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Canada’s call of the wild heard locally

Larry Woody • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:57 PM

Tennessee is blessed with an abundance of fish-teeming lakes and rivers, so why would someone travel 1,400 miles to fish in Canada?

That’s the question my wife used to ask every spring when my buddies and I would head out to Little Vermillion Lake, located some 300 miles north of the Canadian border and accessible only by a bush plane from the end-of-the-road village of Red Lake.

I explained that you had to be there.

I’ve missed several recent trips but plan to return. Anyone who enjoys fishing owes it to themselves to make a trip to Canada.

The special enchantment of Canadian fishing drew me to a booth at this year’s Boat & Fishing Expo in Nashville. It was manned by Darrell Evans, a representative of Pipestone Lodge, located on a string of wilderness lakes just across the border from International Falls, Minn.

The lakes offer excellent fishing for Northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, musky and lake trout. The lodge has a superb website (www.pipestonelodge.com) that features a tantalizing array of fish catches and spectacular Canadian scenery.

A wide range of packages is available, and rates are reasonable.

My long-time Cookeville fishing buddy Connie Inman, a retired Tennessee Tech basketball coach, is planning his 40-something annual trip to Little Vermillion this month.  Connie’s headquarters are Sportsman’s Lodge, nestled on the upper end of the 17-mile lake.

I’ve stayed at Sportsman’s Lodge several trips, as well as at Bev Cheney’s Howey Bay outpost cabins located at the lake’s south end.

Like Pipestone Lodge, Sportsman’s Lodge and Howey Bay offer a range of packages – from three days to a week or more – with corresponding rates. Boats, motors and gas are furnished, and Sportsman’s Lodge offers the option of prepared meals and in-house dining.

A U.S. citizen entering Canada must possess a valid passport. Securing a passport can take weeks, so advance planning is necessary, as are advance bookings. Most of the lodges have vacancies, but to be guaranteed a specific date during the peak spring and summer seasons usually requires booking months in advance.

Canadian fishing is not inexpensive – some of the more lavish trips cost as much as $2,500 per person, plus transportation.  But there are also more moderate packages.

Pipestone Lodge offers a 7-day package for $1,295 per person that includes cabin, boat and motor, gas, meals, maid services, fish cleaning and freezing, and to and from portage from the border.

It also has more a more frugal four-day package that costs $700, or a daily package for $180. That cost covers includes cabin, boat, motor, gas, and portage, and each fisherman is responsible for bringing his food, tackle and other supplies.

The round trip to Pipestone Lodge is about 2,000 miles, which represents a considerable gas bill even when split between four or five fishermen.

It sounds expensive until you consider that the cost of a guided fishing trip in Tennessee costs as much as $400 a day. Compared to that, a Canadian fishing trip, lodge and boat included, is not all that bad.

Granted, most of us can’t afford to go every week, or maybe even every year, but every fisherman deserves to take a once-in-a-lifetime Canadian trip at least, well, once.

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