A Silver Sunset

When local guide and absolute walleye and musky nut Mike Rousseau extended an invitation to join him for a day of trolling the elusive St-Lawrence River Musky there was no way I was going to pass it up. He is quickly building a reputation for finding fish and boating some of the larger beasts in our challenging local waters with regularity. With his advice I purchased a quality rod and reel combo and I was really looking forward to trying it out.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had a different plan this weekend. Not very much will keep me from the water especially around the last few weekends when fishing without having to layer on the clothing is still an option. After feasting on a few Jigger-style Lancaster Walleye Rolls last night I checked the weather network and realized Hurricane Irerene’s remnants were about to wreak havoc on our plans. I texted Mike and said “looking pretty nasty tomorrow”, to which he replied “really nasty”. With that said, we decided to salvage the few hours we had left and headed out on our impromptu Franny predator chase. Today’s high of 18C, relentless 40km NE winds and 30 millilitres of rain tell me we made the right decision.

I met up with Mike at Wimpy’s marina and after a few handshakes and a “fun” boat launch we were on the water. The first thing that struck me is how well equipped Mike is. As he says quite often for musky fishing there is no substitute for the right gear. You don’t want to get caught ill-equipped when going toe-to-toe with these toothy fish. Excellent hook cutters, a large basket net, extra hooks, split ring pliers, strong rod holders for trolling, quality rods that can handle heavy fishing are only a few pieces of equipment that are a must to keep you and the fish safe.

We started working pieces of structure that aren’t quite what I’m used to fishing for walleye but yet are similar in many aspects. We were looking for smaller transition areas on larger features. For example, an area where weeds meet rocks, or sand. Anything that would hold smaller baitfish. Also, seeing as muskies will attack prey up to a third of their size at times it is no secret they feed on walleyes on a regular basis, on lakes where that forage is readily available. Once you do find walters, you can determine that muskies are around lurking somewhere near that structure.

After hitting a few spots with no luck, and with me begining to think it was probably not going to happen on this night, Mike’s constant experimenting with bait size, colour and retrieve speed paid off. The rod’s ticker screamed and I was handed the St-Croix with an impressive looking fish breaking surface a few feet behind the boat. This wasn’t one of the legendary man-eaters (ok maybe not man-eaters) of the mighty St. Lawrence but pound per pound; it certainly lived up to its reputation.

With that epic fight out of the way, it was time for a few pictures, a quick release to minimize handling and a celebratory hand-shake. This personal-best fish for me (and my first musky not caught accidentally while walleye fishing :)) was back home safely where it can grow into a trophy. If you’re ever in the area and want very good odds in hooking up with one of these silver beauties I’d strongly recommend getting in touch with Mike. Not only does he put you on fish, he makes the entire experience fun, instructive and memorable. The one thing that struck me the most about Mike however is his undying passion for fishing and his ability to share it. That, in my mind is something you can’t fake.

If you’d like to book a trip with Musky Mike you can call him @: 613-363-6453.

Until Next time, Stay Outside…Jigger

Pure summer gold

It was a hot, calm day on the Franny…

And with the promise of a great day’s fishing ahead I was on the water at 7am on Saturday. It just felt like one of those days where you have that feeling you’re going to have a solid day on the water. Unfortunately, the wind died completely by about 9am and the fishing was extremely slow after that. I caught two fish early and thought to myself “this is going to be a good morning”. Little did I know I would wait 4 hours until my next walleye (I did catch two smallies in between though so at least it kept me going). Some of the better walleye fishermen in the area tell me they like the calm days. Personally, for me they equate to tough fishing conditions. Which could mean a number of things one of which being I don’t know what I’m doing. What I do know is that calm “dog” days mean a lot more boats in and around the main channel, especially on weekends. Perhaps more importantly however, when the water is dead calm the surface turns into an aquarium wall. You, and thus the fish, see everything that is going on above and below a flat surface. When the wind kicks up, even a little, light penetration is reduced because an uneven surface retracts light. This allows the angler to “hide” the boat. Another wind benefit on a river is that small, wind-created ripples allow you to read the water more easily. In other words it becomes easier to see evidence of bottom structure on the surface of the water. Sure the wind challenges boat control, but what it provides in pros outweigh the cons. If wind and boat control do become an issue, which is often the case in an aluminum boat, one trick that helps is filling the livewell. The extra weight up front helps stabilize the bow and prevents you from fighting the wind so much, whatever type fishing you do.

After a gruelling 5hours and finally a limit of walleyes in the boat I got a text from a friend who wanted to go snorkelling with his wife. Hallelujah! It was like he read my mind. And since I was thinking about it I knew exactly where I was going to take them. The spot in question basically consists of a well defined vertical ledge pounded by heavy current adjacent to a shallow flat and a deep hole. The ledge, or transition area really, is lined with weedbeds caught in an eternal sway in the moderate current and drops vertically onto a hard sand bottom scattered with small stone. This bottom tapers down to 50 feet of water at its deepest. I had fished this spot numerous times before with mixed results, but I had never snorkelled it. I can’t believe I waited this long to do so. I was amazed to see how many fish used this structure.

