Before we get started it’s worth mentioning that there have been some changes in the territorial zones the MNR uses to manage fishing regulations in Ontario. In a nutshell, they have restructured their former 37 Divisions into 20 broader Zones that cover a much larger area. Although the MRN claims that this change was brought forth to improve the ease of fisheries resource management by better defining boundaries and reducing sometimes confusing exceptions, I suspect this to be the result of low funding from a government that simply doesn’t place its priorities in wildlife management and fishing and hunting. I believe they were finding themselves unable to meet the staffing requirements needed to maintain, regulate and enforce the old system. If you want more information about this please follow this link to the explanation provided on the MNR website.
Much to my dismay, I rarely if ever see Conservation Officers on Lake St-Francis and I suspect that with an even broader area to cover they will become even more illusive. The OPP is out there and will check fishing permits, but they are more concerned with drinking out on the water. With stories of bags of perch being caught during the spawning period prior to the season opening one would wish that the government allocate the necessary enforcement measures to help catch and penalize the cheaters. Unfortunately year after year it seems certain people believe themselves to have the right to catch and sell perch out of season. Not only is this practice extremely arrogant in the sense that it indicates that these individuals believe themselves to be the sole owners and users of the resource but it is also very frustrating to the vast majority of local fishermen who follow the regulations. Above the dam in Long-Sault I recall seeing Conservation Officers on many visits. On one occasion when many people were out catching walleye on the ice at Ault Island the MNR Officers had blocked the only road leading in and out and they systematically verified every vehicle leaving that night asking for permits and checking limits. I have never seen anything similar that in Lancaster or the area. I’ve seen the MNR trucks around here and there but that’s it. I am concerned that the already understaffed Conservation Officers will now have an even broader area to cover meaning that more and more illegal fishing will be allowed to occur in the area. Also, due to the re-shuffling of the former WMU 65 into zone 28 that encompasses a much broader area there will be no more April pike fishing on Lake St-Francis. This is a part of the season I will sorely miss. Sometimes I felt as though I was the only person who craved pike fishing in April just after ice-out. I was often literally alone on the lake and large pikes were readily hitting baits in shallow water and were easy to find. It’s too bad that this April tradition is now over.
Now let’s get back to fishing.
There are moments in a year we all look forward to and eagerly anticipate. For some it’s the magic of Christmas Eve, a wedding anniversary, a vacation or a trip. For others it’s a festival, a sporting event or a visit from friends or relatives who they rarely get to see. For many of us around Lake St-Francis however the second Saturday in May is the date on the calendar we circle many months in advance. That weekend marks the opening of the perch and walleye season on the lake, and new to this year the pike season also. My cousin-in-law Mike just bought himself a brand new Lund 1625 Rebel SS and lucky for me he and his wife (my cousin) Amélie live only a few houses down the road from my place on Lake St-Francis. This boat, seen in the picture at the top of this post and in the perching video below is an absolute jewel to fish in. It’s like fishing out of your living room. I was extremely impressed with the hull of the boat. It’s a deep-V and is very bulky and stable in the water. We had it out in some decent chop on Sunday afternoon and it cut the waves very smoothly at high speeds and spray was a non-factor. The boat is very wide, and the storage areas are numerous and spacious, thus creating a lot of space and an extremely comfortable fishing experience. Three people can fish very comfortably without feeling cramped one bit. What I really appreciated was the stability of the boat in the water and the spacious interior, not to mention its very slick look overall. The package came with a 50HP 2-stroke Merc which moves the boat fairly well but it could use a more powerful engine, a 72 pound thrust bow-mount trolling motor and a basic sonar unit. The livewell is huge and fully equipped with a place to put your minnow bucket. I think Mike will be very happy with his purchase for many years to come.
Although he was reluctant to go out for perch because he wanted to try his luck with walleye Mike agreed to make Saturday morning a perch outing. With the water being cold for this time of year at 51 degrees, when we got out on the water I stood in front of the boat and we looked for perch schools in the shallow bay near Glengarry Park and Westley’s Point thinking fish might still be in spawning mode. The very shallow water looked pretty much deserted so we used the wind to drift out towards deeper water and found perch with the Aqua-Vue on the first drop-off out of the bay in about 15 feet of water. From that moment on the action was fast and furious. We literally couldn’t let out rigs hit the bottom without getting hit as the perch were really aggressive, biting with conviction and very numerous. They were spitting up a lot of minnows so we caught them during feeding time for sure. We released quite a few but got some real nice ones here and there. I had come up with a rigging system the night before that uses a drop loop variation knot that reduces the length of the snell, meaning that tangling is a non-factor. The rigs worked out very well. I love catching perch on an ultra-light rod. I use a St-Croix ultralight with a tiny Quantum spinning reel and I absolutely love the feel of a jumbo trying to stay on bottom on that outfit. I stick to 4 pound test mono, #6 Mustad Ultrapoint coloured bait hooks tipped with a minnow hooked through the eyes, as light a bell sinker I can get away with and I seem to do quite well. The idea is to think ultra-finesse approach. As you can see in the video below we had a fantastic time. After a couple hours of furious action Amélie called us and we picked her up at the dock. She helped us fill the livewell by boating about 15 perch. At noon, we decided we had plenty of work cut out for us in terms of cleaning fish so we headed in for the day. For me perch fishing is all about savouring the moment and enjoying the simple act of being outdoors with the smells and sounds of the lake. There is something truly mesmerizing and arguably therapeutic about it. I can’t think of a more relaxing thing to do on a nice day.
We had a few hours to kill on Sunday afternoon and despite the strong East wind we decided to head to the Stumps for a bit of shallow water pike action. I threw a Rattlin’ Rap around the sunken logs, Pat switched between a huge white spinnerbait tipped with a long plastic worm and a large spoon and Mike started off chugging a blue Husky Jerk but also switched to a Rattlin’ Rap when we realized that noise and flash were the way to go that day. We only ended up being out for an hour or so but we managed to boat 3 small pikes. Don’t mind Pat with his comments about me in this video. He’s just jealous.
Overall I had a fantastic weekend. It started with fast perch action and ended with a perch feast on Sunday. I can’t complain, well, other than the fact that fishing in my boat suddenly doesn’t seem very enticing. Something tells me we’ll be using Mike’s Lund a little more than my old Sea Nymph this summer.