One night during the summer of 2012, Steve Herbeck stood on the dock of Andy Myer’s Lodge and passed around photos of a 35-pound musky. It was the second he had caught in as many days fishing in Eagle Lake, Ontario. All the musky fishermen were bragging but Steve was the only one with pictures to prove his tale.
Two nights of recounting this incredible story had caused Steve to become the target of some teasing. The other men thought that maybe he was becoming too used to snagging these monstrous sized fish. But catching muskies in the 35-pound range in Eagle Lake is far from unheard of. The lake’s trophy-rated waters provide many fishermen with similarly incredible tales to tell. That same night, Steve told the men of the extraordinary musky that had rolled past his boat just that very afternoon. He estimated it a whopping 60 inches in length, 10 inches across the back, and 18 from dorsal side to ventral side. Now, while it’s wise to subtract about 10 pounds from any estimation of a fish seen from the boat, Steve knows what he’s talking about. With years of experience as a guide in Wisconsin, he is famous for taking clients to the best places to catch these huge muskies. One of these clients was Steve White, who caught the record-setting 47-pound, a 10-ounce behemoth in 1992.
Just two years after this monstrous catch, Herbeck and Don Hunt, his business partner, bought Andy Myers Lodge after fishing Eagle Lake for fifteen years. For six weeks each summer, the men pulled one record-setting musky fish after another from these very Ontario waters and have since inspired many other anglers to do the same.
About Eagle Lake, Ontario
Sprawling over 68,000 acres, Eagle Lake is located near the village of Vermilion Bay, 24 miles west of Dryden. Containing more than 490 islands, the lake offers clear, trout-type water in the west arm and fertile, dark water (the kind that musky favor) in Osbourne Bay.
The islands provide a huge variety of reefs, sandbars, and knolls that any musky angler has surely heard tell of. For years, there were very few fish in Eagle Lake. However, the careful addition of ciscoes, lake trout, whitefish, and walleyes has provided plentiful food to grow the strong musky population that exists here today.
The clear waters of the lake allow the fish to easily see the fishermen’s bait; meaning even the amateur angler has the chance to catch a big one. Most anglers get in their boats at dawn and stay out until the sun goes down when everyone must leave the water. Even trips where nothing is caught are exciting enough to inspire returns to the lake for many years to come.
Regulations on Fishing The Lake
Special musky fishing licenses are required to fish lakes and river segments that have been designated as “trophy waters”. Eagle Lake harbors three varieties of musky fish, including Silvers, also known as the Wisconsin musky; the Spotted, or Leopard, musky; and the Tiger musky. In addition to these, the trophy-sized Northern Pike is found naturally here.
The musky season begins on the third Saturday of every June and runs until November 30th. Currently, a 48-inch size limit is imposed for all muskies in Eagle Lake, however, a 52-inch limit is under discussion. This new limit would mean a keeper would weigh 40 pounds. These restrictions are in place to preserve the high quality of sports fishing that we currently enjoy today.
Anglers know that putting the smaller fish back after a catch is essential for growing trophy-sized fish for the coming years. There are thousands of fish under 45 inches in Eagle Lake and careful adherence to the size limit ensures that there will be just as many muskies over 45 inches for many years to come. The populations of musky fish may be denser in the States, but here in Ontario, we are growing some truly huge ones.
Musky Fish Patterns
The musky fish in Eagle Lake follow similar movement patterns as those in the Midwestern United States, only on a much larger scale. These fish favor shallow water with a murky bottom that’s perfect for spawning. As the lake warms during the summer, the fish move into the deeper waters. In July, they favor the weedy areas because of the protection offered by the vegetation. August finds the fish closer to the rocks surrounding the islands, especially if a cold front knocks down some of the weeds. Later in the season, during September and October, muskies can be caught in both areas, with the largest specimens generally being found close to the rocky island outcroppings.
Veterans of Eagle Lake will notice the “corridor” patterns favored by the muskies. Tracking studies conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources have found that the fish travel over broad areas of the lake. A musky with a distinguishing mark may be seen in one area of the lake for a few days and then spotted again over a quarter of a mile away. These corridors could consist of a path of deep water between two islands or a route leading to an island. When multiple corridors exist in one area of the lake, the number of fish in that area increases. However, it is important for anglers to vary the areas they fish in to prevent overcrowding and thus, overfishing.
Creating Your Own Legend at Eagle Lake
During the summer months, the muskies will move around the shallow waters of Eagle Lake to feed in the early morning hours until late in the evening. Surface bait, particularly the Hi Fin Magnum Teaser tail, has been found to be especially attractive to the muskies in recent years. Persistent anglers have been known to regularly catch 35-pounders!
Be sure to take pictures of any catch, even if it has to be released. With time and patience, fishers at Eagle Lake will soon have their own stories to add to the legend of these extraordinary waters.