Growing up, I had the good fortune of my parents owning a cottage on Georgian Bay and fishing every day quickly went from habit to passion. Typically, my first experiences were panfish caught off the end of the dock with a worm on my hook and visions of monsters in my mind. Later on, I graduated to the more "grown up" pursuit of catching the plentiful bass and pike inhabitting the bay, lowering live minnows over the side of our rowboat and waiting for the fun to start (the wait usually didn't take too long).
This style of fishing suited my father perfectly, it got him away from the daily grind at home and supplied a delicious dinner on his return. As a young teen, I was becomming restless with the predictability of our outtings, there had to be more. It was around this time a friend introduced me to artificial baits and lures. I was hooked from the start. The concept of actively hunting my quarry instead of waiting for it to bite opened up a whole different world of possibilities and opportunities that, to this day, I still struggle to master.
This posting could have been called Barrie Bonanza 3. Been there, done that. Yesterday, while my two friends renewed their perch harvest rivalry, I spent my time dusting off my hardware searching for predators. As is often the case, I came home empty handed, but no less satisfied than the other two. You see, we were all doing what we love, and one of my greatest pleasures is searching out the uncommon and unusual.
Around mid April of this year, a friend and I were in the same place, doing the same thing, with pretty much the same results. During a lull in the action, I was told of an unusual opportunity on the nearby Nottawasaga River. Several people claimed to have hooked into sturgeon. Challenge accepted! Twenty minutes later we're baiting up and casting into a pristine, green water pool all to ourselves. In no time at all, my partner has a fish on and it's giving a pretty good fight.What we thought might be a steelhead or a small sturgeon turns out to be a redhorse sucker. Not the target species, but pretty cool all the same.
We caught three more that day and a couple small rainbows to boot. A few days later, we returned and had the same results. Just as we were about to leave, a true river monster rolled on the surface right in front of us. Six feet long and powerful enough to fuel the imagination untill next year.
Three years ago, another group of friends invited me out on a trip to Trenton, an hour and a half drive east of Toronto. What I saw there was completely out of my range of experiences, a dam nearly half a kilometer across, with a plunge pool barely able to contain all the fish! Everywhere you looked there were giant carp breaching the surface and large schools swimming past right at your feet.
Quickly tying on my go to weapon of choice, a #4 Mepps, I immediately hooked into a nice smallmouth bass. The others were having equally good luck using worms and leeches, catching a mixed bag of bass and panfish, but eventually the heavy metal hardware won out.
Trent River Gar
The hit nearly took the rod out of my hands. Twice I was almost spooled, but after five minutes the fish was subdued enough to land. My very first, and to this date, largest gar.
Since then there have been many trips back to Trenton with many hook ups but relatively few landings. These fish are insane and incredibly frustrating. One day you will hook into one after another only to be spooled or broken off, and on the next day they will constantly follow your bait right up to where you're wading only to stop or turn away at the last second.
On one memorable trip, my friend and I were accompanied by a relative newbie, Treefrog, who was not comfortable sacrificing his tackle to the rocks and stumps.We named him after his favorite plastic bait and where it usually ended up. While drowning a worm, he managed to catch a small gobie, and on advice from the other guy cast it back out . In less than a minute, with his rod bent double and the drag screaming, Treefrog shouts out he thinks he has something. After a short but intense battle, the gar grudgingly spat out the gobie, but not before showing off what could have been when it jumped. It was over 5 feet long!
Last year we started to explore southwestern Ontario. In a small pond near St. Catherines we all managed to catch new and unusual species, and break a few personal records. White perch, white bass, bowfin, sheephead, channel cat, these are just a few of the 11 species all caught in a single afternoon in a pond no bigger than a city block!
Caught on 8"Rubber Lizzard
The beautiful thing about places like this is that you never know what you're going to catch .
On one trip to the Upper Niagara River, I found myself casting a beadhead nymph to the large carp cruising the shore line. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of color and quickly flipped my fly over to intercept. Immediately the fish turned, engulfed the fly and the battle was on. Once again I'm amazed at the variety of fish available. What I landed was a rudd, an introduced invasive species that by law must be destroyed or eaten. Yes eaten. One of my partners that day comes from Serbia, where rudd are commonly caught for food.
Niagara River Rudd
The old traditional Canadian sportfishing species are still some of my favorite fish to hunt, but these alternative targets more than hold their own when it comes to fighting. I just don't want to eat any of them!