The End of the Road



I walked up to Duane Riddell and shook his hand. He looked tired. It was July, on the Saturday of the Hwy105 Norseman Festival weekend in Red Lake. MidWest Outdoors was there to experience the Highway105 corridor and what Red Lake offers sportsmen and women. Duane and his wife Kim, along with a small band of dedicated volunteers, are responsible for the annual festival and its success. They work hard for this prestigious event that includes multiple musical acts, abundant kids’ activities, food trucks, a softball tournament, vendor tents, float plane rides, air shows and even a fireworks show.

The festival celebrates the Norseman float plane—the original Canadian bush plane—and its importance to the Red Lake/Hwy105 area. This area loves to celebrate the spirit of adventure, and the floatplane has a lot to do with it.


Twenty years after the discovery of gold in Red Lake, people flocked to the area for work in canoes, boats, dog teams and float planes, which were the only methods of transportation. To transport the gold to the rest of the province, a road had to be built. That road was, and still is, Highway 105. It’s the farthest road north in Ontario. While gold is still being mined, the town of Red Lake and the bay it sits on are still considered home to the busiest floatplane industry in the world.

Several floatplane bases operate out of Red Lake and Howey Bay; however, today you are more likely to see a variety of aircraft including Beavers, Norseman, Otters, Cessnas and other aircraft, both commercial and private. These come and go carrying mainly anglers, canoeists and adventurists to remote lodges and outposts. The floatplane is so entrenched in this area that an actual plane is mounted in the downtown area greeting visitors and showcasing the areas’ spirit of adventure.

As mentioned, the town of Red Lake sits at the end of the farthest north Highway in Ontario—Hwy105. Like many Ontario towns, Red Lake seems to be growing and remodeling. One of the first things you see coming into town is the new Super 8 hotel by Wyndham. The hotel is one of the nicest Super 8s I have been to. After taking in a little of the festival, my son-in-law Jeff Kraemer, cameraman Seth Meyer and I took a brief tour of Howey Bay and Red Lake by boat, caught a few walleyes, and then settled into the Howey Bay Restaurant for a bite to eat before heading out for the rest of our Red Lake adventure the next morning.

Red Lake and the Hwy 105 corridor encompasses Vermilion Bay, Perrault Falls, Ear Falls and the Red Lake District. This area features, and is home to, an abundance of Canadian drive-to camps, boat-in operations and fly-in fishing resorts.

This was Jeff’s first Canadian fishing trip and he was about to get the full treatment. The first part of our week was going to be at a Hwy105 outpost camp on nearby Nungesser Lake. Bob Green’s Fishing Camps ( has a rich family history of operation and is now owned by Rob Green and son Robert, who brought us into their camp and mapped out some good fishing spots.

The lake has over 20 miles of navigable water and primarily features outstanding walleye and northern pike fishing. Its many reefs, bays, large weed beds and islands are home to large northerns and walleyes.


Outpost adventures consist of bringing in your own food and beverages, fishing gear, bedding and clothing. Many outposts today are not your outposts of yesterday. Now, many come with flush toilets, running water, showers, electricity, fridges, stoves, cooking gear, utensils and all the comforts. This particular cabin had four large bedrooms that can sleep a total of 10, a large eating area, full kitchen, screened in porch, deck and bathroom with shower and running water. Nungesser also includes 16-foot Lund boats with 20-horsepower, 4-stroke Honda motors. Jeff was getting the luxury outpost initiation.

At an Outpost Camp, there is usually only one cabin, and you can be the only ones on the lake. Even though Nungesser has a few other operations on the lake, we felt like we had the lake to ourselves.

After unloading our gear and settling in, we quickly wanted to get on the water and start exploring. Our first stop was a point just around the corner from the lodge, and it quickly didn’t disappoint. A neckdown area of the lake, with a deeper drop-off from shore and a mid-lake hump that came up to 9 feet, seemed awfully fishy. We trolled around the hump and the magical depth for numerous walleye catches turned out to be 16 to 18 feet.

