I am very open about my love of Lake Kesagami. I have long been looking at their brochures filled with lots of walleye and big northern pike for a long time. I recently found Zac Amoroso who has guided at Kesagami. So, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him questions based on his insider knowledge. Zac didn’t disappoint. Anyone considering or dreaming of a trip to Lake Kesagami will enjoy all of what Zac shared with us.
I know enough about Lake Kesagami to know that I really want to go. What can you tell me about this fishing destination that will make me want to go there even more?
The walleye fishing is the best there is. The ads talk about 100 walleye days being common which seems pretty crazy but they are very true. As a guide, a lot of us have those days and even lots of guests will have them as well. I myself have had one particular trip with a group of six, we got close to 800 walleye in three days!!! We hit up three spots over those three days and every morning pulled in between 50-70 each morning before shore lunch and the rest of our numbers after.
What makes this place even better is the trophy pike fishing. Kesagami has the best pike fishing in Ontario for sure. Yes, you can get large pike in other destinations but I have yet to see a place that can produce pike with not only the 40 inch plus length and have a very , VERY healthy girth to them . I have yet to see a place with such a high consistency of the northern giants.
I’ve pulled pike out that are 41.5 inches long but had a 22 inch girth! And that’s on the lower end of the 40’s that come out of this lake. What makes it better is that more the 50% of the trophy pike are caught while jigging for walleye.
What were your feelings when you first arrived for your first year of guiding?
I first started guiding at Kesagami in 2014, I was 18 years old at the time. I was nervous but also really excited to get started. I had a lot of veteran guides that helped me out by giving me some information about the lake and some good spots to go.
The biggest thing I was nervous about was keeping up with the expectations of what the lodge advertises. Of course, my first guiding trip didn’t help. I was the camera boat for the great Bob Izumi and his show. Now, thankfully I didn’t have to guide him but I did have to guide his brother; Wayne Izumi which made me as equally nervous.
Of course I was not prepared for this. We ended up getting a few walleye and he got broken off on a pike but I definitely was not prepared for that. Over the days of being with the group, Wayne taught me a few great pointers on getting guest a better position to fish and easier ways to control the boat which has helped me so much over my guiding career.
After getting to Kesagami, what were the toughest things to learn as a guide about fish behavior in the lake?
I would say the toughest thing on a regular basis to learn as a guide is how to work a spot properly and if you’re getting the odd fish, whether to stay at a spot or go try another.
Another tough situation and I would actually say is the hardest to work with is when a big cold front hits. Usually up at Kesagami, there are no small cold fronts. I’ve seen all four seasons happen in one week and a couple of the extremes happen in one day.
I remember one cold front that came through on June 11th two years ago. My clients and I were making our way to our spot and it started to snow. When we got there, it was white out conditions from the snow coming down so hard. Not only that but we had 3 to 4 feet waves to follow the snow.
Another guide and I were looking at each other wondering “what the heck is going on?” We got our fish for shore lunch, went to our cooking spot. The sun came out and we were taking off layers because it was getting so warm out. It was a crazy day.
With the major cold fronts that happen, the hardest thing to do is to get those fish to bite. With the fronts being so severe, the fish get lock jaw from the major drop. Once you find the fish, you really have to be precise with your jigs to get them to bite.
As you mentioned, I understand that this lake can get rough. What steps should guests take to prepare themselves for a safe trip to Kesagami?
One of the biggest things I can’t stress enough is to bring rain gear and warm clothes. There are some guests that come up and don’t bring any. The weather can change so quickly that you can’t predict what is going to come. You might come in on a beautiful warm but the next day the temps could drop and a heavy north wind could stir up from the north. Don’t be afraid to bring up sweatshirts and sweatpants even winter jackets. Also thermal leggings and long sleeve shirts are a good thing to bring as well.
Like anywhere the fishing can turn off. How do you as a guide adjust to these tough conditions to still find fish for your guests?
Some of the toughest conditions to be able to not only get walleye but pike as well are the severe cold fronts like I said earlier. Those pike and walleye shut right down. For Pike, I’ve learned that a stop and go pattern is best when they shut off. You really have to position yourself properly to get the right cast. Sometimes, I’ve had clients get big pike just by downsizing to a small twister tail on a jig and slowly trolling it around rock points and weed points/edges.
For the walleye, I find that you have to downsize your bait. For me, I’m a huge fan of 3” swimbaits for walleye. But when the bite shuts off, I will put a small twister tail on my client’s rods and we will do the same we do for big pike. If the winds are too high to be able to troll, I will setup into a calmer area, cast alongside the rock/weed point and slowly reel it back to the boat. Since walleye are bottom feeders, trolling or casting and slowly retrieving the bait keep your jig in the strike zone consistently while still covering a lot of water. If we don’t get many bites after about 30 to 45 minutes, I move to another spot.
One of my favorite parts of going on a trip is the excuse to add to my tackle collection. What are the baits that every angler needs to have a few of before coming to Kesagami?
To make it easy, all that is needed up there for the walleye is a 1/4 ounce jig head and a twister tail. You can always catch fish on those. For me, like I said, I’m a huge fan of jigging 3 inch swimbaits in either a green pumpkin or a white. I find the larger profile of a swimbait entices more bites and for the most part, more quality bites for shore lunch. I will also carry twister tails with me in either white, chartreuse, or my favourite, pink and white swirl. For whatever reason, whether it be the imitation of the emerald shiners or just the colour in the stained water, I can always rely on that colour as well.
For pike, I will always have three baits with me, a black spinnerbait, a Johnson Silver Minnow…silver in the 1/2oz and gold in the 1 1/8oz…or a white swimbait 4.5 to 5 inches. Those three baits I have the most confidence in.
