2011 Algonquin Spring Fishing Trip Cedar – Wendigoes – Ravenau – Lantern- Bug – Iron Wood – Carl Wilson

Wednesday, May 4th – Day 1 
For myself the start of canoe tripping season is marked by my annual spring fishing trip with my Dad.  This year saw us head north to Cedar Lake to fish it and the surrounding lakes.  For the most part my spring fishing trips aren’t your normal canoe trip with daily travel and many portages.  Instead they usually consists of traveling to one lake and setting up camp there for three or four days and fishing it and the surrounding lakes.

Sometimes we do have to portage a bit to get into our chosen lake to camp on but a good deal of the time we can travel directly to our destination lake without portaging.  This trip was one such time.  To boot we were even able to take my Dad’s little motor boat.  This allowed us to bring a lot of luxury items which were loaded into the boat and the canoe which was towed behind the boat.

We got away in good time on the first day and figured it would take us about three hours to drive to Brent on the north shore of Cedar Lake.  The whole trip itself was in question up until the day before the trip.  Reports from the Park still had Cedar Lake iced in on the Monday two days prior to our trip as well as the road into Brent closed due to snow covered and muddy sections.  Given that I was expecting a rough drive down the Brent Road but surprisingly the road was better than some other Park access roads are in the summer.

We were on the water just after noon and headed to the west end of the lake to find an island site.  There was a good wind coming down the lake from the northwest which would continue pretty much unabated the entire time we were on the lake.

After a slow ride down the lake and checking out a few site, we settled on a nice site amongst tall red and White Pines on the southern tip of an island.  So far it appeared we were the only people camped on the lake.
Island campsite west end of Cedar Lake.
We quickly set up camp, rigged the food line and had a late lunch and then headed out on the water for the rest of the afternoon to try our luck at catching some lakers.  Unfortunately nothing was biting that day and all we caught were chills after four hours on the water braving the icy cold wind.

After a traditional first night steak dinner we headed back out onto the water to try our luck again but again with no luck.

Returning to camp as the daylight waned, the wind began to subside and the first stars began to appear making for nice evening.  A nice big campfire and a couple of glasses of wine took the chill of the day off before settling in for the night.

Thursday, May 5th – Day 2

Awoke to a crisp, clear day.  Temperatures overnight were comfortable for sleeping.   After a good breakfast we loaded up the boat and canoe for a day of fishing in Wendigoes Lake.  The portage into Wendigoes was about a half our paddle from our site and normally we would have just paddled but with already a good wind coming down the lake this early in the morning and probably only going to get stronger as the day progressed, we decided to take the boat rather than face a fierce headwind on the way home.

As we passed by an island near us to check out the site on it Dad noticed a Bald Eagle flying overhead which then proceeded to land on a nest.  This was a great sighting as this was probably only the 2nd or 3rd nesting record for the Park to that point.  After the trip I found out that this was the 3rd active nest reported that year!

Bald Eagle returning to nest, Cedar Lake.
We moored the boat at the portage head, loaded up the fishing gear and began the 2650m low maintenance portage into Wendigoes Lake.  The portage was fairly good for being low maintenance.  It did have some trees down along it but nothing that wasn’t passable and nothing you wouldn’t expect from a regular maintenance portage three days into the canoe tripping season.

Wendigoes is a nice little lake.  There is a campsite on the north end of the lake right at the end of the portage, not removed from it as shown on the Canoe Route Map.  Despite being somewhat sheltered there was still a good wind blowing down the lake from north to south.

Wendigoes Lake campsite and portage.
We fished the entire morning and into the early afternoon with no luck.  Deciding to try our luck back on Cedar once again, we had lunch before heading out on the return trip back to the campsite.  As I had thought the winds had gained momentum and had really whipped up the waves on Cedar.  Definitely glad we boated over.

We tried our luck on Cedar for the rest of the afternoon but again with no luck and then again that evening with the same results.  Hopefully tomorrow would bring better luck when we headed into Ravenau and Lantern.

Friday, May 6th – Day 3

After two days of strong winds coming down Cedar from the west our third day saw Cedar Lake as smooth as glass with.  The sky was overcast and threatened rain but the day was mild and I was thankful not to have to battle the wind as we headed up the lake towards the portage into Ravenau Lake.

The 1510m portage into Ravenau is a good trail heading gently uphill.  About halfway along the portage there is a nice picturesque little waterfall which we stopped at on the way back to take some pictures.

