Lake Athabasca Fishing
Canada is one of the best places on Earth for freshwater fishing. This huge country is filled with countless lakes, streams, and rivers, all teeming with thousands of varieties of fish (and it is scenically beautiful to boot). That’s why, if you’re considering going on a fishing expedition anytime soon, you’ll want to consider this gem of a country.
In particular, you’ll want to consider heading out to Lake Athabasca. The lake, which straddles northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan, offers amazing views in addition to its plentiful variety of freshwater fish. Roughly 70% of the lake is located in the Saskatchewan province with the remaining 30% in Alberta. It is the largest and deepest lake in both provinces and the 8th largest overall in Canada.
The lake is approximately 300 km (186 miles) long and 50 km (31 miles) wide (at its widest point), and is considered to be one of the best places for fishing in North America, as much for of its size and its plentiful fish life as for its beauty and breathtaking, panoramic views.
Because of the lake’s remoteness and lack of roads, this is pretty much a fly-in fishing location. There are, however, several fishing lodges on the lake, which make it possible to both get the most out of your fishing trip and also enjoy the natural wonders the area has to offer, making it the perfect fishing vacation destination.
Species of Fish in the Lake
Athabasca is an amazing place to fish in part because of the many species of fish that live here. It’s home to chub of all kinds, lake trout, northern pike, tippets, and longnose dace, in addition to Arctic graylings, Giant Clouser minnows, walleyes, burbot, mountain whitefish, and goldeye. There’s no doubt that you’ll catch plenty of fish if you spend some time on the lake, what with the dozens of species that live here.
Some of the fish species that live here have a tendency of growing to rather large sizes, unlike their counterparts in other lakes. Northern pike catches of 20-plus lbs and over 50 inches are not at all uncommon here.
Lake Athabasca has long been known as a trophy lake trout destination. Due to its massive size and depths exceeding 120 m (400 ft.) it has been known to produce some truly big lakers, many weighing 30-40 lbs pounds and some over 50 lbs. The largest lake trout pulled out of its waters was a 102 lb specimen caught by commercial fishermen in 1961 using a gillnet. Though not caught on rod and reel, that is still an impressive catch.
Be Prepared: Gear and Bait
If you want to fish this lake successfully, then some gear will naturally be more effective than others. For example, because of the size of the fish in the lake, you’ll want to use a rod with good backbone and a spinning or baitcasting reel with sufficient drag power to put the brakes on big fish. You can bring your own gear if you like, but most fly-in fishing lodges will also have tackle you can rent or buy.
Light to medium test Monofilament line should be fine for grayling and pike, but for lake trout, braided line in the 30-50 lb range is best.
Make sure that your lure, bait, and bobbers match the weight of the rod for good balance. Also note that large, colorful bobbers are a great choice as well since the fish will need to be able to see them before they move in closer, which can be more difficult in a larger lake.
Consider that natural bait, especially live bait, may often be more effective than artificial lures. They are similar to what fish will see in their natural habitat, and as such, they will be more likely to strike. After all, no artificial bait can quite match the texture or odor of the real thing. Live bait is especially important if you’re trying to catch large fish, which won’t be fooled by artificial bait. If you do choose to use artificial bait, look for those pieces which are as realistic as possible.
Techniques for Athabasca
Along the same lines, some techniques will be more efficient for fishing in Lake Athabasca. Of particular note is the fact that many fish will live near underwater plants. This is because the plants create oxygen in the water, which the fish prefer. Moving water over rocks or other structure will also help add oxygen to the water, so you can often find more fish in areas where there is water moving over rocks.
Furthermore, many of the fish species that live here—such as northern pike and trout—prefer to live and spend time near structure. This term refers to those changes, found at the bottom of the lake, which are caused by humps, ledges, downed trees, drop-off, grass beds, stump fields, logs, and piles of rocks and so on.
That’s why, if you find examples of structure like these in the lake, you’ll most likely also find fish around. The fish use these structures both as protection as well as a means for ambushing their prey.
Lake Athabasca is a freshwater lake, which means that it’s compatible with most modes of freshwater fishing. In particular, still fishing, flipping and pitching, and fly fishing are especially effective.
Still fishing from a boat or kayak, and waiting for the fish to strike at your lure or bait is a more relaxed way of fishing this lake, you can still catch plenty of fish if you can find in the right spot.
Ice Fishing Lake Athabasca
Lake Athabasca is also a popular ice fishing location in the winter months. Not only is it fun and challenging, but it’s also an effective way of catching some nice fish on the lake. Ice fishing is available as an activity at some fishing lodges on the lake.
If you like winter fishing, this lake is a treat. There are various species of fish under the ice such as big lakers, pike, and walleye, during the winter. In addition, you can also catch yellow perch, brown trout, and rainbow trout. Large streamer flies work great for these fish.
During the winter, the lake is crystal-clear, allowing you to easily see the abundant fish, and especially the trout, that live here. Because of this, ice fishing in the winter is easier in Athabasca than many other locations. Some lucky anglers have even managed to find the elusive bull trout in the lake during winter.
However, remember that it can be slower to get started if you’re ice fishing, so you’ll have to plan for more time if you want to fish here in the cold months. That being said, once you catch the fish, the results are definitely worth it.
If you are unfamiliar with the lake or ice fishing, hiring a local guide for your day out on the ice could prove to be money well spent.
Perfect Destination for Lake Fishing
At the end of the day, Lake Athabasca is an amazing place to fish with friends, family, or all by yourself. But if exciting days of fishing are not enough for you, there’s more to enjoy in this beautiful, remote place. You could explore the unspoiled natural landscape by foot, watercraft or even by air by if your lodge offers (as some do) sightseeing flight tours of the area.
But if you would rather just relax after a great day of fishing, perhaps sitting by a warm campfire under the Canadian night sky with friends or family may just cap off a memorable adventure. And who knows, you may even get a glimpse of the spectacular northern lights if you’re lucky enough.
If you are planning a freshwater fishing trip or vacation to Canada, you may want to consider Lake Athabasca. It might just become your new favorite fishing location.