Touchdown Miminiska!

by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – Oct/Nov 2016

Each year, we get better at flying to Canada and the procedures of flying across the border get easier and easier.

Last year, we had our first Cirrus join us, flown by former U.S. Navy Top Gun pilot, Gary Black of Cirrus Aircraft, Duluth, Minn. How do you beat that? By introducing other pilots to the wonders of flying in the Canadian outdoors, that’s how.

The trip began on Sunday, August 7, 2016, with a flight to Longville, Minnesota (KXVG), just north of Brainerd, for the airport’s annual fly-in breakfast. In part I wanted to prove to myself that I could land and takeoff at Longville on the same day, but I also wanted to show my appreciation for the airport’s wonderful hospitality when Peggy and I got stranded with a bad mag en route to Churchill, Manitoba in 2015. Our stop at Longville this year was the beginning of our “First Annual Friendship Tour To Canada.”

Downtown Longville is one block from the airport and features a couple of restaurants including Patrick’s Fine Dining (218-363-2995). If the airport courtesy car is available, you can drive a few miles east of Longville and enjoy a meal at the Anchorage Inn (218-363-2236). Common Grounds of Longville is a coffee shop (218-363-2292), and Frosty’s is the place to go for pizza and ice cream (218-363-2299). Ridgewood Golf Course also has a restaurant (218- 363-2444), and there’s a casino 25 miles away in Walker.

I urge anyone flying to Longville to call ahead to check on the days and hours each restaurant is open, which can vary depending on the day of the week and season. Also check on the availability of the airport courtesy car by calling or emailing Steve Shallbetter at 218-821-0779 (steveshallbetter@msn.com).

Longville Municipal Airport has a 3549 X 75 ft. paved runway. All proceeds from the fly-in go to support the community through the Longville Chamber of Commerce.

To learn more about the water sports and winter recreation available in Longville, go to www.longville.com.

Following breakfast, I and fellow pilots Pete, Phil and Mark, departed Longville for Thunder Bay, Ontario (CYQT), where we stayed at the beautiful Valhalla Inn, located adjacent to the airport. By arriving a day early, we could get an early start the next morning to Miminiska Lodge (CPS5), our final destination.

Miminiska Lodge is located 196 nm northeast of Thunder Bay and offers some of the best fishing I have ever experienced in Canada. Its remoteness and private airstrip, 62 miles from any roads, makes Miminiska Lodge especially appealing to aviators and outdoor enthusiasts.

We departed Thunder Bay on Monday, August 8, 2016 with the fastest aircraft in the lead, spacing ourselves 5 to 10 miles apart. We stayed in radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz, and the weather could not have been better!

Any pilot flying 25 nm beyond their departure point is required by Transport Canada to file a “flight plan,” unless a “flight itinerary” is filed with a responsible person who has agreed to notify air search and rescue if their aircraft is overdue.

This year, all pilots in our group called the Wilderness North office in Thunder Bay and filed a flight itinerary with management just prior to departing Thunder Bay, and between the office and the lodge, they kept track of us. Upon our arrival at Miminiska Lodge, the manager notified the Wilderness North office via email that we had arrived safely.

The problem with the flight itinerary is that if we don’t show up, Winnipeg Flight Service will not initiate air search and rescue. That responsibility would fall on the shoulders of Wilderness North. So this year we experimented with contacting Winnipeg Flight Service from the air upon our arrival at Miminiska, and found that if we were at least 5000 feet MSL, we could communicate with Winnipeg to cancel our flight plans. Of course the best method to cancel a flight plan is to carry a satellite telephone and cancel on the ground upon your arrival.

The two remote communications outlets in the vicinity of Miminiska Lodge to contact Winnipeg Flight Service are at Pickle Lake (CYPL), 62 nm to the west on 123.475 Mhz, and at Lansdowne House (CYLH), 43 nm to the northeast on 123.375 Mhz. We were able to reach Winnipeg Radio at Pickle Lake, but not at Lansdowne House.

If all else fails, Internet and Skype are also available at the lodge.

After a final check for winds, we made our traffic announcements and touched down at Miminiska Lodge, where we were greeted by their friendly staff that helped us with our gear.

Once settled into our cabins, we had lunch, then rigged our rods for a half-day of fishing, compliments of Mimimiska Lodge. Yes, lunch and the first half-day of fishing is part of our special group package!

Miminiska Lodge, Ontario

Miminiska Lodge is Wilderness North’s premier American plan lodge and one of Ontario, Canada’s most respected full-service fishing destinations.

Located on the Albany River Watershed in northwest Ontario, and miles away from the nearest road, Miminiska Lodge offers guests the opportunity to experience the raw beauty of pristine boreal wilderness. Northern Pike and Walleye are caught in abundance.

