Monday, March 12, 2012

Last Ice on Little Lake

   There's always a few who make what I do in the winter time look reckless to the average person. Last Friday the local headlines shouted out "27 Stranded on Ice Floe on Lake Simcoe". I was not then and will never be one of those foolhardy soles who risk their lives for the sake of a few fish. These knuckle-heads were trying to extend the shortened deep water whitefish and lake trout season by fishing a stones throw from open water a mile out from shore and had to be rescued by helicopter. Who knows where their equipment, snowmobiles and ATV's are right now, but I'd guess about a hundred feet down! Like the oldtimers from my youth I'm tempted to shout out "There aught-a be a law!" but the way this province's government seems to listen to crackpots, my winter leisure time may just be legislated to death soon enough.

    Keeping in mind last weeks mild temperatures and high winds, Tackle Shop and I decided to stay away from the big ice and opted for a more stable, smaller venue, Little Lake in the north end of Barrie. We were assure by Penny at Rack n Reel Bait and Tackle that there was still shore access to Little and 12 to 14 inches of ice, so we bought a couple dozen 4 inch shiners and gladly hit the ice for what was likely our last hardwater outing of the year.

   We walked several hundred yards out from shore, the sound of cracking ice rumbling like thunder, music to my ears as the sub freezing temperatures were causing the ice sheet to expand. Less than 15 minutes after setting my tip down, the alarm bells jingled the arrival of a hungry pike. In my haste to answer the call from 30 feet away I'd forgotten an old lesson of pike fishing in shallow water...stealth. As I reached for the rod, pointing down into the hole, the line went slack and I'd missed my chance. In fact it was my only opportunity at landing a snot-rocket for the whole day.

  After an uneventful four hours, I awoke from a daydream to hear TS chanting the now familiar mantra "take it, TAKE IT" and then an un-printable expletive as he retrieved his rig missing two 4" shiners. Seconds later his other rod spasmed in it's holder and after a brief battle a 27" pike laid on the ice.
   What ensued after will be hotly debated for years as I had said earlier in the day that I'd never landed a pike through the ice with a lure. He'd caught this one dead sticking a 3" Jigging Rapala with a 4" shiner attached. I maintain he was bait fishing with a lure used only as a hook and not the main attractant. You decide.

   With the forecast showing temperatures from 10 to 20 C (50 to 70 F) over the next week, I regrettably have to admit that the hardwater season has drawn to a premature close. Trout season doesn't open for another 5 weeks except in the lower reaches of the Lake Ontario tributaries so my next few weekends are up in the air.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Perchin For MS

   Several weeks ago at the annual Spring Fishing Show, Tackle Shop and I met an individual named Doug Poirier who had organized a charitable fishing derby to benefit multiple sclerosis reserch. At first I was a little hesitant about the whole idea, having never participated in such an event and strictly fishing for fun and the occasional meal, but as the week went on I allowed myself to believe we actually had a shot at winning this thing.

   All things were going according to plan as we entered Sibbald Point Provincial Park right on time, signed in and chose our spot out on the ice an hour before the competition was to commence. That was about as far as the plan got! Conditions for the day were extreme...with the temperatures hovering around freezing, four inches of slush and standing water atop the ice, and a sustained SW wind at 40mph with gusts over 60mph. We watched over 200 teams file out onto the slush with most moving toward the far outer corners of the boundary, rooster tails of spray flying from their snow machines. A few hapless soles tried to erect portable huts, only to have them snatched away by the winds, bouncing them across the ice like a lost balloon at a backyard party.

   At 8am we all drilled our holes and a minute after my first drop I retrieved a fat female perch of about 10 inches. With five hours left in the derby I was confident 9 more fish like this would put us in the money...It was just that easy! An hour later and I'd marked absolutely nothing on the sonar in the dozen holes I was working. Fortunately no one else within sight was catching anything either. Finally I found a school of fish and quickly filled the bucket with our 10 fish limit, unconcerned about their size, just happy to have ten and the chance to cull if necessary.

   By 10:30 Tackle Shop had caught his first fish of the day and culled a 6 incher from the bucket. There came word that the lake's ice was breaking up a few miles to the west at Jackson's Point from a few competitors on ATVs. It seemed the whole competition moved a little to the right all at one time. TS and I started to slowly make our way back to the launch area, taking advantage of the hundreds of holes along the way, picking off a
solitary fish here and there but never finding anything big enough to replace the dinks in the bucket.

right size...wrong species

    Around noon we joined the steady trickle of anglers heading off the ice, tired of the beating the wind and the lake had laid upon us, and lined up for the weigh in. Already one team had weighed 6.9lbs for their ten fish and the largest single fish was 1.3lbs and there was still an hour left in the derby! Our total weight was 2.3lbs and after talking to many teams who came in empty handed, I believe we still placed well. It was an interesting day but one I have no wish to repeat...friendly competition for bragging rights is one thing...but entry fees and big prizes change the stakes and, at least for me, turns what should be fun into business. Next year I think I'll just sponsor a team and go out on the ice for the pure joy of fishing!
   For a list of the top ten winners and some videos, go to: Perchin for MS