One Angler’s Recap of Muskie School at Canada’s Temple Bay Lodge
Recently I had the pleasure of participating in the week long Muskie School at Temple Bay Lodge on Eagle Lake in Ontario, Canada. I have been a muskie fisherman ever since my father taught me over 30 years ago. I have fished the muskie lakes of Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I have never had the pleasure of taking a trip to a Canadian lake until now. It’s been said that going to Canada is like a religious experience for muskie fisherman. I can confirm that sentiment.
The school is organized and hosted by Jay Garstecki (www.jaygarstecki.com), a fisherman with over 30 year’s experience. He runs the Reel Lunker Guide Service on lakes in southern Wisconsin targeting muskie, largemouth bass and walleye. Garstecki prides himself on not only catching fish on his guided trips, but also with providing a Grade A educational fishing experience. Jay Garstecki is also the founder of Take a Vet Fishing. This great organization holds fishing outings and trips for active and retired US Military Veterans. The organization looks not to only show these heroes gratitude and shake their hand, but puts a fishing rod in their hand to ease their minds. Funds donated to the organization assist with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) support, gifts, food and drink, hotel rooms, raffle prizes, cash donations, etc. Several participates of the Take a Vet Fishing organization attended the muskie school week.
Temple Bay Lodge is a world-class full service resort. The cabins are single beds (Queen beds for couples), carpeted, and offer refrigerators, fully modern washrooms and air conditioning. The quality of the food, and service are first rate. You can tell the whole staff takes pride in what they do. Not only will you want to return for the fishing and hospitality, but also the friendship.
The Temple Bay Lodge Muskie School is an all-inclusive trip. You pay one price and everything is taken care for you. It really is worry-free. The transportation to the Lodge is handled through their own personal bus the Temple Bay Lodge Canadian Express. The bus picks up in several locations in Chicago, Milwaukee, and in Madison, WI. Your luggage and tackle equipment are loaded onto the bus and you’re off. You just sit back, relax, and get some shut eye overnight all the way up to the lodge.
We arrived early on a Sunday morning at about 6:30am. The staff unloaded the bus and had everyone checked into their cabins promptly so we had time to unpack and prepare our poles for the day of fishing. From there we met in the dining area for a quick breakfast. Then, we were on the water by 8:30am with our guide for the first of 6 days of world-class muskie fishing.
The scenery of Eagle Lake cannot be overstated. The lake is nestled in the deep woods of northwestern Ontario about 125 miles north of International Falls, MN. The beauty of the endless trees and rocks is just magnificent. This secluded wilderness features the best in muskie, northern, walleye, and smallmouth bass fishing.
Through the muskie school you will have guided service from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. through Tuesday-Thursday, and Friday 7 a.m.- 3 p.m. My partner and I were paired with Matt Micek, one of the many knowledgeable guides on the Temple Bay staff. Micek uses the same approach as the Muskie School where he puts you on trophy muskie, and then educates you on why the muskie is there in regards to time of day that you are fishing, weather conditions, structure, lure selection, and much more. A muskie fisherman is always learning.
At the conclusion of each day the participants in the school met at the lodge to discuss and analyze the fishing throughout the day. Garstecki passionately leads the group discussion on how many fish were caught, their sizes, the number of follows, lures used, structure, moon phases, and the weather conditions throughout the day. The goal is to find a pattern the fish were following throughout the day and the week. A whiteboard and even spreadsheets were utilized to analyze the data.
During this time, we played games and participated in raffles for new lures. After the school meeting we all headed to have a hearty dinner. After a long day of pounding the water, the dinners were exactly what a fisherman craves: ribs, steak, pork chops, roasted chicken, pork roast and lasagna. Truly something to look forward to at the end of the day. After dinner you are given the option of taking a boat out by yourself for more muskie fishing or any other kind of fish you desire to catch.
One adverse condition that the school was dealing with this year for the week of August 29th – September 5th was the extreme warm weather experienced for this time of year in Canada. One day made it to 90 degrees, the rest of the days were in the 80’s. This was extremely warm fall weather for Canada at this time of the year. Another issue we faced was the lack of clouds with the majority of the time being high blue skies. It also did not rain the entire week. Not ideal fall weather conditions for muskie fishing. Resulting from these conditions school participates experienced many follows, 72 in total, many had very lethargic behavior. To combat this many fishermen targeted muskies located in weeds. These fish in the weeds seemed to be hitting in a higher ratio in these areas instead of following. Also, trolling was used to combat the follows. My partner boated a muskie 34″ and I boated a 40.5″ trolling with these high sky conditions. On the lure pattern, all lures seem to be working. Fish were caught on bucktails, rubber, jerkbaits, crankbaits and surface lures. But, one pattern that was evident was the color of the lures that were working; black, gold and walleye were the successful colors. We also experienced clusters of follows and catches around the moon set, major, and minor times.
I had a truly remarkable experience on the trip. Eagle Lake is a world class muskie fishery and I experienced it firsthand. I had three legitimate chances at boating a 50 incher by bringing 3 monsters up to the boat with follows. One of the lunkers I had followed my bucktail for a total of 2-3 minutes – really exciting! For catching, I boated the mentioned 40.5″ trolling and caught a 38″ casting with 10 minutes left on the trip. For the entire week, 20 fish were caught by the group, the biggest being 52 inches.
I can’t recommend this trip and experience enough to the beginner or experienced muskie fisherman. Jay Garstecki and Temple Bay Lodge are running the muskie school next year September 3rd-10th & September 10th-17th, 2016. Contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 921-0760 for more information and to make a reservation.