Bakers Narrows Lodge: Catching My First Lake Trout
By: Nam Nguyen


Day 1: Monday, September 13, 2004

On September 13, 2004 I took a trip to Manitoba, Canada in pursuit of a fish called the lake trout. I traveled from Minneapolis to Winnipeg through commercial airlines (Northwest Airlines), then from Winnipeg to Flin Flon Airport in a turboprop (Bearskin Airlines). The total trip time took about 6 hours including a two-hour delay in between the two flights. My destination: Bakers Narrows Lodge. It was an expensive trip, but for an opportunity to catch a lake trout it was well worth it.

A young gentleman name Jake, who was later my guide, picked me up at the Flin Flon Airport and took me to the lodge. As I was coming into the office to check-in I met the host. His name is Rod Baynton. He greeted me with a warm smile and said "Welcome." He told me to get settled in my cabin and meet over at the restaurant at 6 p.m. for dinner. After getting my cabin info and lodge procedures from the main office Jake took me to my cabin. He helped bring my luggage and fishing equipment into the cabin.

I quickly unpacked my luggage and began rigging my fishing rod, reel, line and lures. The cabin had a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms (one with two single beds and one with a single double bed) and a small living room. I slept on the double bed. It was one of 15 cabins in a wilderness area right by a beautiful blue lake. The lake where the lodge was located was called Lake Athapapuskow. It was a lake known for his huge lake trout and northern pike.

Around 6 p.m. I ventured over to the restaurant for dinner. It was a delicious plate of warm BBQ chicken and ribs, baked potato, and mixed vegetables. Every night I always got the special on the menu. The food was excellent!

I met a couple of nice folks while I was there eating: Don and Mike from Missouri. I also met many of Baynton Family members and staff who worked at the lodge. Rebecca was the oldest daughter who was my waitress. Rod was the host. Peg was his wife. Mike was another guide who cleaned and cooked our fish. Sebo (or Sebastian) was my pilot on the float plane. Jake, who worked just for the summer, was my guide.

After dinner and meeting new friends I went back to the cabin to grab my fishing poles and took a fishing boat out on my own. I went north on the lake in around the bays filled with reeds. I thought I would at least get the line wet if nothing else. I shut off the motor and began casting. After a couple casts I tried starting up the boat to no avail. The motor would not start. I pulled the rope about a ka-zillion times (realistically, 60-70 times) swearing at each pull. Swear words I didnít even know I had. I pulled so much that handle attached to the rope broke! I could not believe what had happened. I was in between islands and it was getting dark fast. I found two paddles down by the boat side and I started paddling my way to shore. If you have ever paddled a canoe on a very gusty windy day, and multiply it by 10 times the weight of the canoe that was what I was paddling in to shore. Having to switch from side to side I paddled. I paddled like crazy. I paddled until my arms would fall off. I was not going to be stranded out here in an unknown lake. Paddled, paddled, and more paddling it didnít seem as if the lodge was getting any closer. It was within sight however, but with each stroke of the paddle it seemed an eternity. About and hour and a half of extreme paddling a passing boater heard me yelling for assistance. He turned his boat around and pulled me in. I told Rod about what had happened and he ensured me that would never happen again. I went back to the cabin, cleaned up and went to bed dreaming of that one lake trout I hoped to catch.

Day 2: Tuesday, September 14

I woke up at around 6:45 a.m. There were no alarms in the cabin. I was so used to waking up at around that time at home. I took a shower, got dressed and headed down to the restaurant to get breakfast at about 7:30 a.m. I ate two eggs (overeasy), sausage, hash browns, toast and a glass of orange juice. While I was eating I watched Rod and his staff outside the window putting gas into the boat tanks and starting them up to get them warm. I went down to the main office and asked Peg if I would be able to follow another boat out on the main lake. She introduced me to Mike (guide) and asked if I could follow him out. Mike said no problem. I quickly went back to the cabin, grabbed my fishing stuff and headed back down to the dock where the boats were. About 8:30 a.m. I launched my boat and began my journey for that elusive lake trout.

We went south on the lake towards some small islands where the lake trout were hiding and spawning. When we got close Mike yelled out to me to fish around the islands and that we should meet up at around 1 p.m. to have shore lunch. So, I took my boat and headed between the islands and my adventure was just beginning.

Before this trip I was studying exclusively on lake trout characteristics, habitats, and their seasonal movements. They main thing to know about lake trout is that they like cold water. Lake trout migrate up-lake during winter and come back down in spring. By early June they are usually in good numbers off the ends of the main lake points extending into the lake, drop-offs, and extreme outside edges. By mid-summer the lake trout move away from the shallow warm water and into the deep holes of anywhere between 50-80 feet. Active fish are usually suspended 3-20 feet off the bottom. As for time of day? I learned to fish early and late. Concentrate my efforts during the first three hours of light in the morning and the last two hours of light in the evening.

