Image: Northern Pike, Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan
Don Weir  /  © www.greatwhitenorthresorts.com
Wollaston Lake's, remote location, in the Saskatchewan, and the general absence of fishermen and strict catch-and-release policies have made it one of the best places to catch gigantic northern pike—including a few more than four-feet-long and 30 pounds.
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updated 3/13/2008 9:59:05 AM ET 2008-03-13T13:59:05

What comes to mind when someone mentions a great fishing spot? Maybe a rustic lodge in the far north woods, accessible only by floatplane, and a vast lake with no other fishermen. And, because of the complete lack of fishing pressure, some of the biggest fish that swim.

Well, that’s the set up on Wollaston Lake in northern Saskatchewan. The lake stretches more than 100 miles with depths of 400 feet—perfect conditions for northern pike that reach more than 30 pounds. Because Wollaston is accessible only by plane, you’ll have the place virtually to yourself. In the cool northern summer, the fish stay shallow all summer, so you can fling topwaters, spinnerbaits, shallow-diving plugs, even fly-rod streamers to huge pike you might be able to see lying in the shallows.

“When it comes to monster pike, Saskatchewan’s Wollaston Lake is hard to beat,” says Tim Holschlag, fishing guide and writer whose beat reaches from his Minneapolis home far north into Canada. And that’s not even mentioning Wollaston’s lake trout and walleyes, arctic grayling. Or consider British Columbia’s Skeena River and its many tributaries. Flowing through the rugged mountains east of Prince Rupert, the Skeena is undeveloped and beautiful. And not exactly on the beaten path. But the fishing makes the difficulty in getting there worthwhile.

“Arguably the Skeena is perhaps the greatest steelhead river on the planet,” proclaims world-roving photographer and steelhead fanatic Tim Pask. “Anglers come from around the world just for an opportunity to swing a fly in this almost saintly water.” These are no little trout, either, but rose-and-silver monsters up to 30 pounds, the biggest steelhead that swim, with the power of torpedoes and an inclination to leap to the sky.

Some of the best fishing on the continent is neither remote nor expensive. We polled a panel of experts, authors, guides, TV hosts—for their favorite North American fishing holes. Predictably, some places they suggested, like Wollaston Lake and the Skeena, are remote and fabled. Think of it as the trip of the year—or a lifetime, depending on your pocket book.

But other candidates were more surprising. There’s topnotch fishing that’s within easy reach of anyone, so accessible that a lot of folks could fish them after work on a long summer afternoon.

One example was our best smallmouth hole: the Mississippi River, an hour north of the Twin Cities. The river here is broad and filled with riffles—and with smallmouth up to 5 pounds. Guide and writer Tim Holschlag specializes in floating long stretches of the river and taking smallmouth on a fly rod, casting streamers or poppers to deep runs along the banks. “The upper Miss is darn hard to beat for low angling pressure, high average fish size, and a consistent shallow-topwater bite all day and all summer,” he says.

Image: Largemouth Bass, Lake Fork, Texas
Judy Foldetta  /  © iStockphoto.com
The benchmark for calling a Southern bass big? Ten pounds. Every year, Lake Fork, Texas produces fish up to 18 pounds.
Author and fly-fishing great Lefty Kreh volunteered another hidden gem within easy reach of anglers. The shallow Gulf Coast marshes near the small town of Cocodrie, La., just southwest of New Orleans, offers superb redfish angling. Not as spectacular as bonefish or tarpon, perhaps, but redfish are the most popular game along the coast and one of the hardest tuggers. “We caught seven or eight over 20 pounds in two days,” Kreh says. “It’s by far the best redfish fishing I’ve ever had.”

Mark Sosin, host of the TV show "Saltwater Journal," suggested another: casting for snook in the inlets of southeastern Florida, an easy stretch for many anglers. Says Sosin, “One of the things I have tried to do in the last few years with my television programs is to showcase easily accessible areas where the visitor (or native) can catch species such as snook, bonefish, and permit without having to leave the country or hole up in a remote fishing lodge.”

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