Ravenau is a nice little lake with one good site on the southeast end of the lake.  Ravenau is suppose to have some good Speckled Trout and halfway down the lake on our first pass I hooked into one but unfortunately it spit the hook right at the side of the canoe.  At this point the rain had started to pick up as did the wind again coming down the lake from west.  With the coming of the rain it seemed like the fish stopped biting and we had no luck hooking into another speck for the next couple of hours.

With our luck having run out on Ravenau we decided to head into Lantern and have lunch and try our luck there.  The 685m portage into Lantern is good with a slight uphill.  Lantern itself is a nice little lake with a good site on the south shore where we stopped for lunch after one pass up and down the lake with no luck. 
After lunch we headed out back on the lake but again with the same results we had before lunch.  The rain and wind had subsided at this point and the day was getting long so we decided to head back to the boat waiting for us at the end of the Ravenau portage on Cedar.

Cedar was still like glass as we headed back down the lake to the site.  I was hoping the conditions on the lake would carry over to tomorrow as we planned to head right up the lake to the Bug Lake portage which I estimated would be at least a half hour boat ride if the conditions were favourable. 

Saturday, May 7th – Day 4

My hopes for another calm day did not come to fruition as there was already a slight breeze blowing down the lake when we awoke and I knew it would only get stronger as the day progressed.  On the up-side it was a nice sunny day with only a few clouds dotting the sky.

After another hearty breakfast we loaded up the boat and started up the lake with canoe in tow.  The wind had already become quite strong by the time we past Brent and really didn’t subside until we passed through the narrows into Little Cedar Lake. 
Forty minutes had brought us to the portage from Little Cedar to Bug where there were already three other boats moored.  The fishing in Bug was supposed to be good so I surmised that the other parties must be already in there trying their luck.  I was surprised to find when we arrived at Bug that we had the entire lake to ourselves.

I was never so glad to reach a lake in my life as all but the last twenty metres of the 820m portage into Bug Lake was straight up hill.  Given the topography of the land I knew that like other portages in the area this one would be uphill but this was to the extreme.

The only flat part of the Little Cedar Lake to Bug Lake portage!
Bug is a pretty little lake with a half decent site at the end of the portage and another nicer one just to the north of it.  On our first pass through the lake we spooked a Bald Eagle perched in a tree at the north end of the lake.  I took the eagle as a good sign that the fishing must be good in this lake.  Unfortunately after several passes around the lake the only thing we had hooked were a couple of snags.

With no luck on Bug we headed over the 760m portage into Ironwood Lake to hopefully have better luck.  The portage to Ironwood was a welcome downhill trail for about 700m and seemed to follow an old tote road at the trail was wide, flat and straight.  Not until the last sixty metres did the portage veer off the “road”, which just seemed to end into nowhere, and wind down to the shore of Ironwood Lake.

Ironwood Lake is a shallow lake and I didn’t believe it would hold any type of trout so after one pass around the lake, and hooking several aquatic plants later, we decided to have lunch on the campsite on the north shore.  It’s a good little site with gently sloping rock out into the lake which then drops off nicely.  We tried some casts from shore after lunch but again to no avail.

Ironwood Lake campsite.
As  the fish weren’t biting today and it was such a beautiful, warm spring day we decided to call it quits for the day and take a nice paddle through Carl Wilson Lake, Little Cauchon, Laurel and Aura Lee lakes back to the boat on Little Cedar.

The 410m portage to Carl Wilson was pretty straight forward.  Heading up the lake we decided to drag a line to see if our luck would improve at all.  About fifty metres from the portage to Cauchon Lake I got a huge snag.  We paddled back to over top of it and I tried to pull the line up with my hand to see if I could free the lure.  As I pulled up on the line it started to thump.  I knew that feeling anywhere, I had a fish on.  But how big was the fish to give the impression that I had a snag?  Convinced that it was a fish and not a snag I spent the next twenty minutes reeling up on the line with the drag set almost as tight as it would go but not being able to budge the said fish at all.  At this point I was now convinced that it was a snag so once again I grabbed onto the line with my hand and started to pull up.  Once again the line started to thump in my hand and I could definitely feel a head shake from what I was once again convinced was a fish.  So once again I let go of the line and spent another twenty minutes fruitlessly trying to reel in what I thought must be the monster fish ever to be hooked in Algonquin Park.  Once again after another failed attempt to bring the ‘fish’ to the surface I was once again convinced that it was a snag, or maybe it was a fish.  Either way I decided my rod and reel couldn’t do the job so I felt sheer brute force would bring the said monster to the surface.  Putting my rod down I once again grabbed onto the line and lifted upward with all my might to bring the leviathan to the surface.  The struggle between man and “fish” ended with the line snapping and us never knowing what was really on the end of it.  My only logical conclusion was that I had hooked into a Lake Trout and when it ran it got caught around a submerged stump or tree, giving me both the sensation that I did have a snag and a fish on.  But we will never know and I like to think that there is a monster Lake Trout somewhere in the depths of Carl Wilson Lake.

