 a guy but life happened, and we couldn't make it happen until 20 years later. After fishing Minnesota a couple of times we finally made it to Canada in 2000. Just the two of us fulfilled our life dream with a trip to Wine Lake Camp out of Perrault Falls, Ontario and we were hooked.


Walleye fishing in Northern Ontario, Canada
Jeff and BIL "Dock" with a nice stringer

Andrew:

Very cool - I am always interested in your first impressions – was the fishing better than you dreamed of?


Jeff:

We thought we did well, but we only did what we know, casting lures, primarily Rapalas. We caught mostly pike, but we also caught some things we had never seen before. We found out later one was a lake trout and the other a whitefish. While talking to others in the camp, we heard that everyone was waiting for the walleye to "turn on after the spawn." Some of the others in camp told us jigs and minnows were the ticket. We tried it the very day the walleye turned on and caught our limit before 9 a.m. Of course we learned that week that while the fishing was phenomenal, the experience was much more than the fish. We fell in love with everything about it- the scenery, the solitude, swapping lies at camp, the food. Put it this way, I have been a part of a Canadian fishing group since then and Dock and I have been doing fall trips for about 15 years of the 22 years since the first trip.


Andrew

Interesting – swap out casting for trolling and you could be describing our group. We went from trolling crankbaits to bottom bouncing and are now trying to master the art of jigging. I am interested on how you have also “evolved” your fishing styles over the years.


Jeff:

Our evolution has been a result of listening to the advice of others and in some cases dumb luck. Most years we go to Wine Lake for opening week. Spring fishing is different than other times, as we have learned with only moderate luck on most of our fall trips. In the spring the healthy population of lake trout is shallow and hungry. Although we have caught some with jigs, our best results and most fun with them is trolling husky jerks or similar lures 100-200 feet behind the boat. When they hit the reel just sings as they run and almost every time when they get close to the boat they run again. I caught a once in a lifetime 40 incher in May of 2017 and it was incredible. It took me about 20 minutes to get her in and my son got her in the net. For walleye my preferred jig head is 1/8 oz. Northland Thumper Jig in sunrise color and a minnow. My plastic go to is a 3- or 4-inch shad colored Walleye Assassin with a twister tail- works almost as well as a minnow and is reusable. As you know, pike bite on anything but for years the husky jerk in crawfish color was my go-to and I caught my largest pike (42") with it. These are the baits that I have confidence in and that have produced most of the fish I have caught, even smallies.


Andrew:

Impressive for sure. So from what I gather you have fished quite a few different places over the years, some drive to camps, some boat in camps and even some fly ins. What have been your top 3 trips and why?

Jeff:

A- any trip to Wine Lake is great, it is our "go to" place and our 2012 trip there with 8 guys was epic, but the first Wine Lake trip stands out because of the awe and wonder of it all. It was more rustic at that time and I cannot express how much we enjoyed the sense of adventure and the discovery of new things https://winelakecamp.com/


Our fly-in to Tennant Lake with Twin Lakes Outfitters out of Nakina in 2018. It was a trip with 6 guys and while we caught almost exclusively walleye, we caught hundreds of them. As my son said as all three boats were sitting on a honey hole in the river between Kag and Tennant, "this is stupid." Anyone could have caught fish that day. The camaraderie with that group was great and we had a great time in spite of the mosquitoes and black flies we had to contend with. https://www.twin-lakes-air.com/


Woman River Camp Outpost Fall 2016- Even though the fishing wasn't that great until we finally tracked down a honey hole on the last full day, we enjoyed the location and the chain of lakes. While the outpost on a narrow, the boat traffic was not that heavy and we had beautiful weather. The outfitter and owner of the camp and his wife are quality people, and he went out of his way to make sure we had a great week. I really appreciate how he operates. https://www.womanriver.com/


Pike fishing in Northern Ontario, Canada
Jeff's son with a beautiful pike from one of their many trips

Andrew:

What would you consider your most memorable experience?

Jeff:

l have a million stories and if we ever get to share some boat time, I would love to share them with you. However, if you will allow me I will tell two:

Wine Lake Camp trip some 11 or 12 years ago. There is a portage trip to Tipover Lake, a pristine walleye and pike lake. It is called Tipover because it originally had a canoe but by then had been replaced with a jon boat and oars. My adult son and I made the hike there and in the boat, I leaned back to change leg positions and sure enough I fell backwards off the boat and launched my son into the water as well. We struggled our way back into the boat wet but safe. After that we went back to the main lake and to a waterfall that we liked to park the boat and fish the top of The Falls. It had rained and the mud was slick. I slipped on the mud and fell on a rock. I later found out that I had cracked several ribs. The next day after the fall I was in the boat with Dock and it was a rainy miserable day. I was hurting so I pulled my hood up and settled in for the ride to Turn Around Lake. When we arrived, I poked my head out of my jacket and was confused about our location and tried to coax Dock to go a different direction from where we wanted to fish So.....now we say that was the trip where I tipped over in Tip Over, fell at The Falls and got turned around in Turn Around.


