Guide Spotlight: Marco Dumontier of Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge
Dec. 11, 2017
Editor’s Note: Travel journalist Tony Capecchi has produced media for television, magazine and radio outlets such as NBC, CBS, ESPN2 and In-Fisherman. He visited Aikens Lake this summer to write a series of articles for OutdoorHub.com. Below is a guide spotlight he wrote about his experience.
Marco Dumontier might be the best guide I fished with this year, but to avoid any controversy I won’t say he’s the best fishing guide in his family. You see, his father was a legend as the first guide ever at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge back in 1988 when the luxury fly-in lodge adopted the practice of providing guides.
Now, three decades later, Dumontier is following in his father’s footsteps at Aikens, some 90 minutes north of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“I had always dreamed of working here because my dad was a guide here,” Marco told me as I devoured fresh walleye, sautéed onions and fried potatoes for the shorelunch he expertly prepared for me on a sunny, 81-degree July day. “My dad started working here about the same age as me. I heard nothing but good things about this place growing up. It’s been a privilege to work here just like my dad did.”
Dumontier is both humble and gracious, quick to point out the many privileges in his job at one of the world’s finest fly-in fishing lodges. But nothing has been handed to him, and the secret to his success lies in his work ethic. His attention to detail is expressed through an intent focus on what his guests want.
Case in point: I met Dumontier at 5pm the day before our fishing outing at Aikens’ “Big Guy’s Bait and Tackle Shop.” He had just finished taking out another client for the day when I mentioned I’d love to try for lake trout the next day if he was game (most guests at Aikens primarily target walleye).
Dumontier immediately agreed and even offered to begin fishing at 6:30am instead of the traditional 8am start time, in order to increase our odds. Then, unbeknown to me, he devoted his entire evening––that preciously rare “free time” for a guide mid-season––to cutting up suckers and chumming several key spots in the 11,000-acre, 290-foot deep lake with hopes of sparking activity for us the next morning.
The intent was for the chum to attract burbot (or eel pout), and for the feeding burbot to then draw in the prized predator up the food chain: big lake trout. The plan worked like a charm. Not only did we hook multiple lakers that morning, I also caught two Manitoba Master Angler burbot, one of which was full of chum.
“The best part of guiding at Aikens is having really nice guests and putting them on big fish,” Dumontier said. “When you have nice guests and help them with a great day of fishing it’s so rewarding.”
Our challenge that day, if you want to call it that, was catching smaller fish for the frying pan. We switched over to walleyes around 11:00am and promptly began catching ’eyes ranging from 21 to 25 inches. The Turenne family who manages the lodge were some of the earliest adopters of catch-and-release; guests today can keep a couple walleyes under 19 inches, but everything else goes right back in the water.
Granted, happy hour and a steak dinner were mere hours away, but nonetheless I really wanted to gorge on a legendary Aikens Lake shorelunch (talk about a first-class problem), so Dumontier pulled out his bag of tricks.
“Sometimes you have to go to a nightcrawler for a shorelunch fish,” Dumontier said, pulling off his frozen minnow and taking crawlers out from the cooler.
He pinched off about a third of the crawler, threaded his jig and dropped it down 22 feet to bottom. Moments later, a small 17-inch eater. I quickly adopted the same approach and helped contribute two more walleyes to the live well, and we were in business.
Shorelunch was nothing short of spectacular. Gazing across the beautiful lake those walleyes swam in 30 minutes prior was chicken soup for fisherman’s soul.
“We are pretty spoiled here with these shorelunch setups,” Dumontier said, referring to the propane cookers, fire pits, picnic tables and rain/sun awnings Aikens has set up at a dozen postcard-worthy islands and points across the lake. “The experience we create here is so unique. We’re privileged to be here in this beautiful environment.”
Dumontier marvels over the fact that Aikens’ management actually encourages guides to take out boats in their personal time and to share a drink with guests at Big Molly’s Bar.
“Some lodges don’t allow that, or they might charge guides to use the boats and fuel at night, but at Aikens they know the more we immerse ourselves in all aspects of the experience the better we are,” said Dumontier, who has two years left in business school at Manitoba University. “We’re treated so well by the management here. Pit and Pat (two of Aikens’ general managers) were guides themselves so they understand.”
Of course, toward the end of our day I had to ask Dumontier about that other former guide at Aikens who shares his last name.
“I actually guided with my dad here earlier this year,” said Dumontier, explaining his father came up as an honorary guide for a week and helped co-guide a larger group of guests. “That was special.”
Dumontier is grateful his father not only introduced him to fishing but also encouraged him to apply for a guiding job at Aikens, where he has made lifelong friends. He was far too diplomatic to take the bait when I asked him if he was a better guide than his dad, though he did acknowledge it was Junior in charge when they co-guided this summer.
And that was OK with Dad.
“I’m very proud of Marco,” said his father, Bob. “I relive my own guiding experiences when he recounts his guide stories to me. I told him when he was young, ‘Maybe someday you could be a guide at Aikens.’”