The camping season is almost over. Most of the provincial parks in Northeastern Ontario are closing down in a few weeks. But it also happens to be the best time to visit them – to beat the crowds, soak in the solitude, and catch some fish.
Here are three of my favourite late season campgrounds:
If you’re looking for a good – and easy – place to camp and fish for brook trout and rainbow trout before the season is over, check out Kettle Lakes Provincial Park.
The campground is just 40 kilometres east of Timmins and provides 22 pond-sized lakes to paddle across and drop a line. The park is a geological masterpiece with the lakes created by massive glacial ice chunks left to melt in an elongated sand and gravel esker.
Brook trout and rainbow are stocked in most of the lakes, and pike, bass, and perch can be found in a few others as well.
The park has an impressive bike trail and some cozy campsites set under mature stands of common jack pine, interspersed with clumps of uncommon red pine. It’s a true northern boreal forest experience.
This park is similar to Kettle Lakes Provincial Park but is situated east of Kirkland Lake. There are 29 “kettle” lakes, many of which are connected by portage, providing a great opportunity to day trip and fish a number of places for brook trout, rainbow trout, and lake trout.
I once lived and worked (as a Forest Technician) out of Kirkland Lake, and the small town of Swastika. Esker Lakes Provincial Park is a gem of a place to pitch a tent or trailer for late season. However, I’ve had better luck fishing the nearby streams for brook trout than the stocked lakes in the park. Northern pike and walleye populate many of the surrounding lakes as well. Larder Lake and Howard Lake have been favourites of mine, as well as some smaller lakes that you can portage from there. Wynn Lake, just outside the park, is one of the few lakes chosen to be stocked with the rare aurora trout. Just make sure to check the regulations. The lake is open for fishing only every three years.
The park is situated just north of Sudbury and the main campground can be a busy place in the summer. However, in late season, it can be a ghost town, leaving lots of wild places to explore.
From the campground you can hike to your heart’s content on the four established trails and fish the main lake – Halfway Lake – for bass, pike, walleye, and lake trout. For the more serious angler, however, my preference is to canoe the interior. The park maintains two short canoe routes that provide the same fish species as Halfway Lake. The first is a day trip on the east side of the highway – the Antrim Lake Route. The second canoe route is a 2-3-day trip titled the Two Narrows Route, heading south to Bailey Lake, and then west to a series of smaller lakes.
The landscape is mostly the same as that of Kettle Lake and Esker Lake parks – rich boreal forest dominated by jack pine and several smaller lakes formed by past glaciation. Halfway Lake Provincial Park, however, is less flat, with a few upland hills formed along the water’s edge.
The backcountry routes get minimal maintenance, especially during the off-season, but it’s worth the extra effort to pitch a tent where you’re the only one on the lake.