Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mining Simcoe Gold

  You have to love the unpredictability of winter in southern Ontario. Last week it looked as if the hardwater season was coming to a close with the rapid disappearance of shoreline ice on Lake Simcoe and this week that same ice showed the depth and stability of early March. This turnaround in ice conditions could possibly push the season to unprecedented late dates, which suits me just fine for two reasons: 1, I catch more quality fish to eat at this time of the year than any other and, 2, late winter ice is the hottest bite of the season with the perch schooling up in their predictable spawning areas.

  This day started out much like last Saturday with Tackle Shop and myself making the return trip to Innisfil to mine some Simcoe gold; jumbo yellow perch. Along with us was hardwater novice Dodger, who was making his first ever trip to the big lake and "big" ice. After last week's bonanza we all had great expectations of another day of nonstop action and pushing our creel average well into the double digits.

Dodger checking results of pressure cracking
  The first and most obvious difference from last week was the temperature (0F with the windchill) and it's effects on the ice, now 20 inches thick in some places. Last week's "bridge" to safe ice was now firmly frozen to the lake bottom and as we walked offshore the sound of rapidly expanding pressure cracks could be heard constantly echoing like gunshots or thunder rolling off in the distance. All this is music to the ears of avid ice anglers as it's a sign of the ice making process, and a never ending source of amusement for me watching the uninitiated freak out as a crack appears between their feet!

Perch double header
  The second difference from the previous week was that the huge schools of perch had reacted to the return of winter by thinning out and putting their gluttony temporarily on hold. On any other body of water this would have resulted in having to drill countless holes to find our quarry, but because this was Lake Simcoe, there was still a vast number of fish beneath our feet, we just needed to work harder for them. Our biggest problem last week was waiting for the bait to reach bottom 40 feet below, and while this week we found and caught fish in every hole drilled from 10 to 50 feet, it took a far more subtle approach to entice more than just a nibble.

  As the day wore on our catch numbers gradually increased, each of us landing a few over the magical 12 inch mark, but the majority of the fish were below 8 inches and returned to the lake to "grow up". Tackle Shop was the clear leader for the day with an estimated count of over 200 fish (he kept 10%) proving that patience (or a grudging unwillingness to drill any more holes) pays off. Dodger's first trip to Simcoe was a complete success as he was satisfied in every way (except for that crack incident). I only wish he'd been with us on the previous trip to see how insane it gets when the bite is on.
My donation
   As we were walking off the lake, Tackle Shop and I  decided to donate our catch to Dodger as we found out he'd never eaten perch before and was planning to have a fish fry with a friend. All to a good cause I say, saves me the work of cleaning them! 10lbs of perch is a lot of cleaning!

  Anyways... there's trout in the rivers and spawning pike in the smaller thawed lakes, but with a predicted two more weeks of premium ice time available, I'll opt for prospecting for more Lake Simcoe gold!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Joke/Quote of the Week #4's Saturday morning and another week has passed like so much ice water under the bridge. While so many of my fellow bloggers are already geared up for trout and other open water species, here in southern Ontario winter has returned with a vengeance and it looks like hard water angling will be possible for at least another few weeks. So here I am now, up before the morning light with an hour to kill before my friends arrive to whisk me away to Lake Simcoe and another assault on the jumbo perch population there. Just to fill out my time and possibly amuse you, I think now is the time for another installment of Joke/Quote of the Week.
It is to be observed that 'angling' is the name given to fishing by people who can't fish.

Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.

You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don't want to eat the fish, they just want to make it late for something.

