Gord Ellis

Outdoor writer Gord Ellis shares his stories and insights about hunting and fishing with Northern Wilds readers through his monthly column, Northern Trails.

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Recent Articles by Gord Ellis

All About Fly Fishing
posted on Monday, Jan 29, 2018
Fairly recently, on a cold winter night, my wife was watching television as I tapped away on my laptop in the other room. “Come see this,” she said, and I did. There, on the little screen, was a very young Brad Pitt, casting a reasonable loop of fly line. Soon he was fighting a make believe fish. It was the movie “A River Runs Through It.” During the part where he goes down the rapids with only his head and his hand holding the rod out of the water I said “I’ve…

Yah It's Cold—Now What?
posted on Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018
As I tap out this column, on the first day of January 2014, it is -33 Celsius in Thunder Bay. The wind chill is in the area of -46 C. For my American friends, -40 C  and -40 F are the same thing. In other words, extremely stinking cold. It’s been that kind of winter in Northwestern Ontario. It started to get cold in early November, and slowly slipped into a full-blown December deep freeze. The last two days of the month were record breakers, with Dec. 30 registering a delightful -51…

50 Shades of Grey (Trout)
posted on Thursday, Dec 21, 2017
The lake trout—sometimes called grey trout—is a species seemingly designed by Mother Nature for winter. The colder, snappier and brighter the winter day, the more those grey trout like it. They can strike an angler’s jigged line with great ferocity, and when hooked through the ice, lakers rarely fight with anything less than full commitment. This is different than the summer caught laker which can, occasionally, come in like a bag of sand. One of the coolest things about lake trout is the wide range of body types and colorations you…

Travelling in Deep Snow
posted on Monday, Nov 27, 2017
Deep snow. As beautiful as it is, and as common as it can be in the north, it has its challenges. Especially if you are trying to travel on it. Snow is uniquely designed to be both difficult to stay on top of, and tricky to get out of once you’ve sunk into it. And snow comes in all sorts of variations, from wet and heavy to light and fluffy. Very few snow types are conducive to easy movement. My earliest memories of travelling on snow are all via snowshoes. I…

Some Thoughts on Crossbows
posted on Friday, Oct 27, 2017
The crossbow is both a deadly hunting tool and a contraption that has inspired controversy among people who prefer a traditional bow. The crossbow is a tool with its roots in ancient medieval history, yet modern forms are highly efficient. Regulations around its use vary from state to state and province to province. In Ontario, a crossbow is not regulated any differently than a compound or traditional bow and can be used during the regular archery season. They have become very popular, and there are a wide variety of companies now…

Thoughts on Northern Ontario Whitetails
posted on Friday, Sep 22, 2017
What is it about the whitetail deer that makes so many people obsessed with them? I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am crazy about both deer and deer hunting and have been for the better part of my life. Yet deer are no longer rare in the northwoods of Ontario and are ridiculously abundant across much of North America. They have even invaded many urban centres, finding homes in bush lots and green spaces very few mammals of a comparable size would be comfortable in. Deer…

Late Summer Angling Options
posted on Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017
The last lingering days of summer are bitter sweet for the angler in Northwestern Ontario. Shorter days and cooler nights means summer is winding down. The carefree afternoons casting in shorts and t-shirts become an increasingly rare commodity. But late summer is also a really great time to get on the water as the launches are clear and the Sea Doos get put away for the season. Best of all, the bite for just about everything is seriously on. For the angler, late summer provides one of the most consistent…

The Wolf
posted on Monday, Aug 28, 2017
I’ve been asked to write about wolves and, I will be honest, they are a subject I have mixed emotions about. Growing up, I didn’t hear much good stuff about wolves. My Grandfather Ora, who I admired and looked up to, was an amazing hunter with an incredible ability to hit fast moving animals, including wolves. And he hated them. “The only good wolf is a dead wolf” he would say, a mantra that was repeated regularly. There were more than a few wolves that fell to his quick shooting.…

A Big Birthday and a Look Back
posted on Tuesday, Jul 25, 2017
Gord Ellis in June 2017 with a brookie. | GORD ELLIS I marked a big birthday this year; yours truly turned 55 years old, or years young, if you are the optimistic type. It’s a big number and carries some baggage with it. In some circles, 55 equals senior status. For others, it is a number that equals retirement. My father retired close to that age. A well-known Canadian insurance company advertises something called Freedom 55. And I’m a couple blocks from a building called the 55 Plus Centre. Let’s just say…

My Favourite Fish to Eat
posted on Wednesday, Jun 28, 2017
Author Gord Ellis with a large northern pike. Good to eat, just lose the Y bones. | GORD ELLIS Eating fish is something I’ve enjoyed throughout my life. It is both the perfect counterpoint to wild game and a great source of healthy protein that is full of good things. A meal of fresh fish is just one of the rewards an angler gets to enjoy after a day on the water. However, picking my favourite fish to eat is not a simple task. There are many that are excellent on…

