The Lancaster pike tournament version 2009 has come and gone. As usual, Mother Nature provided us with some of her infamous Victoria Day weekend wrath. Saturday started off fairly nice with reasonable temps and a calm Easterly wind. However, the day quickly deteriorated and the rain (a load of it) came falling from the sky in a heavy torrent for hour upon hour. On two separate occasions throughout the day, my fishing partner Pat and I were forced to seek shelter as thunderstorms hovered ominously overhead. I can certainly handle the rain, the wind, the cold temperature and freezing fingers. However, when it comes to lightning in a 16′ aluminum boat out on lake St. Francis you quickly become aware of how very, very small you are in the grand scheme of things. If you are anything like me you realize those are times when even the best of fishing is not worth being fried like a piece of chicken over. Our escape from possible electrocution landed us in a lovely spot called King’s Marina located in the St. Regis Canal. Seeing as they didn’t sell coffee, we decided to order a poutine. We figured it would make it less obvious that we were only there for shelter. Aside from being a little bit shell-shocked to see the two of us there on a day when most wouldn’t even consider going outside to get the paper, these folks were great. When Pat tried to use his new Interac Microchip card to pay for his poutine the machine wouldn’t accept it. I suppose this is what the bank means by enhanced security features. The card is so safe, you can’t even use it! So there we were, completely soaked, and unable to pay for food. Trouble is, Pat’s poutine was already cooked and served up. In what I think was a grand gesture, King, the man who owns the joint and sits behind the cash register offered to front Pat the poutine. That didn’t really work for us as we had no plans to be back there for quite a while so King was ready to give Pat the poutine free of charge. “You’ve gotta eat” he said sternly. Seeing as Pat felt quite uncomfortable with this entire situation I paid for his poutine with my credit card. No microchip in that one! That’s what I call hospitality. King was kind enough to offer the food free of charge to help out a couple nutcases crazy enough to be fishing in that weather. For this reason, King is now in my good books. Props to you King!
As for the fishing part of our little adventure, we started out the morning of day 1 targeting shallow water. We did quite well doing so the week before. Well, this time the fish weren’t exactly what I would call responsive. In fact, we caught nothing but snags in spots we did quite well pre-fishing the week before. So we reluctantly headed for the deeper water. I say reluctantly because if you know me well it’s a bit of a dirty secret that I am no expert jig fisherman. In fact, I tend to avoid jigs whenever possible. I’m not sure why, I’ve just never been able to master the fine art of jigging. I’ve seen people have 40-50 fish days fishing jigs exclusively so I know they work. It’s just a personal phobia I guess you’d call it.
At this point it was about 10am and we had yet to catch a pike so I started working a pattern that drew some follows. Essentially, we had one guy throwing jigs in the deep pockets around Islands while the other focused on the shallow eddies beside them with spoons, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. On one Island in particular we managed to get a number of pike to follow lures right up to the boat but they simply did not want to commit to striking the bait. I knew there were quite a few pike on this particular flat in the eddy I was working so I kept at it until whammo! I was finally able to say “fish on”! At first I thought it was a hammer-handle but then she decided to head straight for deep water and I immediately knew this fish had some weight to it. The fish sure was putting my new 7′ Medium Heavy Quantum PT Tour Edition and the Abu Garcia Ambassador baitcaster to the test. I have to admit the outfit handled the large musky really nicely. She made two or three really strong runs and had me running around the lenght of the boat a few times but I was able to keep the fight relatively short, which is something I really endorse when it comes to large muskies. I had her out of the water for about 15 seconds which is just enough time for a picture. Before you could say see you later she was back in the lake with a giant swish of her tail leaving me soaking wet and shaking with adrenaline. Luckily the hook was set perfectly right in the corner of the mouth making the release very smooth. Unfortunately, other than a few more follows and this decent walleye caught on a 1/2 oz jig tipped with a Berkley 7″ Powerworm , that was the highlight of day 1.
When I woke up at 5:30 the next morning I actually strongly considered staying in bed. It was 4ºC and the wind was howling from the Northwest. Pat and I launched the boat near Glengarry Park, where the lake is at its widest. We wanted to hit some of our spots on the big water early on before the wind picked up too much. That idea only ended up costing us an hour. It was a bad decision. We were forced to turn around and head back in to go launch somewhere else where we were more protected from the waves. Speaking of which, we were looking at 4 foot or better waves in some parts of the lake that day. We put the boat in the water near Summerstown, which sits in a portion of the river that is littered with islands thus providing a bit of cover and shelter. Although it still didn’t make handling my 16′ boat in 50 km/h wind any easier at least we were out of mortal danger. Ok, maybe not mortal danger but at the very least major discomfort. It wasn’t possible to fish the big lake with my boat that day.
It didn’t take long for us to realize this is the type of day you normally stay in. It was freezing, extremely windy (gusts up to 70 km/h) and very difficult to control the boat. Any fisherman will tell you that you can’t catch fish without at least a minimum of boat control. With the aid of a drift sock, a trolling motor and an anchor I was at least able to work some areas well enough to catch a few pike. Trouble is, they were all small enough to be used as bait. So at the end of the day we once again reluctantly (although eagerly in a way because we could certainly use warmth) headed back in. I filleted a small walleye Pat caught on a 4″ grub, had a beer, and we were off to the Raisin River Marina where the weigh-in station and prize tent were. The tournament was won with a pike weighing in at 11lbs 4oz. This had Pat and I a little discouraged seeing as we had a 14 pounder in the boat the weekend before. That’s just how the dice roll sometimes though. I had time to discuss with other fishermen and most faced the same weather-related problems we did. Those who did well had 19 foot bass boats with large engines and stronger trolling motors. Those boats are heavier, lie lower in the water and are easier to control than a 16 foot aluminum that acts like a sail on the water in the wind. Some of the guys who usually do quite well also came up short and the winning fish wasn’t near the 18 pounder caught last year. The larger fish in the system were tough for everyone to catch that day.
In all events, at the end of the day when meeting up with the other folks who braved the condidtions and made the best of it Pat and I realized that despite it all, we had an absolute blast. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. We didn’t win the tournament, a door prize, or even weigh in a fish for that matter.. But we sure did have an adventure we aren’t about to forget and a story to share. I’ve heard somewhere not too long ago that the very point of fishing is to create stories to share with friends and loved ones. That night, over a beer and a bonfire at a friend’s house, Pat and I told the story of the big musky, our new friend King, the crashing waves, the blistering cold and howling winds. We were satisfied and we were ready for more.
Until next time, stay outside! Jigger.