Two friends and frequent fishing partners — Jason Laumb of Grand Forks and Bob Glassmann of Roseau, Minn. — joined me Sunday for a trip to the “Canadian Riviera”: Clearwater Bay on Lake of the Woods.
Located at the far northwest corner of Lake of the Woods west of Kenora, Ont., Clearwater Bay and its rugged shorelines are a showcase for some of the most spectacular displays of wealth you’ll see anywhere.
You can’t call most of these structures cabins; mansions would be more accurate.
We made the trip to Clearwater Bay with Scott Edman, a Grand Forks middle school teacher and longtime fishing guide who grew up on the Northwest Angle and still guides there in the summer.
Boating to Clearwater Bay from the Northwest Angle, a distance of about 50 miles by water, requires a thorough knowledge of the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods and its myriad of islands and prop-eating rock reefs. That was no problem for Edman, and he steered us past such landmarks as Big Narrows and Wiley Point without incident.
Running a 20½-foot fiberglass Lund with a 250-horse Merc, Edman had us at the entrance to Clearwater Bay in slightly more than an hour.
There was little development the first two-thirds or so of the trip, and it seemed as if we had the big lake to ourselves Sunday morning as we boated past islands covered with pine, birch and poplar trees.
That changed as we entered Clearwater Bay. Houses, many of them situated high atop granite cliffs, towered above the lake. Just the boathouses, in many cases, were probably worth more than any of our homes, and Edman pointed out one particularly spectacular mansion he said had been on the market for the equally lofty price of $7.1 million.
It’s hard to say how many dozens of walleye hotspots we boated past on the trip, but walleyes weren’t on the agenda Sunday. Instead, we’d made the trek to Clearwater Bay to do battle with the big lake trout for which the area is known.
Along with adjacent Echo Bay and Cul de Sac Lake, Clearwater Bay is one of the few areas of Lake of the Woods with water deep enough to support lake trout. The other is Whitefish Bay on the northeast corner of the lake.
Because of the extensive shoreline development and the risk of overharvesting these fish, lake trout fishing in Clearwater Bay and adjacent waters is catch-and-release only. Glassmann and I had fished there a number of times in the past, and we both had released lakers flirting with 20 pounds.
Our hope was that Laumb, who’d never caught a lake trout, would have the opportunity to land at least one of these impressive fish, as well.
It’s not as tough as muskie fishing, but lake trout fishing generally isn’t a numbers game on drive-to waters, and this day would be no exception.
We targeted the fish by locating them on Edman’s electronics and then dropping heavy jigs (which had to be barbless) to the bottom and reeling them to the surface, a tactic known as “bombing.”
Fishing in depths ranging from 70 to 100 feet of water, we marked plenty of fish on the depthfinder, but aside from a handful of wasted opportunities — I had two lakers on but they shook the jig before I could land them, and Edman also lost a trout — our tally was zero as of 2 p.m.
That’s when Glassmann got hot, and decided to put three trout in the boat in short order. None of them, however, were of the trophy caliber for which Clearwater Bay is known; the biggest might have been 10-12 pounds, which of course is still very respectable.
We had lots of company from pleasure boaters and jet skiers but saw only a couple of boats that appeared to be fishing.
Sunday’s weather was perfect, mostly sunny with occasional clouds and generally light wind. We finished the day by venturing into Echo Bay, where Glassmann landed the biggest trout of the day at 33½ inches, and Edman got on the board with a slightly smaller fish.
As for Laumb, he ended the day without catching a lake trout, and I had to be settle for the two lakers I hooked and lost.
I’m sure both of them easily would have been the biggest fish of the day.
All too quickly, it seemed, we left behind the “Canadian Riviera” and headed back south through the trees and islands, past marker buoys and prop-eating rock piles barely jutting out of the water, toward the Northwest Angle.
We were back at the dock at Angle Outpost Resort by 7 p.m., nearly 12 hours after our excursion had begun.
A fine adventure it was.