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Portage Days: Catch More Fish by Getting on the Back Lakes

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Posted by Jeff H. on

They call it the main lake because it's the main body of water that every angler, from every camp on it, has access to. The main lake for any fishing lodge in Canada should offer good, consistent, fishing. However, it's often worth taking a day to get away from the crowd of other anglers and to the bodies of water that aren't fished as often. Getting to these 'back lakes' will often require portaging from one body of water to another …these 'portage days' should offer some excellent fishing and will certainly result in some stories between you and your fishing friends.

When it's time for a portage day, being prepared as a group will make your day efficient and hopefully worry free. For over fifteen years, our regular fishing group would build in at least one portage day per trip and we learned a few lessons that may help with your next one.

Our group making a portage to a 'back lake' to fish for bass & pike from Lady Evelyn Lake a few years back
Our group making a portage to a 'back lake' to fish for bass & pike from Lady Evelyn Lake a few years back

Getting Info on the Back Lakes

Your preparation before fishing the back lakes will start by learning how to get where you are fishing and where to fish once you get there. Whenever possible, going with a lodge guide for your first trip back should be considered. They will make sure you know the process to get back there and can really make fishing efficient - trial and error is fine on the main lake, where you'll be fishing multiple days, but you don't want to waste your one day on the back lakes trying to find the best spots.

Our group booked at the same lodge in Canada for several years and took advantage of a back lake guide for the first years portage day. After that first guided trip, we knew how to get to the body of water and the best spots to fill our stringers. Knowing the process back will get you more fishing time and knowing the best spots should put you in the best position to catch fish.

If your lodge doesn't offer a guided option, or you prefer not to use one, then be 100% certain of your path back and bring good quality maps. Nobody goes on a fishing trip to have stressful days …so make it easy on your group by knowing the way.

Preparing the Night Before

Is seems like a no brainer but, after a day on the water and a few beers (if it's permitted in the province you're fishing of course), your group may not feel like preparing for the next mornings' portage. Force yourself to do it though …getting everything together the night before can keep you from forgetting something as you rush around in the morning and will ultimately get your lines in the water earlier so that you can have as much time fishing as possible while having plenty of time to get back before dusk.

Three "night before" preparation points:


You'll have a long day ahead of you so pack a cooler with food and your beverages of choice. Take a small cooler that's easy to carry for each boat. We would always do PB&J (PB on both pieces of bread so the jelly doesn't make one side soggy) and a couple of snack bars with water, beer, etc.

Minimize the Fishing Gear:

This is critical to limiting stress. Plan on each angler having their favorite fishing pole plus one extra between the boat if something happens. So, have three poles for a boat of two anglers, etc.

Combining tackle boxes so that you have one per boat is a great way to cut back on stuff to carry. Limiting what you'll be carrying will add up at the end of the day, so know the species you are fishing for and take only what you need in one tackle box. Better yet, have a smaller tackle box or use a removable compartment to make it ultra-efficient and light. If you need worms, get them the night before and set them up in a box with some dirt, newspapers, and a couple cubes of ice.

Know the Weather:

You don't want to get stuck on a rainy day without rain gear or on a hot/sunny day without sunscreen and a hat. So, check the weather forecast and add/subtract accordingly.

Don't forget, you can't run back to the lodge if you forget something …so, make a list and check things off …bring a stringer, a net, your fishing licenses, a headlamp or flashlight, first aid kit, life preservers, and a travel roll of toilet paper (one of our guys learned this the hard way …he lost a good pair of socks that day).

You're on vacation …planning ahead can make it feel like one.

7 Lakes Wilderness Camps

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