What’s So Great about Fishing in Canada?
posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The publisher of this fine publication, Shawn Perich, has suggested I write a column in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. He wants me to do this by talking about why fishing in Canada is so great. Perich, who I consider an honorary Canadian, appreciates as well as anyone this country’s fine angling. He slips over the border every spring and enjoys the steelhead that run up our largely deserted coastal streams. I know he doesn’t like me to draw too much attention to these largely untapped rivers, so I will…

Canoe Fishing in Small Lakes
posted on Monday, May 01, 2017
Canoes allow people to access some of the north’s most beautiful lakes. | GORD ELLIS If you like to fish small lakes, whether it be for bass, walleye, trout or pike, it’s pretty tough to beat fishing from a canoe. I know kayaks are fun too, and they have become all the rage. But I really haven’t had a lot of experience fishing from them. One of these days... In the meantime, there is the canoe. They really are a great craft for fishing. Plus you can do away with…

Cougar carcass found near Thunder Bay
posted on Monday, Apr 03, 2017
The long asked question of whether cougars exist in northwestern Ontario may have been answered. On Saturday, March 25, 2017, Mandi Weist, of Thunder Bay, and three of her friends, were driving on the Boreal Road on their way to do some target practice in a gravel pit. They saw a van pulled over on the side of the road and stopped to check on them.   Weist and friends inquired if the folks in the van were ok. They answered, "Yes, we are just looking at the mountain lion."   …

A Beginner's Guide to Fishing
posted on Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017
Fishing is a fun and relaxing pastime that is easy to learn. | GORD ELLIS Starting out any kind of new pursuit is full of challenges. Everything is new and you may not always know what basic gear is required. Yes, the Internet can provide advice, as can sales people. However, a lot of the time you will be upsold, especially when it comes to fishing. Every year I see new anglers with shiny, fresh-from-the-store gear that is both impractical and horrifically expensive. I’m not here to do that. While the Internet…

Winter Crappie in Northwestern Ontario
posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2017
Every once in a while, a few buddies and I pile into a truck and head west from Thunder Bay to fish for crappies. The Rainy River District has some great crappie fishing, and that includes the big waters like Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods. Crappie are fun to catch, slightly exotic compared to walleye and perch, and make a very tasty supper. These panfish also provide some unique challenges to the winter angler. Electronics One of the unique things about crappies is that unlike perch and walleye,…

Burbot Winter Fishing 101
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
So, let’s talk burbot fishing. I realize some of you won’t get past that first line. That’s too bad, but I get it. Like many northerners, I grew up looking down my nose at the burbot. They were an unwelcome winter guest on more than a few lake trout or spec trips, and there would rarely be a kind thing said when the head of the burbot entered the hole. “Cut the line!” is probably the only one suitable for a family publication. The dry-docked burbot would wriggle and twist…

Ice Fishing Gear to Stay Warm
posted on Friday, Dec 23, 2016
My angling friends and I sometimes joke that ice fishing would be a lot more fun if you didn’t have to do it in the winter. We generally spin this pithy comment while unloading gear in temperatures so cold it freezes your eyelashes together. Needless to say, frosty weather is a large part of ice fishing. No cold equals no ice. No ice means no ice fishing. It’s a catch-22. So if you enjoy winter fishing on frozen water, the odds are you will bump into some chilly air more…

What I Learned in 2016
posted on Monday, Nov 28, 2016
As I sit down to write this column, I’ve been looking back on this past year, and mulling over the things I learned. You should never stop learning. And boy oh boy, 2016 was full of lessons. Author Gord Ellis grabs a little shut eye on a boat. | GORD ELLIS Time Waits for No One I turned 54 this year. It feels funny to write that number down, because on paper, it looks pretty...old. When I was leaving the nest in my early 20s, my parents were in their…

The Ups and Downs of Ontario’s Deer Herd
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
My deer hunting career in northwestern Ontario began in the mid-1970s. In those days, whitetail deer east of Kenora and north of Minnesota were as scarce as hen’s teeth. Brutal winters in the late 1960s and early 70s crushed a deer herd that had already been at a relatively low level. Deer hunting in those days involved much traipsing around a snow-covered woods, looking for deer sign. And I mean any sign. Seeing a track was an incredibly exciting event. Finding droppings, a rub or scrape induced something akin to…

Northwestern Ontario has a Problem with its Moose
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
Northwestern Ontario has a problem with its moose. There are fewer of them all the time, and the decline is noticeable to hunters and non-hunters alike. Not all parts of the northwest are seeing the decline. In fact, moose in some of the more northern Wildlife Management Units are hanging in there. Yet, in the southern and western portions of the northwest region, moose are in trouble. It wasn’t always this way. As a young man growing up in Thunder Bay, moose were a common sight whenever you travelled the…