Cas Smerroskie, Lamar Kahler and I (Walt Kononenko) started on this trip from Lamar's house outside
Shamokin Friday early morning (2:00 AM) fully loaded in Cas' Ford F150 pickup truck. The drive
proceeded smoothly with each of us taking about 2 to 3 hour shifts. We got up to St. Felicien by
6:00 PM and had a delicious dinner at our favorite restaurant, Mikes. We then proceeded to La Dore
where we would normally spend the night at the motel. As we approached our hotel we noticed that
there were 2 helicopters parked nearby and as we got to the motel/restaurant we saw another helicopter
on the motel lawn. There were more than the usual amount of people milling around the buildings. We pulled
up to the gas pumps and Cas started to fill up the truck while Walt went in to get our usual room for the
night. The young lady in charge immediately told us that there were no rooms available. She said that all the
rooms were in use and that there were no rooms anywhere in town. Now what to do?
We decided to call Andre Cauchon at Domaine Poutrincourt, with the hope of going up that evening and with
the possibility of going to our reserved cabin a day early. Then the fun started. We tried calling his number
on Walt's cell phone, but there was no service in La Dore. There was a public phone outside the restaurant
and after collecting all the Canadian quarters we had between us, we dialed Domaine Poutrincourt's number
(after some difficulty of reading the directions all in French). Luck was with us when Andre answered the phone.
We started to explain to Andre our situation that we made it up to La Dore and were without motel rooms
and that we wanted to come up that evening. Andre explained that the reason for the helicopters and the
the lack of rooms was that there were several forest fires all around Chibougamau and that the fire fighting
crews were using La Dore as their base or main gathering point. He said that our cabin was still occupied,
but that we could spend the night in one of the cabins near the main lodge. We were so glad to hear
this that we immediately took off on the road to Chibougamou. Cas took the wheel and he drove at speeds around 75 m/hr
(up to 120 km/hr as timed by Walt's GPS) for the next 124 km. The problem was that it was getting late and
we wanted to get to Domaine Poutrincourt before dark.
Well, we didn't make it. We got there to the turn off marker at dark and now the adventure would begin.
The rest of the way would be over dirt road and Andre warned us to be careful on this road. As already
mentioned above, Walt took out the GPS unit on the road to Chibougamau and we were able to follow our progress to the
main camp. Walt on the previous trips had marked the location of the main camp and this was the marked
waypoint that was our objective. This Garmin eTrex GPS unit was amazing. In total darkness we headed toward the
main camp and made all the right turns and in another hour or so arrived at cabin 12, where we spent
the night. We were really grateful that Andre had a cabin available for the night, otherwise we would
have had to spend the remaining hours in the truck. One thing we did not see, but found out about later, was that
the area we went through that night had had its own forest fires some months before nor did we realize
the seriousness of forest fires and lack of rain in this part of the country. We finally were able
to see what the fires did to this land on the way out when we were on our way home.
on the final road to Domaine Poutrincourt. See the burnt forest in the distance.
The next morning we met Andre and Eric and they explained the current fire situation and the horrible
experiences they had when the fires were burning around Domaine Poutrincourt earlier in the year. Luckily their camps
and the area right around Lac Poutrincourt were not affected, but several lumbered over areas on the way
to Domaine Poutrincourt and upstream of Normandin Riviere above the camp were. These burned over areas
are now recovering. It should be pointed out that the lumber industry along with hydropower production
and power transmission are the mainstay economy for this region in northern Quebec. Recreation is probably
the next important industry in this region, that is, this region is filled with hundreds of lakes and rivers
and hunting and fishing is superb and attracts hunters and fishermen from all over the world. And Domaine
Poutrincourt is a good example of an outfitter that provides outdoor opportunity for some great fishing
on a large lake and river for visiting sportsmen. This area is still wild and beautiful and a pleasure
to experience truly good fishing and outdoor adventure.
our host - Andre Cauchon
After a couple cups of coffee that were really appreciated and a nice chat with Andre we got down to business.
We paid Andre for our week in cabin 3, got the fishing licenses and 4 boxes of worms and then started to unload
our gear off the truck.
This time we decided to use Andre's boat for our week's fishing on the lake. We got a pretty sturdy 18-foot boat with a 9.9 Hp Mercury motor. With our fishing package we also get 5 gal of gas per person. With Ben, one of Andre's guides, we loaded up our 18-footer and the freight canoe and we were on our way to our familiar cabin 3, which is situated right where the Normandin Riviere comes into the lake. This is a great location for a cabin.