Saturday morning I got up early, quietly dressed, made my lunch, grabbed the dog,
and slipped quietly into the garage.
I hooked up the boat up to the truck, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour.
The wind was blowing 50 mph, so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio,
and discovered that the weather would be bad all day.
I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed.
I cuddled up to my wife's back, now with a different anticipation, and whispered,
'The weather out there is terrible.'
My loving wife of 10 years replied, 'Can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?'
And then the fight started ...
 Counseling—Newfie Style
Earl and Garge are quietly sitting in a boat fishing, chewing tobacco, and drinking beer
when suddenly Garge says,
“Think I’m gonna divorce the wife. She ain’t spoke to me in over two months.”
Earl spits overboard, takes a long, slow sip of beer, and says,

“Better think it over. Women like that are hard to find.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Innisfil Perching, Lake Simcoe

 It was just one of those weekends... you know, when you're up and down like a geriatric with a bladder infection trying to get some sleep. I got home from work at 11am Friday morning and immediately logged on to the internet. Before I realized it it was 3pm so I dragged myself up to bed in the hopes of getting a few hours sleep to "kickstart" my daylight weekend. This was not to happen as when I finally woke up it was 3am! Even though there's hundreds of 24hr channels on the TV, this is not the way that I want to spend the precious few hours allotted to "entertainment" on my weekend. Luckily for me Tackle Shop does have a bladder like a geriatric, waking up every few hours to go to the bathroom, so we actually managed to hit the road as the sun was rising.

Our destination: Lake Simcoe. Our quarry: perch, with the possibility of herring, smelt, whitefish, lake trout, ling, bass, pike, musky, walleye, carp... and so on. Last Saturday was our first trip of the hard water season to the big lake and we opted for convenience and speed, fishing in downtown Barrie, as it was an unplanned trip nestled between some not-so-ice-friendly weather conditions. In the past Barrie had produced some mediocre days so this weekend (possibly the last weekend on ice) we decided to go to a known hot spot...Innisfil's 6th Line, about five miles south of Barrie on Cook's Bay. Our last outing on the ice for 2010 was at this location exactly a year ago with non stop action and we were hoping for a repeat performance. 

 At this time last year on Simcoe the ice was still relatively stable but finding access to the ice was the real problem. As we approached the end of 6th Line, I was relieved to see a line of parked vehicles, suggesting the ice hadn't receded too far from the shoreline. Upon closer inspection, we found someone had placed a pallet along the beach that a dozen other anglers had used to get out on the ice. Right next to the pallet was a melt water inflow eroding the ice and my main concern was not about getting out but being able to get back to shore by mid afternoon. We'd tackle that problem later, for now we were going perching!

  I pulled our sleds out over the rocks and pallet onto solid ice while Tackle Shop parked the van. We walked out just over 100 yards, drilled our holes in 16 inches of semi-porous ice over 38 feet of water, and were immediately into a school of hungry perch. TS went with his usual set up of two rods at arms length in holders, tipped with shiner minnows, while I quickly realized the futility of trying to constantly monitor two rods with the abundance of hungry and willing fish beneath our feet.
Halis - panfish kryptonite!

  My tactic for the day was to bounce from hole to hole, following the schools, using a single ultra light rod with a Finnish, Hali jigging spoon tipped with maggots, small pieces of minnow, or the eyeballs from the perch I'd already caught. As it turned out, moving was unnecessary as there were fish everywhere. I'd landed over a hundred 8 to 9 inch perch in the first hour and a half but only kept a half dozen.

  Meanwhile, TS was having the same action, but using two rods with live minnows, he was busy re-baiting every few minutes and his catch rate suffered. On the other hand, because of the live minnows he did manage to ice a nice 20 inch herring and of course there was always the chance of hooking something significantly larger.

  As the day progressed and the catch numbers climbed beyond all expectations, it became clear the real "jumbo" perch (12 to 15 inches) were not to be found in this immediate area. By early afternoon, Tackle Shop and I started checking out how the other anglers were doing. Perch were being caught by the hundreds in 6 to 60 feet of water with only a handful of jumbos iced. By mid afternoon we were ready to call it a day, having iced an estimated 600 fish between the two of us and keeping only a couple dozen for dinner. Sometimes is just good for the soul to get out on a late winter sunny day and catch tons and tons of fish!
My keepers, 8-11 inches
Mid afternoon visitor
   My earlier concerns about reaching shore thankfully turned out to be unfounded. The weather forecast for this week calls for daytime temps just over the freezing mark with nights dipping enough to undo the daily damage, so there's a good chance of a repeat trip to the land of plenty next week.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Simcoe At Last!