Tennant Lake trip – Dock and I were the first guys back into the cabin on evening to start dinner. Heading up to the cabin something just didn’t feel right – at first we couldn’t put our finger on it. We went into the cabin and it looked like there had been an Earthquake – stuff on the floor, dishes and food spilled out of cupboards onto the floor. There was even a smashed bottle of Salsa. At this point we also started to notice that there was a tilt to the cabin. Sure enough we went outside and realized that part of the cabin had fall right off its supports! Well being the kind of guys we are, Dock and I decided not to say anything to the other two boats heading in. We went back to the dock, pretended we had some important business and proceeded to watch the other guys go though the same experience we did. Lots of good chuckles on that one. We used the satellite phone and called Chad, the owner of Twin Lakes and the next morning he was in to get the cabin back to level (Good man that Chad). Its still one of our better stories – the earthquake of Tennant Lake!


Maybe I should write a book?



Andrew:

Oh man – that is awesome. You mentioned you have done 20 trips at Wine Lake Camp and they must be doing something right for that kind of loyalty – in your opinion what sets them apart?

Jeff:

I guess in my opinion, Wine Lake Camp would be a great destination even if the owners were not great outfitters because the system is just perfect. However, when we first started going there Herb and Ann, the owners, were great outfitters and looked after us very well. They cared for their guests and kept the camp in good repair and clean. We liked the mix of rustic with comfortable. We became friends and when they put the place up for sale we were worried about who might take it over. To our delight, the current owner, Nick, is one of us. He is in his 50s but spent years going to Canada camps and fly-ins because he loved it so much. Nick has become our friend and we hope and pray that he can survive the damage Covid has done to the industry and the economy and open Wine Lake Camp when it becomes possible. But the greatest thing Wine Lake Camp offers is where it is.


Andrew:

Are you doing any trips in 2021?


Jeff:

I have lots of plans, but I have little control over them. As far as fishing goes, we had a trip for 2020 for six guys to Wine Lake Camp for opener and Dock and I also had a first-time trip to Savant Lake scheduled with Wildewood for September. Both trips were cancelled but deposits were carried over. We moved the Wine Lake trip to August to avoid missing a graduation and we still have a September trip scheduled to Savant Lake. Fingers crossed. Dock and I made a reservation to go to a camp near Ely, Minnesota in May. I am glad we did since the border will probably still be closed in May.


Andrew:

This one is a bit tougher these trips take time and money, but you (and me) seem to be “hooked” on them. Why do you think that is? If you were doing a sales pitch to someone who has never been on one what is it?

Jeff:

Honestly, I talk about our trips to Canada frequently. They are important to me and I would go alone if I couldn't get someone to go. I talk about the adventure, the scenery, the solitude, the relaxation, the things that are unique about it, the wildlife. There are few days that go by that I don't think about it or bring it up. If you don't believe me, check with my wife.


Fly in fishing trip in Northern Ontario, Canada
Jeff's favorite picture and what he has come to love about these trips - the scenery

Andrew

According to Google maps its 903 miles from South Bend to Perrault Falls – how do you guys make your way to your jump off points?


Jeff:

We have this down to a routine. Dock lives about 60 miles from South Bend in Valparaiso, IN. We usually leave early in the morning, stop for lunch in Eau Claire, WI, stop for groceries and drinks in Duluth, MN and stop for the night in I Falls. We cross over the border early in the morning the next day and stop at Whiskey Jacks for lunch and Dutchies for more drinks. Then we meet Nick in Perrault Falls before noon for our trip into the camp.


Andrew

Alright - a fishing specific question: It’s a perfect walleye fishing day, you are looking for a personal best fish – what’s your go to lure?


Jeff:

I said this before but a Northland Thumper jig, 1/8 oz. in Sunrise yellow tipped with a minnow or a walleye assassin plastic.


Andrew:

In closing a few rapid-fire questions:

1) Favorite Species to fish for

2) Favorite way to fish? (Casting tolling jigging etc.)

3) Favourite Road Trip Song?

4) Fried or Baked Fish?

5) Bucket List Trip?

6) Personal Best Walleye?

7) Favorite Camp Drink?


Jeff:

1. Favorite species to fish for: It's got to be those Spring Lake Trout

2. Favorite way to fish: I like them all but a jig and minnow or walleye assassin is the most versatile.

3. Favorite Road Trip Song: I've gotta say "Sittin' Dock of the Bay” Dock sings it so much that's how he got his name.

4. Fried or Baked Fish- Personally I prefer grilled, but we eat a lot of fried fish

5. Bucket List Trip- Something that Moosebunk has done- Search him on Walleye Central

6. Personal Best Walleye- 29 1/2, but it was skinny. I am still looking for a 30 incher

7. Favorite Camp Drink- There’s something about that Kokanee beer that makes camp even better.



Fly in fishing trips in Northern Ontario, Canada
"Dock" with a nice walleye!

Andrew:

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Jeff! I owe you an ice-cold Kokanee (which was my go to beer many years ago before I switched to light beers). You have been a great resource to our group, and I hope that soon enough you will be back crossing the border for your next trip!

Jeff:

I must say I was humbled and a little intimidated with your offer to share my Tales, but it has been very refreshing for me to spend some time reflecting on my adventures in Canada, I am so looking forward to coming to your beautiful country soon and enjoying a week that energizes me for a year. Fish On!

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