The front of the cabin looks over the lake and you see the rising sun in the morning. We saw many wonderful sunrises during the week. The lake's water level was much lower than the last couple of years. The water level must have fallen another foot or so from 2 years ago. This was one of the reasons that Cas decided not to bring up his 17-foot Tracker boat with a 50 Hp-motor. We would be seeing and hitting a lot of rocks where we would not have years ago. This 18-footer for 3 people was adequate and the Mercury motor was also adequate and very reliable. Walt especially had a lot of fun driving the boat. But Cas was the main driver, especially at the times when we had rain and high winds on the lake. It should be noted that all 3 of us had life-saver vests on all the times we were on the water.
Lamar with guide Ben on the way to our cabin
After unloading and getting all of our gear into the cabin we prepared our boat for fishing. We moved all our tackle boxes, rods and the rest of the gear into the boat. We all put on our life vests as well as rain gear. The most noticeable observation that was obvious to us, especially to Cas, was that the water level was much lower from 2 years ago. Cas says that the lake water level has dropped considerably, since he started coming to this lake from the late 1980's, maybe 5 feet! Cas used to dock the boats at the same dock at cabin 3 and was able to step directly into his boat from the dock. Now to do that the boat would be 4 to 5 feet down.
What is happening to the lake water level? Is this from the steady reduction in rainfall and snowfall over this region? This is what Andre thinks has happened.
Anyway, we went out to the `Back Bay' area and trolled. The water level was low, we started seeing a lot more rocks so we had to be careful now. Trolling we caught 4 northern pike, 4 walleyes and one meaty whitefish using lures. It felt good being back on the lake.
our open 18-foot boat with a 10 Hp Mercury motor
our Hot Spot location on the big lake where we saw the black bear
Overnight we had heavy rain. Our boat was filled with water. The battery for the fishfinder was under water and we thought that we would have to go back to the main lodge for replacement.
This morning Cas informed us that we had a visitor overnight. He found Lamar's cigarettes slightly pulled out of the pack and one cigarette was chewed open. Fortunately the critter could not light the cigarette.
After breakfast we went out again onto the main lake. It turned out that the fishfinder's battery survived. The battery is a 12 volt storage battery. The fishfinder enabled us to see the lake bottom as well as `see' the fish. The morning fishing was pretty good. We caught 24 fish, of which 21 were walleyes, couple perch and one whitefish.
That day we had our first fish dinner. We ate 5 walleyes. The fish were grilled and they were just delicious. They were flushed down with Labatt's ice beer. Nothing more is needed to say. We ate well.
We went out again after the satisfying meal. The wind picked up and occassionly there were whitecaps breaking on the big lake. The trip started out as expected with this type of water. Cas was driving the boat. We made it out to the Hot Spot and the wind kept on blowing and we noticed that it was in fact blowing harder. The waves were getting bigger and there were whitecaps everywhere. We decided that this was not a good time for fishing. A cold front was coming through and the temperature noticeably dropped. So we started to head back to the cabin. We were getting concerned that we were in an open boat and the waves and whitecaps were getting big enough and were breaking as the swells were increasing. Now the rain started to fall and Cas started to steer the boat back to the cabin. As usual we had our rain gear on as well as the PFD's and we hangered down for the ride back. Lamar was up front, Walt in the middle and Cas was the driver. The Mercury 10 Hp motor did its job. It pushed the 18-footer Quebequois Dandurand fishing boat slowly but consistantly through the wind and waves. At times, as Cas remarked later, when he was moving forward he would see our cabin from about a half mile out, then as the boat dropped into the swell he would see only water. The waves at one time were 2 to maybe 3 foot. We made it back to the cabin after maybe an hour of fighting the waves. We were all soaked on the outside (but mainly dry beneath all the GoreTex rain gear), and we were physically and to some extent mentally exhausted. Cas drove the boat onto the log ramp and we tied it down to the logs. We finally got inside the cabin and started the wood-burning stove. It felt good being back at the cabin. And a few shots of Jack Danial's, Crown Royal and some Labatt's helped us to unwind.
That was one exciting afternoon.
Tuesday morning we went out to the Hot Spot on the big lake again and drifted for walleyes. The water was very calm compared to the previous day. It's amazing how fast the weather conditions can change up there. We were using worms and were able to catch a good number of walleyes. We caught 31 walleyes, 1 pike and Walt had hooked a large pike and `lost' him at the last moment against the boat.
The highlight of the afternoon came while drift fishing at our favorite spot near the island and cove. Lamar spotted a black bear right at the water's edge, deep in the cove about 60 yards away. The bear was walking along the water's edge around some big rocks. Cas took the boat quietly further into the cove and all 3 of us got a good look at the bear. Cas thinks that it was a young black bear around 200 to 300 pounds. Walt tried to capture the bear on film, but the bear decided he would not be caught posing in the open and leisurely scampered away as we got closer. So no photo of the bear, sorry.
