Alberta Central

Fishing with family is fantastic

Camping and fishing go hand in hand

Hours on the water fishing are some of the best times with my brother, Pete.
Hours on the water fishing are some of the best times with my brother, Pete. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

My brother, sisters and I grew up fishing, but it’s my brother, Pete, who takes keeping a line wet most seriously. Every time Pete takes his RV out, he takes his boat. His fifth-wheel allows him to haul a boat. Fishing is the reason he has an RV, so he and his crew can sleep comfortably wherever they fish.

This year, like most years, he fished Lac la Biche in northern Alberta with old friends. He has been fishing with some of these guys for more than 30 years. I remember fishing with my dad, Uncle Al (no blood relation) and a boatload of kids at Beaver, Muriel and Square lakes, near the town of Lac la Biche. There are a number of lakes to choose from around Lac la Biche.

Priceless family time

Relationships deepen with just you and your brother in a boat. You have all the time in the world at that moment, no rush, nowhere to go just now and nothing to do––except fish. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don’t. It’s easy to be together because we’re fishing.

A propane-converted restaurant-style deep fryer delivers delicious snacks.
A propane-converted restaurant-style deep fryer delivers delicious snacks. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

“It’s my vacation you know,” Pete said.” I don’t fish like I used to.”

I remember those days: a quick cold breakfast before dawn, on the lake at first light, fish till dark. We would pull the boat ashore sometime around two in the afternoon when the fishing slackened, build a small fire and pan-fry fresh fish with potatoes and onions. We set opened cans of creamed corn and baked beans right in the fire. Pete always had hot dogs along just in case we failed to find a fish­­––we never needed them––but we always ate them. Sometimes we had a nap right there on a bit of sand beach.

Many of those days we caught and released 300 fish or more in a day. We kept a big pike for lunch and often one for the next day’s breakfast.

Big lake with big fish

Lac La Biche lake is huge and a bit of wind can take the surface from smooth-as-glass to downright dangerous in a matter of minutes. When you’re piloting a boat, pay close attention to the wind and weather. A storm came up fast this past fishing trip, and by the time we headed back to shore the boat was porpoising and my lower back was taking a pounding on the seat. We were all hanging on for a rough ride.

A big lake like Lac la Biche holds monster pike. The 1983 Alberta record for northern pike still stands at 17.23 kilograms (38 pounds) from Keho Lake in southern Alberta near Picture Butte, but it would not surprise me to have the next record come from northern Alberta.

While a record would be welcomed, one legal fish will feed the whole fish-fighting crew, especially when there are potatoes, onions and mushrooms on the fire. (I noticed the broccoli stayed in the camper by consensus.)

Lac la Biche lake.
Watch the weather closely on lakes like Lac la Biche. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

Some folks camp to fish

This year we camped at the island campsite in Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park near the town of Lac la Biche. Nearly every campsite had a boat parked adjacent to the trailer. Most are fifth-wheels, taking advantage of Alberta’s transportation laws that allow a trailer to be pulled behind a truck. One of the guys has a motorhome and pulls a fishing boat. His son-in-law puts the boat in the water. Most boats are more than four metres (16 feet) long.

These people around the campfire are first loosely connected by work and location. Some are lifelong friends in spite of living hundreds of kilometres apart. I was there at the invitation of my brother and first shook the hand of many of these guys and their wives nearly 30 years ago. Some of these folks travel only with their boat and fifth-wheel combinations. The RV is just a platform to get them closer to good fishing with less travel time between sleeping and the first cast of the morning.

Fantastic fishing friends and fine food

One of the guys has rigged a restaurant deep-fryer to run on propane, making the annual chicken wings and fries night legendary. He punches French fries from fresh potatoes right at the campsite, blanches the potatoes in hot oil and then fries them a second time to brown them to a crisp. Fourteen of us sat around the fire and ate deep-fried chicken wings covered with Frank’s hot sauce or teriyaki or sweet chili sauce. Your choice. I had some of all three.

Truck and boat.
Some fisherman haul a trailer just to be able to fish. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

One of the guys is a master of banana cream pie. He set down an armload of pies and one of the guys whipped cream by hand. When we were all satisfied with the soft peaks of whipped cream, it made the rounds with the pie. These people are easy with each other. They accept each other’s foibles and regularly poke fun at each other. No one is exempt.

The fire is stoked, drinks replenished, and another round of I-remember-stories start. Every year, shortly after the ice is off the lake this crew gathers around the fire for more stories, shared food and fine fishing. It’s the kind of thing that makes a guy grateful for being invited and is a reminder that RVing and the outdoors lifestyle are rewarding.

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