There was so much water to cover so I decided that trolling was the best option. Trolling is where you let line out behind the boat and move along at slow speeds with your motor on in forward motion. Trolling typically produces the biggest lake trout. I set my troll speed to match the action of my lure. I was using a large spoon called the Gator Spoon manufactured by Lindy Tackle. The spoon has a diamondback pattern and the color I was using is green and chartreuse. I was using a Pflueger Trion Baitcaster loaded with 50 lbs. Spiderwire Stealth on a Shimano Compre Rod. The combo was superb for the fishing I was doing!

Just as I was making my way through the islands my spoon bumped off the rocks. Or was it? Anyhow, it was long after that I had my first bite. I set the hook and played with the fish for maybe 5 seconds and the spoon popped free. I was mad so I decided to go around the island through the same area and try once more. On my second pass the same thing happened and I gave what I thought was solid hookset. I kept horsing it up and then my tug was light again. I was just reeling in my spoon with no fish attached. I thought about it and then I came up with an answer. The hooks on the Gator Spoon were big and thick and the rod I was using was a bit soft. I placed the Compre rod down and picked up my medium spinning outfit loaded with 20 lbs. Power Pro. I tied an old lure designed by Bill Dance called the Dance ĎN Eel. It was an old favorite of mine and I had just bought on Ebay not that log ago. I dropped the eel back and started trolling. The eel has a lip like a crankbait and the tail action is incredible, so with every tail movement I could feel it vibrate up my shoulders.

I made another pass through the area and as I was turning around a bend I got hammered and my rod bent back in a full arc. I set the hook hard three times and I was determined that I would not lose this fish, or at least if I did that I would see the fish. The fish fought long and hard and it didnít seem to want to come up. It made dives under the boat and I followed the fish from one side to the other, and then the fish went back to the other side and I followed. It stayed deep. About a minute and a half or so I got the fish up near the boat and I could see what it was and how big she was. It was a lake trout. I got her into the boat, measured her at 25 inches, and took a quick photo and let her go. It was my first lake trout!

I had studied the map of the lake before I headed out and pictured in my mind what the contours and depths were in and around the islands. As I was trolling I glued my eyes to the fish finder located in front of me watching how quickly the depths went from 35 feet to 3 feet. Sometimes it would get shallow so quick that the boat would be bumping the top of the rocks. Most of the fish I caught were in the 15-25 foot depth along an edge.

At about 11 a.m. the lake trout stopped biting, although I continued trolling. After a period inactivity I headed for the back bays to cast for pike. I landed a few nice pike throughout the day and caught a fish known as the whitefish. The whitefish bit the chrome/blue Rat-L-Trap I was using.

I headed in for shore lunch at about 1 p.m. with Mike and his clients. Mike cleaned the fish and made shore lunch for us. It was a plate of fried lake trout fillet, potatoes, and beans and rice mix. It was delicious!

After the shore lunch I went back out to the bays and caught several more nice pike in the bays using crankbaits, spoons, and spinnerbaits. We headed in about 5:45 p.m. and had dinner (turkey roast). I prepared my equipment back at the cabin for tomorrowís fishing action. At about 10:30 p.m. Rod swung by my cabin and told me to go out and see the northern lights. They are glamorous!

Day 3: Wednesday, September 15

I woke up at 5:45 a.m. This was my guide day with Jake. I donít think Jake was much of a guide as a young kid working for a summertime job. But hey the kid was great! I had equipped all the rods with pretty the same tackle I used from the day before. Immediately we started trolling from the dock and all the way out to the islands. It was a waste time really, but I guess Jake said the lake trout were everywhere. Nothing happened for quite a while until mid-morning when we went through the back bays in between the islands. I hadnít gone through this area the other day. I tried the Gator Spoon first, but no action. Then tried the Dance íN Eel with no action either. Then, I pulled a Mepps spinner called the Flying C. It was a gift I received to sample test from (Shep) T. Layton Shepherd, owner of Sheldonsí, Inc. and Mepps, awhile back. It had been hanging on my mounted walleye at home. I trolled with it and as it was coming around a bend I got a big hammer from a big fish. I set the hook and up came my biggest lake trout. It measured close to 28 inches. We made another loop along the same pass and again I hooked another laker. Only this one was much smaller at 25 inches. We made another pass and another hit, but no connection. This went on for about half hour. Jake landed one and I landed another. All in all, I came up to catch one lake trout and caught 4 and lost three during this whole trip. We had shore lunch again with Mike and his clients. We headed back for dinner (roast beef and gravy) around 5:30 p.m.

