Secret spots ... to share, or not to share?

A screen capture shows the kind of trophy brook trout caught by Mike Borger in a secret lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, a wild landscape bigger than the state of Delaware.

I may be on the wrong side of this particular issue, but I loathe the notion of guarding fishing secrets so closely that it becomes a form of zealotry.

I get the need, in very few instances, to protect certain places from the impacts of the masses. There are particular stretches of absolutely amazing trout water that could become “just another fishing hole” if they became wildly popular among those with less-than-stellar catch-and-release ethics. One particular brook trout stream in West Virginia comes to mind. I like to visit whenever I’m in the area, but I know that, if I were to share this location widely, the mile-long stretch of productive water could easily be overfished and largely ruined. It’s not too far from a larger city, and if it became a well-known destination, it wouldn’t be what makes it special now.

But this story struck me as comical, and I honestly found myself coming down on both sides of the fence. Ontario pro angler Mike Borger has a favorite fishing hole in Algonquin Provincial Park, a vast, wild landscape west of Ottowa. He posted a 40-minute video of his recent fishing trip—a great father-son adventure, by the way—to YouTube, where he documented the catch of a number of really nice brook trout. He also never named the lakes he and his son, Brendan, visited for an extended camping trip, preferring to keep their destination a secret.

“I haven’t told anyone about this lake,” Borger told CBC Radio Canada. “I wouldn’t tell my best friend about this lake.”

This didn’t go over well with a fellow unknown angler who filed a Freedom of Information request with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for a copy of Borger’s backcountry camping permit. One look at the permit would reveal the lakes and the river Borger and his son visited earlier this spring, where they caught dozens of trophy brook trout.

On one hand, I understand Borger’s reluctance to share the location of the lake. But, one look at the map shows me just how vast Algonquin Provincial Park really is. It’s bigger than the state of Delaware and boasts 2,500 lakes and dozens of rivers and streams that connect many of the lakes with one another. For me, this begs the question, “How important is it to protect this particular destination when, it would seem, the area is riddled with trophy trout and smallmouth bass lakes and rivers?” Honestly, how many people are going to go to the effort to hike into the first lake (and they had to make two trips, according to the video, to get all their gear in) and then spend a week paddling, camping and portaging to relive the adventure captured in Borger’s video?

A few dozen? Tops? This is a huge, wild landscape likely full of fishing opportunities like the one the Borgers enjoyed. It’s doubtful that revealing the name of the lakes and the river would cause such an uptick in visitor numbers as to seriously degrade the fishing experience.

On the other hand … a Freedom of Information request? Seriously? I like to explore and sleuth out great fishing spots, and, if I find a great spot that takes a lot of effort to reach, I’m usually OK with letting people know where it is and how to get there, with the understanding that they’ll take care to respect the resource. I live in the West—there is a lot of a great backcountry fishing that only a precious few folks enjoy every season, simply because it takes some real effort to reach these places. But, I’m not sure I’d be so inclined to go to the government in order to seek out the spot where someone showed—on video, for crying out loud—some of the best brook trout fishing I’ve ever seen.

But, as Borger noted, “I’m going to give him credit because it was an incredibly smart, underhanded, and a little bit devious. If somebody has a copy of my interior camping permit, which shows which lakes I camped on each night, they can clearly and easily figure out which lake I caught these trophy fish in.”

I’m guessing the unknown angler is Borger’s best friend. You know, the guy he left high and dry?

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.