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Times are changing at Gogama Lodge

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Times are changing at Gogama Lodge



August 02, 2009,

Will Elliott / www.buffalonews.com




John Wahl and Peter Cook with a full stringer of Gogama walleye, bass and pike.



No matter how many fly-in or outback fishing trips one takes in north country, every one presents new ventures and adventures.


Our annual run to Gogama offered changes even before we got there. John Wahl of Pendleton, Peter Cook of Cheektowaga, regulars on this northern Ontario run, and I knew that Gogama Lodge had been sold.


“The lodge was officially sold as of June 30, after 45 years,” Dick Harlock said when we returned from our ventures and adventures on two separate lakes last week.


For more than four decades, Harlock and his late wife, Joan “Midge” Harlock catered to anglers, hunters, and all manner of vacationers seeking outdoors enjoyment and exercised relaxation throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons.


During spring and fall bear seasons, Harlock logged more than 500 bear kills out of his lodge through those years. A decade after spring bear seasons were canceled in Ontario Province, he still sees the virtue in an early bear season.


“There are more bears around here than ever,” he said after we inspected the framed and caged garbage cans damaged during the bruins’ nightly visits to the village.


Harlock had gotten great reports of walleye catches on a small lake east of Gogama, so we booked a short week for that lake with a nice six-person cabin at its northeast corner.


I’d fished the lake before—during bear seasons and one summer week— but, as always, every trip is different. Harlock recommended minnows, based on earlier anglers’ successes. They worked. But even the best of minnows can’t draw tons of attention when the wind dies and the sun rises through a cloudless sky.


We cooked a few fish for fries, but our faces looked more cooked than walleye fillets after just two days on the water. No complaints. While it’s sad to catch only 20-30 fish per day from a lake that produced 40-50 fish per angler day three to four years back, the pike and walleye we caught on light and ultra-light tackle-plus moose sightings, made the first four days fun.


Fly-in trips call for extensive pre-planning. Selections include everything from sites, to lures, to fishing approaches. All take time and consideration. After all, perhaps the most valuable planning aspect of these trips has to be flexibility.


Wahl and Cook strongly possess this attribute. When the fish weren’t hitting on the honey holes—two major sunken islands I’d scoped out years earlier— they moved to hard drop-off edges and poked ’eyes all around the lake.


Since my last visit to this lake, smaller northern pike—in the 2-to 4- pound range—had gained sway in a lake that clearly showed good forage (bait) schools presence on the sonar.


A scheduling wrinkle brought Harlock to our lake on Friday afternoon with a request to leave a day early and fish another popular walleye lake so that a couple could take that cabin and lake on Saturday. Flexibility here prevailed.


We packed and readied for a last-day run to another lake. The lack of gear and a steady rain all that Saturday couldn’t dim or dampen our day. John Wahl fishes a good number of popular Western New York and southern Ontario lakes and bays throughout the summer and winter. Peter Cook enjoys analyzing every fishing site—going in and throughout the stint on that section of water.


For four days we had poked and prodded for good places to pull fish. At the second lake, Wahl and Cook found a massive school of walleye on their first drift north of a mid-lake island in a steady, 5-10 mph southeast wind that brought overcast and rainy skies all day. Plus, it brought walleye, bass, and northern pike up the sides of reefs and sunken islands throughout the day.


Wahl and Cook kept their limit of walleye—four each—and also took a few bass and a couple northern pike. “We got them there all day,” Wahl said of their drift that kept them over fish near the south-central part of the lake.


A father-and-son team worked around a rock pile at the north end of the lake. Like Wahl and Cook, they never moved. Later, during dinner, they said they caught all the fish they wanted.


The Saturday night dinner at Gogama Lodge was the first time I had to chat with the new owners, Mark and Tracy Smith, formerly from Guelph, Ont.


“We sold out there [in Guelph] and plan to keep open here year round,” Mark Smith said of the lodge and its facilities.


Smith has been taking bookings for the promising bear season, which opens Aug. 15.


“We’re also going to set up for snowmobilers,” he said of the hundreds of miles of north country snow trails that connect with Gogama.


To check on the new Gogama Lodge offerings, go to gogama.com. To arrange for fly-in and fish-camp outings, call Harlock at (705) 894-2150.

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