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  The VS Fishin' Guide

Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. -- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

You will find angling to be like the virtue of humility, which has a calmness of spirit and a world of other blessings attending upon it. -- Izaak Walton (1593-1683)

Saskatchewan boasts some of the best freshwater fishing in the world. But for those not well familiar with our geography and recreational opportunities, the options might seem paralyzing: Saskatchewan is home to 100,000 lakes and hundreds of rivers and streams, three dozen provincial and many regional parks and scores of "outfitting" firms who specialize in accommodating anglers.

Relax. Virtual Saskatchewan is here to help (updated for 2013-14).

Here's what follows:

  • a quick run-down on Saskatchewan's seven most popular game fish and the best areas to catch them;
  • descriptions of Saskatchewan's three fishing zones and the kind of angling experience you might expect in each of them;
  • limits and licences;
  • all the links, addresses and phone numbers you'll need to book a fishing vacation, or a vacation that includes a bit of fishing, anywhere in the province.

In the end, the decision is yours. But we trust what follows will make it a lot easier.

So what are we waiting for? Let's get our lines wet. . . .

Saskatchewan's Most Popular Game Fish

Northern Pike - These guys are the scrappers of the freshwater fish world. They're found everywhere in Saskatchewan's lakes and rivers, usually in relatively shallow water and often in or around weed beds. They're a great eating fish, but mind the small bones. Use various spoons, crank baits or line spinners. Northern PikeAverage weight: 1 to 2.5 kg (2 to 5 lb).

Walleye - The most popular game fish in Saskatchewan. Delicious. Walleye prefer deeper waters, but are found in almost all but the shallowest lakes. They like sandy bottoms or the protection of rock overhangs. WalleyeUse jigs with bait, or jigging spoons. Average weight: 0.5 to 1.5 kg (1 to 3 lb).

Lake Trout - Saskatchewan's only native trout is common to the cool, clear and deep waters in the northern half of the province. This largest member of the trout family stays deep in the summer time, requiring the use of steel-line rigs or jigs. In early spring and fall, they're closer to the surface and can be caught by casting or trolling. Lake TroutUse crankbaits, spoons or even flies. Average weight: 1 to 1.5 kg (2 to 5 lb).

Arctic Grayling - Called the "sailfish of the north" because of its large dorsal fin. And, as its name implies, it's found in the cold, clear lakes and fast-moving streams of northern Saskatchewan. Cast very small spinners and jigs, or try dry fly-fishing with dark flies Arctic Graylinglike black gnats, dark cahill or brown hackle. Average weight: under 1 kg (2 lb).

Rainbow Trout - Successfully stocked in lakes throughout the province. Best fished with light spinning or fly tackle, using worms or Rainbow Trouta variety of small spoons or spinners. Average weight: 0.5 to 1.8 kg (1 to 4 lb).

Brook Trout - Prized by many anglers, these guys prefer cool, shady areas including deep holes, or behind rocks and logs. Use dry or wet flies, or light spinners or spoons. Fly-fishing recommended during insect hatches from mid-June to September. Brook TroutAverage weight: 0.5 to 1 kg (1 to 2 lb).

Yellow Perch - Great taste in a small package, and the perfect fish for the kids to catch. These fellows prefer a sandy bottom. Use the old hook, line and bob, or a light jig with a bit of beef, an earthworm or a leech. Yellow PerchAverage weight: approx. 250 grams (8 ounces).

Saskatchewan's Fishing Zones

Southern Zone — season runs from May 5, 2012 to March 31, 2013 (May 5, 2013 to March 31, 2014)

- all photos courtesy Tourism Saskatchewan

The southern zone encompasses the prairie portion of the province, where the vast majority of Saskatchewan's population resides. It stretches from the American border in the south to Prince Albert in the north - "north" is a relative term because Prince Albert is actually located some 200 kms (120 miles) south of the geographical centre of the province.

Let's explode a myth. Those who've only travelled our province on the southerly Trans-Canada Highway have been known to report Saskatchewan is flat, treeless and arid. In fact, cultivated farmland accounts for less than a third of Saskatchewan's landscape. Overall, 13 per cent of the province is fresh water. In some of the northern regions, 40 per cent of the area is water. One half of the province is forest.

