Nestled in the hills to the south of Bancroft, Silent Lake is a little jewel often overlooked by the summer crowds heading into Algonquin Park. We’ve taken our family vacation here every year since the kids were small and it’s become a special place with many memories.
Through the 30’s and 40’s, there was an American hunting and fishing lodge at the head of the lake, but that is long since gone. Otherwise, the lake was never developed, a rare thing in cottage country, and the shore line remains untouched and pristine. There are two nice sand beaches on the lake, one at the day use area where the lodge was once located, and another sheltered between the two rocky points of Pincer Bay. Designated a wilderness park, the campsites, especially the walk-in sites, are well spaced and quite private.
Situated in the transition zone between the mixed forest of central Ontario and the boreal forest to the north, Silent Lake provides a habitat for a wide variety of wild plants and animals. It is a deep, cold lake, with a long inlet stretching into a series of shallower lakes and marshes to the south. In the shallower bays and along the shore, there is excellent fishing for small and large mouth bass; in the deep water off the rocky points, lake trout.
Did I mention lake trout?
I grew up in this area and was raised by the local creed that if you weren’t fishing for lake trout, then you weren’t fishing at all. So while the summer tourists were spin-casting for bass and pike and such, we were out in the middle of the lake letting out line from Penn trolling reels and bouncing big William’s Wobblers off the bottom of the lake. We are well blessed with many good trout fishing lakes in this area, from Anstruther Lake on up through to Canoe and Canisbay in Algonquin Park. In between, maybe a hundred or so lakes cold enough and deep enough to support lake trout, a few like Bark, Kamaniskeg and Opeongo, that have offered up some legendary sized fish over the years. And of course, the fabled Gander Creek, the source of more than a few of the lunkers hanging on the walls of local establishments.
For a while in the early 80s’ while on the fire crew with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, I lived at the staff house at Silent Lake. At that time, the lake and surrounding area had just recently been designated a Provincial Park and we spent many days here when the forest fire hazard was low, building docks and brushing out the campsites and walking trails. In the evenings after work, slipping down to the lake to fish.
And that’s one of the special things about Silent Lake. As part of it’s designation as a wilderness park, there are no motors–not even electric motors–allowed on the lake. Because of that, most of the local fellows who troll for trout don’t bother fishing here, and most summer tourists don’t have the necessary equipment to get down deep enough for the trout.
So in all the summers for the better part of 30 years, I know of only a handful of people who’ve seriously fished for trout in Silent Lake. (We can keep this a secret, right?)
Grant it, it takes some doing to troll steel line while paddling. Though it may seem a bit daunting until you get the hang of it, there are few things more satisfying than landing a trout in a canoe.
There was a time when I lived for fishing–not in a fanatical kind of way, you know–but in a wholesome, natural way that if it was a nice day, or if it was looking kinda like it might clear up a bit later, or if there was still an hour left before dark, then I’d be off somewhere fishing (ha!). Since moving down to Southern Ontario, I don’t bother as it’s just not the same and my fishing these days is limited to our annual camping vacation to Silent Lake. And you know, I’m ok with that. I guess in a way it makes it even more special.
While it’s still a thrill every time to feel a trout tugging on the end of the line, these days it’s more about just being out early on the stillness of the lake, watching the loons fish and the herons flying out to conduct their daily business, a raven croaking for his mate, the first breath of wind stirring ripples across the bay… sigh…
Paintings of Silent Lake:
“Pincer Bay”, a view of the lake from the beach in Pincer Bay, and “After the Rain”, up in the marsh past the heron rookery.