Battling the Shad Flies

I am well overdue for an update. It’s been a great start to the season so far in terms of numbers but I haven’t come across too many large walleyes. Here’s a quick taste of some early season action on Lake St. Francis.

At this time last year the water had already warmed to the mid-sixties, weed growth had begun and fish were in their summer patterns. It’s an entirely different scnenario this time around. We’re getting into some warmer days now but for the most part it’s been quite cool with a lot of precipitation this spring. I tried to look for fish where I did so well in May one year ago but they simply were not there yet. I moved in shallower and looked for areas where water would warm faster and hopefully concentrate fish in a given area. It was a good move.

Although I didn’t find any big walleyes, once I started focusing efforts on first basins of river mouths limiting out became a one or two hour affair. The fun thing about fishing these concentrated areas in the spring is that they not only draw in walleye but pretty much every predatory fish that swims in the area. Although most of the fish I caught were walleye there were a few satisfying suprises along the way.

One word of advice if you decide to go out on lake St. Francis at this time of year, bring a bug net. The shad flies will turn the best of us’ minds to jello in a hurry if you’re not prepared. Tuck in your jeans and wear long pants because they get everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I always warn people before I take them out this time of year but they never really understand until they’ve been out there for a few hours. These little buggers will make you lose your marbles. It’s like chinese torture.

At this time the water is warming and the fish are slowly making their way back to summer locations. If you’re brave enough to battle the Shad Flies I’ll see you out on the water.

Stay outside, Jigger.

Eels on their way out?

I have definitely noticed a decline in eel populations in Lake St-Francis over the last 10 years or so. They used to be everywhere you would find a pile of rocks. I still remember the first time I drifted across the shallow top of the Crab off the shore of Nadeau’s Point. The shallow reef was littered with eels. I have come face to face with them on numerous occasions while snorkeling. They are pretty easy to approach seeing as most of the time their head is tucked away in the rocks looking for food. There are often a Smallmouth or two right behind them hoping to catch a fleeing crayfish. Turns out there may be a reason for their disappearance. The following article from the Ottawa Citizen attempts to shed light on what might be happening to this amazing fish that boasts one of the longest migratory routes of any animal on this planet.

Survey shows the once-plentiful fish have almost vanished from Eastern Ontario

Every fish scientist knew there are fewer eels in Eastern Ontario rivers now than in the legendary times when a fisherman could haul in 1,000 in a night.

The American eel is a tough fish, but hydro dams on rivers may be overpowering its need to migrate.
But to find none — not a single eel in six weeks of looking in the Rideau River and part of the Ottawa — was a shock.
These are big, tough fish. They live up to 40 years and can grow more than a metre long. They migrate all the way to the mid-Atlantic, to Bermuda and beyond, to spawn. What went wrong? Eels are a forgotten fish, though they are native here. They hide in muddy water and are active mainly at night.
“They’re amazing,” says Naomi Langlois, a fish and wildlife technician at the South Nation Conservation Authority. But they’re also scarcer than 20 years ago. Mainly the problem is dams. “The barriers on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers pose a problem.” It’s hard — but possible — for fish to climb upstream. Getting downstream to spawn is worse.
“That’s when they get slaughtered. They float back out with the current, and following the current often takes them right through the turbines of hydroelectric dams. They get chopped up.”
The Moses-Saunders Dam near Cornwall is an obstacle in the St. Lawrence. So is the Beauharnois Dam near Hawkesbury on the Ottawa. There are smaller dams too, including one on the South Nation.
So a variety of conservation authorities, including the Rideau Valley, Mississippi Valley and South Nation, did a survey of eels. They zapped a section of river with enough electricity to stun fish but not kill them, and counted what floated to the surface. They’re due to report to the Ministry of Natural Resources next week.
The findings are sobering: Langlois’s team surveyed the lower end of the South Nation watershed and found just three eels — two downstream from Casselman and one upstream. The Mississippi searchers found a few, too.
Aquatic biologist Jennifer Lamoureux doesn’t think the eels are gone completely. “We did talk to some anglers who have caught them in recent years,” she said. “Eels are really, really hard to catch.”
“I think it caught us a little by surprise,” Langlois said.
Ontario says up to 99 per cent may have gone since the 1970s. It banned commercial eel fishing in 2004.
All eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic near Bermuda. But for some reason the young ones divide by sex, and eels in Eastern Ontario and the Great Lakes are mostly females.
Lose those, and we lose a lot of the egg supply for the next generation.
“The big issue now is trying to find ways of making downstream passage (to bypass dams) so they can make it back out to the Sargasso Sea,” Langlois said.
The Rideau Valley authority is asking anyone who catches or even sees an American eel to call them at (613) 692-3571, ext. 1176, or to e-mail michael.yee@rvca.ca with details. A picture would also be helpful. And please, they add, let the fish go.

http://digital.ottawacitizen.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

What do you think is going on with the eel?

De l’action sur le lac Saint-Pierre

Je vous invite à visioner le nouvel épisode de pêche en ligne. Excellent épisode avec de beaux spécimens et de très bons conseils. I strongly recommend watching the new episode from the peche en ligne guys over on lake St-Pierre. Tons of action and great tips.

Click here and once on their site click on Jaune à la traine.

Stay tuned for a Glengarry goose hunt review…

Enjoy, and stay outside! Jigger

A Local Legend Moves On

Adrien Andre

I would like to offer my most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Adrien Andre who passed away Friday at the Cornwall Community Hospital at the age of 84. Mr. Andre was a lake St. Francis fishing legend and although I’ve never had the privilege of meeting him personally I hope the love that I and many share for this lake will allow his legacy to live on and prosper.