While it's true that much of the southern region is given over to farming, it is not a never-ending wheat field. There are good fishing lakes and beautiful parks in this part of the province. And that means great recreational opportunities for those looking to include fishing as one of several outdoor activities to be enjoyed on a vacation. Because of the popularity and diversity of activities available at many lakes in the southern region, we categorize it as a "family fishing" area.

The huge Lake Diefenbaker, for example, is a very popular place to fish for big walleye and northern pike - a recent survey suggests it's the most popular fishing lake in the province. However, there are three provincial parks abutting the lake and it's a favoured spot for weekend camping, hiking, swimming and water sports. The Village of Elbow boasts a beautiful little harbour and marina that's home to dozens of yachts, sailboats and motorboats. In other words, there's plenty of activity, in addition to fishing, on and around the lake.

Busier still, because of their relatively smaller size, are the so-called "fishing lakes" of the Qu'Appelle Valley, located about an hour northeast of Regina. It's one of Regina's "cottage country" areas and it's home to one of Saskatchewan's most intensively-used provincial parks: Echo Valley. But while the picture-perfect valley is an extremely popular recreation area, its lakes are well-known for good walleye and perch fishing.

In the north-eastern portion of the southern fishing zone, situated amid rolling forest land inhabited by elk, moose, deer and black bear, lies Greenwater Lake Provincial Park. Greenwater is popular with pike and walleye anglers, while nearby Steistol Lake is stocked with trout. In the northwestern portion of the southern zone, a morning of angling for pike or walleye at Battlefords Provincial Park can be followed by an afternoon at the beach, or 18 holes at the immaculate grass-green course that hugs Jackfish Lake.

Central Fishing Zone — season runs from May 15, 2012 to March 31, 2013 (May 15, 2013 to March 31, 2014)

In general terms, Saskatchewan's southern fishing zone ends where the boreal forest begins. And to many Saskatchewan anglers, at least, this is where the real fishing begins.

It's important to note the transition from the southern "family" fishing zone to the central "serious angling" zone is not nearly so abrupt as would be suggested by the No. 55 Highway that divides the two. The southern part of the central zone is a great area for families seeking a nice compromise between solid "northern" fishing and family fun. It's home to Prince Albert National Park and four popular provincial parks, and it's one of the most beautiful family vacation areas in the province.

Dense aspen and pine forest, rolling hills and plenty of lakes and streams await visitors to the central fishing zone of Saskatchewan. The lakes are typically much clearer and somewhat cooler than those in the south. And because this zone represents the edge of Saskatchewan's vast northern wilderness, wildlife is abundant.

In the southwest portion of the central zone lies Meadow Lake Provincial Park, a sprawling park located just inside the tree-line and featuring a chain of 25 river-fed lakes. Several lakes in the east end of the park are popular with cottagers, while the westerly ones are, for the most part, less developed. Groceries, golf, mini-golf, tennis, great sandy beaches and small-town amenities are never further than a half-hour drive from just about anywhere in the park. There's very good northern pike, walleye and perch fishing here, with several outfitters offering boat/canoe rental, filleting and/or freezing services.

Prince Albert National Park, about an hour north of The City of Prince Albert, is one of the most beautiful parks in Canada. It features an abundance of wildlife including black bear, lynx, woodland caribou, elk, timber wolf, and the second-largest colony of white pelicans in Canada. The cabin of the famous 1930s naturalist Grey Owl, situated on Ajawaan Lake, can be reached by foot, canoe or water taxi.

The tourist town of Waskesiu, on Waskesiu Lake, offers all amenities (except an automated teller), including a wide range of dining, accommodation and recreational opportunities like the spectacular golf course. Other lakes in this park are undeveloped and some, like Namekus, don't allow motor boats. Record lake trout have been caught in Kingsmere Lake, while walleye and northern pike are plentiful in all lakes. Because of its popularity and the diversity of recreational opportunities it affords its many visitors, however, we'd recommend the park to the more casual angler wishing to experience a wide range of outdoor activities. A special licence required to fish in the park can be purchased at the park gates.

Candle Lake and Narrow Hills provincial parks, located just east of Prince Albert National Park, are smaller, boreal forest parks with good pike and walleye fishing. Candle features a wheelchair-accessible trout pond. Further east, but still in the southern part of the central zone, there's very good pike and walleye fishing at Tobin Lake, and in the waterways of the Cumberland Delta.

