Tuesday, November 30, 2010

...Your Best Day At Work

 Ok... so even if you are a casual angler, you're probably familiar with the old adage "Your worst day of fishing  is better than your best day at work". I personally can't vouch for the validity of this statement as I haven't done much of either in a while, but it seems to me that there have been times recently when fishing can be more like work than pleasure. I say this because there are times I go out when I really shouldn't, you know... those days when you didn't get enough sleep and even the simplest things seem to frustrate you or nothing seems to work out right.

 I know I'm not the only one this happens to, even though no one else will admit to it. Video doesn't lie
Perhaps this video should have been called "When Good Fishermen Go Bad"

 I know what you're thinking, those were every day schmoes who don't know what they're doing. Maybe, maybe not, but even the pros have off days, and the more often you get out, the more often you're going to have them. Bill Dance, a fishing pro and TV host for over 35 years, has to be one of the clumsiest celebrities, and the most open about it.
Of course Bill Dance makes millions every year through his show, endorsements, and appearances. Fishing for him is obviously a passion and a job, which makes me wonder if his wost day fishing could possibly be his worst day at work too. I'll have to ask him next time we're out. No.. just kidding. That would be like mixing matter and anti matter, a nano second later and we would all wink out of existence.

 It wouldn't be right to ignore the hard water season, so I'll include this short (ignore the title, it was probably written by a skier).
 No need to worry about that happening here in Ontario, but it's got me wondering about what I'm going to do when I finally get the chance to try and get a good sized laker through a 6" hole.

 Obviously I've been surfing You Tube recently. As I've been writing this, the Russian forewarded a video he thought would be a fitting update to the "Opportunity Knocks..." posting from a few weeks ago. No bloopers here.
Awesome! Challenge accepted (again)!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Far & Away

 It's a pretty sorry statement when I say that if I'm not out fishing, then I'm sitting inside staring mindlessly at WFN or surfing the internet. Don't get me wrong, I think WFN is the greatest thing since artificial bait, but it's a poor substitute for getting out and doing the real thing. I got up today with no set plans other than not to turn on the tube, so with that in mind, I've decided to give some updates on what my friends have been doing lately. Dare I say I'm jealous?
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 Rambo & The Roofer

 I've only just met the Roofer, but his reputation for wild fishing adventures and general craziness well preceded our meeting. It has become ritual with him to make the long pilgrimage every fall to Cochrane in Ontario's far northeast, to indulge himself in a week of nonstop fishing action and unrestricted mass consumption (you figure that one out yourself).

Beaver Float Plane
  This was the first year that Rambo was to accompany the Roofer on his trip, so the planning started 6 months before the departure date, only to have something come up at the last minute. On the last week of Aug., two weeks earlier than expected, they hurriedly packed up the car and headed off to North Bay where a Beaver float plane waited for the final leg of their journey into the wilderness.

 I've only gone on one fly in and everything was out of season, so we spent a long weekend drinking and shooting (in retrospect, not very smart), so I can't imagine spending a week in a place where you could fish the whole time without ever having to change your lure. This was the case with R & R, I don't know if they are exagerating, but I'm told they only used 3 lures all week long, catching pike and walleye one after another!
The Roofer

Rambo
 The poor guys settle into a daily routine of fishing, steak for lunch, more fishing, fresh fish for dinner, still more fishing, and of course an unhealthy amount of beer liberally mixed in, and so on... for the next 7 days. 
Home Away From Home

On the seventh day "bad news" came in the form of a massive cold front that shut down the bite and grounded the Beaver. For another 4 days all they could do was hunker down in the cabin, wait out the weather, and try to conserve their rapidly dwindling supplies. The Roofer was fine but Rambo was running seriously low on smokes! 
  
 Eventually the rain let up and the Beaver shuttled them back to their car, slightly soggy, hung over, and stuffed to the gills with Northern Ontario's finest eats.

Thinking of a fly in? Check out: http://www.polarbearoutfitters.com/

Warning, this video contains questionable content.



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A Russian In Timmins

 Ok, he's not really Russian but he does talk funny. Last year (his first in Canada) his brother-in-law and friends took him up to Timmins for some classic Canadian wilderness fishing. The stories he brought back instantly made me ask him if his bro. was thinking of adopting. Anyways... this year he was better prepared but only had a weekend off work (it gets in the way, doesn't it) so he was going for broke. The previous fall I'd introduced him to fly fishing so for this trip I set him up with a box of x-large streamers in the hope that he could accomplish something that has eluded me - getting a walleye on a fly.
Low Water

 Alas, this was not to be. When they arrived at camp the lake was over 3ft. lower than last year and the camp operator wouldn't allow the boats out for fear of running aground. It was starting to look a little dicey, travelling 800km in 18hrs in a crowded vehicle to be stuck with shore fishing! 