For additional information about Mr. Andre and his passion for fishing please see:

Andrien Andre’s induction into the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame .
The Rivermen, Echoes of Lake St. Francis by Roy Lefebvre and Norman Seymour.

The Wonders (and Walleye) of Autumn

“A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.”
– Eric Sloane

gander-in-flight-redimensioned

Every year when the heavy dews of September roll around I feel both saddened and a little nostalgic to see the summer come to an end yet excited about the outdoor opportunities offered by cooling air and waters. Not only are Bass, Musky and Walleye readily eating up most presentations thrown their way, but one is pretty much guaranteed to have their favourite lake to themselves as cottagers and vacationers slowly store away the jet-skis. The most memorable bass fishing experience I’ve ever had was in November of ’08 on a very cold but beautifully serene and brightly sunny morning. What made this occasion special was that not only were smallies unusually hungry but the average size of the fish was incredible. We caught well over 20 fish that morning in a few hours and all of them were over 3lbs, with more than one fish pushing 5-6lbs. They were feeding on Gobies on a shallow sandy flat and eagerly eating tubes like they were going out of style. Days like this easily find a permanent spot in any fisherman’s memory bank. In addition to the fantastic fishing, cold mornings spent tucked in a duck-blind or hidden behind the last few rows of corn calling in geese, the period of September through November offers bright beautiful days, cool, crisp, fresh air, turning leaves, returning flocks of geese and perfect nights for stargazing by the bonfire in a warm hoody which all contribute to making fall my favourite time of year.

A sample from that day in Nov ’08…
Tube smallie

    Back to September ’10

After a month of inactivity thanks to a broken bone in my left hand I was more than eager to get back to fishing. Despite some lingering pain the doc gave me the ok which is all I needed to get up off my couch and head outside to enjoy the scents, sights and sounds of September. Thanks to the help of a fishing buddy I was able to wet the boat on the weekend. I wasn’t expecting a great day because the last time I made it out was in early August and I’ve been out of practice. However simply being on the water is a therapeutic necessity for me so the possibility of a tough day finding fish wasn’t high on my concerns list. Thankfully, I was wrong to worry as the fishing turned out to be anything but difficult.

I woke up to a cloudless, calm, cool and very bright September Saturday. After a quick breakfast I slowly slipped my boat into a quiet, misty Lake St.Francis with that feeling of an adventure awaiting egging me on. As I enjoyed my coffee and took in the moment I wondered if smallmouth were feeding up on the shoals. The water in Lake St. Francis is as clear as it gets and throwing tubes to fish on flats in late fall is a mainstay here. You know something is right about a lake when you are bagging 30lbs 5 fish bags (see Canadian record). I saw a few fish here and there on the flats but nothing like you would in a month’s time so I headed to the drop-offs in search of my specialty, walleye.

Always about water temp.
When I last fished in early August the water was at its warmest of the yearly cycle, which is about 75°F on the surface in the main channel and up to 82°F this year in shallow bays. Fish were saturated with food, weeds were high and the best way to get them to bite, or more accurately, react, was to rip crankbaits against the flow of the current at what I like to compare to a good jogging speed, or almost enough to create a wake behind the boat. This netted a lot of fish for me over the summer, and especially larger fish including 2 over 7lbs and a few bonus muskies. However, now that we’ve lapsed mid-September and the nights linger on the water has already cooled considerably to about 61°F on the surface. I tried pulling crankbaits but had a difficult time finding the active reactionary strikes that landed fish only a few weeks prior. Feeling a little adventurous I decided to try my luck at something very different. I anchored in various positions along the top of drop-offs or on saddles between two deep pools and cast a 1/4 oz jig with a twister tail tipped with a piece of worm upstream into the current and let it set to the bottom in about 30 feet or so. I then gradually hopped it and twitched it up to the boat, lifting the anchor and moving upstream after a few casts. This allowed me to slowly and thoroughly work the drop-offs until I found the honey holes.

dropoff pocket September jig ‘eye
september eye

I’ve used this technique before in the spring and when it works there is nothing quite like it. As the season progresses, I slow this presentation even more and drag the jig very slowly instead of hopping it. The idea is to find spots within a spot, or as I like to call them, pockets on the drop-offs. These pockets are areas where the current is lighter and food accumulates, much like an underwater eddy. They can be inside or outside turns on underwater points, boulders, a weed bed or anything really that stops the current and allows walleyes to sit and wait for food. With a bit of patience and exploring you can find these spots within spots and almost predict within 5-10 feet where a fish will strike. Then of course there are magical days like this one happened to be when entire the lenght of a drop-off is littered with fish. I stumbled upon the perfect day when you can’t keep your jig in the water for more than a minute without feeling the thump of a hungry ‘eye.

sept limit

After a break for dinner across the pond we headed back out with the headlamps and kept the pattern going until well after sunset. Although we didn’t manage to catch another large fish we certainly did well with the numbers. After about an hour and a half and a limit of eaters we headed in to fillet fish and sat by the bonfire until the early morning hours watching in awe as Jupiter light up the night sky. Incidentally our massive planetary neighbour is as close to us as you will see it in 50 years this month. Having lost the summer’s humidity the air at this time of year is perfect for stargazing. So why don’t you get out there and see it for yourself. Look to the South-East around midnight. You can’t miss it and few things compare to it after a great fall day’s fishing.

Until next time, Stay outside, Jigger.