JERRY Dunlop's dream was to own a fishing lodge one day. He started out as a guide at various lodges across the north, learning the business and keeping his eyes and ears open.
One day he heard about a lodge that had come up for sale through receivership. After doing some investigating, he found out the good news -- it was a lodge that he could afford.
Then came the bad news -- the lodge was in total disrepair, junk strewn everywhere and bears living in some of the cabins.
Luckily, Jerry was still a young man, up to the challenge, with his dream laid out before him. With the support of his wife Colette, Jerry and friends hauled away bush and junk, working from dawn to dusk to try to ready the lodge one day for guests.
It has been six years since the work started and while there is more to do, Dunlop's Fishing Lodge on Lake Waskaiowaka has hit the big time. More than 260 guests will pass through the doors of his lodge this year. In his first year of operation he had thirty.
I first met Jerry when I was working for Travel Manitoba at an All Canada Outdoor Show in Chicago. Jerry was working his booth, trying to attract more people to visit his fly-in operation. For me, it was a chance to get to know this energetic young lodge owner and learn about his dreams and aspirations.
What I heard convinced me he was on the right track, despite an economy that was in a tailspin, with American anglers willing to come north on the decline. So what has made Jerry Dunlop such a success? Hard work, honesty, great attention to detail and knowing how to make guests happy when they finally arrive at his camp.
I found this all out first-hand last week as Hooked Magazine publisher Steven Wintemute and I hosted a trip to this lodge through an auction held at this year's Fish Futures banquet. We were to be there four days and while the fishing action was non-stop, it was the warm friendly family atmosphere that impressed us the most, never mind the incredible gourmet meals.
Lake Waskaiowaka is a trophy-pike factory and Jerry Dunlop has made a career out of guiding his guests to trophy fish. This large body of water is located a short half-hour plane ride from Thompson, made easier by the fact that the lodge has an airstrip. I was fortunate enough to have Jerry as a guide on one of those four days and it was no coincidence that it was on this day I caught my biggest fish of the trip, a 42-inch trophy pike that inhaled my Rapala Sub Walk lure.
Jerry was moving the boat between two islands over a shallow sand bar when he spotted the large pike cruising the scattered cabbage. Pointing out where the fish was I cast a Mepps Bucktail past her nose. Missing the fish on the first attempt, Jerry backed up the boat and we could see the fish about 20 feet off to the side. I grabbed a different rod and reel and worked my chartreuse-and-white Sub Walk right towards the fish. This time the big pike made no mistake, T-boning the lure by the side. With a good hookset, I knew this fish was not coming off.
Sure enough, after a couple big runs Jerry got the cradle under the pike, keeping the fish in the water to take out the hook. Once I had my camera ready we quickly took a few pictures and I then held the fish back in the water to recover. Jerry leaned over the side of the boat to see if there was any damage to the fish. That's when the large pike had had enough, sweeping its teeth across Jerry's finger before disappearing.
I also landed a trophy walleye on the trip on a big Storm Swim Bait. In fact, we had great walleye fishing even though we did not target this species, they just showed up everywhere and would hit pretty much anything that moved including huge swimbaits, even my Sub Walk.
The pike fishing is so good on this lake, that pretty much every day a number of Master Angler fish are registered. The week before we arrived one angler hit the magical 50-inch number, something I have dreamed about all my life.
For more information on the lodge visit their website at www.dunlopsfishing. com.
Anglers' Notes: The Fish Winnipeg youth fishing program will be starting next week. Youth can register at their local community recreation centre for a fun day of fishing from shore in Winnipeg. All the young anglers will also get to go home with a rod and reel at the end of the day.