Walleye Opener 2007

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The weather changed as a cold front moved through Friday night just before walleye season opened on St-Francis at midnight. The wind was pushing pretty strong from the north and the air was crisp. I thought we’d have serious problems landing fish. Mike and I wanted to originally set out for pike, but we decided that we might as well try and focus on warmer feeder rivers to find still active fish early in the day. As we made our way to one such river just at the break of dawn on Saturday we found other anglers there who had the same idea. Fishing was pretty slow based on the comments we heard from other boats. People were catching a lot of small bass, pike and catfish but the walleye weren’t overly eager to become anyone’s dinner. I told Mike that I though the best way to land some of these rather sluggish ‘eyes would be to cover a lot of water and slow our troll to a crawl. Most people in there were trolling with their large engine, but we opted to go with the stealthy trolling motor approach. Then I slowed us down even more by lowering the setting so that the boat ended up barely moving. About 10 minutes into our first run we found this starter fish hanging on a drop-off ledge near a water intake.

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She wasn’t a monster but certainly a very respectable first walleye of the season. As the day wore on, the action really slowed, although we did manage to boat a few pike and this beauty smallmouth. The bass wasn’t in season though so after a really quick pic (we had the camera ready as soon as we saw the fish jump) it was released promptly. Bass, unlike other freshwater species actually fiercely guard their nests after the young fish hatch, therefore it’s crucial that you release them quickly and near the same area they were caught in. Especially larger fish like this one.

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 At about 8:30am or so, I bumped into a friend on the mouth of the river who wanted a larger fish. So we traded 5 smaller fish for the one in the first picture and headed in for dinner as we both had things to do that day. Mike and his wife my cousin Amélie came over that night and we had a wonderful meal of fresh opening-day walleye and a few cold ones. It was fantastic. I thought about making another run after dinner and Mike and Amélie were both interested in coming along, so off we went. They just bought a house with access to the lake not too far from my dock so I picked them up and we were off towards the sunset. When we got to our spot, we recognized a guy in there from the morning trolling away with his 90HP Merc and asked if he’d had any luck. He was catching lots of bass and catfish, but no walleye.

We came accross the first bend of the river and the big girl hit hard. I knew I had a decent fish because she didn’t budge and I felt the wide head shakes. A few minutes later here she was.

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 I couldn’t tell you what the fish weighed, but I know it was 27 inches long. According to WalleyeCentral’s fish weight calculator she was over 7 pounds. Mind you this fish was very recently spawned out and was a tad on the skinny side, but was still good enough for my personal best on Lake St-Francis. I’ve seen them bigger and have landed bigger in my boat, but this is my personal record. I was ecstatic. What a rush of adrenaline to see a fish like that under the boat.

If I can provide tips it would be to cover a lot of water and concentrate on the areas that warm the fastest and have access to deeper water. The actual depth is not so important as is keying in on specific areas that are adjacent to the deepest part of the structure you happen to be fishing. In this case, we were looking for breaks in current flow, water outlets and legdes or drop offs near deeper pools. The active fish will move into the shallower parts of these areas to feed, and the deep water offers them that place to hide when they aren’t as active. As for equipment, I like to use a medium to medium heavy spinning rod with a good backbone but softer action near the tip. This is crucial because with the no-stretch line you need the rod to absorb the impact that mono would otherwise do naturally. Mono is elastic, while Fireline or whatever brand of no-stretch line you like is not. In terms of baits, a lot will work, but I like to really think about choosing colours that fit the colour of the water and I seem to find I have better luck with the slimmer profile crankbaits. Spinners will work really well too if you’re looking for numbers rather than size of fish.

I hope you enjoyed the pics and that you had a great opening day as well. Let me know about it!

 Tight lines, Jigger.

Playing with the big boys

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The first warm rays of May sure had the Northern out looking for food in the shallows this weekend. It took a bit of time to locate the fish but once we were on them we hammered them hard. The action was pretty slow from 8am to about 9:30am but then things changed for the better. Much better. Jay wasn’t fishing as he’s more of the observer type, but in a matter of a couple hrs I boated about 12 pike and one musky all looking like they want to be 10 pounders. Two of the fish were probably already there.

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There was a tournament from the Blue Anchor the day before this and I heard the winning fish were in the 6-7 pound range. I think I would have competed for the win that day had I been registered. I only found out about it that day. Oh well, there’s always the Lancaster tournament in two weekends. I really hope I can duplicate this type of pattern that day.

