A Visit Above Saunders Dam

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The weather called for a pretty decent wind on Saturday so Mike and I loaded up the old Sea Nymph on the trailer Friday night and decided to go try our luck in the Island-filled waters of Lake St-Lawrence to try and hide from the big-water waves. It definitely payed off. Well, for me anyway. I boated 4 walleye and dropped 3 more on the way up. And I also boated my second biggest lifetime smallmouth as a bonus fish seen here. She really was a freak fish. I wish I had taken a picture of the girth or had a scale but I am 99% sure it was over 6lbs. I tend to under-exagerrate fish weights as a general rule but this was truly a giant. When your fingers can’t fully reach around the tail of a smallmouth you know you have a nice one.

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Mike wasn’t so lucky but he did manage a few bass. The strange thing is he was using the exact same equipment I was, using the same 8lbs test Fireline, 5 and a 1/2 ounce sinker, three-way swivel and Northland Spinner tipped with a night-crawler. The only difference was that I was using a chartreuse spinner and he was using a silver one. We concluded that the ass-woopin’ was due to difference in colour 🙂

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We fished deep as the fish were holding on the drop-off edge of a 50 foot deep flat. Most fish came out of anywhere from 62 to 80 feet of water, with one coming from the deepest part of the structure we were fishing at 85 feet. Needless to say, he had a slight case of the bends when he surfaced. As you can see, this is catch n keep fishing for sure.

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The bass we were catching came from the top of the flat but they seem to be more resiliant to decompression sickness. They don’t have any problems zooming back to the depths and for the most part they actually come up to the surface when hooked even when they are 50 feet down. The walleye, as most of you will know, definitely don’t want to come to the surface, quite the contrary. They want to hug bottom and heading to the surface is like getting dragged into outer space for them. So the walleye pretty much have to be kept. According to the 2007-2008 Guide to Eating Ontario Sportfish an adult can safely consume 4 portions of walleye under 28 inches long per month. Anything over 28 inches has a pretty good chance of ending up on my wall anyway. So we kept the walleye and released the bass except for one that looked like it wouldn’t make it.

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I missed a big fish first thing in the morning and then missed two smaller ones as I fought them upward. With the no-stretch lines and the 5 and 1/2 ounces of weight it’s really easy for the fish to fight free of the hook so you need to really concentrate on never leaving any slack in the line on the way up. I think the bigger walleye I missed in the morning was probably in the 4 pound range. It stopped me dead on our drift and pulled drag. I managed to bring her up maybe 15 feet and then felt a headshake and gone…Oh well, that’s part of the game right?

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All in all we had a great day. Real simple method, lots of action, and a feast fit for a king at the end of the day. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there and exploring that area some more.

Tight lines, Jigger.

Lac St-Francois Smallmouth

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Here are more St-Francis Smallmouth pics for you. The first one up here that Pat caught was the largest of the weekend but I don’t think we caught any fish under 2 1/2 lbs. These guys were caught using the technique outlined in the article below. Water temp was 76 degrees F. There are pictures from Saturday August 4th and from Sunday August 5th. On Saturday the wind blew quite hard from the NW and made the boat control challenging to say the least. My old Sea Nymph is like a dry leaf on a small pond out there so you have to use the anchor with a really long rope and calculate where you’ll end up at the end of the line. The current also always moves towards the East, but in this case the wind and waves took over. Sometimes the current and wind balance each other out and you don’t need an anchor. If I had a new trolling motor I would just use that but the one I have is getting pretty old and right now I need a replacement prop. So it’s down to the old oar and anchor technique. This allows me to maximize the two essential elements to catching these shallow fish ; boat control, and stealth.

Enjoy!

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Summer Smallies

Well, it’s been a while. I see some people have visited so I thought I’d send an update from Lake St-Francis. I’ve been perch fishing for the entire months of June and July for the most part. I caught a few small walleye near sheep island (thanks Marc) and further downstream near St-Anicet but they are tough to catch and for the most part they are eating sized fish. If you’re looking for trophies, at this time of year the bass are king out there. Both smallies and largemouths. And if the deep water intimidates you, or you feel like you don’t know where to start, think shallow.

I threw some senkos at largemouths at the stumps with my buddy Jay for an evening in June and they hit us hard. Rigged “wacky style” (see pic below), the Senkos and Yum Dingers thrown with long casts into shore under sunken logs and overhanging trees were irresistible for the large St-Francis bucket-mouths. I have to say, I don’t usually push a particular product but if you haven’t thrown these at your bass holes yet give it a shot. They are fantastic. First of they cast easily because they have a nice bulky composition and are easy to cast at long distances. This is absolutely essential in the clear, busy summer waters of this body of water. You can’t let your presence be known. If the bass know you’re there they won’t bite. Secondly, rigged with a simple #6 or #4 weedless bait hook, they sink very slowly and look like a worm or something that fell out of a tree that is unable to swim to get away. I would say they sink in the order of 2 or 3 inches per second. If you want to work the bait a bit deeper you can always add a small split shot to the shank of the hook. These also shine on slip bobbers. It allows you to work every possible depth and to leave a bait “hanging” in front of bass for a long time. In the right conditions, if your approach is stealthy enough, they can’t resist. A few light “twitches” is all you need to work these things. Don’t give in to the urge of overdoing it. Fish it like as if it were live bait. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera that time at the stumps because we only decided to give this a shot on a whim. The largest fish was probably pushing 4lbs and I caught about 5 or 6 of them in one drift of about 200 feet.

