mai 8, 2018
Editor’s Note: Travel journalist Tony Capecchi has produced media for television, magazine and radio outlets such as NBC, CBS, ESPN2 and In-Fisherman. He visited Aikens Lake last summer to write a series of articles for OutdoorHub.com. Below is a guide spotlight he wrote about his experience fishing with Aikens pro-staff guide Evan Los.
Guide Spotlight: Evan Los of Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, Manitoba
Meet Evan Los, the happy-go-lucky guide at Manitoba’s Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge with the big smile, the bigger hair and the sixth sense for finding fish.
The Winnipeg area 20-something came to Aikens, a luxury fly-in fishing lodge in Atikaki Provincial Park, three years ago following in the footsteps of his older brother, Austin. Big brother had already established himself as one of the best pro-staff guides for trophy fish, but Evan quickly endeared himself to staff and guests alike and earned a name for himself as the easy-going guy who gets along with anyone and everyone … and puts them on fish.
My dad and I had the pleasure of fishing with Evan on a picture-perfect day last July with temps in the low 80s made pleasant by a slowly increasing southern breeze. After a wakeup call with coffee delivered to our porch and a made-to-order breakfast of French toast, sausage, eggs and a side of extra crispy bacon at the lodge’s beautiful dining room, Dad and I met Evan at the lodge’s dockside bait and tackle shop.
While Evan prepared our cooler for the day with drinks, snacks and shorelunch material, my eyes wondered over to the bait shop’s “Wall of Fame,” a proud display of earlier Aikens’ guests that year with their trophy catches. It was an impressive visual that made me eager to get fishing.
At 11,000 acres with depths plummeting to 290 feet, Aikens is one of Manitoba’s best multi-species fisheries. Walleyes are king, with the lake record at 33.5 inches and an incredible abundance of fish in the 20-28-inch range, however Aikens also offers anglers trophy fishing for pike and lake trout, as well as bonus catches of jumbo perch, whitefish and suckers––and an increasingly popular hot bite for late night eel pout (burbot).
We elected to target walleyes, and Evan quickly had us catching low 20-inch walleyes jigging on a 25-foot mid-lake reef. The action was fast, as were the stories. Evan is quick to laugh, with no shortage of anecdotes from life at Aikens.
“I love it here,” he said, after releasing a 24-inch walleye, with a sincerity and simplicity that suggested time stands still for Evan when he’s on the water for a day at Aikens. “The people are amazing, and this setting is unreal.”
The natural setting––all alone in a pristine boreal forest, with white sandy beaches and the Gammon River running through island-covered Aikens lake––is a joyful mix of playground and workshop for Evan.
“Earlier this year we created a wilderness trail for people to hike around the peninsula,” Evan said. “That really fun to do. Probably one of my best days on the job was actually exploring this little lake we had noticed on an area map. Pit (Aikens co-owner and general manager) asked me if I wanted to scout it out, so I went with another guide and we bushwhacked it with a canoe and found this little lake that probably had hardly ever been fished before.”
To Evan, that day––and the ultra-aggressive pike that had scarcely seen a lure––was just one example of the endless adventures Aikens offers to everyone who steps off the floatplane onto what guests call “a five-star resort in the middle of the wilderness.”
Back in my home Minnesota, Dad and I primarily fish the St. Croix River, an extremely popular fishery 20 minutes from St. Paul / Minneapolis with a 15-inch minimum size requirement for walleyes. Unsurprisingly, the most common size walleye we catch there is 14 and ¾ inches, because as soon as someone nabs a 15-incher it goes in their live well. Each year we pick up a half dozen 16-18 inch walleyes, but fish bigger than that are hard to come by, at least for someone with my limited walleye expertise.
So, naturally, it was a huge highlight for Dad and me to reel in one 3 to 4-pound, 20-something inch walleye after another. Naturally, we had some slower stretches too, but the size of the average walleye we caught at Aikens was remarkable. In fact, having fished at other drive-to and fly-in fishing resorts across Canada for walleyes, I must say the quality of the average Aikens Lake walleye is incredible.
In addition to jigging frozen minnows, we also had success bouncing crawlers, one of Evan’s go-to approaches on hotter, calmer days. Evan set us up with 7-ft, 6-inch Wright and McGill trolling rods and we pulled traditional crawler rigs or longer-shank, odd-shapped hooks like an Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Re-Volve Hook on 3-foot long snells behind 2-ounce bottom bouncers.
“Usually 1-mph is the most productive speed for bottom bouncing, but it depends on the day,” said Evan, clearly in-tune with Aikens Lake nuances. “We get some really nice fish bottom bouncing, and it’s an effective way to cover some water. In the spring, in the back bays, bottom bouncing is often the best approach.”
Besides catching all the big walleyes, the other highlight of our day with Evan was the shorelunch. The guides at Aikens take shorelunch to a whole other level. It starts with beautiful shorelunch stations on picturesque islands and scenic points, and it only gets better from there.
A subtly built wood canopy shaded Dad and me as we rested on a picnic table while Evan expertly prepared our beer-battered fish, potatoes, baked beans and his specialty: onion rings.
One of the other guides had tipped me off to Evan’s special skills here, and the dining experience lived up to the hype.
Honestly, it was crazy how good the onion rings and fresh walleye tasted. So good, in fact, I could taste them the rest of the afternoon as we caught big walleyes in the sun on Aikens Lake.
Even now, months later, if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can almost taste that beer batter. And I can nearly hear Evan say with simplicity and certainty, “I love it here.”