Most walleyes can be caught using the Canadian staple of a jig and a minnow. In our case, we used 1/4-ounce jigs tipped with Gulp minnows, fished on medium-light Veritas rods for just about all our walleye action. Jeff not only had his first walleye that he ever caught, but also lots of them, with his largest a 28-inch beauty. What an introduction to walleye fishing!

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Nungesser Lake was simply amazing. W caught walleyes every place we went. And we didn’t just catch walleyes, but large walleyes. Most were around 18 to 20 inches, and several were 25 to 27 inches. One thing I will suggest, and that was an advantage on the trip, is that I brought my Lowrance ice fishing unit along. With the unit, we were able to not only locate drop-offs and reefs, but also mark fish below. Most aluminum boats allow an ice transducer to shoot through the bottom of the boat, so you don’t even have to bring any mounting device. Just lay the transducer in the transom of the boat and it works wonderfully.

Nungesser’s walleye limits are three fish with one over 18 inches in length. We caught more than enough to release most back and enjoy a fresh fish fry that first evening.

After we caught our fill of walleyes, we wanted to try the pike fishing. Nungesser lake has many weedy bays and areas. My biggest problem was trying to find the right weed edges, which is where I thought the big ones would hang out.

One evening while drifting and motoring just outside a deep weed edge, I had a huge pike follow my lure right to the boat. It was a monster; however, after spending the remaining part of the evening trying to catch it, or even see it again, we never did. We did manage to catch a lot of pike in the 28-inch-plus and larger column, but that fish still haunts my dreams.

After two days on Nungesser, our next stop was to experience two days of a Hwy105 fly-in resort. Fly-in resorts are usually a little pricier but feature American Plan meals, guides and attentive service. You basically enjoy the wilderness experience, and they take care of the rest. In Hwy105 style, a floatplane picked us up at Nungesser and flew us into Cat Island Lodge on Trout Lake.


Another first: Jeff had never been in a floatplane before, with the opportunity to land on the water. Anyone who has will tell you that it is a thrill any adventurer would love. Jeff was all smiles as he sat in the jump seat while powering off and landing on the water’s surface.

At the resort, once again, we unloaded and met our guide for the day. Fishing with a guide, especially on a water system that you are not familiar with, is a terrific way to avoid wasting time on your fishing vacation. While Cat Island allows you the option for non-guided packages, I highly suggest that anyone fishing a lake for the first time get a guide, especially for the first few days. With a guide, you not only get fish, but you get to learn the lakes and where the hazards are. In many glacial lakes, rocks and reefs can be just under the water’s surface and can add a lot of problems and costs to a fishing trip.

The other thing a guide usually offers is some history of the lake, lodge and area. Guides can be fun to talk to and you can learn a few tips and tactics about fishing as well. They also do a lot of the hard work and know what tackle to use, colors that work, and the strategies to catch fish on a given lake.

Once again, walleye fishing on Trout Lake was outstanding. We had a hard time finding smaller fish (those under 18 inches). Most of the walleyes we caught were 20-plus inches. To get the full experience, we also tried for and caught lake trout, which Trout Lake is known for. Lake Trout are usually shallower in spring, go deep in the summer, and come back shallow in fall. We were there in the middle of summer, so the lake trout were suspending in 100 feet of water. Big jigs were the bait of choice.

Fly-in resorts usually have a schedule of breakfast served in the dining room (Cat Island has a very nice dining area), then fish the morning, have a shore lunch or bag lunch on the lake, back to fishing the afternoon away, and then back to the lodge for dinner. Cat Island has a rustic dining room filled with amazing fishing antiques that adds to the wilderness fishing experience and fits with the natural surroundings.

After dinner, you are free to take a boat out and either enjoy more fishing, take in a sunset, or have a few beverages in the lodge game room/bar area. We opted to take out a boat and try for some pike in the evenings and caught some excellent pike as we watched the Canadian sunset.

For any number of outstanding resorts in the beautiful Boreal Forest and the rugged Canadian Shield, visit Hwy 105’s website and book your wilderness adventure today.