Walleyes, muskellunge, pike, smallmouth bass, crappies

Lake of the Woods

You could stay at a different lodge every week on Lake of the Woods and spend 10 years meeting new hosts. There are that many backwoods fish camps and full-service lodges on both the Minnesota and Canadian shores of the huge lake. The reason for the abundance of concessionaires is twofold: The lake is close enough to Midwestern population centers that outfitters do a steady business in budget-minded, drive-up vacationers; and the fishing for muskies, northern pike, walleyes and smallmouth bass is consistent enough to justify all that traffic.

In fact, the fishing can be so good that lodges don't have to offer top-notch amenities to stay in business, so Lake of the Woods has more than its share of underwhelming accommodations.

You can skip a land-based lodge altogether and rent a houseboat. Lake of the Woods has so many remote coves and big-bay weed beds you can fish a different spot each day and stand a good chance of catching something. If you don't, simply weigh anchor and move. Ontario Wilderness Houseboat Rental (www.wildernesshouseboats.com or 800-359-6199) in Morson, Ontario, provides a fleet of houseboats. It also rents 16-foot outboards you can tow behind the mother ship, then cast off and take to whichever shallow coves and points you want to fish. Rates range from $1,000 (U.S.) for four nights aboard a 44-footer that sleeps five to $3,100 (U.S.) for a week on a 64-footer with 11 beds.

The best months to fish Lake of the Woods are May and September, but you can catch fish even at the height of summer, though you might have to go deeper and cover more water for your limit. Bring standard walleye tackle, a variety of big crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwaters for pike and muskie and a selection of plastics and jigs for bass and crappies. The lake is a loafing spot for a variety of southbound ducks, so if you're here in October, bring decoys and shoot ducks before your day of fishing.