I was on the lake for less than an hour and was working my Rapala Skitter Pop across the surface in 30 feet of water. One tip I had before my arrival was that Lake Joseph's big smallmouth love to feed on suspending ciscoes.
Delta Sherwood Resort, MUSKOKA ONTARIO
The clear water of this pristine Muskoka lake combined with the low light situation and slight chop provided tailor made topwater conditions. However the dark day also clouded my view below the surface. "Gosh … what's that big brown thing behind my bait"; I mumbled to myself- and had no sooner said it when a minor explosion followed. I waited a split second; set the hook, and was soon battling my first ever Lake Joseph smallmouth! It didn't want to be anywhere but airborne, however in spite of these antics, I was able to subdue my quarry; take a quick photo and then let her go.
I quickly saved my first waypoint on the Lowrance HD unit for future reference. Little did I know that this very first fish spot would ultimately become my most consistent and memorable place to fish on the entire lake!
I had fished "Joe" plenty of times in the past … but that was all during the hard water season - ice fishing for lake trout. Joe had already shown it could provide great hardwater action for beautiful lake trout but now I was interested in bass. This time I had come to fish open water near the end of September and I was there with my wife Loretta and oldest son Tyler (aged 25).
We were staying at the beautiful Delta Sherwood Resort – not far from the village of Port Carling Ontario. The accommodations and service were outstanding. We were in a luxurious two bedroom cottage with a lakeside view, close to the main dining lounge where some incredible meals are served. The smoked duck appetizer and rack of lamb was not something we will soon forget. Of course I really appreciated the nearby covered boat slips where my bass boat would reside for two nights while we slept. Plug-Ins were handy to charge my batteries overnight while my boat remained safe and dry when it wasn't out with me fishing this new lake.
Fishing A New Lake
I approached my first day out on the water a lot like I do when pre-fishing for a bass tournament on any new lake. This meant I did a lot of moving around to first learn the waterbody. The Navionics Hot Maps Supreme chip offered me the most up-to-date digital map available of the entire lake, yet I was still amazed at how large and complex Lake Joseph was. As well as the long wide open sections common in so many bigger lakes, there are a plethora of cuts that seemed to lead to whole new sections of the lake.
There are numerous islands and places to fish where you would be hard pressed to see another boat. The handful of anglers I did happen to see where all down-rigging for lake trout … not chasing big bronzebacks like me. Needless to say the scenery around the lake was gorgeous and although fall colors were still not prime … it sure was pretty!
As I covered water, I considered seasonal patterns and the shift that takes place each fall amongst many northern bass populations. Smallmouth that were cruising the shallows looking for crayfish weeks ago are now visiting the deeper edges of offshore humps, shoals and extended points. This meant they were looking up for food, so topwaters were thrown constantly. The fish soon developed a preference for the Storm Chug Bug over my trusty Skitter Pop –so I would throw it religiously.
I did a lot of cruising; slowly looking for suspended cisco and the bigger smallmouth on my Lowrance. If it was barren of either, the time and effort to fish the area was nearly futile. Even if one or both were present … it still didn't guarantee success because as I soon learned, these big smallmouth were well fed and the size of cisco they were feeding on would preclude them from eating too many in one sitting anyway!
The full color digital Navionics Map on my Lowrance HD unit was a godsend ... not only because it identified depths and any potential water hazards but because I was able to quickly see the 'darker blue' patches on the map that I would fish next. Each of these blue patches were programmed to identify shallower depths and with anywhere from 25-75 feet of adjacent water showing up as white on the screen ... it sure made the job of finding fishable water much easier than with previous units.
My gameplan for that first day and half of the second ... was basically to utilize a run and gun approach from one new spot to the next, followed by slowly covering water while watching my electronics and looking for fish. As with so many northern lakes, I found some steep breaking shorelines produced if they had baitfish on them but major points and secondary points with rocks were also key holding areas. So too, were obscure offshore humps.
