Pssssss! We could hear the loud hissing noise just as we were about to pull off the highway and onto the roadway leading to the fishing resort. Our ominous arrival at Olive the Lake Resort may have begun with a blown tire but there’s no doubt it let folks at the resort know that the Wegman brothers have made arrived! Knowing time was of the essence, I scurried over to the resort's boat launch and parked my truck and Nitro bass boat ready to launch just as the tire went completely flat. Right away, Bruce MacDonald ... the owner and resort guests Scot Primo and his wife Cindy came out to welcome us and ...even better- help to change the flat. It was a strangely memorable and wonderful start to an even more wonderful fishing vacation at the end of September with my brother Marcel (aka Red).
Wil (left) and his brother Marcel with a decent eating size walleye that fell for the Rapala Clackin Minnow
I heard of Olive the Lake for a few years before our visit ... as a preffered lodge for TV fishing and hunting show hosts. Located near Marten River Ontario between North Bay and Temagami, visiting the area would be like returning to old stomping grounds where many fine memories were created.
Marten River Provincial Park was always one of our favorite vacation destinations and where our family camped for many years while growing up. In high school a friend and I would camp on crown land nearby while we enjoyed fishing, hunting, and even paddling some white-water. Then after college I returned to the area to work for a year at Pozniaks Fishing Camp on Red Cedar Lake ... just a short cast away from Marten River.
When an opportunity arose to stay at Olive the Lake Resort at the end of September, it didn't take me long to jump at it. Ironically enough, earlier in the month when I was asked to be a guest on the Outdoor Journal Radio Show (The Fan 590 on Sat Sept 27th) ... I had to decline because "I would be up fishing at Olive the Lake". "Well let's get you on then this Saturday ... because we have Bruce - the owner of that same resort on talking about his lodge... Maybe you could discuss how you go about fishing a new lake," said John Winters the show's producer.
The Rapala X Rap accounted for most of the bass Wil and his brother caught at Olive the Lake
So, on the radio I went in early September to talk fishin! One of the questions I was asked was, “What made me choose this resort over others?” I responded by talking about the great reputation this resort has and the unique fishing restrictions for the lake. These really appealed to me because they went over and above MNRF's fishing regulations in placew for the FMZ surrounding the lake. They are meant to enhance the fishery at Olive and provide outstanding ‘quality' fishing opportunities for the guests who stay there. With launching and public access to the entire lake controlled by the resort, these ‘self-imposed restrictions' for those who fish Olive can and obviously do work ... In a nutshell; here they are:
Olive the Lake fishing regs:
Walleye ... none can be kept over 16 inches
Bass ... none can be kept over 15 inches
Pike ... none can be kept over 30 inches
During slower mid day stretches when it was, calm, hot and sunny, Olive's bass were no different than anywhere else and reaction baits were not as effective. Slow moving presentations like this Trigger X Flutter Worm however filled the gap until they became more active again.
Fishing Olive the Lake:
Shortly after we fixed the flat we loaded most of our gear into the cottage. The fishing rods and tackle however stayed in the boat, because we would be off in moments to begin casting for bass. First though, Bruce provided us with a map of the lake and told us about the shoal to watch out for. Off we went and as much as I love fishing a new lake, it can be a daunting task at times ... particularly when you aren't catching any fish. As much as I hate to admit it, this was the case for not just the first hour, but then the second and even into the third! “Let's go in and have supper to regroup and figure out what's going on,” said my brother. I had to admit, it was a good suggestion.
Red's Storm Chug Bug was a popper that Olive's bass found hard to resist
Based on typical seasonal patterns for this time of year ... most of our locational choices were deep ledges, points with good drop offs and wood ... fallen trees that bass seem to like anywhere they swim throughout most times of the year. Our presentation of deep diving cranks, drop shot and tube jigs were not getting the desired results and even worse we were not even marking many deep fish on the Lowrance Elite or HDS units in my boat. Back at shore, Bruce and Scott were also pulling up and they had done quite well. “We were fishing mostly jerkbaits in 7 or 8 feet of water along the shorelines,” was their ticket to success.
Olive the Lake Lodge owner Bruce MacDonald with a typical 3 pound bass he caught during our stay
Well, we all know the saying that we shouldn't ASSUME because it can make an ASS out of U and ME and that's exactly what happened to us. Seeing as how it was the end of September when northern bass go deep to overwinter and feed on pelagic bait fish, I had merely assumed this would be the pattern up here at Olive. NOT! These darned smallmouths were still relatively shallow and they would indeed respond to reaction baits. With unseasonable warm water temps in the low 60's ... it was no wonder bass were a little behind so after dinner our efforts would switch to shallower water structure and my trusty Rapala X Raps would get real wet. “Who knows Red ... these bass may still even hit top water baits, so we'll give those a try later on too!”I said with renewed vigor and determination to succeed.
That first evening on the water was a huge sigh of relief! Slowly but surely we were beginning to put a pattern together as we caught one bass here and another there. Visible rock piles, the occasional weed patch and isolated boulders in 6-10 feet of water were golden; all-be-it the variety of structure I'd normally focus on at the start of September not the end! Regardless of their delayed transition to deeper water however, the 2-4 pound smallmouth bass devoured the Rapala X Raps we threw at them so they received the strenuous workout they deserve.
