Reflections on 28 seasons of fishing in Ontario Parks

Today’s post comes from Rob Cunningham, Superintendent of Presqu’ile and Ferris Provincial Parks.

I started working at Killarney Provincial Park in 1988, and that was the start of my many wonderful experiences of angling in Ontario’s provincial parks. I’ve been blessed in my career to work at over 14 parks, and I have fished and visited over 40 of them.

And they’re among the most beautiful locations and wonderful angling experiences anywhere.

The best experiences have been the ones in Northern Ontario

The parks in this part of the province are beautiful, remote, lonely places where the lakes exude mystery and allow a person to just think about the fish. Where else can you just pick a spot on the side of the lake and catch northern pike while making lunch?

These adventures also allow groups of friends to enjoy time together and not worry about the trappings of “life in the south.” Cell phones usually don’t work, land lines are hard to come by, and the small towns along your journey always have the possibility of a “memorable” situation.

I love to fish, but is it really worth the drive?

The long drive can be looked on as a negative, but it’s usually a great part of the trip.

And I don’t believe any of the drives to a remote park have not involved some memorable occurrence, from a friend spilling a gallon of mixed outboard gas in another member’s brand new SUV to inopportune pit stops.

friends on a fishing trip

The drive also allows time to think and talk, and usually — if you are with the right people — some diabolical story that has never been admitted to comes out. Such experiences forge great memories and great friendships.

Top quality fishing

The main reason to travel to Northern Ontario’s provincial parks, however, is the abundance of high-quality fishing opportunities. And the surrounding beauty makes it a truly life-affirming experience.

You can catch great walleye in Southern Ontario, but catching these fish against the backdrop of an industrialised, urbanized environment and then catching walleye under the Northern Lights is a very different experience.

A successful day on the water.

The variety of species is also hard to fathom.  You can catch trophy-sized small-mouth bass, northern pike, walleye and lake trout, all from the same lake in some parks.

So where to go?

In reality, almost every park in Northern Ontario has fantastic fishing, with mysteries and adventures to be discovered. White Lake, Ivanhoe, Wabakimi, Wakami Lake, Halfway Lake, Nagagamisis, Quetico, Missinaibi — even the names invoke magic.

fishing spot

These parks are only a few of the many that can provide you with some of the best angling you’ve ever had in your life.

Finding the “secret spot”

Here’s a tip: after you set up, go chat with the park maintenance employee. He or she usually has the low-down on the best locations in the park. (Be assured they won’t tell you all the best spots, but they’ll share a few.) The best, most incredible fishing spots you’ll need to dig up for yourself, which is all part of the experience. All meaningful experiences need to be earned, and discovering the “spot within the spot” is part of the process.

At some of the parks, it took several years before the older maintenance employee would point me in the right direction. I knew any “loose lips” on this subject would not have gone over well and I have remained mum to this day. Of course, the spots I discovered I never shared with anyone.

That would be foolish 😉

Rob holding his catch

Life’s too short and memories are not made on the couch.

So stop thinking about your dream trip and make it happen this season.