Chasing Lake Superior adventure

by Jerry Darkes | May 17, 2022
Jerry Darkes on a Superior adventure

It was good to be back on Lake Superior chasing coaster brook trout. The sun was up and the winds were down. After a hearty breakfast provided by our hosts at Bowman Island Lodge, it was time to head out on the water for the day.

“Let’s check out the bay right before the big point. I haven’t fished there before,” I said to my friend Mark. He and his son, Wyatt, were travelling with me in one of the lodge’s larger boats, a 17-foot Lund with a 35-hp motor. After a 15-minute run, we approached the bay and slowed down. With the shallows in sight, I put the motor in neutral and let the breeze push us closer. “I like what I see,” I said.

Hiding in clear water

A series of rocky ledges was visible under the surface, with deep water in between. The area resembled a giant hand with the shallower rocks as fingers. There was plenty of broken-up rock and rubble stepping down into the clear water, perfect cover for coaster brook trout.

Using a combination of wind and putting the boat in and out of gear, we cast streamers along the rocky edges. Two of us fished while one controlled the boat. The next three hours were magical. It seemed every bit of shadow held coasters that would just materialize out of the clear water. We used eight-weight outfits with sink-tip lines, and rabbit-strip flies with deer-hair heads.

The line takes the fly into the fish zone but these flies have buoyancy and rarely hang up. Some brook trout took the fly as soon as it hit the surface, while others would follow for a bit, then strike with a rush. We had numerous doubles and it seemed someone had a fish on at all times. Most were in the 18- to 20-inch range, with the biggest taping 22 inches — the best brook trout fishing I had ever experienced.

Coasters and more

Fishing on Lake Superior

This was my fifth late-May trip to Bowman Island, a smaller island off the main St. Ignace Island cluster. My love of big-water fly fishing and interest in brook trout is what keeps me coming back. This area was a final stronghold of these unique fish that were nearly pushed to extinction in the late 20th century. Thankfully, special protective measures in Lake Superior and its tributaries have allowed steady growth in coaster populations.

I’ve noticed an increase in their numbers every year, with the mix of sizes improving, too. Lake trout are also common and can be found along the shoreline and on shoals close to the island. Some of our group targeted lakers part of the time and caught numerous fish up to 10 pounds, trolling and casting Williams Wablers and Little Cleo spoons. Rogue lakers also hit flies while we cast for the big-lake brookies.

Another boat targeting coasters found pike cruising the shoreline. After changing to a large feather streamer and adding a wire bite tippet on a heavy leader, that boat of anglers quietly stalked the pike to within casting distance. The largest fish inhaled the fly, and after a lengthy battle, a trophy 50-inch northern was photographed and released.

Several small rivers come off St. Ignace Island close to the lodge. Working baitfish patterns, where the tannic river water and clear lake water intermix resulted in a number of coasters, along with rainbows up to 28-inches. There is also a hike-in lake on St. Ignace that’s loaded with pike and easily accessible from the lodge.

Bright future

Gary Lange has owned Bowman Island Lodge for nearly 20 years. He continues to make upgrades to the property, which is now almost entirely solar powered. The lodge is protected from all but the strongest winds, so a fishing day is rarely lost to weather. The lodge is situated on a remote stretch of Lake Superior shoreline and no further development is expected. The lodge’s perfect combination of spectacular scenery and exceptional fishing seems destined to carry on and improve well into the future.

A Superior adventure map

Accommodations: Three double-to-triple-occupancy rooms in the main lodge and a separate cabin for up to four with a main indoor bathroom and separate sauna/shower room.

Cost: $300 per person per day, self-guided. Includes water taxi to lodge, accommodations, all meals, boat, motor, and fuel. Guided fishing can be arranged.

Contact: Call Gary Lange at Bowman Island Lodge, at 807-886-2504.
You can also email Gary Lange here or visit his website here.

Originally published in the May 2019 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine

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