Drive-In Fishing Trips: What to Know
Drive-in fishing camps & lodges are the most common lodge type in Canada. They are easy to prepare for and give more flexibility - plus, these lodges typically accommodate more guests on a week to week basis. If you've never been on one, below is a breakdown of some aspects to consider when comparing drive-in to fly-in trips. Be sure to check out our introduction to the fly-in fishing experience and the Canada Trip Finder when it's time to narrow down your lodge options.
Driving to a good Canadian fishing lake, you will most often find a few too many camps located on that body of water; all depending on the size of the lake system. The fishing can range from very good (if you hit the timing right), to fishing pressured water with a number of other fishermen and having average fishing success. The key to quality fishing on a drive-in trip is to find a lake with a limited number of camps or lodges, and knowing the right presentations to have a successful fishing trip at that particular lake or reservoir.
You will find "community spots" which draw a number of other fishermen when the fish are present (i.e. Ord River on the Cedar Lake chain during the early springtime) or certain bays on Lac Suel, Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River system. You will catch fish at these areas, but you will also contend with many other anglers. Most head north for the great fishing, as well as some level of solitude and being able to "get away from other fishermen" (compared to their local pressured lakes back home). There are a good number of excellent "drive-in" lakes in Ontario, though the amenities and lower costs they offer as a drive-in location are off-set somewhat with the number of other fishermen you'll see on the water.
If you decide to do a drive-in trip, ask about portage opportunities that will get you onto the back lakes and less competition for the fish.
Experience and Equipment
One of the major benefits with fishing at a drive-in camp is being able to bring along your fishing boat, with other fishing gear that would not be able to bring with you to a fly-in camp. To enjoy running your own boat which is set-up with your equipment (trolling motors, graphs, etc) and having all your tackle gear, rods and reels along with you make fishing a pleasure on the water. Anyone who has fished "up north" knows the weather can change quickly and being able to pack your insulated Guide Wear as well as having along light extra clothing is a benefit of a drive-in camp; so you are prepared for any unexpected change of weather.
Another variable can be in the boats that a camp will offer; from basic ones with bench seating and a 9.9 or 15 hp outboard to newer deep-v rig with a 4 stroke 40 or 50 hp tiller outboard, graphs, front trolling motors, and vinyl flooring. Minnows, worms, and leeches are typically available at a drive-in camp (you would need to bring these with you for most fly-in camps).
With booking a drive-in camp, you are not limited to the weight restrictions for your groceries, clothing, fishing gear, or adult beverages. One other very important issue to consider with a drive-in camp is that medical assistance would be available much faster than at a fly-in camp if a serious injury or illness occur.
Meals / Chowtime
Another cost saving benefit of heading to a drive-in camp is the ability to bring in your own groceries (either purchased in a local town or back home). Meal planning for a drive-in fishing trip is only limited by the room in your travel vehicle; with no weight restrictions. We have enjoyed smoking pheasant, quail, and chicken at camp on a combo smoker/deep-fryer which we brought north with us, which would have not been possible with a fly-in camp due to weight and size restrictions.
Drive-in camps offer lodging ranging from older cabins with pine paneling and basic kitchens and bathrooms; to cabins that are as nice as many homes - including air conditioning, fireplaces, screened in decks, and other amenities. The majority of drive-in camps offer indoor bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers and a camp store for any items that may be needed during the week (i.e. food or fishing tackle, more beer, etc).
Other benefits of drive-in camps that you may not think of is the ability to bring in fans for cooling the cabin at night time, and having electricity at night for those who use C-pap machines. My friends enjoy fish fry's, so we bring in a propane deep fryer/smoker and will have 3 or 4 fish fry's with onion rings or fries on the side during our stay at camp.
The costs for many drive-in camps will range from low-end $500+ per person to a high end in the thousands (when you have the American Plan and full guide services). Most folks opt for costs in the $800 - $1,000+ range which includes a nice camp boat and, in some cases, a meal plan. With many drive-in camps, groups will rent a cabin for the week and bring in their own fishing boats, then split the costs of the cabin. This is an affordable way to get on a good fishing lake up north of the border while not "breaking the bank back home".