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Trip Report – Hilliard’s Bay – August 5, 2020

Hammock camping with the dog

The only downside to being a kayak angler is that I’m a slave to the weather. Slave Lake is one of Alberta’s biggest bodies of water and, when the wind picks up, it can be one of the nastiest. 

We set out for Hilliard’s Bay Provincial Park and the forecast looked amazing, they were calling for sunny skies and warm weather! What I forgot to look at was the wind. We stayed for a number of days but due to the steady wind I only managed to spend a few hours on the water. Fortunately, we had family there and they brought a fishing boat, it made the rough water a bit more manageable. 

Pictures never quite capture just how rough water can be. This run to Cutbank was loosening some rivets…

Hilliard’s Bay is located on the northwest corner of Slave Lake and the boat launch faces almost perfectly to the east. Alberta’s prevailing wind usually blows from the northwest which makes this campground a perfect jump off point for kayak anglers to launch. When the wind blows from the NW the water is usually calm enough to get out a few hundred yards from shore. During my trip, however, the wind was blowing strong from the East making it difficult to launch or land and travel around. I even felt a bit sea-sick from the waves after a quick one-hour trip to Cutbank.

Given that I didn’t spend a lot of time on the water, I also didn’t catch many fish. According to the Alberta Fishing Guide, the west basin of Slave Lake is supposed to have great walleye fishing throughout the year. I find that as summer sets in, the walleye fishing tapers off a bit. We had success catching a few walleye trolling bottom bouncers but the action wasn’t as hot as it can be. Traditionally, walleye like to set up camp on deepwater structures but unfortunately I haven’t found much good structure within kayaking distance around the campground. I’ve spent a good deal of time exploring and mapping the area and I’ve found good variation with holes and ledges from 10’ to 18’, but from 18’ to 25’ the basin seems to turn into a bowl. Of course this is within the range I’ve been able to explore with my kayak, that’s not to say that there aren’t interesting spots, I just haven’t found them yet. 

This was likely my last trip to Slave Lake for the open water season. I had hoped to leave with a few pictures of trophies, but not all fishing trips turn out that way. Still, I’m grateful for the break and the time spent with family. My Dad reminded me that it’s possible to have fun camping without spending time on the water. Personally, I’m not sure what he is talking about – but he’s probably right.

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