Day 4: Thursday, September 16

This was our fly-out day with our guide Jake. I woke up early this morning at about 5:45 a.m. Breakfast at 7 a.m. and got on our float plane at 8:30 a.m. Our destination: Waupun Lake. The guide and several others back at the lodge said I was entering a walleye heaven and that I will be catching an endless number of walleyes. I didnít really taken anyone serious about it. Was I wrong?

Our pilotís name was Sebo (or Sebastian). Great guy. Funny too. It took roughly 20 minutes to fly out to the lake. Once we landed Mike and his clients, Jake and I got off and got all of our stuff off the plane and loaded it onto our boats. The float plane left and they would come back at 5:30 p.m. Mike was quick to say that one of his clients there had caught a 44-inch pike the other week using a spinner with a big plastic minnow. We launched the boat and immediately I started trolling a Mannís 8-inch Super Stretch Crankbait in the firetiger color. A pass through a shallow rocky bar and a bite. The boat went around a small bend into a bay and bang another bite. Only this time I set the hook hard and started reeling. Was it that big northern pike? It seemed rather easy. I pulled the fish to the surface and it looked small. Too small. It was a nice 22-inch walleye. What a surprise! This fish bit an 8-inch musky bait! Never happens in the Twin Cities area, believe me.

Awhile later we started casting in the bays for pike with spinnerbaits, spoons, and crankbaits. Caught a few small northerns. Then, we began our walleye hunt. It didnít take long. Fishing along the shoreline in 5-20 feet the walleyes came in the boat just about every cast. Thereís was one time I think I had 8 consecutive fish without resting. The bite was so good that Iíd wonder how hungry these fish might be. They bit on a ľ oz. jighead tipped with a frozen shad hooked sideways.

We had shore lunch with Mike and gang at 1 p.m. then went out and continued hammering more walleyes. I didnít want to quit.

Before I knew it it was time to go home. Our float plane arrived, but since we had a total of 6 at the lake. The first group left first and my group continued to wait for the next float plane, which would be in 30 minutes. Right from the dock I cast a firetiger Rattliní Rap and burned it in from all sides of the dock. Two more walleyes and a nice pike. Our float plane arrived and it was time to go home. This lake was unbelievable!

Arrived back at the lodge, had dinner, packed up and checked out.

Day 5: Friday, September 17

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. feeling bummed I had to go home. Had breakfast and said goodbye to a couple of folks. Jake came in and told me to write my name and address to take my fish box home. I tipped him about $100 altogether for taking good care of me. I tipped the waitress $20 and the cleaning ladies $20. The cleaning ladies and waitresses are all the same people. I happened to run into them when they were cleaning my room.

Jake took me back to Flin Flon Airport to check-in. There was a big fog over us and our 8:55 a.m. flight back to Winnipeg was delayed until 8 p.m. that night. The alternate: A flight home at 10 a.m. from The Pas Airport. Trying not to panic, I told Jake about the situation and he immediately took me back to the lodge and he discussed about what happened to Rod and Rebecca. Rebecca drove me back to the Flin Flon Airport and informed them that they were going to drive me to The Pas Airport, which was a good hour and 15 minute drive. Rebecca drove me back to the lodge where Jake was awaiting. It was 9:05 a.m. Jake sped the car about as fast as I have ever seen anyone drive. He got us there at 10:15 a.m. because he missed a turn. I got in and the passengers and airplane were waiting for me. I shook Jakeís hand and said "Thank You."

Needless to say I will be making a return there next year. To meet the Bayton Family once again who were the nicest people on Earth and also catch lots of fish. Only this time one other person will be coming with me. My brother An.

Here are some lake trout fishing tips that I have learned from this trip to pass along to you:

How to Catch Lake Trout

Trolling is usually best. Jigging can be good when you find a concentration of fish. Look at your fish finder. If you see 10 or more fish then it might be worthwhile for you to stop and jig. But remember there needs to be a school of trout for even considering jigging. The fish finder transducer shoots down at an angle, so at 100 feet it shows a wide section of bottom. Fish that appear together on the fish finder may actually be a considerable distance apart.

To catch lake trout consistently you need to get a lure down to the active fish. That is difficult because the fish stay so deep, and because they are usually found on or just above rock piles, drop-offs, ridges and other structure. Stay close to the bottom as you can about three feet off the bottom or so. You should snag occasionally. If you arenít snagging you arenít getting deep enough. Learn to control your lure depth with precision. Three feet may mean the difference between catching a trophy and going home skunked.

Drag Setting (Most Important)

Keep your drag set so it will release line with light pressure. Itís important to remember that when you hook a fish, tighten down the drag but keep it where the fish can take line if needed.

Setting The Hook

Most people donít set the hook hard enough. When you are trolling with lots of line out or fishing at 100-foot depths, there is considerable stretch in your line and you need to jerk it hard to get a solid hook set.

