by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2017/January 2018 issue
When I started flying to Canada on fishing trips in 1981, we navigated by dead reckoning, sectional charts, and Automatic Directional Finders (ADFs) using Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs) and commercial radio station frequencies. Seldom were we within range of a VOR. Today, I use GPS (Global Positioning System), but I still carry a set of sectional charts as a backup and still have an ADF. This year we added ADS–B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast), and keeping track of everyone on our flight from Thunder Bay (CYQT) to Miminiska Lodge, Ontario (CPS5), was much easier.
Our group trip to Miminiska Lodge, Ontario (CPS5) this year began on Sunday, August 6, 2017, with pilots flying direct from their home bases to Thunder Bay International Airport (CYQT) to clear Canada Customs. We arrived by 3:00 pm, and parked at Maintair Aviation, the Shell dealer on the field, which is the only general aviation operator at Thunder Bay that sells 100LL.
Prior to departing the U.S., we called Canada Customs as required with our ETAs to Thunder Bay, using the 1-888-CAN-PASS system. Upon our arrival, Canada Border Services (CBS) officers did not meet us, which is not uncommon. In these circumstances, the pilot-in-command may get out of his aircraft and go inside the fixed base operator and clear customs over the telephone by again calling 1-888-CAN-PASS. Thanks to cell phone technology and extended coverages, I simply called Canada Customs while standing by my aircraft, and once I received a Clearance Report Number from CBS, I and my passenger were cleared, and he too could get out of the aircraft. I recommend to always get the badge number whenever you speak with a Canada or U.S. Customs officer, and note the date and time you contacted them, so there can never be any doubt you notified them and received clearance to be in the country.
Remember, too, that neither the pilot-in-command, nor passengers, may get out of the aircraft when they return to the U.S., until they are met by a Custom’s officer, and he gives them the okay.
Once we cleared Canada Customs, and fueled and tied down our aircraft, we called the Valhalla Inn for a shuttle.
While we could fly all the way to Miminiska Lodge in the same day, located 196 nm north of Thunder Bay, we wouldn’t arrive until late in the day. Instead, by flying to Thunder Bay a day before arriving at Miminiska Lodge, we get an early start the next morning and arrive before 12:00 noon, in time for lunch and a half-day of fishing, complements of the lodge.
There are very few Canada fishing lodges that have their own airstrip, and fewer as remote as Miminiska, 62 nm from any roads. This makes Miminiska Lodge especially appealing to pilots and true outdoorsmen.
We departed Thunder Bay on Monday, August 7, 2017 with the fastest aircraft in the lead, spacing ourselves at least 10 miles apart. We stayed in radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz, and the weather cooperated, so we could maintain any altitude. About every 50 nm or so, we had roll call, recording each other’s altitude, groundspeed and ETA to “MIM,” but again, all but one aircraft in our group was equipped with ADS-B in and out, so we all knew each other’s position all of the time by looking at our GPS nav/coms, iPads or both.
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 again 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 knew we were enroute. Upon our arrival at Miminiska Lodge, the manager notified the Wilderness North office via email that we had arrived.
The problem with a flight itinerary is that if we don’t show up, Winnipeg Flight Service will not initiate air search and rescue, because they would not have a flight plan for us. That responsibility would fall on the shoulders of Wilderness North. So, while radio communications in remote regions of Canada can be a little iffy, we have had success now two years in a row in reaching Winnipeg Flight Service at Miminiska if at least 5000 feet MSL or higher, so filing and canceling a flight plan is an option. Of course, the best way to cancel a flight plan is to have a satellite telephone and cancel on the ground upon your arrival.
The two remote communications outlets (RCOs) 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. We can also try reaching Thunder Bay Radio (FSS) at Pickle Lake on a different frequency. Refer to the Canada Flight Supplement for procedures and frequencies.
If all else fails, Internet and Skype are also available at the lodge, and while we cannot cancel a flight plan with Winnipeg Flight Service via email, pilots can email the Wilderness North office and staff can call Winnipeg and cancel their flight plans for them.
After a final check for winds using the windsock on the sand point in front of the lodge (sponsored by our friends at PilotMall.com), we made our traffic announcements and touched down on Runway 27 at Miminiska Lodge, where we were greeted by lodge managers, Kate and Brian, and their staff, who took our gear to our cabins.