As I moved along looking for fish I would often cast a Rapala X Rap ahead of me from. However I soon learned that these smallmouth have no aversion to the X Raps' larger cousin the 11cm Clackin Minnow so I soon switched to it with gratifying results.
If I found fish directly below the boat I would toss a Voodoo jigging spoon and try to get the aggressive bass that way.
If the fish could not be spoon fed, I would stop and drop shot for them ... My most productive drop shot bait was the new Trigger X four inch Fluttering Worm in shad color. Although typically rigged wacky, weightless and tossed in the shallows, I nose-hooked the bait and used a ¾ oz dropshot weight to fish it from 20-40 feet deep.
Despite covering so much water, I didn't uncover a pot of bronzeback gold at every point or hump the lake has to offer. I did get a nice fish here and there but the numbers weren't in the double digits I may have anticipated … at least not yet!
For those fishing the lake for the first time be prepared to work hard to decipher the movements of this lake's robust smallmouth population- and the cisco they feed upon. Rest assured however, the reward for your hard work will indeed be well worth it.
It wasn't until the afternoon of my second day that I began to reap the rewards when I developed a milk run of areas all within a 20 minute boat ride of home base at Delta Sherwood. I felt a great sense of relief that these areas did produce fish and excitement.
One of those milk run spots was a large hump that topped out to about 14 feet with nearby deepwater over 30 feet. Twenty feet at this particular area was especially productive and a one ounce double willow leaf Terminator spinner bait was the hot ticket. Here the key was to not just toss … but to throw as far as you possibly could this heavy blade bait to cover water quickly and efficiently. How far you ask … well consider that on my nice little SHIFT bait casting reel filled right up with12 lb Suffix Floro line – that with the wind in my back there was not much line left at the end of my cast!
The amazing thing was to have smallmouth after smallmouth chase down and try to kill my lure - nearly ripping the rod out of my hands every time. It was important to capitalize on the feeding frenzy when it occurred by quickly reeling the fish in, letting it go and then to let your lure fly quickly to the same spot again. Even though you can technically use your waypoint mark on your sonar for a reference, I much prefer the more visual marker buoy – so I would always toss it once I got the bass going.
About Delta Sherwood
This five star resort is not your typical fishing lodge, catering to bubba and the boys who just want a roof over their head, a place to sleep and somewhere to cook their catch. This is a first class establishment that happens to be on an incredibly beautiful body of water with a vibrant lake trout and smallmouth bass fishery. There are also some largemouth bass, walleye and northern pike that I am anxious to try another day. Consider this as a premier vacation destination that would be comparable to taking a trip to a resort down south.
With panoramic views of Lake Joseph, this suite is by far the most unique guestroom on the Delta Sherwood property.
Delta Sherwood also caters to many corporate functions and weddings. There are all kinds of recreational activities available on a seasonal basis including: table tennis; bonfire pit; lake cruises; volleyball; mountain biking; croquet; badminton; tennis, swimming; boating; canoeing; snowshoeing; skating; tobogganing and broomball. Of course if fishing happens to be one of the activities you are interested in – then you can bring your own boat or use one of the canoes at no cost. A guided fishing excursion can also be arranged. For those interested in booking their bass fishing get-away at Delta Sherwood, mention that you read about the resort and the fishing on this website in Wil Wegman's article, and you'll receive a special discount. This will apply to those interested in purchasing a Delta Sherwood gift card for your favorite bass angler as well.
While we were there my wife and son enjoyed a round of golf while I fished. There is easy access to three top ClubLink courses: Lake Joseph Club, Rocky Crest Golf Club, and Mark O'Meara at the Grandview. The inn's Amba Health and Beauty Spa offers services such as manis, pedis and facials.
Last Day = Best Day On Lake Joseph:
Despite the rain that greeted us, our final morning on Lake Joseph was the most memorable and enjoyable. Everything seemed to come together in a few short hours as I fished all but one of the milk run areas I had lined up over the last two days. For the very early hours of the morning, I fished the spinnerbait area and had a ball, as well as the points of some nearby islands with the Chug Bug. I then came in for a leisurely breakfast and headed back out with Tyler.