The 1070m portage from Carl Wilson to Little Cauchon Lake is a gently sloping flat, wide trail that I imagined at one point must have been a road used in the old logging days as there is the remains of an old log chute in the river that flows between the two lakes.

A short paddle across the lake took us under an old railway bridge and to the 130m portage into Laurel Lake.  The portage ends near a picturesque waterfall flowing out of Little Cauchon.  Laurel is a nice little lake but the campsites are mediocre at best and there is still evidence on the north shore of the blow down from a huge wind storm back in the early 90’s.

Rather than go directly from Laurel we decided to head into Hurdman Lake and then into Aura Lee as I had not gone into Aura Lee from that direction before.  Although the four portages from Laurel through Hurdman and into Aura Lee are all low maintenance they weren’t any problem at all.  The 130m portage brought us out across from a nice site on Hurdman that didn’t appear on our map but does on the current version of the canoe route map for the Park.  A quick jaunt around the corner brought us to a 10m portage around a small set of rapids which we ran but in lower water would definitely have to be tracked down or gear carried around.  There were a few more obstacles at the 45m portage and it was actually quicker for us to lift the canoe over the portage than it would have to tried and navigate down the rapids.

The last portage on the little river into Aura Lee is 180m but given the high water conditions we were able to sail right down the last stretch of river into the lake.  There were some large boulders under the surface of the water which I imagine would have created some good rapids as the water level decreased as the season progressed making doing the portage a necessity and not an option.

Once out into Aura Lee we noticed a motor boat that was beached at the portage from Aura Lee into Laurel Lake which shouldn’t have been there as there are no motor boats allowed on Aura Lee, Little Cedar is as far as you can go. 

The paddle down Aura Lee was pleasant in the warmth of the late afternoon sun and soon we had returned to our boat beached at the portage from Little Cedar to Bug Lake.  While the day had been fruitless from a fishing standpoint, it had been quite a pleasurable day paddling. 

While the wind had been moderate to slight on the lakes away from Cedar,  it was once again howling down the big lake.  It seemed even stronger than on our first day and picked up in intensity at the eastern end of the lake.   As we approached our site there were a couple of times where a large wave almost came over the back of the boat forcing us to slow our pace to keep from getting swamped.

The wind did subside after dinner so once again we headed out to try our luck.  We had mainly been fishing the northeast end of the lake and over the past few days had seen a few boats fishing the southeast part so this evening that’s where we decided to fish.  It wasn’t long before we were rewarded.  Our first pass around a little island I hooked into a good size laker.  A few more passes around failed to yield similar results and with the light of the day rapidly disappearing we headed back to camp for our last night.

Nice Lake Trout, Cedar Lake.

Sunday, May 8th – Day 5

A clear blue sky and no wind greeted us on our last morning.  We had breakfast and broke camp in good time.  Before heading out we headed over to get a few more pictures and video of the eagle nesting for the Park records. 
With boat and canoe once again loaded we headed up the lake back to the access point.  Surprisingly the wind hadn’t whipped up into a frenzy today making for an easy journey.

Once the truck was loaded up we drove to check out the new Deputy Ranger Cabin which is located beside the larger Brent Ranger Cabin.  The larger cabin was unlocked so we checked it out.  It has four bedrooms, can sleep ten, has a stone fireplace in the living room and a fridge and gas stove in the kitchen and a covered porch with a great view of the lake.  The Deputy Ranger Cabin is much smaller.  It was locked but peering through the window we could see that it’s an open room concept with one bunk that can sleep one on top and two below.  There is no fireplace but the cabin does have a propane heater.  There is no fridge or stove but there is an outdoor kitchen with a double burner propane cook top and a bbq. 

Brent Ranger Cabin, Cedar Lake.
Brent Deputy Ranger Cabin, Cedar Lake.
After our look around we headed out, stopping briefly to chat with Jake Pigeon outside the Brent Store before being on our way.  Another fishing trip had drawn to a close.  While the fishing wasn’t great, the trip and experience with Dad was as excellent as usual.