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Guide Spotlight: Carey Nelson of Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, Manitoba

Apr 7, 2019

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 this summer to write a series of articles. Below is a guide spotlight he wrote about his experience fishing with Aikens pro-staff guide Carey Nelson.

Click on the following names to read Capecchi’s other guide spotlights about Marco Dumontier, Colin Boissonneault and Brenden Windsor.

Guide Spotlight: Carey Nelson of Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, Manitoba
By: Tony Capecchi

“Got one!” I exclaimed, setting my hook on what we quickly realized was exactly what we were after. Following a morning of crazy-good walleye fishing at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in Manitoba, we decided to spend the afternoon targeting the lake’s apex predator: lake trout.

Dad and I know next to nothing about lake trout – we’ve caught only two in our lives, both on prior trips to Aikens – but we had an ace up our sleeve in that we were guided by Aikens pro-staff guide Carey Nelson.

So we sat jigging in 45 feet of water on a point Carey and a fellow guide had chummed with chopped up suckers the day prior. When we got to the spot, Carey dropped another batch of bait into the water. While we hovered patiently for 90 minutes, we caught a pair of 24-inch walleyes along the way and marked several larger fish.

Then, after a slight twitch of the rod tip, I set the hook, made my declaration and glanced quickly at Carey and my dad, both of whom responded with wide eyes – we could see by the bend of the pole this was likely a laker.

I love catching big fish that fight hard, and in northern Canada nothing does that better than a lake trout. The fight was intense, and we no sooner got a peek of the fish when it turned back and bolted down toward the depths. I was so excited, I instinctively said “Get it!” as Carey expertly netted the trout.

It measured shy of the 35-inch requirement for a Manitoba Master Angler lake trout, but the grins on our faces exceeded the tape measurer. We high fived, snapped a couple quick pictures and released the beautiful fish. Then we sat in silence, marveling over our victory.

The big fish then prompted big fish stories, with Carey regaling us with tales of various Aikens adventures. One involved a family Carey guided last year at Aikens, where the lake trout run big but are rare enough that a single fish in a half-day targeting them would be considered a successful outing.

“I took a brother and sister out for lake trout, and after 15 minutes the sister asked me, ‘Is it normal to not catch anything like this?’” Carey recalled. “As she said it, we got a bite and they caught a big lake trout.”

Carey has countless stories – many of his favorites include kids or novice anglers catching the biggest fish of their life at Aikens.

A great conversationalist, Carey is more interested in hearing from the guests in his boat than recounting his own tales. We realized we both inherited our love of fishing from our fathers.

In my case, my father’s father bought a mobile home and turned it into a cabin on a small panfish lake in northwest Minnesota which became my childhood playground. My dad brought my sisters and me for countless weekends at the lake, catching fish, swimming in the lake and roasting marshmallows over the campfire.

In Carey’s case, his father was a pilot which offered Carey a most unique fishing opportunity. To this day Carey and his dad love flying a plane out to a remote Manitoban lake and fishing for the day in complete wilderness isolation.

Targeting primarily walleyes and lake trout, they cherish being the only boat on a small wilderness lake, fishing together for the day and then flying back home. In fact, it runs in the blood. Carey and his sister are also pilots.

“We love flying and fishing,” said Carey, who is majoring in geology and wants to do explorational geology or mining for a career. “I really like being outdoors and exploring. I don’t know if I could sit behind a desk for a summer job. But this (guiding) … there’s no bad part of the job.”

Carey didn’t complain at all, but when pressed on the topic he said hauling logs on his non-guiding days is probably his least favorite task at Aikens.

“It always seems to be one of those days that is like 30 degrees (86 Fahrenheit) when you’re in the bush working,” he said.

Our day on the water with Carey reached the low 80s, unseasonably warm for late May. That time of year, Carey’s go-to approach is crawlers and bottom bouncers with Wright & McGill trolling/bouncing rods rigged with 14-pound pro line.

Carey buys beads in bulk from Cabela’s and makes his own crawler harnesses. Dad and I discovered first-hand how productive they are. We enjoyed an excellent morning of walleye fishing, with many walleyes in the 20-25 inch range and a couple of smaller eaters for shore lunch (which, was so delicious I have to share a photo).

Long before we’d end our day with the excitement of the big lake trout, we began our day by bottom bouncing for walleyes with fast results, including multiple doubles (both Dad and me catching a fish at the same time).

One of the doubles came less than five minutes into our day of fishing at Aikens Lake, and is one of my favorite memories of my day in the boat with Carey.

“Got one!” my dad declared.

An instant later, I joined in. “Me too!”