Written by Harold
- Published in The Fishing
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I think it would be fair to say that when taking about the fishing on and around Great Bear Lake, the last thing likely to come up in the conversation are Walleye.
Lake Trout, Grayling or Char to be sure, and perhaps even Pike from time to time – but Walleye – not likely.
Now to be fair, I have never heard of a Walleye actually being caught in Great Bear Lake, but strange as it may seem, you don't have to travel very far afield to find what is arguably one of the world's northern most Walleye fisheries.
So, would you care to indulge in some Arctic Walleye fishing?
Assuming you do, then the first stop on the Great Bear Lake Walleye Tour – or the GBLWT - is Lac Ste. Therese, and the Johnny Hoe River.
Lac Ste. Therese is located south of the McVicar Arm, at: 64 – 37'– 38" North by 121 -35'– 35" West, and along with the river, is reputed to have a very prolific Walleye fishery.
The Johnny Hoe meanders north across the tundra for approximately 18 km from Lac Ste. Therese, before emptying its tannin stained waters into Great Bear. The lake itself is fairly large, being just over 14 km long, and approximately 9 km wide.
Other than a handful of people who have flown in with inflatables, to the best of my knowledge, the lake and/or river has rarely been fished. Several guys I personally know fished the river for a day many years back while staying at Branson's Lodge. They even made plans to camp out on Ste. Therese the following year, with the intention of giving the lake a good going over, but unfortunately the inflatables they cached were no where to be found upon their return.
What I can tell you is that there were plenty of Walleye in the 2 to 3 pound range to be found in the Johnny Hoe.
There are some unconfirmed rumours that there was once a small commercial fishery operating on the lake many years back, with Walleye up to 20 pounds having been caught. But to this day they remain just that – unconfirmed rumours.
Next on the GBLWT is Jebb Lake.
Jebb is located on the northern most part of the Leith Peninsula, about half way between the McVicar and McTavish Arms at: 65-45'-0" North by 119-23'-5" West.
It's a decent size lake, measuring just over 7 km in length, with a width of approximately 1.8 km's.
If you happen to be familiar with the area around Plummer's Neiland Bay Lodge, Jebb is about a 420m walk from the back of the inlet adjacent to the area known as the "Stockyards."
There is also a road running the width of the Leith Peninsula that passes within about 400m of Jebb. Apparently it is an offshoot of the main ice road that once serviced the Eldorado Mine, and was used to haul supplies between Bear Island and Sawmill Bay lodges.
Taken in 2008, there are a series of aerial photographs below that follow the road across the peninsula from east to west, starting from the point where it meets Great Bear just south of Sawmill Bay. The road eventually touches the lake again on the west side of the Leith Peninsula south of Neiland Bay, where Great Bear Lake Lodge once stood.
Therefore, if you happen to have "catching the world's northern most Walleye" on your bucket list, you now know "where" to go in order to check that one off.
"Where" however is one thing, but "how" is an entirely different matter, because getting there is not going to be easy, unless you happen to have access to a floatplane.
But, if like most of us, a floatplane is rather hard to come by, I would recommend contacting Plummer's Arctic Lodges and see if they would be willing and/or able to set something up for you.
In the alternative, try one of the air services located in Yellowknife, such as Air Tindi or Buffalo Air, or perhaps North -Wright Airways, who operate out of Norman Wells, as any or all of them may be able to provide outfitting and transportation services to either location.
One other possibility, if your preference is to fish Jebb, would be to book a trip to Neiland Bay Lodge, tow a small boat and motor over to the "Stockyards," and then drag/carry it the 420m or so across the tundra to the lake.
For those of us who live in Canada, or the northern United States, as a rule we don't have to travel very far to get on to some Walleye.
But if you're up for something truly unique, try tracking down "Ol' Marble Eyes" in the land of the midnight sun, because I can guarantee you, it will be an experience you will never forget, and as an added incentive, if you happen to tire of catching Walleye - Great Bear Lake's monster Lake Trout will be lurking close by.
As a post script to this story, in 2013 some lucky anglers had the folks from Plummer's Lodge on Great Bear, fly them into the Johnny Hoe for the week. They found some very big Pike - the largest being 48" - and from the sounds of it I'm surprised the Walleye didn't chase them into their tents. The Walleye which averaged between 20" and 22," eagerly took flies, and I suspect pretty much anything else that was thrown their way - they even managed to catch 100 Walleye in just under an hour. If you happen to get bored with Walleye and Pike, there are Grayling, Lake Trout and some big Whitefish to be found in the area as well.