Looking east from downtown Barrie onto Kempenfelt Bay, Lake Simcoe
 I woke up this morning with all the excited anticipation of a six year old on Christmas morning. The night before Environment Canada had revised the forecast for Saturday, so with a short respite from the seemingly endless rain lately, Tackle Shop suggested we check out the Barrie area on Lake Simcoe. By this time last year we'd visited the general area over a dozen times and iced close to a thousand perch, but this year our focus had been on toothier critters on smaller waters and we'd all but ignored the big lake 45 minutes north of Toronto. So with the surprise change in the weather and location, today seemed like an unexpected gift.

 After a quick drive up highway 400 we stopped in at Rack 'n' Reel for bait and a quick chat with Penny about local ice conditions and catches. Three blocks away from the bait shop is Barrie's waterfront, a 3 mile arcing shoreline of mixed use parkland, public marinas and ample free parking. The first thing we notice as we pulled into the parking lot was how desolate the ice appeared with only one small cluster of huts a hundred yards out. The reason for this quickly became apparent as we walked out through patches of slush and standing water up to 3" deep, but a little farther past the huts the surface firmed up and that's where we set up shop.

Massive School of Smelt
 As I started drilling holes, my concerns over the effects of the recent warm spell on future trips were relieved as there was 12'' of spongy white ice overlaying 10" of hard black ice. Fishing the bays and shorelines of Simcoe is secure for at least another three weeks .There was no surprise at the 35 foot depth as I turned on the fish finder but for the whole day we found ourselves standing atop massive schools of rainbow smelt, sometimes measuring 20 feet deep! 

 Tackle Shop set up in his usual way with 2 rods within reach, rigged with 2" emerald shiners suspended a few inches off the bottom. I set up my tip up with a shiner and worked my other hole with my most recent favorite rig, a hexi-fly jig tipped with a single maggot. Right away I encountered a problem with my set up, the jig wasn't heavy enough to pull my 6lb Fireline tight at that depth and I missed several bites. After adding another jig a foot farther up the fluorocarbon leader the entire set up kept the line tight enough to detect the most subtle take and I quickly iced a half dozen 8-10 inch perch and even a 6 inch smelt.

 While the maggot tipped jig was working it's magic, the old standby shiners were producing few bites. TS had only managed a couple perch and a smelt in the first few hours. There were plenty of fish beneath the ice but then again there was plenty of bait down there too, so it was a bit of a surprise when TS noticed some weight on his line and reeled in a beautiful 20 inch herring. Of course there's still a moratorium on herring on Simcoe and until their numbers return to a sustainable level all fish have to be released. I've been told by some old-timers that they used to harvest garbage pails full every day of the hard water season!

Considering the large amount of forage fish present and the depth, there was still the chance of a whitefish or lake trout so I kept soaking the shiner on my tip up. While working a school of perch with the maggot I noticed a large signal on the sonar zero in on my bait and the weight on the end of my line had me thinking this could be my first ever whitefish. After a close call at the bottom of the ice I managed to land  the 18 inch silver beauty only to realise it was another herring. No problem, they put up a great fight for their size. I said, the day was an unexpected gift from the start. Just getting out was enough, but  icing some "sweet meat" was definitely a bonus. When we packed it in for the day I reeled in the long inactive tip up line to find the 2 inch shiner replaced with a 5 inch smelt! There's no telling how long it was on the line but on the off chance something larger had taken the smelt it would have had to be released as smelt are illegal to use as bait.
The ones I kept

Friday, March 11, 2011

Joke/Quote of The Week #3

 It's Friday afternoon once again and the candle's two ends are about to meet in the middle so I'll have to be brief. The only thing to report in this small corner of the fishing world is that it's been raining out for three days straight, the ice on the lakes is covered with 8' of water and all the rivers are blown out. With that in mind I think now is the time for another installment of some fishing humor and then it's bedtime for bonzo.
I think it's time for me to get out, because at the moment I'm only thinking about fishing 21 hours a day, and they're the waking moments. And even when I close my eyes I'm thinking about it.

If fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.
True Fishing Terms

Catch and Release - A conservation motion that happens most often right before the local Fish and Game officer pulls over a boat that has caught over it's limit.

Hook - (1) A curved piece of metal used to catch fish. (2) A clever advertisement to entice a fisherman to spend his live savings on a new rod and reel. (3) The punch administered by said fisherman's wife after he spends their life savings (see also, Right Hook, Left Hook).
Line - Something you give your coworkers when they ask on Monday how your fishing went the past weekend.
Lure - An object that is semi-enticing to fish, but will drive an angler into such a frenzy that he will charge his credit card to the limit before exiting the tackle shop.
Reel - A weighted object that causes a rod to sink quickly when dropped overboard.
Rod - An attractively painted length of fiberglass that keeps an angler from ever getting too close to a fish.
School - A grouping in which fish are taught to avoid your $29.99 lures and hold out for spam instead.
Tackle - What your last catch did to you as you reeled him in, but just before he wrestled free and jumped back overboard.
Tackle Box - A box shaped alarmingly like your comprehensive first aid kit. Only a tackle box contains many sharp objects, so that when you reach in the wrong box blindly to get a Band Aid, you soon find that you need more than one.
Test - (1) The amount of strength a fishing line affords an angler when fighting fish in a specific weight range. (2) A measure of your creativity in blaming that darn line for once again losing the fish.
 So...enough of the plagerism, here are a couple phony magazine covers I photoshopped a few years ago.

 That's about all for now, I'm going to bed. If the weather changes drastically I just might be able to get out. If you like the humor, leave a message, or better yet... leave a joke!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Joke/Quote of The Week #2

 Well... we didn't get out this weekend due to unfavorable conditions. 10c (50F) is easy enough to endure on the ice but the 8" to 10" of water on the ice is not nice. Needless to say I have nothing to post this weekend, so it's time for another installment of  Joke/Quote of The Week.
Fishing seems to be the favorite form of loafing.

I do fish. I think there is a connection between thinking and fishing mostly because you spend a lot of time up to your waist in water without a whole lot to keep your mind busy.

I only make movies to finance my fishing'.
Catching a big fish is like peeing yourself. Sure everybody can see it, but only you get to feel the warmth

  An eldely fisherman had spent another frustrating day out on the frozen lake and to make matters worse, the young hotshot right beside him was slamming fish all day. As he's packing up, the oldtimer says to the kid "I didn't get a single bite all day! What's your secret?"

The kid looks up from his hole and mumbles "Myoo mobba meep more mate morm"

The oldtimer does a doubletake and says "I didn't quite get that. What did you say?"

Again the kid mumbles "Myoo mobba meep more mate morn"

By now the oldtimer's getting angry, thinking the kid's mocking him, so he says "I'm only going to ask you one more time and if you don't answer me I"m gonna stuff you down that hole!"

The kid looks really scared, spits out a handful of maggots, and shouts

"You gotta keep your bait warm!" 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Joke/Quote of The Week

Howdy Pards

  On the suggestion from Tackle Shop and another "friend", Jim, I've decided to inject some humor and culture into this blog. I thought I was already doing that but apparently I could be funnier and classier. For several months now Jim has e-mailed me quotes of the day and other thought inspiring articles and TS is a great collector of fishing related comics.

 So from now on, at least once a week I'll be posting little bits and bites that have been forwarded to me. This is meant to be an open "forum", so if you're interested in participating, and I hope you are, submit your jokes, quotes and cartoons with your message. Just one thing... please keep it clean.
Hell, if I'd jumped on all the dames I'm supposed to have jumped on, I'd have had no time to go fishing.

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.
A small town doctor was famous in the area for always catching VERY large fish.

One day while he was on one of his frequent fishing trips, he got a call that a woman at a neighboring farm was giving birth. He rushed to her aid and delivered a healthy baby boy.

The farmer had nothing to weigh the baby with so the doctor used his fishing scale.

The baby weighed in at 32 pounds, 10 ounces!