Smallmouth and walleyes were everywhere on this wall. Not only were they quite visible, they were inquisitive and curious, sometimes seemingly posing for the camera.

Sheepshead and eel seemed completely oblivious to my presence.

Snorkelling spots is tons of fun and helps you learn a thing or two. There’s nothing like seeing fish behave naturally; getting up close and personal with ’em. As long as you can pop your ears you’re in for a treat if you find the right areas.

The fishing was slow on Saturday, and Sunday morning looked pretty similar weather-wise so I decided to skip out and sleep in a little. By the time I was on the water Sunday it was 11am, absolutely no cloud in the sky, 28C without the humidex…but…windy(er)!

When I fished with a gentleman from Vancouver the weekend prior, I noticed we only started really getting into fish around noon. Although most fish go deep at the height of the day, through trial and error I noticed some fish on the lake hold tight to weedbeds when the sun is at its apogee. Weedy areas provide walters with shade, cover, cooler water, higher oxygen content in the water due to photosynthesis and more importantly, plenty of food. That morning I decided I’d fish a pattern that’s worked for me this summer during the brightest part of the day and it paid off. I was limited out within an hour and a half and threw in my personal best in 2011 as a culmination of the moment. This fish came out of the weeds and hit my bait like a freight train. I thought I had a musky until I saw that beautiful defining white tip on the caudal fin. I took my time with this one.

As fast as I had started the weekend it seems came to an end.That night as I put the boat away and looked out on the lake and felt pretty good about the day.

Until next time, Stay Outside…


Mid Summer Reflections….and Pictures of Course

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with some great people and the weather had been nothing short of fantastic. I learned a thing or two, hit some bonanzas some days, struck out on others and definitely added invaluable hours to the experience bag. Here are a few highlights.

This nice 5.2lbs surprise decided to say hello during an evening walleye chase. Smallies and Walleyes I’ve found are never quite far apart. They are more similar in their respective behaviour and location than a lot of people tend to realize. Both love baitfish, either can be found deep or shallow at times and both are usually found on the same structure. One thing is for sure, even though my main target is walleyes, I will never pass the opportunity to photograph a beauty like this one. These slab smallies are a blast. Especially on a day when there was a tourney on the lake. I bet a few of those bass guys would have loved to add this one to their collection that day.

I’ve had very successful days and so-so days on the water, but for the most part with a little work I’ve been able to put a decent stringer together. I’ve been releasing pretty much all of my fish this year with only a few kept when I get hungry. My only complaint so far, weekends are too short and too far and few between. 😉
As far as walleyes go I have yet to break the 7lbs mark, but these golden beauties are all I need to make me happy. All of these fish are still swimming and ready to fatten up for the colder months coming soon.

I found this girl tucked into a weed bed in the middle of the day as the sun came down and the jet-skiers buzzed around. I am always really happy to pull fish out of weeds. Most people don’t think thick weeds when they’re looking for Walleyes but they can be fish magnets at certain times and especially when the wind is kicking up. It’s not often you can find them tucked right in there but when you do they are usually hungry and hit your bait like a freight train. For me there is nothing like the feeling of a 6lbs+ fish coming out of the weeds, hammering your lure and head-shaking his weight around. I absolutely love catching big walleyes in the thick stuff.

There was a time when I was a kid you’d catch pike out here all the time. They are far and few between now and nobody seems to really know why. Could it have something to do with predatory fish feeding on Round Gobies? Could it be a parasite or virus? Who knows. It doesn’t look like it’s the MNR’s top priority to find out either. I would like to know personally what is going on with the pike and hopefully by learning about their very rapid decline in our waters we can prevent our other precious gamefish species from suffering the same fate.

I have to say as far as summers go this one’s shaping up to be another memorable one. The more I fish the more I realize how lucky I am to be able to not only put walleyes in the boat with regularity but to be able to simply get out and enjoy the outdoors. The older I get, the more I realize fishing isn’t a competition, it’s not supposed to be stressful or frustrating, it just is what it is; a way to create memories and live nostalgia all at once. It’s about enjoying the present moment and sharing that feeling with others, it’s about discovering, learning and perfecting an art. In a nutshell, fishing is like any other sport or hobby. Whichever one you choose, the rewards come with the time you put in, and perhaps even more so the people you share that time with. Those rewards however I have found are not always quantifiable or tangible, but rather spiritual and existential in nature. It’s not how many or how big a fish you catch (although it helps), it’s about the time spent doing it.

Until next time, Stay Outside….