Once settled into our cabins, we had lunch and were briefed by Kate and Brian about all things good, then rigged our tackle for a half day of fishing. The opening reception was held at 5:00 pm and dinner was served at 6:00 pm.
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 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. Brook Trout can be caught at the mouth of the Albany River.
This was the first year we had a “floatplane” join our group, which was flown by Paul Durand of Star Prairie, Wisconsin. Paul flew his Super Cub on amphibious floats, first landing on the water and beaching on the sand shore, then on the airstrip to tie down.
Guests are only allowed to keep Northern Pike under 27 inches in length, and Walleyes under 18 inches, to preserve the quality fishing.
Miminiska has 16 ft. Lund boats with 25 hp Yamaha 4-stroke, electric start motors and fish finders. In the lodge, you will find Wi-Fi Internet, a full bar, pool table, and satellite television. There is also a sauna by the lake, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards.
Meals are professionally prepared and were superb, whether in the lodge or at “Shore Lunch Island.” We even had a birthday party for longtime participant, Phil Peterson of Oregon, Wisconsin.
Our Flight Home
Guests have their choice of either a 3-night/2-day trip, or a 5-night/4-day trip, so our departure days varied somewhat, as did our routes of flight going home. Most pilots opted to fly to Pickle Lake, Ontario (CYPL) for fuel. The pilots with Bonanzas, a Piper Malibu and the light twin filed IFR via the Internet and flew direct to their airports of entry in the U.S.
Not only did we welcome some newcomers on the trip, but the pilots and passengers of two other aircraft who had read about Miminiska Lodge in Midwest Flyer Magazine, showed up on their own, and want to officially join our group in 2018.
Upon our arrival at Pickle Lake, we called U.S. Customs at Duluth, Minnesota, to change our airport of entry to International Falls, Minnesota (KINL), due to fog in Duluth. We then called U.S. Customs at International Falls to confirm our ETAs. The U.S. Customs officers at both airports were extremely professional, polite and accommodating.
It is 212 nm between Pickle Lake and International Falls, and we had the option of filing either VFR or IFR. If you file IFR, Winnipeg Center can pick you up on radar 170 nm north of International Falls at 7,000 feet and above. Again, all aircraft in our group maintained radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz and we tracked each other using ADS-B.
If you are on an instrument flight plan, you already have a transponder code which is required of all aircraft to cross the border. Otherwise, you need to get a transponder code from either Minneapolis Center or Princeton Flight Service. You also need to be talking to either Center or Flight Service as you cross the border.
Upon our arrival at International Falls, the U.S. Customs officer met us promptly at our aircraft, and checked our passports, pilot certificates and medicals. Unlike some of the other airports of entry along the border, both International Falls and Duluth have U.S. Customs offices at the airport, so you know that an officer will be there upon your arrival. Some of the other airports of entry along the border, do not have that luxury.
Thor Einarson and his staff at Einarson Flying Service at Falls International-Einarson Field greeted us upon our arrival and offered us a courtesy car if we wanted to go into town for lunch. Thanks to the staff at Miminiska Lodge, who packed each of us a lunch, the courtesy car was not needed.
Canada Fishing Fly-Out 2018
The 2018 Canada Fishing Fly-Out to Miminiska Lodge will be held the week of August 9 – 15, with three trips being offered:
TRIP #1: (3-Night/2-Day Trip): August 9 – 12, 2018. Arrive at Miminiska Lodge on Thursday, August 9th, and depart on Sunday, August 12th.
TRIP #2: (3-Night/2-Day Trip): August 12 – 15, 2018. Arrive at Miminiska Lodge on Sunday, August 12th, and depart on Wednesday, August 15th.
TRIP #3: (5-Night/4-Day Trip): August 9 – 14, 2018. Arrive at Miminiska Lodge on Thursday, August 9th, and depart on Tuesday, August 14th.
For rates, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For reservations, call Lynette Mish at Wilderness North toll free at 1-888-465-3474.
Aircraft parking is limited to the first 10 aircraft that register.
Some people go on this trip for the fishing, and others for the adventure of the flight, but most go for the total experience! And whether on wheels or floats, this Canada fishing trip is for you!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Canada 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 trip or for the trip itself.