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I did bring my camera yesterday though on a shoal with the largest concentration of HUGE smallmouth I’ve ever seen. Bar none. This place is unreal and these guys attack anything that looks small and had the unfortunate mishap of drifting into their territory. The ones here are not the biggest in the school by a long-shot. I caught two back to back 21 inchers the night before. This one is about 20. The other two are from a double header my friend Pat and I got into. Smaller fish, but for a 29C blue-skied afternoon, we couldn’t ask for much better.

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So the story is :

I went out for a walleye hunt near Sheep Island in the early part of the season and on my way there just before hitting the East Light I saw a really big smallmouth cruising in the shallows near a big drop-off. I decided to mark the spot on the GPS and keep it in the memory bank for a place to check out with the masks and snorkels later on in the summer. The weather, as you all are well aware I’m sure, hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park so far this summer. However the last few weeks have been decent so I’ve recently been able to explore the shallows with a mask. My buddy Eric and I headed out there on Thursday and it didn’t take long before the boat was literally surrounded by smallies. I dropped the anchor, put on my flippers, mask and snorkel and jumped in. I immediately saw a smallmouth nearing the 5 pound range come right up to me and size me up. He looked like he was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. Little did he know, I was scoping the edges of their territory to see where their dining room was. As usual, I also saw a bunch of eels. The bass follow the eels around, and I mean follow. Sometimes two or three fish will hang almost vertically, face down, just behind an eel digging into the rocks and weed clumps. Every now and then, a critter tries to make a quick escape, usually a crawfish, and the bass virtually fight each other for it. They are REALLY aggressive. If you limit your hand movement and get down to the bottom with them you can just about touch them. We swam around and watched, and we outlined the edges of their territory. I carefully noted the edges on the GPS and I made a visual map of the area in my mind so that when I returned in hunting mode, I would make sure that I would not drift right over the spot and spook the fish. As many of you know, boat control is #1 in fishing. Especially in shallow, clear water. This method of prospecting the area underwater first is an undeniable advantage. It allows be to throw finesse baits in the exact spot and to position the boat as far away as possible so as to no spook the fish. Think : sneak-attack. What I like to do is quietly paddle in from a distance and anchor in key strategic positions Instead of buzzing around the entire area with the trolling motor and throwing spinnerbaits looking for fish. That will work too, but If you do your homework and go snorkelling out there the day before you’ll know exactly where they hang out. I cut to the chase, get right in the zone and throw senkos, tube jigs, and plastic crawfish immitations right in the honey-hole. You usually get a fish on your first or second cast. And if you want a guaranteed double-header, throw a rattlin’ rap or another one of those types of fast moving swim-baits just behind the first bass that hit right away. You will get a double-header every time. This type of fishing reminds me a lot of watching those guys on TV land bonefish on the shallow flats of Florida. It’s absolutely electrifying and the payoffs can be huge. Just one thing, make sure you’re using good equipment. These fish are like tanks. I like a 6’6” Quantum Tour Edition Spinning Rod with a fast action and plenty of backbone. This gives me the long casting ability and the comfort of being able to control the fish. I load it with 10lbs test Fireline and a 15 foot fluorocarbon leader tied on to the Fireline with a double UNI-knot. These fish will surprise you with their runs once you get them close to the boat. And you are almost guaranteed acrobatics when they first realize they’re hooked.

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So the next time you’re sitting on shore on a lazy Sunday afternoon in July and you think nothing will bite, stop watching the kids cruising out there on their Bajas and find yourself your own little piece of heaven. These shoals can be tough to find, but once you know it’s there, it will be productive for years to come. Here’s a hint, look for an area with a pile of rocks in shallow water, often shallow enough to hit with a motor, adjacent to a hard sandy and flat bottom, surrounded by week beds and with access to deep water. Get out there with a mask and check the place out, then come back with the arsenal. You’ll have a blast.

Tight lines, Jigger.

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Lancaster Pike Tournament

And the winner is….an 18+lbs monster. Unreal.

I’m happy to report that fish of that caliber still roam these waters. I’m guessing that larger fish are out there too. Turns out Pat caught our biggest of the weekend at 8.5 pounds, which puts us somewhere near 15th spot of 104 or so entries.

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 We were really pleased with that, but still would have liked to finish in the top ten. That will be my mission for next year.

We caught a fairly decent number of fish, but I really need to work on my deep water approach for pike. I have a feeling that the majority of the larger fish were caught up-river in some of the deeper holes where there is a lot of current and the water tends to be a bit more stained. These two were some of the other fish we caught. All were decent, but not enough to crack the top ten. On the first day we boated probably about 15 pike, and we found large fish voraciously attacking spinnerbaits and spoons in shallow water. The second day met us with the arrival of a strong cold front and a north wind that made the temp drop quite a bit. The water had got even clearer than the day before and the pike were simply not interested in doing much of anything. We caught one pike at about 6 pounds and 2 smallies. The fishing was really affected by the weather. It was interesting to see that of all the top ten pike, none were caught on the Sunday after the passing of the cold front. All fish were caught on the Saturday before the weather changed. I caught a bigger pike than any we caught this weekend 2 weeks ago (see last fish in May 8th entry). I’m guessing that one was around 11lbs or so. Still not enough for a win, but possibly would have put me in the top ten.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Cold fronts kill.

 We’ll be back trying to enter the prize list next year. Until then, I think I’m long overdue for a nice day of perchin. June is coming and that usually means great fishing on lake St-Francis.

 

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.