I do have a couple black buzz baits with me at all times because you get the odd time that they work well. I have a few buddies who like a buzz bait a lot more because they have more confidence in it but I haven’t found confidence in it.
The owners of Lake Kesagami have a long history of utilizing proper conservation methods on the lake including an emphasis on fish handling. From a guide’s perspective, what are the critical aspects of proper handling for big trophy pike?
I would definitely say that the two biggest successes of Kesagami’s conservation of the trophy pike is the barbless hooks and the cradles. Barbless hooks have been huge because of how easy it is to remove the hook and how little stress it gives the fish. I’ve had client’s fish take a lure to the back of its throat and if we didn’t have barbless hooks, that fish would have had a lot more stress than it did and would have probably died later on.
The cradles have been a crucial part because of the easy of keeping the fish in the water while getting the hook out. Less stress on the fish which gives the fish a quick release. I have yet to have a fish that has taken more the 1-2 min to swim off because of how the barbless hooks and the cradles reduce the stress in the fish.
Another part that I have done is when a client gets a smaller pike and they don’t want a picture, I won’t even get the cradle or take the fish out of the water. I can grab the line and pop the hook out because of the barbless hooks, it’s that easy. Not every fish needs to come out of the water and if they do, it’s usually a quick hook removal, quick picture, and off the fish goes.
What are your five most important recommendations of having a successful trip to Kesagami?
First, I would like to say to any future guests that come to the lodge, come in with an open mind. You will have a much better trip by just enjoying your trip instead of worrying about getting all the fish and the biggest fish in the lake. Any time I have had guests come in my boat with an open mind and a sense of adventure, they have always caught lots of fish and made it a great trip because they weren’t stressed about anything. The more stressed you are, the less confidence you have in yourself and your guide and end up fishing worse.
Second, bring rain gear and warm gear. I said it earlier and I will say it again. It is crucial because without it, you either will be cold and/or wet while fishing or won’t want to go out because of the weather. You pay a lot to go on this trip, don’t get caught without the right gear that could potentially make or break your trip.
Third is more on the common sense side but definitely bring your fishing gear. The lodge does provide gear if you don’t have any but it is always nice to use gear that you’re familiar with.
Fourth is a camera. Lots of memories are made up at the lodge from fish catching to the all-around fun had throughout the trip. Another reason is for the wildlife seen. Some days/weeks you may not see much but other days, you can see so much. I’ve seen bears, woodland caribou, eagles, white tailed deer, moose, and some have seen wolfs. It can all happen out of nowhere.
Fifth is a fillet knife and some spices you like if you plan on doing your own shore lunch without a guide. The lodge supplies you with the main ingredients for your shore lunch; potatoes, onions, fish crisp, ketchup, and salt and pepper. If you like other spices, don’t be afraid to bring them.
What have been the biggest pike and walleye in your boat at Kesagami?
The biggest pike to come in my boat was 46.5 inch length x 19 inch girth. We were fishing a rock point and the walleye were few and far between but we were still getting a few. Once we got our shore lunch, my client decided to cast for pike, which is never a bad idea.
Within 10 casts, he hooked up. It was coming in very easy for some odd reason, we thought it was a walleye around 21-23”. Once it got to the boat, it started to get heavier and took a few quick runs. At that point we knew it was a pike but didn’t know how big. Then, the submarine surfaced and we were in aww of the size. Once we saw it, it went right in the cradle with no fight. We got the hook out, measured it, and sent it on its way.
That day we thought we had caught the largest pike of the season. Turns out that we weren’t the only ones to catch some pike over 40”. I think another 3 to 4 people caught pike over 40 inches, but one in particular caught our attention. A women who has come to the lodge for a few years now, pulled one out that was 47 inches. It JUST beat us. Either way, it was great to hear that a few giants were caught that day and were very healthy.
The biggest walleye to come in my boat was a 25.5 inch walleye I caught. I was with a group of 6 and we were smashing the walleye. Just my boat had close to 200 for the full day. We were at 114 walleye caught and I was making a joke with the kids saying “whose going to get 115???” which one of the kids replied “I’m gonna get that one”. I made my cast and on the drop got hit, so I set and I missed it, so I cast back to it. Again it hit on the drop and this time I hooked it.
Right away you could tell it was a good fish because when I set the hook, my rod tip didn’t move. I got stopped in my hook set from the weight of the fish. We got it in by me grabbing the belly of the fish and cradling it into my lap. We then measured it, took the pictures and let it go. This fish was so clean and didn’t have a mark on it.
What have been your favorite moments from guiding on the Lake?
All of my memories made from guiding have been with the people I meet. Even some I never guided still made great memories. Some in particular are The Sheridans and Pat McConnell. The Sheridans are a large group of guys that come up every year. Every year we talk for so long, have a lot of good laughs and play lots of poker every night. I feel like they are a part of the guys working for the lodge just as they are guests because of how close they are with everyone there.
Pat McConnell is a friend who I’ve guided every year. We have always had a great time because of all the stories we have to tell each other and all the fun times we have, from the fishing, to the relaxing and tasteful shore lunches cooked every day.
I keep reading and rereading this interview. How amazing a place Lake Kesagami must be. And Zac is making memories for himself and his guests that will last a lifetime. Thank you Zac for sharing some of those memories with us.
I should end this by saying that I have no relationship with Lake Kesagami Lodge. Nor have I ever been there. So, this is in no way a paid for advertisement. I chose to interview Zac because I would love to go to Lake Kesagami Lodge someday and because I could tell he is a great guide.