Friday, July 3, 2009

Canoeing in Prince Albert NP


Just back from a wonderful canoe cum fishing trip in Canada’s Prince Albert National Park. We chose to make a circular trip through what is known as the Bagwa route. The sunset across the lake was reward in itself.

The trip involves a two-hour paddle across the western side of Kingsmere Lake, one of the largest in the park, a quiet trip for forty minutes or so up a shallow, weed-filled channel into Bagwa Lake and an overnight stop there after hopefully catching a supper’s worth of walleye, known more commonly as pickerel.

From here it was to be a short glide through Lily lake, a portage around the base of a slight rise, some more fishing (for Northern Pike, also known by several derogatory names such as slough shark and hammer handle in Claire and another portage, this time across a board walk over a swamp, back into Kingsmere and base camp at South End.

We had first done the trip over thirty years ago and it is a real pleasure to be able to relate that little has changed in the area over that longish gap. The campsites have improved, with much better places to put ones food, and no garbage. The bear-proof food caches are about 15 feet up on platforms that have metal-clad legs, to prevent sharp claws from getting a grip, and have ladders up to them that can be pulled away. I have never seen a bear climb a ladder, but you never know.

The first leg was a huge success. The wind, what there was of it, had no negative effect on the canoe. Kingsmere can be dangerous, turning from millpond to maelstrom in moments when strong winds blow, but we skimmed across and had the added bonus of landing three nice lake trout as we went. The Bagwa channel was gorgeous. The water lilies had just begun to open their buds and yellow balls dotted the water surface. There were mallards galore, lots of grebes, and small flotillas of pelicans sailing along. More pelicans planed down in tight formation to join them.

On that first trip we had sat on a beaver lodge and watched enthralled as a moose cow and her calf swam towards us. We only moved when it became obvious that she wanted to exit on the lodge that as our viewpoint and that there really was not enough room for both groups. She had turned aside and landed about thirty metres down from us, stopping briefly to take a disdainful look at us. This time there were no moose, but we did see three white-tailed deer, one of them a buck in velvet, walking along the lakeshore with a complete lack of concern.

There was one sour note, as a motorboat roared up the channel and into the lake, stopping for the night away from the official campsite. Bagwa, and even its entrance channel, are off limits to motors, and there can be no doubt that the people in the craft, tow men, were there to catch pickerel. If they had disregarded the motor rules, how many pickerel above their limit did they take out?

We forgot the intrusion as we fell asleep to the manic cries of loons and the cackling of grebes

The pickerel fishing was as good as we remembered and so we did not complete the round-trip, with its two portages, as we guessed that a paddle out back through the channel and across a slightly more windy Kingsmere. This proved to be a good choice as we caught the last trout on our permit and came home with a limit.

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