 But this is northern Ontario after all and the fish really don't care where you're from and to a lesser extent where you're casting from. The fish seem to be as accommodating as the people. In a short time the stringers were full  and dinner prepared.
     

The Brother-in-law  
The Russian, on The Far Right

 Any other time I would sympathise with someone cutting a good trip short, but damn it, I'm jealous! I should be the one there pulling in monster walleye and pike on every cast. I guess 4 days in Timmins is worth a couple months of local fishing.
Typical Timmins Days Catch
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An Ontario Angler In Lotus Land

 I met Mark last year through another friend and quickly realised what an incredibly gifted person he is. Fully versed and adept in all angling disciplines, what really struck me is his insight into the fishing business and the "why didn't I think of that" invention - Booster Tails, a simple yet effective way of adding scent to any artificial bait. 

 Unfortunately, after only a few outings and before any creativity or abilities could rub off, Mark sought out greener business pastures. He traded bass, pike and walleye for trout, 4 season salmon and sturgeon in BC.
Fraser River Sturgeon
 Check out Booster Tails at: http://www.sciencefishing.com/ 
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The Carp Bench Crew

 So, while some of my friends are off in "exotic" places in the province, I'm stuck in the city doing same old, same old. Not a problem really, my backyard is awesome and the inhabitants a never ending source of entertainment (myself included). When nothing else is happening, I know Fred & Barney are at the Carp Bench. I may not get out as often or as far as I would like, but I'm thankful for the good company!
Post Fishing Refreshmens

    Untill next time, keep your hooks sharp, lines tight and the beer cold!




Thursday, November 25, 2010

Go Big or Stay at Home

Ok, not really.

 But who hasn't dreamed, from time to time, about catching a world record fish? A little far fetched you say - probably, but why not consider an easier to attain goal - an Ontario record fish. When people think of record fish, what comes to mind are bruiser bass, monstrous musky or stupendous salmon. If you spend enough time on the water, you may have already caught that record fish without even knowing it! Most people would recognise a large largemouth, but what about those fish we normally shrug off as large but non-targetted pests: rockbass, sunfish, catfish etc.
 As an example, lets look at the record brown bullhead catfish. It was 2.37 Lbs. and caught in an un-named pond along highway 401 in July 1989 by Jeff Sereda. If he had caught it before the spring spawn, the fish quite possibly could have weighed up to .75 Lbs. more!


Big Bulls by Size 11 Clodhopper
  For the past few years my friends and I have made several mid-spring pilgrimages to a Lake Simcoe trbutary in search of pre-spawn, migrating fish. One trip this year, was excepionally productive with over 300 caught in an afternoon, many weighing more than 3 Lbs.! Later that night, I personally had at least 3 record fish for dinner without even considering how special they really were.

  I guess I know better now, but after this posting, the opportunity to have my name associated with a positive record may have passed me by.

 On another occasion a few years earlier, a friend (from eastern Canada) came to me with a fish he couldn't identify. Not surprising considering how often you see a rockbass over 18" long. The amazing thing was that it was his second of the day and the first one was larger. He released it thinking that what he had caught was a good sized bass, which were out of season.

 These accounts are frequently shrugged off as "fish stories", exagerations, or even worse "it was only a rockbass". ONLY A ROCKBASS INDEED! Whether you fish for fun and dinner, or you crave attention and notoriety, check out the O.F.A.H Record Fish Registry before your next trip. It would be a shame to eat a potential record fish!
Mixed Bag of Records?

  
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 I haven't been out in over a week and it's driving me crazy. Whats the cure for compulsive fishing syndrome anyways? Have an idea? Let me know, leave a message.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Days and Counting

 OK... so it's still mid November and there are plenty of open water opportunites left in the year. So why am I posting 30 days and counting? I have it from a reliable source that the pothole lakes just north of Toronto freeze over with safe ice by the middle of December. What got me started on this train of thought ( it doesn't take too much) was a hilarious video I saw on You Tube.

Here it is. Enjoy 


 I'll continue to dredge up interesting stuff to inform & ammuse untill I have something personal to report.  Untill then keep logging on, sign up & become a follower, and check out my personal videos.

John

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Opportunity Knocks, Unusual Opportunities Hammer!