This was not a bad morning fishing excursion. We already forgot the previous day's exciting ride back to camp. We sighted a true native in the wild as well as having a good day fishing. This reminded Cas of the `good old days' on Lac Poutrincourt. We ran out of worms and had to make a run to the base camp to pick up more.
After getting back to the cabin Cas and Walt cleaned the fish and we all prepared for a delicious steak, baked potatos and sweet onion, an all grilled dinner. After this satisfying meal we relaxed with our favorite beverages again.
After relaxing after a good meal, and since the weather was perfect for fishing, we went out again this time to the back bay. We drift jigged and trolled and caught a couple walleyes and two pike. The pike were nicely sized, each about 2 feet long.
Went out in the morning to the Hot Spot on the big lake. It was a little rough with wind picking up again. We did mostly drift jigging with worms and some casting for pike. Lamar was hot this morning, he caught 5 walleyes while Cas and Walt had 3 between them. However, each one of us were lucky to catch a pike apiece. We went back to the cabin for lunch and had another fish dinner. The fish dinner consisted of 5 freshly caught walleyes grilled with rice, stewed tomatos, grilled sweet onion, with everything washed down with cold ice-beer. What a meal.
The wind picked up again and we decided to go to the island not far from our cabin that has a big bay opening to the main lake. We trolled along the shore to the head of the bay. We had two reasons going into this bay, one was to fish and the second was to see if we could make it between a couple of islands that would give us a short cut to our Hot Spot on the big lake.
The wind was really picking up. Lamar caught a really nice walleye, which he returned back to the lake. We could not get through between the islands because of the low water level and decided to head back to the main lake. The stiff wind was now making 2 foot swells and we had another entertaining ride back to the main lake. Once there we made an unaminous decision not to go to the Hot Spot, and instead go to the Normandie River for wind protection.
The river was quite nice - not affected by the wind at all. There was a curious effect on the river this time. The stiff wind was blowing due south and the section we were on the river's current runs due north. The effect we would experience would be a "tunnel effect" where the wind would push our boat on a dead drift up the river! This river's straight section is quite long, a good mile before the big bend. We drifted up the river and stopped by the large beaver lodge. We dropped anchor and jigged and cast around the lodge. The beaver came out and slapped his tail on the water to warn us he was annoyed. We caught several small fish, mostly small walleyes, perch and whitefish.
The big moment came when Lamar was jigging. He was bringing his worm to the boat he noticed that a big pike was following it. As the worm got closer to the boat the pike decided to attack it. The pike was hooked and the battle began. The pike was furious and was swimming and thrashing, which was his expected manner, and Cas yelled out to get the net. Walt got the net and waited for the right moment to scoop up the pike. The net was lowered and in went the pike. As soon as the pike was lifted into the boat we realized the pike was free - he bit off the leader. Lamar was not using a steel leader. When one fishes for pike, you would normally use steel leader.
Anyway, the pike started to thrash in the net, and to our surprise, he cut or chewed the bottom of the net and his head appeared and was making an escape - he fell into the boat. The pike was free inside the boat. Lamar very carefully caught the pike by picking him up by the gills and held him up for photos. The pike measured 26" and Lamar gently returned him back into the river. Before releasing the pike, Cas retrieved the broken leader, hook and swivel from the pike's mouth. After a few moments the stunned pike, with a swift motion, swam away.
That was the day's high point. Wow!
Lamar with a terrific fighter of a northern pike
Cool and calm morning. There was mist on the river and lake. Took some lovely photos this morning. Loaded the boat and drove to our favorite spot on the lake, the Hot Spot. By mid-day the sun came out and the wind picked up. The walleyes were not interested in worms this morning. With no action from walleyes we decided to fish around the islands for pike. Cas was driving the boat puttering slowing while Walt and Lamar began casting spinners and spoons toward the shore. We got into a routine of casting to likely pike hiding spots such as lily pads. lake grass and near points of land. All of a sudden something hit the boat amidship. Wham! Then splashing and thrashing of water next to the boat. What happened was that a large pike attacked and hooked himself on a worm from one of the jigging rods that were resting on the inside of the boat. It was Walt's rod. Walt quickly grabbed the rod and started to reel in, quickly bringing in a beautiful 25" specimen of a northern pike. We returned the pike back into the lake.
