Julien Mikelsons is a young angler who currently lives in British Colubmia. But fishing started for Julien in the Kawarthas. For many reasons he makes his way back to the Kawarthas every year for fishing and family. Julien offers his perspectives on Kawarthas fishing and his overall approach to fishing the Kawarthas region. He also focuses on two of his favorite Ontario lakes, Lake Kasshabog and Buckhorn Lake. Julien’s perspectives on Kawarthas fishing is something all of us can learn from.
While you moved from Ontario over a decade ago, you still return every year to fish the Kawarthas. With all the fishing between British Columbia and southern Ontario, what keeps you coming back?
While there are certainly ample opportunities to find great fishing here in British Columbia, there’s nothing quite like the Kawarthas. What I love about the Kawarthas is the abundance of highly productive lakes within close proximity to Hamilton, my home town.
While I have developed a keen interest in BC fishing where trout and salmon are the common target, I find myself missing the mesotrophic systems of the Kawartha Lakes. These mesoptrophic systems produce a much wider variety of fish species than the waters of BC and yield robust populations which can keep fish on your line all day/week long!
My favorite aspect of fishing the Kawartha Lakes would have to be the aggressive top water and shallow attacks from largemouth and smallmounth bass, muskie, pike etc. In my mind, there is nothing better than watching an explosion on glassy water when fishing the Heddon Zara Spook or my favorite popper, the Rapala Skitter Pop!
Lastly, on this point, family is one of the main reasons I keep coming back to the Kawartha Lakes. While I have made a new life for myself and my fiance in BC and have visited some truly stunning areas, visiting family is extremely important to me. The Kawartha Lakes provide the perfect getaway for family to reconnect with each other and with the beautiful landscapes that makes Ontario so great!
Out of the Kawartha Lakes, what are your favorites?
Lake Kasshabog: I originally developed my love for the Kawartha Lakes as a kid, I have been spending a week at a family cottage on Lake Kasshabog since I can remember. Lake Kasshabog offers great fishing for a variety of species including smallmouth and largemouth bass, muskie, walleye and yellow perch. It also offers kids great dockside fishing opportunities for rock bass and pumpkinseed to get them hooked, it is also common to hook into some big largemouth and smallmouth while dockside angling. Kasshabog also has a ton of undeveloped shoreline along a variety of habitats ranging from steep drop-offs ideal for smallmouth and walleye and shallow vegetated marshes ideal for musky and largemouth.
There is no shortage of quiet corners of the lake where you can fish without encountering other anglers, makes for some beautiful outings!
Buckhorn Lake: Buckhorn Lake offers some of the best muskie fishing in the area and in my opinion is the best of the tri-lakes (Buckhorn, Pigeon and Chemung Lakes). Many large swaths of the lake have depths consistently ranging from the 6 to 10 feet which makes it ideal to drift with the wind or navigate with a trolling motor while covering lots of water casting big bucktails, spinnerbaits and swimbaits for aggressive muskie. Lodging can also be relatively inexpensive on Buckhorn with my favorite accommodations being the cabins at Poplar Grove. Poplar Grove is located along the west side of Scollard Bay and is within close proximity to awesome fishing grounds, I’ve even seen big muskie caught right off of their docks. Poplar Grove also offers boat rentals for those without one of their own.
With your experience on these lakes, what are your favorite techniques for catching Kawartha bass?
My favorite techniques for targeting bass on the Kawartha Lakes varies depending on the season. During the warm summer months when fish are most active, I find myself throwing Strike King spinnerbaits (usually white) the majority of the time. I find it hard to steer away from spinnerbaits during this time as they allow you to cover a huge amount of water, they work well in heavily vegetated areas and they give you a good chance to hook up with a roaming muskie. While throwing spinnerbaits however, I always have a second rod on hand fitted with a soft plastic texas rig setup. Soft plastics are great to throw when you get follows from finicky fish or if you spot a perfect hole that you want to hone in on.
When fishing slows down in the fall, I tend to move to jig setups, texas rigs and suspending crankbaits…generally worked slowly.
You love catching muskie. What are your favorite ways to fish for Kawartha muskies?
I love using 2 oz. spinnerbaits for muskie. Again, this is a great way to cover a lot of water and they work well in weedy areas. I would always prefer casting than trolling although when your arms get sore from tossing all day, trolling is a great option!
What are some of your favorite Kawartha fishing memories?
My favorite Kawartha fishing memories have to be spending time with my best friend and legendary fisherman Peter Kosid who tragically passed away in 2012. I always have these memories to smile about, canoe portage trips to small back lakes for non-stop bass action, canoeing through the ‘Hogsback’ area of the Pigeon River fishing for bass and Muskie while attending Fleming College to our last outing in the summer of 2012 on my favorite Lake Kasshabog!
While this isn’t a ‘Kawartha’ fishing memory, my favorite time to look back on was helping Peter land in a 6.4 oz Largemouth from our canoe at the Valens Lake John Burns Memorial Bass Derby many years back. Peter caught that fish at 7 am and nobody beat him all day, needless to say, he proudly held the trophy at the end of it all!
What are 5 pieces of advice for newbies to Kawarthas coming to vacation for the first time?
1. If you don’t know the water your fishing, cover a lot as much ground as you can to start. Best way to do this in the summer is tossing spinnerbaits to hone in on hot spots.
2. Stay positive and never quit fishing. It took me years to land my first muskie, perseverance pays off.
3. Prepare for your trip and review bathymetric charts (if available). Doing your research beforehand can save a ton of time on the water. Depending on what type of fish you’re targeting and what season your fishing, look for deep pockets, steep drop-offs, shallow bays, etc.
4. Bring lots of gear and if possible have at least two setups going at all times to maximize your chances in all conditions/areas. Sometimes a hole in the weeds just calls for a soft plastic!
5. Be prepared for the weather and bugs! You can’t always plan your trip around great weather, if it happens to rain during your whole trip you’ll be happy you thought ahead with good rain gear, you can’t catch fish while sitting in the cottage! As for bugs, some of my best fish have come at dusk when the bugs are at their worst, get some good bug spray or lotion…Watkins if you aren’t afraid of deet!! Dusk also can be the best time for top water fishing, can’t think of a better way to catch a fish.
I can’t let you go without asking a bit about British Columbia fishing. What are your favorite waters out there?
When fishing locally in Vancouver, I like to head to Buntzen Lake for rainbows. As there are strict regulations on keeping wild trout in most moving water in BC, lakes are the only place you can catch and eat trout! Even without a boat, the east side of the lake can be walked easily, casting spoons is a sure way to hit em..just be patient!
When I’ve got some time on the weekends, I love to head up the Squamish River. Certain times of the year can be challenging due to high turbid water, specifically in the spring during the freshet and in the fall when heavy rains are common. The Squamish River offers amazing cutthroat trout and bull trout fishing year round and is only 45 minutes away from Vancouver. Summer and winter steelhead runs are also some of the best in the country. If salmon is your game, coho fishing and pink salmon fishing can’t be beat in the Squamish.
I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in the east kootenays over the years for work. When I’m out there, I try to fly fish the Elk River every day. The Elk River offers some of the best Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout fishing in the world, and is a great place to hone in on your fly fishing game.
Thank you Julien…great stuff! Good luck this summer when you return for some more special Kawarthas fishing and memories.
Check out Julien on Instagram