Travelling north on any one of the three main roadways in Saskatchewan's central fishing zone leads to angling heaven.

The western portion of the central zone is accessed by Highway No. 155, except for the Dore/Smoothstone/Sled-lakes region, which is reached by road from Highway No. 55 or by air via the strip at Dore Lake.

Fishing is the No. 1 recreational activity in this region, although a number of the outfitters accommodate family vacations and many provide hunting packages in season. The cooler and often deeper waters of the north spell lake trout and Arctic grayling to many anglers, but walleye and northern pike remain staples. The landscape varies from boreal forest in the southwest to the more rugged and rocky Precambrian Shield in the north and east. The Shield is truly Saskatchewan's lake country. It's here where lakes, rivers and streams account for up to 40 per cent of the area and it's here, as well, where one of the biggest concentration of outfitters can be found.

More than two dozen outfitting firms, mostly fly-in camps, are located in the La Ronge district of Saskatchewan. La Ronge Provincial Park, featuring big Lac La Ronge with its reputed 1,000 islands, can be reached by Highway No. 2. A similar number of outfitters are located in the eastern portion of the central zone, in the Jan Lake/Creighton/Pelican Narrows region abutting the Manitoba boundary. Most of the latter fishing camps can be accessed via the Hanson Lake Road.

Northern Fishing Zone — season runs from May 25, 2012 to April 15, 2013 (May 25, 2013 to April 15, 2014)

If you really want to get away from it all, this is the place to do it.

Most of the dozens of fishing camps in the northern zone are fly-in, although a few can reached by the mining road that leads up to Wollaston Lake in northeastern Saskatchewan.

While most of the northern zone is situated within the Canadian Shield, the landscapes can vary immensely. The south shore of massive Lake Athabasca in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan is home to 100-km stretch of active sand dunes, some reaching 30 metres (100 feet) in height. Just 100 kms north of the lake, the landscape takes a far more rugged turn with Precambrian rocks rising more than 100 metres (325 feet) above the surrounding terrain. Steep slopes are treeless, while black spruce and jack pine are prevalent in the lower slopes, and white spruce is found in the valleys and shorelines.

Here, as elsewhere in Saskatchewan, some outfitters are expanding the range of services they offer in order to appeal to lovers of nature, whether they fish or not. Some camps include aboriginal heritage programs, sightseeing and photography tours, and even trap-line and snow-sled expeditions in the winter.

Many of Saskatchewan's fly-in fishing camps have "outposts" on nearby lakes, where small parties of anglers can be flown by pontoon plane to spend a day or two in a different fishing venue. Other camps offer exclusive use of their lakes and facilities to parties as small as six people. Transportation through connecting flights can be arranged from anywhere in the world.

A trip to a premium, fly-in fishing camp in northern Saskatchewan can cost upwards of $500 (Cdn) per person, per day. These camps are well-versed in catering to the international sports person. Accommodations are first class, and some camps employ blue-ribbon chefs to insure every meal is a special experience. Guests need bring nothing but their fishing gear, toiletries, clothes and personal effects.

The Rules (licences and limits)

For the most up-to-date information on fishing licences for provincial residents and visitors, as well as for information on the type, number and size of fish you're allowed to catch, please check out the fishing page on Environment Saskatchewan's website.

Additional Information and Contacts

  • For (free) professional travel counselling, information, direct bookings, a free copy of the Saskatchewan Fishing and Hunting Guide (which includes brief write-ups on more than 200 outfitters), accommodations/resort/campground guide, the Saskatchewan Vacation Guide and/or a map of Saskatchewan (free to non-residents only), call toll free (in USA and Canada) 1-877-237-2273. Or check out Tourism Saskatchewan's official web site.
  • Know what you want, but need some help selecting an outfitter? Check out the Saskatchewan Outfitters Association or phone them at 1-306-763-5434.
  • Plenty of good information on provincial parks and recreational sites can be found at the Saskatchewan Provincial Parks site.
  • Wanna contact a Saskatchewan fishing specialist? Email fisheries biologist Murray Koob or phone him at (306) 953-2885.
  • General fishing questions? Phone Saskatchewan Environment's toll free inquiry number 1-800-567-4224.

    Good luck and great fishing!

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