Now unlike his youngest brother Izaak … Ty hasn't taken to fishing the same way … but I wanted him to really have a memorable experience – so I brought him to my now favorite spot I had left alone all morning. I had faith that these untouched fish would be raring to go and I was pretty confident it would produce a couple of nice bass for him.
I offered Ty the hot Chug Bug and gave him a description of the area… An extended point, with fairly deep water near shore (12' or so) and much deeper water (25-40') nearby. There were some big rocks below too- ideal structure that can hold bass even if ciscoes weren't around. The Lowrance soon told us otherwise however, as we marked both the baitfish above and the bass beneath.
The first couple of hits came instantly but these hyper-active smallies sometimes don't have the best aim when they're skyrocketing to the surface from 30 feet below! A huge splash – followed by a swing and a miss on Ty's part and no fish to show. After a bewildered look I recommended, "Just wait a second or two after it hits Ty before you set that hook – then see what happens.
Moments after the advice was given there was a chance to put it to the test. The result? Ty battling a sweet looking four pounder that didn't know when to quit or what it wanted to see more- the sky above or bottom below.
I more or less admired the action for the next half hour as he battled one big bass after another … all coming from deep water to attack his bait. Then I got in on some of the feeding frenzy myself and enjoyed similar success. Admittedly I also had my share of blow ups that resulted in swings and misses. Sometimes waiting is easier advice to give then it is to take! All in all, we landed 10 smallmouth in the 4-6 pounds in less than an hour – Ty on his Chug Bug and mine from a Rapala Skitter Pop. It was the perfect ending to wonderful little vacation!
About the Muskoka's
Central Ontario's Muskoka District is about two hours north of Toronto via Highways 400 and 11. The 2,500-square-mile natural playground includes 8,699 miles of shoreline; 17 historic towns and villages; and countless waterfalls and lakes bordered by the granite peaks of Algonquin Provincial Park to the east and the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay Islands National Park to the west. There are many spectacular lakes and rivers that lie within these boundaries, yet the biggest and most popular are Lake Rosseau, Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka. When checking local fishing regulations, anglers should know that all of these lakes fall in MNR's Fisheries Management Zone 15. Be sure to check the exceptions pages for specific lakes and their possible exceptions to the zone-wide regs.
With so much beauty it's no wonder that Muskoka is in the international spotlight. Of course we all remember when Huntsville hosted the G 8 in the summer of 2011 but did you know that the Muskoka Regionwas voted Number One on National Geographic Traveler magazine's list of the 10 best summer trips of 2011? It beat out popular destinations such as Patagonia, Argentina and the Azores in Portugal.
The magazine said Muskoka offers, "A unplugged pace that's a world away from Canada's largest city". National Geographic Traveler editor-in-chief Keith Bellows said Muskoka won the top spot because the region is true to itself. "It's really got this sort of special depth — this resonance — that is immutable," he said. "We look for something that just feels like it's been there for a long time and stays true to what is."
Bellows, who's Canadian and spent summers growing up in Gravenhurst, Ont., said the magazine's editors looked at each destination's uniqueness, authenticity, and sense of payoff for visitors when creating the list. "Canadians are always feeling like nobody appreciates them," he added. "Muskoka is something to be truly, truly cherished."
Wil's view of the Muskoka's:
What I find remarkable about Lake Joseph and so many other Muskoka lakes, is that they receive relatively little fishing pressure. There certainly are a myriad of gorgeous and expensive cottages around all the Muskoka lakes, yet it seems visitors would rather enjoy a host of other recreational activities instead of fishing. This means of course that there are more and less pressured fish for anglers. If you're looking for a change of pace from typical southern Ontario fishing haunts, then the nearby Muskoka's should be tops on your list. Lake Joseph especially, has a remarkable bass and lake trout fishery that I am sure you will enjoy. Of course to keep it that way, anglers should practice catch and release and selective harvest. For some beautiful scenery, pristine waters and of course great fishing – Lake Joseph and Delta Sherwood Resort come highly recommended.