 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.

Nottawasaga Redhorse
 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! 
Bowfin

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!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Suicidal Salmon 09

 It's a funny thing, in retrospect, that for the last few years I've been averaging about 130 days of fishing per year and the quietest time for me is surprisingly mid summer. For some reason July is generally roadtrip deficient, causing my focus to shift from abroad to local opportunities. This was the case a year ago last July when a friend told me he had the car for a few hours and asked where we could go to do something other than carp fishing. Taking into consideration the time constraints, we decided to check out Toronto's western shoreline and headed out for Colonel Samuel Smith Park at the foot of Kipling Ave. 
Colonel Samuel Smith Park



 We started out casting spinners and small crankbaits in the harbour and methodically worked the water out along the inner breakwall. On previous forays, this method proved effective and produced quite a few small bass and panfish, but on this day the fish were nowhere to be found.

 After half an hour of no results, we found ourselves overlooking a small enclosed area twice the size of an average driveway and it appeared to be the perfect spot for our elusive quarry. Five minutes of casting proved the area was devoid of feeding fish and as we were about to move on, my friend noticed some movement in the far corner near the bushes. This was all the motivation we needed to reassert our assault on the pool. It obviously wasn't a bass, but by then we'd settle for a carp.

 Twenty to thirty casts later, and several more breaches by the "creature" in the bushes, we were ready to move on again. Just as we're turning away from the pool, a large V wake moves out from the corner, 40 feet (straight as an arrow) and the "creature" beaches itself directly at my feet. Flopping around in front of us is a 20Lb. "chromer" chinook salmon that had apparently decided to commit suicide.  

Struggling to Remain Composed

 Since neither of  us put a hook into it, we both claimed ownership. Between uncontrollable fits of laughter, the requisite photos were taken and we eventually made our way back to the car, stopping occasionally to recount an unbelievable tale to the many admirers.  
Suicidal Salmon

 To this day, all you have to do is mention the occasion to either one of us, and the laughter returns with the same intensity. Once again we didn't catch our target species, but who cares! The dog days of summer can be difficult when you're stuck in the city, but an afternoon on the lakeshore can have surprising results you may never forget. 

Just don't expect the fish to offer themselves up all the time!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Barrie Bonanza 2

 What a difference a week makes. Three degrees warmer, two companions instead of one, daylight savings time. All these things conspiring together to turn me into the zombie fisherman from hell.

 After a very short sleep due to the clock change this past weekend, I found myself on the Barrie waterfront again in pursuit of jumbo perch. On my first cast, I caught the largest thing of the day: a willow tree. Twenty minutes later, after re-tying a custom fluorocarbon drop shot rig, I caught a nice 10" perch, followed by the second largest thing on my third cast; a dock. All the while my friends, having a good natured competition, have caught enough perch to feed a small army. Of course they had to enquire why I wasn't participating. My answer... "I'm after bigger things" 
Friendly Competition

 So... enough of this bait fishing thing, I'm getting frustrated re-tying every two casts. I put on a spinner and start working the water along the breakwall in hopes of intercepting something that's hungry, other than all the inanimate objects intent on emptying my tackle box. No such luck.

 An hour in and I've caught one perch, a dock, and two trees. I'm not normally a very dense person(at least not mentally), but sometimes it's surprising how long I will knock my head against the wall before I realise that it's better to be a spectator than a spectacle.

Kempenfelt Bay


 By now the "friendly" competition is heating up and there's more barbs flying than at a casting contest. 
"I'm five ahead of you"
"So, mine are bigger"
"It's not about size, it's about quantity. Any  
  ways, mine are prettier"
"Maybe... but you're not!

  and so on...

 I go for a walk and chat with our immediate neighbors. Nobody else is catching any trees or docks, but the perch are fairly accommodating.
The zombie fisherman from hell is making new friends who don't rub chum in his face when he's off a bit.  
The Marina at Sundown
 All things considered, it was a pretty good afternoon despite freezing my fingers(again) and putting on a show of gross incompetence to the  amusement of the entire Barrie waterfront area.

Looking forward to next weeks trip!

John

Need bait in Barrie?, check out: http://racknreel.com/

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Don is Dead ? 1970-2010

Don River Estuary

  I remember back in the late 60's and early 70's the public outcry that Lake Erie was officially declared "dead". No surprise there considering more than a century of unrestricted industrial dumping, near non-existent controls on agricultural runoff and free flowing sewage. Closer to home, the story was the same with the Don River. Even today, a drive along the Don Valley Parkway south of Bloor St. shows a tired old river beaten into submission with controlled banks and an industrialised estuary. But things are not what they seem.

