by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2018 issue
I am convinced that there is no better way to introduce a non-flyer to general aviation than to fly them to some special destination, especially one which is only accessible by air. And if the person is an outdoors enthusiast, such as a fisherman, what better place to take him than to a remote fishing lodge in Canada?
I contacted an old classmate of mine from the Twin Cities, Ken Lundquist, and being the fisherman enthusiast that he is, he was more than thrilled to sign up for this year’s Canada Fishing Fly-Out to Miminiska Lodge, Ontario, August 9-15, 2018.
Prior to takeoff from the Twin Cities, Ken and I donned our Revere life preservers, and I briefed him on emergency procedures, including what to do if we had to make a water landing, tools available to cut seat belts and break windows, and how to activate the onboard GPS Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) and my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Knowing that we would be on a flight plan, and that Canada has one of the best search and rescue systems in the world, was reassuring.
In Canada, pilots are required to file a flight plan if 25 miles beyond their departure airport, unless someone at their destination airport is expecting them, and can contact Winnipeg Flight Service (FSS) to initiate search and rescue if they do not show up within 1 hour of their estimated time of arrival (ETA). Ken and I actually did both – we filed a VFR flight plan from Thunder Bay to Pickle Lake, and contacted the Wilderness North office in Thunder Bay with our “Flight Itinerary.” They in turn notified Miminiska Lodge of our ETA to Pickle Lake, and from Pickle Lake to Miminiska. (See Transport Canada Regulations 602.73 thru 602.77.) Normally, we would have also flown with other members of our group, but schedule-wise, that did not work out for us this year, although it did for others in our group.
Months before the trip, I ordered and obtained my annual U.S. Customs & Border Protection aircraft decal online at https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov. Then just days before our trip, I filed our outbound (from U.S.) and inbound (from Canada) flight manifests using the U.S. Customs & Border Protection electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). To register, go to https://eapis.cbp.dhs.gov/. While this may sound complicated, it’s not, especially once you are registered and have gone through the process.
The night before our departure from the Twin Cities, I called Canada Customs at 888-CAN-PASS with our ETA to Thunder Bay International (CYQT) where we would clear Canada Customs. Canada Customs requires that pilots call them at least 2 hours in advance of their ETA, and no sooner than 48 hours in advance. U.S. Customs requires that pilots confirm their ETA to their airport of entry as filed on their flight manifest at least 1 hour prior to their ETA, or prior to departing the U.S. I then filed a flight plan to Thunder Bay, which is required to cross the border, and obtained a transponder squawk code from Minneapolis Center. If on a VFR flight plan, you can also get a squawk code from Lockheed Flight Service. In addition, pilots crossing the border must be on frequency with either flight service or center. The simplest way to fulfill all three requirements is by filing an instrument flight plan, because you already have a squawk code and are on frequency. When returning to the U.S. from Canada, pilots are to follow all steps noted above: be on a flight plan, obtain a squawk code, and be on frequency with either flight service or center.
Customs officials in both the U.S. and Canada will want to see your pilot certificate, medical certificate, and passport, as well as the passports of each crew member and passenger. Also, have your aircraft registration available should they ask for it, as well as a certificate of insurance proving liability coverage. When you speak with either the Canada Customs Officer or Agent, they will give you a “clearance report number,” but remember to also request their name and badge number to document who you spoke with or met. For the return flight back to the U.S., U.S. Customs will not give you a clearance report number, so be sure to get the name and badge number of the U.S. Customs Officer you meet with, as this will be the only proof you will have that you actually cleared customs.
Upon our arrival in Thunder Bay, Canada Border Services (CBS) officers were not there to meet and greet us, which is not uncommon. In these circumstances, the pilot-in-command may get out of his aircraft and go inside the fixed base operation to call 888-CAN-PASS to clear customs. Thanks to cell phones and extended coverages, I simply called Canada Border Services while standing by my aircraft, and once I received our clearance report number, we were both free to go inside the FBO. Remember that neither you as pilot-in-command – nor your passengers – may get out of your aircraft when you return to the U.S., until you are met by a customs officer, and he gives you the okay.
Once we cleared customs in Thunder Bay, the FBO topped us off and we filed a VFR flight plan to Pickle Lake, Ontario (CYPL), 188 nm north, for fuel before flying the scant 62 nm east to Miminiska Lodge.
