By: Lisa Roper
What’s not to like about open-water fishing in a natural lake? If you are like me, you take every opportunity to be on the water, chasing all species of fish. My addiction to fishing is about more than the challenge and mystery of where fish are in the water. It’s about being outdoors enjoying nature, being present in mind, heart, and soul; a type of meditation. It is one of the only times I feel completely relaxed one second and full of adrenaline the next; fish on.
The Municipal District of Bonnyville has more than 15 recreational lakes, and plenty of them are home to northern pike, yellow perch, lake whitefish, walleye and burbot, with a couple of these lakes hosting lake trout as well. The northeast region of Alberta will leave you spoiled for opportunity with so many amazing lakes full of a wide array of freshwater fish.
Accompanied by the blue sky above me and the scorching sun creating a mirage of heat waves off the pavement, I was headed east from Sherwood Park to cast a lure on two lakes I had not fished before. This is the tale of how I fell for the charms of new lakes and communities.
Upon arriving at Marie Lake, I talked to the campground manager, who had a noticeable passion for fishing. He shared some of his extraordinary days on the water and showed me the trophy walleye on the store wall. I couldn’t wait to back my Tracker boat into the water. As I drove through the Marie Lake subdivision and campsite, I quickly realized it was a tight community of families, anglers, and water-sport participants alike.
Marie Lake is located approximately 25 kilometres north of Cold Lake, or three hours east from Sherwood Park. According to the Alberta Conservation Report, Status of Walleye and Northern Pike Sport Fisheries at Marie Lake, the maximum depth is 26 metres with an average depth of 14. Marie Creek, located on the northwest end, flows into Marie Lake, which then flows out at the south end via Marie River.
As I backed my boat off the trailer on the south launch, the echo of children playing on the beach and swimming in the water brought me back to my childhood years. I took a minute to enjoy the sounds and the spectacular view of the lake, outlined with the boreal forest and many picturesque sandy beaches. The water was crystal clear, and I could see the small rocks nestled on the sandy bottom.
With my boat slicing through the turquoise-blue water, I headed to a point on the lake the campground manager had suggested. It featured a mixture of structure with weed beds, rock structure and sand, and it didn’t take long till I felt soft nibbles from a walleye.
After a calm, peaceful day of walleye fishing, I headed to the Waterfront Harbour Bed & Breakfast in Cold Lake. Trivago recognized this B&B as one of the top 10 in Canada, and upon arriving I could see why. My room had a beautiful picture window with a view of the lake and the marina. As I sat at the window bench watching the boats leave and return, I couldn’t help but wonder what successes the anglers were having.
The town of Cold Lake follows the shores of its namesake; the seventh largest lake in Alberta is well known for its clearwater and world-class fishery and is home to many bird species and an abundance of wildlife.
That evening, there was a spectacular display of fireworks to celebrate Heritage Days. With so many people gathered at the marina and plenty of boats in the water, the cheering and camaraderie was everything you would expect from an inviting, close-knit community.
The next day I headed to Ethel Lake, 20 km south of Marie Lake. It is a small, very pristine lake with a campground, and the well-maintained boat launch is located next to the beach and day-use area. There were plenty of boats on the lake pulling water skiers and kids on tubes, along with anchored boats where people cast their lures for a chance to set a hook on a fish.
As per the 2021 Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations, anglers may keep one Northern Pike over 63 centimetres, as well as unlimited Yellow Perch, Lake Whitefish and burbot. Ethel Lake is a great place to bring a young family, as every other cast was another young, feisty pike. I trolled, jigged and cast my lure, and pike after pike was drawn to the boat.
A gentle breeze crossed the lake that afternoon and provided a much-needed break from the blazing sun. With the temperature of the water so warm, I decided to dive in and enjoy a swim. It reminded me of being on the water with my family, when my dad would stop the boat after a day of fishing so we could enjoy a swim.
With my boat loaded and ready to head home, I saw other anglers using the fish cleaning station and camp kitchen to enjoy a fish fry with family and friends. The community was priceless.
Marie and Ethel Lake exceeded my expectations for beauty, nestled amongst the tall spruce and aspen, gentle sloping sandy beaches, and sparkling blue warm water. They are also home to multi-specie fish, and I look forward to returning next spring with my family to feel the impressive bites of some of these fish.