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A FISHING HOLIDAY ON ALBERTA’S ATHABASCA RIVER

Author: Mike Fisher

Mike is an award-winning, Calgary-based writer who loves dogs, leaps before he looks, rides bulls in china shops and always finds a bird in the hand startling. He loves writing about Alberta because it offers breathless moments around every corner.

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I strolled out of the handcrafted log cabin beside the Athabasca River and right onto our guide’s jet boat. The early morning sun is on my face and the air is already stirring with birds. I spot a Cooper’s hawk with its long, black striped tail.

Within minutes, we’ll be fishing for trophy northern pike and walleye. Along the way, we’ll watch for moose, lynx, wolves, muskrats, waterfowl and shorebirds in this rugged northern Alberta wilderness. It’s the perfect scenario for bringing home big fish stories and bragging rights.

The Athabasca, one of Alberta’s best fishing rivers, begins in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near the town of Jasper and winds some 1,538 km (956 mi) before spilling into Lake Athabasca. We’re excited to be here, and hoping to get up close and personal with burbot, goldeye and Rocky Mountain whitefish, too.

Go Guided

When you book a two-day excursion with Reel Angling Adventures, you get a guide who knows the best spots to fish and a comfy cabin to call home.

Lakes give fish plenty of opportunity to move throughout the day, but on a river, the fish stay longer in one spot. So your guide helps you to work the “holes” in the river where you’ll find fish.

Sometimes these holes are found near shore. With the jet boats, you’re gliding into secret spots with as little as 10 cm (4 in) of water.

From July to October, you can hook some of the largest walleye in Alberta. Sizes range up to 6.4 kg (14 lb) but it’s not uncommon to get pike that weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb).

Explore River Challenges

What makes the Athabasca River a bit more of a challenge is that it doesn’t have a dam on it. It’s glacier fed, which gives it a milky look, and one of the longest free flowing rivers in Alberta. So fish travel up and down it unimpeded, making it harder to catch them – which is half the fun!

There are only a few other guides and outfitters that work the river, giving you pretty much the run of the water – you’ll likely see more fish than people. You can expect fishing gear, tackle and meals to be provided, though services vary with the outfit.

Stay a little longer – you’re near the town of Athabasca, with its shopping and restaurants and hiking trails. Hit the greens at the Athabasca Golf and Country Club. In high summer you can golf until almost midnight.

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