Sunday, January 9, 2011

Little Lake, Barrie

 I awoke early Saturday morning, an hour before sunrise, to the insistent ring of the phone. On the other end of the line a vaguely familiar voice was asking me where I was planning to go today. Shaking the cobwebs from my head, I realised the caller was an old friend and ex coworker Road Animal. Several years ago we had "broken trail" and staked claim to many of the frozen lakes and ponds I still regularly frequent. As we no longer worked together and lived at different ends of a sprawling metropolis, the opportunities to fish with Animal had become increasingly few and far between, so I jumped from my bed for the chance to get out with an old friend and revisit an often overlooked gem for hard water fishing: Little Lake.

  Less than an hour after my wake up call, Road Animal and I were rocketing up the 400 highway towards Barrie where we dropped in for bait at Rack n Reel and had a brief conversation with Penny, the  knowledgeable and avid ice angling owner. Penny informed us that Barrie's waterfront, Kempenfelt Bay, and the main basin of Lake Simcoe had iced over only a few days previously and advised us stay off the ice for a few more days. So with this information we took the short drive north to our final destination.
 
North end of Duckworth St.
  On other visits to Little Lake we had the entire ice surface to ourselves, but when we arrived at the north end of Duckworth Street there were already several parked cars and about 20 groups out on the ice. I always assumed that the scarcity of hard water anglers on Little was due to the lake's close proximity to Simcoe, one of the busiest hard water fisheries in the word, and Saturday morning's turn out reinforced that concept as the big lake's ice was still forming and not safe, leaving thousands addicted to ice looking elsewhere to get their fix.

Gearing Up
  Animal and I quickly geared up, walked out and beyond the crowd towards the center of the lake and 12 feet of water. Little Lake is a shallow bowl nestled in a valley, averaging only 5 feet deep with expansive weed flats and only a few sandy mid lake humps and two deep troughs of around 20 feet in depth. It's part of the Willow Creek drainage which eventually meets the Nottawasaga River and eventually Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. The lake boasts a healthy population of panfish, large and smallmouth bass, pike, carp, and even walleye, but today we were after the numerous pike as were the majority of the other anglers, judging from the number of tip ups being used.

 It didn't take long for the first bite, a fat 24" pike on my farthest tip up, quickly followed by another, slightly smaller one on Animal's. It was obvious that, unlike the previous trips to Little, today the lake was offering up it's bounty in spades. Everywhere people were  answering the call of the flag. Far to the southwest, a loud cheer of approval would echo from a mixed group of a dozen Chinese anglers every half hour or so. Thankfully the majority of the fish were returned to grow and reproduce, with the occasional one kept for dinner.
Road Animal & Typical Little Lake Pike
  By early afternoon the bite had dropped off and the wind had picked up, changing from the east to the northwest. The increased wind chill and declined bite was driving away all but the most avid iceheads and by 3pm the Animal and I decided to pack it in, grab a hot coffee, and personally check out the ice on Simcoe before the short trip home. The day's totals: Road Animal - 2 pike, 5 missed strikes, 1 kept , me - 4 pike, 5 missed strikes, 1 bite off, 1 kept , 2 very large smiles.One point of note is that the second last fish I'd landed had a lamprey mark on it's side.
 

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