What really happened was that after jigging for walleye we decided to change to go after pike. Walt laid the rod down in the boat and unknowingly let the line with the worm on the hook dangle above or an inch or two in the water. The pike must have seen the appatizing worm and went for it ferociously as they are known to do. This is not new. This has happened many times. I believe this has happened to people that we know (and they shall remain nameless) that pike have attacked unattendent worms/lures and hooked themselves. On top of that, they took the whole rod, reel and line away with them. I guess we lucked out on this one. How much excitement can one experience on a fishing trip.
Walt with a northern pike
After lunch we decided to take it easy and go back to the Back Bay. With lake water level low and always on the look out for rocks we went back to fish the area where we did not fish a couple of days earlier. This area has so many islands, coves and bays, that one can easily loose his orientation.
On the way in we saw an osprey flying around on one of the islands. And not far from that island there were couple of seagulls flying around and noisily flew by us and told us that this was their territory. The same thing happened on the main lake on one of the 'goal post' islands. Every time we went past that island two seagulls would see us about a half a mile away and start flying toward us. As we got closer they would attack us by dive bombing us until we would go away. As soon as we were headed away from the island the birds would leave us alone and fly back to their island. It was obvious to us that the birds had their nests on these islands.
As we trolled along the islands and bays Cas hooked onto a big pike. Walt was driving the boat and Cas had a Wally Diver plug on the line. All of a sudden Cas yells out he's stuck. This was happening quite often as the hooks were catching on the bottom rocks and tree roots. This time, Cas yells out, that the hook is moving. It's a fish! And a heavy one at that. Walt manuvers the boat and Cas brings the pike close to the boat and Lamar nets the pike. But these pike are fighters. They thrash and carry one like there's no tomorrow. We got the pike into the boat. Cas now is trying to get his lure out of the pike's mouth.
The next thing Cas knows is that he has a big cut in his thumb. Blood is being splattered on the boat and the lure is still in the pike. Cas somehow gets the hook out and then releases the fish back into the water. Now the order of business is to stop the bleeding, which is done in due time. Here we are, way back in the Back Bay, taking it easy by trolling and observing nature when some excitement happens and can become a dangerous situation. Wow again! As we head back to the cabin we troll again. Cas is one tough fisherman. He will not sit still if you are in a fishing situation. So as Cas is trolling with a bandaged thumb, he yells again that his line is stuck. This time as we try to retrieve his Wally Diver lure, it was wrapped around rocks and got pulled off the line. Another lure gets deposited in the late and is lost forever.
Cas with his pike
Best morning day of the week. Just a beautiful cool morning with scattered cumulus nimbus clouds floating by. We went up to our Hot Spot on the big lake. Lamar renamed this spot as the Bear Bay. Once we got there we drift jigged across the middle of the lake in the direction to Bear Bay. We started immediately to catch walleyes on every drift. We were able to catch all the fish we needed to take home and to have our last dinner at the cabin. But a good thing doesn't go on forever. Around 10:30 AM a dark cloud appeared overhead and it started to rain, and it rained continuously for the next 3 hours. Around 1:00 PM the rain started to get heavier and we decided to make our way back to the cabin. This time the wind was not that bad. We caught 25 walleyes and 1 pike. We also hooked and lost a couple of pretty big and heavy walleyes and a pike.
Cas relaxing with a beer
Walt at the grill. Behind is our cabin. This is the cabin that a black bear tried to tear apart back in 2002. Later that summer Eric trapped it and he was removed to a less civilized part of Quebec.
With most of the our gear packed the night before we were ready to leave by 7:00 AM. We cleaned the cabin and had half of our gear in our boat and the balance set up on the dock for Andre's freight canoe to pick up. We finally got back to the main camp and loaded up our truck and started for home. On the way out we saw the burned over area that Andre was telling us about. It looked bad, but already new growth was coming in. We were glad when we reached the main road and started to head south. When we got to St. Felicien we stopped at Mikes and had their famous 'breakfast special' of fried eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, pancakes, orange juice and coffee. With that under our belts we were off for home. We reached the US/Canadian border at 5:00 PM and got home to Cas' house by midnight.
Together we caught 105 walleyes, 22 northern pike, 12 perch and 11 whitefish during the last week in July, 2005. We ate 15 walleyes at the lake and took home 12 walleyes and 3 pike. We had an adventurous fishing trip. No one badly hurt (Cas recovered from the pike attack), we ate well, and we just enjoyed the lake, the people, and what nature provided us. We appreciated the opportunity for three fishing buddies to have time to fish together and enjoy the experience in a beautiful part of the country. Let's hope that there will be a few more adventures like this one in the future.
Link to Andre and Eric Cauchon's website, outfitters for Domaine Poutrincourt
Links to our previous trip reports to Lac Poutrincourt
our Trip report 2002 , our Trip report 2003
September 9, 2005
photos by Walt Kononenko
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