 Last month on an outing just north of the Toronto city limits, my friend and I noticed several youths on a resdential street carying fly rods. Having grown up in the general area, I assumed they were in pursuit of the "mighty" Don River chub. On our return trip, out of habit, it was decided to check out the water to see if there was anything interesting going on. What a surprise, the dirty old Don had a full blown run of salmon!

video

 As with boyscouts and most fishing fanatics, we were prepared for all possible situations. The back of the vehicle contained just about any type of tackle you would ever need. So within minutes of our discovery we were actively trying to outwit these migratory visitors with a variety of baits ranging from spinners and spoons to roe bags and flies. 

Chinook Salmon
 So.. who says the Don River is dead? Not me!
What other commonly held beliefs are full of crap? Carp are a garbage fish, sunfish and catfish aren't worth eating, pike and musky lose their teeth during the summer. 

  I learned these "fish tales" as a youngster from my "enlightened" peers and it's taken half a lifetime to re-educate myself on the pure joy of angling. No longer will I be victim to good-old-boy fish snobbery. Any fish is a worthy fish, they can't all be trophies. I'll take my opportunities as they come and keep an open mind when it comes to my expectations.

Coho Salmon

 The main reason for this posting is for you the reader to keep an open mind. The most common fishing myth is that you have to travel great distances to find productive water (unfortunately, most people don't know what's in their own back yard). In recent years my most valuable fishing equipment has been my collection of Backroad Mapbooks, Google Earth, and the MNR's Guide to Eating Gamefish. These publications have allowed me to find hidden hotspots in my area and given me an idea of what can be caught there.   

 By the way, salmon are not the only species available in the Don River. It has healthy populations of carp, shiners, bullhead catfish, chub, suckers, rockbass, sunfish, the occasional largemouth bass, pike in the lower stretches, and rainbow and brown trout.The Don is dead... don't you believe it!


by for now
John

Monday, November 1, 2010

Barrie Bonanza

 It looks as if Lake Simcoe has produced another bumper crop of perch again this year and if today is any indication of things to come, mining Simcoe's gold will be a true bonanza this winter. I got the call this morning and by 2pm we were buying a bucket of shiners just a few blocks from Kempenfelt Bay in downtown Barrie. 
Barrie Marina
 
 As we walked from the car out onto the breakwall at Barrie Marina, a dozen boats could be seen working the drop off for smallmouth bass, as there's still a full month left in the season. These bass fishermen must be true fanatics because although the thermometer said 7 degrees Celsius, the wind chill was well below zero.

 That being said, we quickly baited our hooks, cast out with the expectation of being able to light a smoke and (at least on my part) put on my gloves. This was not to be the case as we both had fish on immediately and it continued that way for the next half hour nonstop. Finally I had to take a break just to warm my hands up in my pockets. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining but it's the same thing with me every year at this time; I look out the window or watch the weather report and dress according to that information. WRONG. It may be early November but if you are going to do this: DRESS AS IF IT'S WINTER!
Bass Fishermen

   As it turns out, the perch came into the
marina before the bait fish and had voracious
appetites, aggressively competing for our
offerings. This is about as close as it comes to
"production fishing". Five times in the first hour I had true double headers. That's two fish on my line at the same time!

 The perch averaged a good 9", with the occasional one upwards to 12", all of them giving an excellent fight for their size on ultra-
light tackle. A 5' rod makes almost anything
feel big but these guys were truly insane.
Perch Double Header

 Believe it or not, after an hour or so of non stop action, we decided to explore the area in search of a school of true jumbos. We made our way out to the end of the breakwall where the water is deeper and less weedy. Unfortunately it was also less "perchy" too.

 Amazingly, before we returned to our original spot, we noticed several schools of lake trout cruising the drop off. Unfortunately we were not geared up for these large fish, what with the ultra light rods and pinhead shiners. We didn't stand a chance of hooking one let alone landing it, but it was a truly incredible thing to see all the same.

 In a matter of three and a half hours, we caught well over a hundred perch each (most of which were of suitable size for the dinner table), but only kept enough for a good feed. Simcoe's perch population may seem inexhaustable, but erring on the conservative side is never a bad thing with regards to catch and keep.
Tonight's Dinner
 Todays outing was an unexpected surpise that I hope to repeat several times before the big freeze, but if not, the day will always remain a memorable day on Barrie's waterfront.

Until next time, see ya
John