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The second-largest lake entirely within Ontario, Lac Seul has somehow escaped the notice of the casual vacationer looking for a northwoods getaway. That hardly means, however, that no one visits Lac Seul. Well over a dozen tourist camps, fishing lodges and outfitters do a booming business providing fishing, hunting and outdoor activities to thousands of visitors each year. The huge impoundment covers over 400,000 acres, with about 80,000 acres of islands dotting the surface. That creates thousands of miles of lake frontage for canoeing, kayaking and simply enjoying the water on the irregularly-shaped lake. Hundreds of bays, coves, inlets and hidden water passages offer excellent fishing and wildlife watching. A full 95% of the shoreline in uninhabited. A person could spend the entire day on the lake and never see another boat. It is that vast.
There are many stretches of sandy beaches along the lakeshore with a few organized swimming areas. The Town of Ear Falls offers a waterfront park on the English River and a public boat launch at Goldpines Landing. There are bait shops and local restaurants near the park for the enjoyment of families; the park offers walking trails, ball diamonds and picnic shelters. Local trails for hiking, mountain biking and ATV riding are located nearby. In winter these same trails are used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. In July and August wild blueberries and raspberries ripen in abundance, and fall hunting season brings hunters after black bear and moose. Although there are no large marinas on the lake, a gas station on shore at Sioux Lookout sells gas, and many of the local camps rent boats and sell boat gas. One camp operator at the south end of the lake near Sioux Lookout operates a 'floating lodge' business; this outfitter rents houseboats up to 75 feet long for use on the lake by the week. These popular craft should be reserved early and are perfect for taking the family or a group of buddies on the fishing/house boating trip of a lifetime.
Lac Seul has developed a reputation as prime walleye and pike country. Northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, perch, and muskellunge are all caught here. Although large, much of the lake is relatively shallow with many rocky shoals. Part of the reason the walleye fishing is so good is because the water in Lac Seul is tannin-stained and somewhat murky, perfect for walleye that avoid bright light. The water conditions are so attractive to walleye that they feed all day and produce a great many trophy-size fish. In order to guarantee that good-size fish remain available to anglers, a strict 'slot-limit' requires that all walleye sized 18 to 21 inches be released. Only one walleye over 36 inches may be kept; none may be kept between 27-36 inches. These regulations guarantee that the walleye population is not over-fished and will keep producing trophy walleye. The appropriate Ontario fishing license is required.
Lac Seul was originally a smaller natural lake along the English River, used for fishing and trapping by First Nation tribes and as transportation by fur traders. The discovery of gold near Red Lake and the arrival of the railroad brought loggers, miners and settlers to the Lac Seul region. Along with the mining business grew a need for electricity. The Canadian government made plans to dam the outlet of Lac Seul at Ear Falls where it empties into the English River. When completed in 1935, the dam raised water levels, enlarging the lake and flooding many low-lying areas. The rising water actually isolated one First Nations community on a newly-formed island.
The larger lake was used primarily by a fleet of locally-owned freight boats that provided supplies to the lumber camps and miners in the area. One of the last of these boats is on display at Ear Falls. Small towns were constructed by mining and lumber interests along the lake to house their workers. Within a few decades, most mining and logging interests had left the area, leaving the towns to shrink and diversify their economies. Sportsmen had already discovered the excellent fishing and hunting around Lac Seul, and were soon keeping the tourist and fishing camps booked solid.
Although much of the shoreline at Lac Seul remains heavily-forested and a wildlife haven, small pockets of cottages and cabins can be found in several places. Much of the area has been placed under protection from development, so the existing settled areas will likely contain any new housing to be built. Existing cabins and acreage are occasionally for sale along the lakeshore. A few cottages can be found for seasonal rental. Camping other than in existing campgrounds is not permitted along the lake, but there are several campgrounds and RV parks, usually associated with the lodge businesses. Over 1300 acres of land on the eastern shore is protected within the Windigo Point Provincial Nature Reserve. This reserve has limited road access and can better be reached by boat. There are roads reaching the lakeshore on all sides, but most are rough gravel roads and likely impassible during winter. Anyone wishing to explore the region may do well to hire one of the guides from the tourist and fishing lodges to find the best spots for both hunting and fishing.
Ear Falls is about 40 miles from Red Lake to the north and 90 miles from Dryden to the southwest. Winnipeg is 250 miles away. Ear Falls at the north outlet to the river is about 100 miles by water from Sioux Lookout on the south shore. By road, the distance is much farther. Sioux Lookout has a small airport, and Ear Falls has a float plane base, so visitors who don't wish to drive long distances can easily fly in to either village. Both villages have hotels along with the many tourist and fishing lodges. Both Ear Falls and Sioux Lookout offer groceries, local eateries and regular services; both produce annual festivals and attractions popular with tourists. Ear Falls has a popular music event each summer, the Trout Forest Music Festival that draws huge crowds from all over the mid-west. There's plenty to see and do around Lac Seul, and you will appreciate the quiet and pristine wilderness nature of the huge lake and its surroundings. So the next time you're in the mood for a bit of northwoods adventure, make the trip to Lac Seul. .
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