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

A Beginners 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…

Camo and Fashion
posted on Monday, Aug 29, 2016
Growing up a young man in northwestern Ontario, fashion wasn’t something that was always on the top of my radar screen. My mother, however, had a natural sense of style and grace. She dressed well and always looked fantastic. She also made sure her oldest son was not dressed like a Raggedy Andy doll for school. In Grade 7, she was the only mother who sewed corduroy inserts into my bell bottoms. She also applied cool patches on my blue jean jacket and made sure shirts had flowers and other…

The Resurgence of Black Bay
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
As a young fishing fanatic growing up in Thunder Bay, I’d often dream about fishing the many bodies of water close to home. The mighty Nipigon River and its huge source lake were at the top of the list, due to the legendary brook trout that were said to reside there. However, the one area not on my radar screen was a huge bay on Lake Superior just east of Thunder Bay. In the 1970s and 80s, no anglers really talked much about Black Bay. This was partially because of…

My Path to Guiding
posted on Monday, Jun 27, 2016
It was never my intention to be a part time guide. In fact, a couple early experiences with guiding actually scared me away from it for two decades. In the early 1990s, I’d just begun my writing career and scored a couple nice features in some major outdoor magazines. One of them was on trophy brook trout, and it caught the eye of an angler in Montreal. He tracked me down by phone and we talked. He wanted me to guide he and his wife to a trophy brook trout on…

There is Something About a Canoe...
posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016
There is something about a canoe that allows for a great connection to water. In a canoe, you are practically sitting on the water, although there is always a small layer of separation. The canoe is an ancient form of watercraft, yet remains among the most portable, practical types of boat you can own. And they are great to use for fishing. That’s a real bonus. The author on a canoe trip down the Keezhik River in 2007. | GORD ELLIS Like a lot of people in northwestern Ontario, I…

Northern Trails: Understanding Crank Baits
posted on Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016
There was a time when crankbaits were a little exotic, a little clunky and not that usable. Some of the old time wooden cranks, like the River Runt, were neither all that pretty or very effective. They couldn’t be trolled quickly and didn’t cast well. But in 1962, Life magazine published an article on the Rapala minnow, from Finland. The issue it appeared in also included a retrospective on the then recently departed Marilyn Monroe. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Rapala is still the standard bearer of the crankbait world, but there…

Northern Trails: Fishing Boat Essentials and Extras
posted on Monday, Mar 28, 2016
There was a time when outfitting your fishing boat meant putting an anchor in it. Or maybe a life jacket. For many years, the basic fishing boat was nothing too fancy. It was not too big and the power on it generally wasn’t too impressive. When I was a kid, our family fishing boat was a modest 14-foot aluminum with an outboard motor that wasn’t very dependable. More than a few fishing trips were interrupted by motor problems. Much paddling would ensue. Yet that humble boat did the job, and…

The Little Terrace Bay Tackle Company That Could
posted on Friday, Feb 05, 2016
There was a time when most fishing lures were made in a garage or basement. They were then sold in local sporting goods stores. But since the sport fishing boom of the 1970s and 1980s, angling has become big business. The majority of popular fishing lures are now made in huge factories and mass-marketed by the thousands. Yet there is a father and son team from Terrace Bay, Ontario, who have bucked that trend and are producing lures the old fashioned way. Their company name is Mighty Mitch and Jungle…

Ed Marsh; A Mentor and Friend
posted on Monday, Jan 04, 2016
Ed Marsh was a true northerner and the son of Northwestern Ontario pioneers. He was born on October 2, 1917, and grew up well off the grid on the banks of the Black Sturgeon River, with nine brothers and sisters. An avid angler, hunter and outdoors person, he was most at home in the woods. Ed Marsh was also one of the kindest and most generous men I’ve ever known. After 98 years on earth, Ed left this world on Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. Ed Marsh loved to fish for lake…

All I Want for Christmas
posted on Thursday, Nov 19, 2015
  These three items are bound to satisfy any outdoor lover. | Gord Ellis Ah, Christmas. The family, the friends, the tree, and oh yes, the gifts. That is part of the deal at Christmas, giving things to people. Most folks are pretty happy to get the typical presents: socks, bath soaps and gift cards. However, the outdoors-minded person creates a different set of challenges for the Christmas buyer. What do you get the person who already has everything? It’s a difficult question. So, if I was that person you…

Northwestern Ontario's First Ice Walleye
posted on Thursday, Oct 29, 2015
Winter often comes early to northwestern Ontario. Some years, the ice is already making itself known in early November. If the nights get deep cold, and the snow doesn’t come, that ice can become hard and clear very quickly. On some of the more shallow lakes in the region, it can be safe for “on foot” ice fishing pretty early. Davis Viehbeck of Thunder Bay and a fat winter walleye taken through the ice. | Gord Ellis The earliest I recall being able to ice fish during the winter season…

My Love/Hate Relationship with Tree Stands
posted on Friday, Oct 02, 2015
Gord Ellis gingerly climbs a tree stand. |KAIJA KOLEHMAINEN I’m not sure if our forefathers hunted from trees, but I expect if they did, it was for short periods of time. Sitting on a large branch in a swaying tree would get old very quickly, and I doubt primitive man had any camo-coloured cushions to keep their bums comfy. So recently, as I was sitting in a treestand for the first hunt of the season, I started to wonder what drove me to sit there. I’ve hunted for nearly 40…

Bicyclist Encounters Wolf on the Highway
posted on Thursday, Aug 27, 2015
Bicycling on a road is usually a benign past time. The main concern for cyclist on a busy highway is being hit by a passing truck or tractor trailer. Yet there are other dangers out there that most of us would never think about. Especially on parts of the highway in wolf country. Hilary Petrus was pedaling the remote stretch of highway, about 140 km. east of Thunder Bay, on an afternoon ride from his cottage at Kama Point on Lake Superior in mid-July 2015. Thunder Bay bicyclist Hilary Petrus…

The Joy of Blueberry Picking
posted on Friday, Jul 31, 2015
Blueberry picking, when you examine all its elements, really should not be that popular. To pick this wild delicious fruit, you often have to drive long distances on bad, dusty roads. Then, when you get to the picking areas, it’s cold and buggy in the morning, followed by hot and sweaty in the afternoon. To top it all off, you need to be either stooped over, kneeling or sitting to properly pick. People of a certain age and height are especially uncomfortable in this position. Almost no other activity, outside…