Water levels this year were 18-24 inches lower than usual, but the fishing was the best ever in the 10 years we have been flying there. Mark Peterson of Oregon, Wisconsin caught the largest Northern at 42 inches, and the largest Walleyes were 24 inches in length, caught by both Peterson and Greg Stratz of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. We are only allowed to keep Northerns under 27 inches in length, and Walleyes under 18 inches, to preserve the quality fishing at Miminiska Lodge. Anything larger is generally not good eating, anyhow.

Miminiska Lodge has 16 ft. Lund boats with 25 hp Yamaha 4-stroke, electric start motors and fish finders. The main lodge has WI-FI Internet, full bar, sauna, billiards, and satellite television. And for those brave enough to go swimming in the brisk, cold waters, I say go ahead!

Meals are professionally prepared and were superb, whether in the lodge or on “Shore Lunch Island.”

We woke up each morning with a gentle tap on our cabin door and a fresh pot of coffee. Evening receptions were complimentary!

Our Flight Home

Those of us who went on the 3-night/2-day trip departed at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 11, 2016 and flew to Pickle Lake, Ontario (CYPL) for fuel – 62 nm west of the lodge. Those who chose the 5-night/4-day trip filed IFR via the Internet and flew direct to their chosen U.S. airport of entry on Saturday, August 13.

Upon our arrival at Pickle Lake, which is the largest airport in northern Ontario, and one used extensively by cargo haulers to fly to native Canadian villages throughout the province, we changed our original eAPIS Flight Manifests with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fly to International Falls, Minnesota, instead of to Duluth to clear U.S. Customs. The weather in Duluth was reporting ceilings as low as 200 feet and fog and mist on the east end of the airport, and 2000 feet and good visibility on the west end, while International Falls was reporting scattered clouds, no rain and 10-plus miles visibility.

Prior to departing Pickle Lake, we filed our flight plans with Winnipeg Flight Service, and called U.S. Customs at International Falls to confirm our ETAs. The weather was good enough that we could have flown the 212 nm between Pickle Lake and International Falls VFR, but chose instead to file IFR for greater convenience and advisories. Once we got 170 nm north of International Falls, Winnipeg Center was able to pick us up on radar at 7,000. Again, all aircraft in our group maintained radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz.

Upon reaching the Canada/U.S. border, Winnipeg Center handed us over to Minneapolis Center, and since we were on instrument flight plans, we already had transponder squawk codes as required to cross the border. Had we flown VFR, we would have had to contact Minneapolis Center or Lockheed Flight Service to get a transponder code prior to crossing the border.

There has been hearsay over the years of pilots who have not contacted either Canada or U.S. Customs at their airport of entry, and others who have not gotten a transponder code before crossing the border. Some may have forgotten… Others have just not followed proper procedures, thinking it does not matter. Especially in these times of post 9-11, and with the highly sophisticated drones flying our nation’s borders by Homeland Security, there is no excuse not to follow correct procedures.

Beginning in 2015, U.S. Customs officials at the airports of entry I have used have requested everyone’s passports, the aircraft registration certificate, and the pilot’s pilot and medical certificates. Prior to this, they never used to request the pilot’s medical certificate.

The nice thing about landing at an airport of entry that has a Customs office right on the field is that you can depend on officials always being there, and you are not inconveniencing anyone if you have to change your airport of entry as we did. Otherwise, if you land in Ely, Minnesota, for instance, which is also an official airport of entry, the border agents have to drive from International Falls to meet you. Had we filed to clear at Ely and had to change our airport of entry at the last minute (at least 1 hour notification is required for U.S. Customs, and 2 hours for Canada Customs), a border agent would have made the trip for nothing. Both Duluth and International Falls have Customs offices at the airport. To learn more, I encourage you to go on our trip and get a copy of my personal trip-planning checklist.

Thor Einarson and his staff at Einarson Flying Service at Falls International-Einarson Field (KINL) completed our “First Annual Friendship Tour To Canada” when they greeted us upon our arrival. We knew we were back in civilization when Thor offered to go to Subway Sandwich and pick up lunch. Thank you, Thor!

Canadian Fishing Fly-Out 2017
Whether on wheels or floats, this Canadian fishing trip is for you!

For 2017, pilots and their passengers will again have their choice of two trips at very reasonable rates: 3-Night/2-Day Trip, August 7 – 10, or 5-Night/4-Day Trip, August 7 – 12.

For special group rates and details, email info@MidwestFlyer.com.

For reservations, contact Lynette Mish at Wilderness North toll free: 1-888-465-3474 (www.wildernessnorth.com).

The Canadian Fishing Fly-Out To Miminiska Lodge is a service of Wilderness North. Neither Midwest Flyer Magazine, Flyer Publications, Inc., nor their staffs and owners, or anyone else affiliated with the magazine, assume any responsibility for the reliance upon the information contained herein or elsewhere, or liability for anyone’s participation on the trips or for the trips themselves.

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