Cree River Lodge
If you’ve heard stories (and seen photos) of monster northern pike being caught at Cree River Lodge, well, I’m here to tell you they’re true. At least mine are. After two trips to Cree River, I have never heard anyone say they’ve caught more big pike anywhere else and most say it is on their list of top pike destinations. Many say it’s on their list of top fishing destinations, period.
Though located in far northern Saskatchewan, access was easy via North Cariboo Air from Edmonton to Stony Rapids, then a quick float-plane ride (or bus/boat trip) to the remote lodge. Remote, but convenient. The lodge, with cabin wings stretching out either side, all with a scenic view of the water, is located on Wapata Lake, part of the Cree River system. It’s a beautiful scenic spot to relax on the deck and watch the sun go down.
On arrival, we dumped our duffel bags in our comfortable two-bedroom cabin, rain-suited (just in case) and geared up and were fishing within minutes of arrival. We started catching fish immediately and found we didn’t have to travel to distant corners to find fish; we were catching nice walleye and decent pike within sight of the lodge, but there’s so much fishable water we boated out to explore each day. Owner Patrick Babcock and his crew of knowledgeable guides can put you on fish. We’d generally went after walleye until we had enough, saving a few for shore lunches (a whole ‘nother story), then go after the pike.
I don’t want to speak for Babcock, but I’ll bet he’ll tell you you’ll have legitimate chances at 40-inch-plus pike. We did. With guide Adam George at the tiller, we fought aggressive pike and hungry walleye day in and day out, barely wanting to stop for lunch. Speaking of food, this is no place to even think about losing weight. Breakfasts and suppers, prepared by capable and friendly camp cook Shirley Trumbley, were hearty to the point of overfull, then she brought out dessert. Lunch was either fresh-as-fresh-can-be fried walleye, with plentiful side dishes, all cooked on the spot or ample packed lunches if you wanted to dedicate more time to fishing.
Babcock and his crew take incredible care of their resource, carefully handling and releasing the fish – especially those huge pike – to live, spawn and fight another day. The catch-and-release policy is working, resulting in numerous fish and numerous big fish. Several times while we were reeling in a decent-size walleye or pike, the hooked fish was hit by a large pike. We caught 30 to 34-inch pike scarred with toothmarks of giant pike that had intended to have them for lunch. It’s got to be a big fish to think it can eat a 34-inch pike.
Then we found the giant pike and understood what can eat a 34-inch fish. Babcock took us to a remote bay, where we hit paydirt. I caught seven pike over 40 inches – ranging from 41 to 47 inches – in one day, and we didn’t put in a long day. I fell three inches short of the magical Cree River Lodge 50-inch mark. I was close, but there’s always next time in Saskatchewan.
Tip: Fish can be caught by casting off the dock, including 40-inch-plus pike. Hit it early in the morning or as you’re winding down in the evening. You’ll thank me later.
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Outdoor Life Contributing Writer and Offhand Shots Columnist