An Embarrassment of Riches
The only way to describe the brook trout fishing in the Algoma district of northern Ontario, is an embarrassment of riches, too much of a good thing, an overabundance of wealth. The area fondly known as Algoma is 48,000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness, steep Canadian shield cliffs, boreal forest with a myriad of unique flora and fauna. Algoma is culturally rooted in the pristine freshwater lakes that it contains, the very name comes from local indigenous lore and in part translates to “lakes” or “water”. For fishermen and women alike the region is a paradise, a veritable all you can eat buffet of freshwater fishes. The district houses almost every kind of freshwater fish Ontario has to offer, from the wide open shores of lake Superior and Huron to the black fly infested back lakes any fish species one would care to pursue is present and in good numbers and size. None more so than the brook trout. The blue halo covered beauty that calls this region home can be found in hundreds of lakes in the Algoma region.
The large number of natural brook and stocked lakes brook trout lakes, mixed with low pressure from the surrounding communities has developed a truly amazing and unique fishery. Its not unusual to hear about fish in the 6 to 8 lb range being caught, and many an adventurous fishermen have shed blood, sweat and tears in pursuit of such a fish. No species in the region has caused such heartache, ruined friendships, broken equipment and frustrated even the most patient of outdoorsmen. The act of brook trout fishing is one of secrecy, try and pry information from a knowledgeable trout fisherman and you will be met with a wry smile, an anecdote and probably a lie. Alternatively if one is able to wrest hard earned secret lakes and information it is best kept to oneself; no friendships are ruined faster than a fishing partner that overshares information about brookie lakes. Lakes and techniques in the region are treated like family heirlooms and passed down through generations as such.
No time is better to access many back country brook trout lakes than the dead of winter. Frozen lakes, that in warmer seasons would need to be portaged across, are easily bypassed on snowmobile. Trails that are inaccessible most of the year become accessible for any who dare to break a trail. While the fishing can be slow sometimes the promise of a true giant is there for any willing to look.
The author with a beautiful Algoma brook trout
Travel to these backcountry lakes can be treacherous at best sometimes as a wall of snow-covered alders and steep Canadian shield hills bar the way. Many times a day is not enough, and an 8x10 tent paired with a red-hot woodstove has been home for many nights in the pursuit of brook trout. The comforts of home need not be forgotten when staying in one of these tents, the woodstove takes mere minute to raise the temperature to sauna levels and braving the cold northern Ontario nights becomes more than bearable but damn near pleasant.
A common winter camping set up from a recent outing
Not to be forgotten, the Algoma region offers many “put and take” stocked lakes, and while these lakes can produce giants, they are often a source of a good meal. While this is a hotly debated topic in some brook trout circles, stocked lakes are seen by many for what they are; lakes stocked with hatchery raised fish meant not for rejuvenation of the species, but to provide further fishing opportunities to adventurous sportsmen. Spawning in these fish can be non-existent and keeping a limit every now and then will do no harm to natural fish stocks.
The author with “Put and take” Brook trout from a recent outings
If you enjoy frostbitten fingers, breaking trail through endless miles of wilderness in waist deep snow, and getting skunked more often than not, enjoying the embarrassment of riches Algoma offers might just be your next winter vacation.