New Beginings, A FewThoughts, and The 2008 Season is Officially Underway!

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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.

Perch opener May 08

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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.

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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.

Fight with a small pike and release

Lake St-Francis small pike release at the Stumps

Pat Fighting a pike

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.

A Moment I Will Not Soon Forget

November 8th 2007 will forever be etched in my memory. We had been hunting for 3 days and the gang was dwindling. Some of the guys had to work so we were down to 5 and dogging bushes was getting tough. Wednesday was a dry day and faces were getting longer and longer on all of us as a sense of discouragement slowly set in. The deer found the holes between doggers and watchers rather easily and we were getting worried about the rest of the day. Heck, we even contemplated quitting for the day and going our own ways to tree stands. Instead we decided to concentrate our efforts on smaller bushes, hoping that we’d push something out and get lucky. It turned out to be an excellent decision.
It was about 10am and a cold one at 3 or 4 degrees C with clear skies and a steady annoying east wind when we almost reluctantly headed to the backyard of one of the guys we hunt with. We were going to push a small bush, and by small I mean the size of a football field, in the hopes of finding a buck that he’d seen there over the summer a few times hiding from the more heavily hunted larger bushes in the area. We lined up three guys on the east side of the property in a huge hay field. (The area on the right where I point to in the video) There was a large bush on the east side of this field that looked like a perfect place for a deer to run at the time especially given the east wind. Deer typically will run away from doggers going into the wind rather than with the wind. I wasn’t overly concerned about the south side of the bush (where I point to in the video below) because there really wasn’t anywhere for a deer to run that way. Boy was I wrong. Nearing the end of the push, when I could actually see one of the doggers (Pat), I heard him call out on the CB that something just got up ten feet in front of him and it was “something huge”. This caught me off guard because I was almost ready to unload and thinking about which bush to push next. What happened next is nothing short of extraordinary. A buck with a huge rack ran straight south into a corn field along the fence line. He was in full throttle and about 150 yards away from me. I thought about not shooting but I figured I had a chance since I knew my gun was perfectly lined up and that he was in the open. I lead the deer by about 12 feet in my scope, took a deep breath and fired. He jumped up and his knees buckled a little so I knew he was hit. He only made it another 100 feet and then stepped broadside and fell into the plowed corn. He was down and out.
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I started jumping up and down and couldn’t believe what had just happened until Leo reminded me that I should collect myself and reload in case something else came out. When we approached him it was like a dream. The size of this buck for the area was astounding, even from 200 yards away. The rack was thick and long. He turned out to be a ten point weighing in at 244lbs field dressed. I brought it to Imbeault’s butcher shop in Valleyfield today where he quickly drew a crowd. They had already processed over 1000 deer this year and he was the biggest yet. He was also the biggest buck seen by the gang I hunt with in the 20 years they’ve been hunting this area.
I’m headed to Leroux’s Taxidermy in Sainte-Justine tonight because this one is going on the wall. This has truly been one of the most intense experiences of my life; buck of a lifetime? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for certain, he gave me the thrill of a lifetime.
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244lbs (field dressed) 10 Point Lancaster Buck

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Late October Goose Hunt

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I had the chance to go out for a goose hunt this fall and let me tell you, it was an absolute blast. There’s nothing like fooling a flock of 7 or 8 geese into thinking your decoys are some of their friends. I know a lot of people don’t like goose meat but when made into sausages, let me tell you it forms a match made in heaven with a Pinot Noir or a Zyndandel.

I wanted to take my camera out into the field to capture video or still pictures of birds in final approach but as you can see it was a wet one that day so I decided not to. Turns out the rain held off for the most part and we had a decent hunt. We were 3 short of our limit at 9am and the birds moving were getting fewer and fewer appart so we called it a day. We didn’t have as many decoys as we would have liked so when the birds started landing in the field adjacent to us in the hundreds we figured it was getting difficult to compete with the real McCoy. At that point we had quite a few birds to clean anyway so heading in 3 short wasn’t a tough call. The farmer who’s field we hunted that morning was kind enough to leave a few rows of corn up so blinds weren’t necessary. We just sat a row or two inside the corn and set up our decoys about 40 yards off the edge the corn. Thoughts of Field of Dreams crossed my mind…Come on now, I was up at 4:30am.

Here Rénald and I display two of the larger bird we bagged that day. Upper Canada geese can reach surprising wingspans and weight. They truly are magnificent birds. It’s amazing to think how far a bird that large migrates on a yearly basis.
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Pat was with us too. You’ll remember him from the smallie outings in August. He only really started getting the goose bug this year. He was out with us a few times last year and the year before that but I think his impressions were that goose hunting wasn’t as exciting as the deer hunt. Judging by the ear to ear grin he was sporting that morning I’m guessing he’s slowly started realizing why so many hunters are literaly addicted to waterfowl. Personally I think It’s an absolute awesome way to connect with nature and see the land from another perspective. Driving by a wet, cold half-harvested corn field in Glengarry in late October is one thing, spending a few hours sitting in one at the crack of dawn is another. The incessant cackle of hundreds of birds, the first frosts, the automn colours, the fresh air, the smellls, all combine to create a fantastic experience. There truly is nothing quite like it.

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Another Nice One

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Here is a pic From mid September I had on my camera but forgot to put up. My friend Dave and I headed out above the dam to find walleye. We did real well and had our limit by about noon that day. Had a bonus smallmouth as well. All fish were really deep. I can’t believe the size of the smallmouth over there. The average fish has to be around 3 pounds and there are a lot of really big fish roaming around. I am fairly certain fish in the 5 to 6 pound range are quite common in the area.

This is Dave’s first walleye. As you can tell, he came up from deep water.

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The fish weren’t monsters but they were plentiful. I wouldn’t be fishing that deep if we were catching larger walleyes because there is no point in releasing these fish. They range from about a pound and a half to 2 and a quarter pounds so they’re perfect “eaters”. They also make for good times and a great meal at the end of the day.

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