Until this year, we always flew from Thunder Bay to Miminiska Lodge, then flew to Pickle Lake for fuel after our stay at the lodge, and also to call and confirm our ETA to our U.S. airport of entry, and to file our flight plans with Winnipeg Flight Service. But thanks to “Wi-Fi Calling” through Verizon, and the iPhone 6 or newer version iPhone, we were able to use the Wi-Fi system at Miminiska Lodge, and make our calls from there. If you have never used the Wi-Fi Calling feature on your iPhone, and Verizon is your mobile phone carrier, I encourage you to call Verizon at 800-922-0204 and have them assist you in setting it up. Also, be sure to shut down and reboot your iPhone once in Canada to ensure you get a good connection.
To keep Ken’s interest in the flight, I assigned him some responsibilities, like keeping track of our position using the Thunder Bay VFR Navigation Chart, and writing down every spoken word and frequency from air traffic control, and the time and position of other aircraft in our group. Of course, our primary means of navigation were our Garmin 430 WAAS GPS nav-coms and Foreflight on my iPad. Ken was amazed with the sophistication of the instruments on our 1976 Cessna 182P Skylane, and liked the ADS–B in and out feature of our Garmin GTX-345 transponder, providing both traffic and weather. Ken said that he had never experienced flight in a small airplane above a line of broken clouds and thought the view was spectacular! He also reminded me that the only other time he had flown in a small plane was when I took him flying in a Cessna 150, shortly after I got my private pilot certificate in 1971.
Very few Canada fishing lodges have their own airstrip, and fewer are as remote as Miminiska Lodge, located miles from any roads. This makes Miminiska Lodge especially appealing to pilots and true outdoorsmen.
When we were 5 nm south of Pickle Lake, we called Thunder Bay Radio at Pickle Lake (CYPL) on 122.2 as required for traffic advisories (5 NM 4300 ASL). Once on the ground, Thunder Bay Radio also closed our flight plan. Pickle Lake is a major cargo hub in northern Canada, and Thunder Bay Radio’s means of coordinating traffic remotely is not only efficient, but economical.
We departed Pickle Lake for Miminiska Lodge with our fuel tanks full. Based on the information contained in the Canada Flight Supplement, we used 2000 feet MSL as the pattern altitude at Miminiska, 122.8 Mhz as the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), and began making position announcements 5 nm out below 4000 MSL.
After a final check of the wind using the windsock on the sand point in front of the lodge, and the waves on the lake, we made our traffic announcements and touched down on Runway 27. Waiting for us to shut down and secure our aircraft were lodge managers, Kate Hutt and Brian Tabb, who transported our gear to our cabin. We met up with the rest of our group that evening in the lodge.
The lodge features a rustic dining room overlooking the lake, a lounge for kicking back and relaxing, a full bar and billiard room, Wi-Fi Internet, and a big screen satellite television. There is also a sauna by the lake, as well as canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards for your enjoyment.
Many of the pilots and their passengers in our group had been on the trip in past years, but joining us officially for the first time was a group of pilots from Cleveland, Ohio. They had heard about our trip through Midwest Flyer Magazine, then unofficially joined us in 2017, vowing to officially join us in 2018, which they did. We had such a good time this year that they plan to return in 2019.
Miminiska Lodge can accommodate up to 30 guests at a time, so after dinner the first night, we joined all of the tables together and welcomed all guests to join us, including some guests from Virginia and Tennessee. We were one happy group at the lodge for breakfast and dinner, and at our daily shore lunch on none other than “Shore Lunch Island.”
All meals are professionally prepared and were superb! To my pleasant surprise, one evening the lodge even served ice cream with apple cobbler for dessert, and there’s always a fresh pot of coffee delivered to your cabin each morning, and Thermoses for your boat. From the dining room to the docks, the staff at Miminiska Lodge is the best!
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.
There are three ways to effectively catch fish at Miminiska Lodge – trolling, jigging and casting.
Trolling crankbaits is a good way to cover ground and find concentrations of Walleye and Northern Pike. Good baits are #7 and #9 fire tiger and purple tiger Flicker Shads, neon yellow and orange Perch Pattern Shads, and orange and gold Rapala Shad Raps and similar crankbaits that run 8-12 ft. below the surface. Jointed Rapalas are good for shallower depths and attract both species.
Jigging over structure is a traditional way of catching Walleye and the unsuspecting Northern Pike. For jigging, we used 1/8th and 1/4-ounce jigs in a variety of colors with Mister Twister Tails in chartreuse or white. Jigs with any variety of artificial Gulp minnow, worm or leaches also work extremely well.
Casting copper or silver spoons in the bays is always effective for Northern Pike. Casting crank baits on a wind-blown shore is usually productive for Walleye.