About Olive the Lake:
Previously known as Camp Richfield and built in the early 1930's as a logging camp and a place to sleep while workers were clearing the highway to Northern Ontario, the lodge has served many purposes over the years. From supplying ice throughout northern Ontario to a spring bear camp for mostly American guests; it has also seen its share of different owners. Bruce MacDonald and his wife took it over in 2007 and for the first year worked long and hard to complete major renovations and upgrades before any guests arrived the next year to stay at any one of the six fully equipped housekeeping cottages.
Beds so comfortable you look forward to bedtime and have trouble getting out in the morning!
Olive the Lake understands that a great night's sleep on your vacation is very important. All of their cottages therefore have been equipped with Tempur-Pedic Swedish Mattresses. I have been to many lodges and fishing resorts over the years where it seems mattress quality is just an afterthought. A new standard however has been set at Olive the Lake and I can honestly say I've never slept in a bed as comfortable as during our stay there.
For the rest of our trip my brother and I refined our patterns and found a few really productive areas within the nine square mile lake. There are only three privately owned cottages on the entire lake and the rest is surrounded by crown land or owned by Olive the Lake Lodge. This allowed Red and me to be the only boat on the water during most of our stay as the other guests left Sunday.
Wil with one of many fish he caught while ‘walkin the dawg' with his Rapala Skitter Walk
- Seeing a bald eagle soaring overhead just before we turned off Hwy 11 to Olive the Lake
- Driving the boat back to our cottage at night in complete and utter darkness, not once but three times! The first time, we swore we'd head in earlier the next night and then again made the same false promise the night after ... Problem was we just couldn't tear ourselves away from the fishing action.
- Being able to put your trust in the Lowrance HDS system on my boat. The GPS tracker allowed me to have a safe and easy track to follow safely back to camp ... even in the dark
- Leaving your boat and all its belongings secured and safe dockside overnight while your batteries charged may not seem like a big deal, but for tournament anglers who continually have to haul their boats out and empty them of all their gear each night, it was a real treat not to do so.
- We thought of staying in during the late evening bite on our last day when it was windy and pouring rain... only to have my brother convince me we should get out there and try for another walleye instead
- Having that rain stop the moment we got in the boat ... And then letting my brother use the same ‘olive' green and white Clackin' Minnow that I used the night before to catch his walleye ... Seeing him land one twice as big as mine on it was a real highlight for both of us!
Marcel Wegman with his evening walleye that he caught on a Rapala Clackin Minnow and then released
- Jumping off the boat during one of our hot sunny days for a quick swim only to have to wear gloves, a toque, rain suits and much warmer clothing the next!
- Taking a break from fishing in the early afternoon to sit and relax at the patio while listening to the last Blue Jay game of the year. We knew almost assuredly that the 24 C temps with bright blue skies and warm sunshine would be the last ‘best' weather of the year. It became so ‘hot' out there that we actually went in for supper.
- That same evening we had our best fishing yet ... and the smallmouth were on fire in our new hotspot – a bay close to camp with outstanding cabbage patches
Marcel battling another feisty Olive the Lake smallmouth
- The next morning was completely overcast and about 10-12 degrees colder. Water temps were only a degree or two cooler than the night before though ... so we figured topwater would still work. It did in spades! We literally put the electric motor down right from the dock and slowly worked our way around to our hot bay. Before we even got there though, a dozen bass had smashed our topwaters. And in our hot bay the action continued for another hour or so before we switched to jerkbaits to get even more bass. It was the best fishing of the entire trip!
- Meeting fellow tournament angler Scott Primo at the camp provided me with some keen insight as to why this place is so special to him ... and likely would be for most anglers. I asked him if he had any advice to offer those who visit Olive the Lake and here's what he had to say, “The best advice I could give anyone on that lake (and the multiple ones all around the area) is to target smallies/pike in the morning-early afternoon. Have lunch then a siesta and get ready to bang walleye from dinner to dark. The walleye are hit and miss during the daytime unless you go deep and stay deep. The walleye "quantity" isn't the name of the game up here...it will be "quality". Olive is a great place to get a rest from those tournament stressful days so relax and let it all sink in when you're there!
- Walleye up to 12 pounds have been caught in Olive ... and even an 11 this year. Bass average 2-3 pounds but reach over 5. Northerns aren't huge but 5-10 pounders are a fun change. My brother and I also caught a pumpkinseed sunfish and yellow perch – which along with the cisco in the lake, provide good forage for the bigger species targeted.
- Outstanding hunting opportunities are available for big game animals such as Black Bear, Wolves and Moose. Thanks to a recent opening of the spring bear hunt for Ontario hunters, this option is now becoming a popular attraction at Olive the Lake once again. I had planned on doing a little grouse hunting while there, but unfortunately the one day set aside for this was windy and rainy ... so we fished instead.
The Marten River area, much like most of Northern Ontario, considers walleye as its premier gamefish. Here Wil's brother Marcel stands next to the local attraction as you enter ‘town' ... but don't blink because you just might miss it.
Olive the Lake comes highly recommended for both hard core anglers and those more laid back occasional ones who are just looking for a relaxed fishing vacation. For more information on staying at Olive the Lake, just visit their website at www.olivethelake.com and please tell them Wil sent ya :).