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 They say you have to be versatile and keep an open mind when fishing; that you need to adapt. This was the perfect example. I tried my usual spots and lures and boated a few fish here and there but nothing worth the hassle. I caught two fish in the 2 pound range the day before and while sitting by the bonfire that night I decided to look elsewhere. Basically I look for feeder creeks and rivers at this time of year. I found new areas that offered the proximity of really deep water, a feeder creek, and spawing shad and perch. All fish species seem to be concentrated in the same areas and depth, using mostly old dead weeds from last year and wood or rock as cover and areas to find food since there is no new weed growth yet. You’ll find shad, perch, walleye, pike, musky, catfish, suckers, eel etc all in the same area at this time of the year. The water temp is about 45-52 degrees depending on where you are. I’ve found that water temperature is key. I always try and notice water temperature when I catch a big fish or many fish in the same area and then try to find that same temp range later in the season. Don’t forget though that the lake will stratify, meaning that surface temp can be much warmer than the actual temperature at the bottom in the summer months. Also, flowing current areas will stay cooler than bays where the water sits still. I’ve found differences of 10 degrees from my dock near Glengarry Park to the deep flats about a km north of the East Light.

The other factor you have to really be concerned with is boat control and where your boat is in relation to the structure you’re fishing. I can’t stress this aspect enough. This is shallow, clear water and you need to be concerned with spooking fish. I wouldn’t eat a sandwich sitting on a tray with a huge ship floating in the air 10 feet above my head either. In addition, you might want to consider a drift sock or anchoring in various positions as well as a trolling motor or paddles for steathly approaches.  No sense in driving over the structure in shallow water with the big engine unless you absolutely have to. Try positioning  (tying) the drift sock and anchor at various positions on your boat and you’ll find that it will behave quite differently. I use a large clip on the end of a piece of rope so that I can easily and quickly move my drift sock from one position to the other. Other than that, cover water, look for things that have life in the early season. This is pretty easy to figure out if you sit down and try to understand the body of water you’re fishing. Follow your gut instinct, and if that doesn’t work, try something different.

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Then all you have to do is worry about presentation, wich I’ll leave for you to determine, 🙂

Tight lines, Jigger.

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A new Season

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I love this time of year. Mind you not so much when it keeps snowing. The geese are back in full force, and I can see deer come out from the woods at night to look for corn that has been covered in snow and ice since December. Best thing though, is that fish are easy and predictable. Find the areas that warm up quickly and have good access to deep water, especially if they offer current and you will find all species of fish at this time of year in the shallows. Only pike is in season until the second Saturday in May but that’s just fine with me. This is the best time of year to catch a couple 10lbs + pike a day on Lake St-Francis. It’s also the perfect time of year to enjoy some of the fall’s waterfowl harvest. Below are 4 ducks prepared “bardés” as we call it in French. They are an absolute wonder with a Shiraz and wild rice. These are from a hunt in November I enjoyed with a few friends. Nothing like kicking in spring season with a little of taste of wild game, good wine and a few family and friends. Here’s to looking forward to a season filled with great memories!

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Good times on the ice : And I need a gas auger.

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 Well, the walleye weren’t too cooperative on the weekend but the perch sure were. Some of the perch were eating 3 inch shiners like they were freshwater shrimp. Voracious little buggers. We were using vertical spoons and live minnows. I figure it was about 20 feet deep. Above you see Mike (left) and I with a few jumbos.

I have decided that drilling an 8 inch hole through 35 inches of ice is insane. Mike seems to do this fairly easily but I must be weak or something because man, I tell you it’s not fun at all. By the time I was done drilling my one hole, Mike and Pat were bringing in their first perch. I’m definitely saving up for a gas auger next year.

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Here are Mike and Pat (right) displaying our bounty. The first three were massive. I’m used to the perch in Bainsville. These are giants in comparison. One actually took out drag! All in all we had a blast. My first time fishing in the Long Sault area. We were taunted all weekend by the story of the illusive 10 pounders that roam these waters. A week before we made a few holes someone pulled a 10 pounder out of the same bay, according to the newspaper and the man at the bait shop and Mike, our volunteer guide for the weekend.  Speaking of which, if you’re looking for shiners in Cornwall and like me you don’t like the fact that the Fishing Hut isn’t open until 8 or 9, check out Ron Brunet’s shop (well, shed) on 906 Guy st. (613-932-7682). He’s got every size minnow you’ll ever want and he’s up at 5am.

 Tight lines everyone!

Oh, and don’t let this pic fool you. Mike and Pat caught all the fish. Well, almost. Andre perch1.JPG

Jigger.