Trolling Speed

To keep this simple: Troll at the proper speed so your lureís action is the way it should run. If you are using a floating Rapala for instance, if you troll too fast the lure will spin out onto its side, however, if you troll too slow the action might not be the way it was intended for the lure. Experiment by running the lure along side the boat to see if it runs properly as the speed at which you are moving.

Troll Strategies

Donít troll in a straight line. Follow the contours you see on the bottom. Try to stay on the edge of the channel, on the side of a ridge, or along some other feature.

Use a Fish Finder

A good fish finder is essential when you are after lake trout. Look for rock piles, ridges, humps, drop-offs, and sunken islands. You want to focus on the area just off the bottom.

How to Fish

Trolling is usually best. Jigging can be good when you find a concentration of fish. You need to see 10 or more fish at once to make it worth your time to stop and jig. Remember, the fish finder transducer shoots down at an angle, so at 100 feet it shows a wide section of bottom. Fish that appear together on the fish finder may actually be a considerable distance apart.

To catch lake trout consistently you need to get a lure down to the active fish. That is difficult because the fish stay so deep, and because they are usually found on or just above rock piles, drop-offs, ridges and other structure. You need to constantly vary the depth of your downrigger ball, attempting to keep your lure about three feet off the bottom. Thatís not always possible ó you will snag occasionally. If you arenít snagging you arenít getting deep enough.

Pay attention to little things. Youíve got to learn to control your lure depth with precision. Three feet may mean the difference between catching a trophy and going home skunked.

What To Use

Lures should resemble a small kokanee - the primary forage for lake trout at the Gorge.

The single best lure is a J-13 broken back Rapala. Colors vary somewhat. Silver and black are usually best. In the fall, when kokanee are spawning, orange Rapalas with gold bellies can be effective. Chartreuse can be good when other colors aren't working.

Big flatfish and spoons may also be effective.

A deep-diving crankbait can be effective at times. If the fish are nervous, a downrigger ball may spook them. With a deep diver, the lure may be going through the fish while the ball is 20 feet higher.

People with manual downriggers may want to use a diving lure so they don't have to continuously raise and lower the ball. Measure how deep your lure dives at trolling speed, then position the ball so the lure will bump the bottom. Diving lures usually bounce off the bottom without snagging.

Keep hooks sharp. Sharpen them every time you snag.

Smelly jelly smeared on top of the lure can help produce more hits. Anchovy (salt/glitter) and crayfish flavors are good.

Lighter line is better. If you know how to play a fish, use 10-12 pound line. If you don't, use 14-20 pound.

Use the Rapala knot to tie on a Rapala. The knot leaves a loop in the line that allows the lure to move freely. (Tying instructions are included in the box with each Rapala sold.) Don't use swivels or rings with a Rapala.

Jigging

Jigging is the best way to fish for lake trout through the ice, and can be effective year-round when you can hold over a concentration of fish.

It is important to stay right over the fish - you want to jig vertically and keep slack out of the line or you won't be able to feel a bite.

Use low-stretch line. The new synthetic lines work well.

Use small jigging movements. Just pop your wrist, even when the fish are active. Lake trout are lazy; they don't want to chase a lure.

Big gitzits (3-4 inch) on heavy jig heads (1/4 to 1/2 ounce) are effective. Motor-oil is usually the best color. Glow-in-the-dark can also be effective. Sometimes burnt orange and brown work well. Load Smelly Jelly on the jig head and shaft before inserting it inside the gitzit.

Make sure the tentacles on the gitzit don't stick together - they need to move freely. If action is slow then try tipping the jig with a piece of sucker meat.

The fish will be looking up, so jig just above them. Watch them on your fish finder. If you see one come up to the level of your lure then try setting the hook, even if you don't feel anything. A strike may not feel like much - perhaps just resistance on the end of your line. If you feel anything different then try to set the hook.

Lake trout fishing is work. You've got to pay your dues before you can expect to catch a fish consistently. But it's worth it.

          

             My flight from Winnipeg to Flin Flon                               Flin Flon Airport.
              Airport was in this turboprop                                                  

       

             Here I am standing in front of the cabin                                 My first day out on the boat and
                                                                                      a beautiful rainbow over the horizon

           

         The islands where I caught my first lake trout           A narrow passage was another hot spot
         on Lake Athapapuskow                                           for lake trout
 

              

 My first lake trout. It measured 25 inches.           Hooking and reeling in my biggest lake trout
 Caught on a Dance ĎN Eel.                            on the third day.

   

       One of about 100 walleyes we caught that day!          Another nice northern pike.

              

             My largest lake trout.                                      An acrobatic whitefish.
           Caught on a Mepps Flying C.

        

         My float plane to Lake Waupun.                         From high above on the float plane
       Lake Waupun = Walleye Heaven!!!
 

 

 

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