None of us used any live bait, but it is available if ordered in advance. You cannot bring live bait into Canada from the U.S.
As for fishing rods, I take two rods and reels: one medium weight rod for Walleyes and one heavy weight rod for Northerns. If you don’t have a heavy weight rod, two medium weight rods will work, too. For transporting in small aircraft, I recommend rods that break down and are enclosed in a hard rod case. Ken went to Menards and bought some PVC tubing and made his own custom rod case which impressed the staff. He also made one of his rods.
The company that owns Miminiska Lodge, Wilderness North, takes care of getting fishing licenses and the Ontario Outdoors Card for guests, as well as any special beverages and provisions. Everything is waiting for you upon your arrival. And when you are ready to depart, any fish you caught to take home will be cleaned and frozen.
Guests are allowed to keep two fish of each species: Northern Pike under 27 inches in length, and Walleyes under 18 inches. This is a conservation policy which helps to maintain a superb fishery.
The lodge has 16 ft. Lund boats with brand new 25 hp Yamaha 4-stroke, electric start motors and fish finders.
Guides are available, but are not necessary. The lodge has a detailed map of the watershed showing where to catch each species of fish, but due to an increase in water temperature and a decrease in water level, that did not always hold true. We would be jigging for Walleyes and catch Northerns, and then casting with spoons for Northerns and catch Walleyes. But regardless, there was plenty of action for everyone and we never went hungry. And as Ken said, “if we don’t catch them here, we will just move over 6 feet,” and he was usually right.
Master angler, Greg Stratz of Fond du Lac, Wis., caught the largest Walleye at 25.5 inches, and I lucked out in catching the largest Northern Pike at 36-plus inches. Ken caught an almost identical Northern the day before, but the Walleye net we were using was too shallow to get the fish into the boat and it fell back into the water before we had a chance to measure it. At least it left the lure.
When we took a break from fishing, which wasn’t often, we would stop at various sites, such as an old mining camp, and Church Island, where there is a small church you can go inside and sign the guest book. Outside the church is the grave of the last native priest to have held services there.
Our Flight Home
Guests have their choice of either a 3-night/2-day trip, or a 5-night/4-day trip, so our arrival and departure days varied somewhat, as did our routes of flight going home. Most pilots chose to file instrument flight plans to either Duluth, Sault Ste Marie or Green Bay, although VFR flight plans are certainly acceptable.
Since Miminiska is 196 nm north of Thunder Bay, you have to climb to 10,000 feet MSL and be within 100 nm of the Canada/U.S. border before you can reach Winnipeg Center. However, your flight plan is activated automatically as per your proposed time of departure specified on your flight plan. To confirm our actual departure time, we contacted Winnipeg Flight Service shortly after takeoff once we reached altitude.
Ken and I flew direct to Duluth International (KDLH), 319 nm south, with our friends Pete Aarsvold and Ralph Benjamin in their C-182 departing ahead of us. Once we were airborne, we stayed in radio contact with one another on 122.75 Mhz.
After we cleared U.S. Customs, Ken and I flew direct to the Twin Cities, 124 nm further south where I dropped Ken off. I then flew back to my home airport near Madison, Wisconsin. Pete and Ralph flew from Duluth to Middleton Municipal Airport – Morey Field (C29) on the west side of Madison. The weather was great in Canada and northern Minnesota, but as the day progressed, and the summer heat intensified, weather started to develop in southern Wisconsin. But everyone made it home, safe and sound, to all destinations in the Midwest.
2019 Canada Fishing Fly-Out
The dates and trip options for the 2019 Canada Fishing Fly-Out to Miminiska Lodge are August 8-11 and August 11-14 for the three-night/two-day trips, and August 8-13 for the five-night/four-day trip. For special group rates, email me at email@example.com. For reservations, call Lynette Mish at Wilderness North toll free at te, and be sure to check out the Wilderness North website: www.wildernessnorth.com. There’s even a special section on the website for pilots flying their own aircraft. Those guests who do not fly their own airplane to the lodge, fly there in one of the Wilderness North Cessna Caravans on wheels, or their de Havilland Otter on straight floats.
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 pilot camaraderie, to meet new people, and to reconnect with old friends!
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. Any flight planning and navigational information mentioned in this article or elsewhere is subject to change and error, and is the responsibility of the reader to research, verify and confirm. Pilots are urged to reference the Canada Flight Supplement, Canada Navigational Charts, Nav Canada and Federal Aviation Administration publications and resources, and the various electronic devices and their programs, such as ForeFlight, to obtain and confirm information.