Huge fish, comfy lodgings, and a friendly atmosphere on the French River

Big Muskie… Big Walleye.. and Big Largemouth Bass? YES!

The Upper French River is filled with history. It flows from Lake Nipissing downstream to Georgian Bay. Many consider it the dividing line between Northern and Southern Ontario. The Ojibwe named it the “French River” because of the many French explorers who used it as a trade route.

Chaudiere Lodge is located on an island of the Upper French close to Lake Nipissing. It was established in 1905. Since then, much of the surrounding area is still untouched and looks the same as it did 100 years ago. Besides the obviously incredible fishing, there’s canoeing, kayaking, and much more. We were there to film a TV episode for the 2019 season of The Ontario Experience highlighting the fishing.

When you’re talking about river fishing, many times that means big fish and big fish populations. This is very true with the French. Staying at Chaudiere Lodge, you have access to fish both the river and Lake Nipissing. The Muskie fishing is WORLD CLASS! Also, the walleyes are there in size and numbers. We did catch many smallmouth Bass mixed in with the ’eyes, which was a bonus.

But one thing stood out for me. I knew there was largemouth bass in the river, but I had no idea they got so big there! Lodge owner Steve Niedzwiecki showed me some photos from this summer with a couple of largemouth pushing 7 pounds! That’s quite incredible (and rare) in Ontario.

The nice thing is that bass in Canada like to feed in the middle of the day when the temps are warmest. This provides a fun break from the morning and evening walleye/muskie fishing. We got into some quality largemouth even though we were fishing during a bad cold front in September. I couldn’t imagine how good it could be during the hot summer months.

The main draws for fishing are the walleye and “clear” muskie. The greens, blues, and grey on those French River ’skies are amazing! Normally, you catch the spotted or barred ones. The clear muskies stand out from them! A 50-incher is not uncommon.

 

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If you are new to fishing these river monsters, you can jump in a boat with a guide and catch them trolling. Trolling is actually very effective on water systems like this. Walleye can be caught just about anywhere! The population is massive there. The sonar was lit up with marks on nearly every river spot with our guide.

By the way, I highly recommend hiring a guide for your first day on the water. Just speeds up the learning process and they put you on the fish fast. And if you’re a seasoned angler, they have great boats outfitted right for whatever species you’re targeting. The boat fleet includes 16’-18’ aluminum boats as well as beautiful 18’ cedar strips. Also available are canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and sailboats.

We stayed in a great waterfront cottage, In fact, they offer many different options with one to three bedrooms in size to accommodate two to six guests. All the comforts you need, including electric heat, bar sized refrigerators, furniture, and clean, spacious bathrooms. The 3,200-square-foot main lodge has a rustic dining room and a big lounge area with a big TV and fireplace.

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Steve is a very good musician and actually had a guitar jam session with one of the cooks one evening. I played cards with another group staying there during this. It was a lot of fun! The group of couples met last year as complete strangers, became friends… and returned together this year! That says a lot about how awesome of a place Chaudiere Lodge is. The entire staff makes you feel at home during your entire stay. The meals are top-notch, and the group lodge shore lunch prepared next to the boathouse is something not to be missed!

Chaudiere Lodge is a great place whether you are looking to catch gigantic muskies, loads of walleye, big bass, or if you just want to escape away on an island in the Ontario wilderness of the Upper French River.

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