June Rockpile Eyes

Ok so the fans didn’t appreciate my birdbrain story. I’ll admit it was quite different. But hey, it’s my blog and I felt like trying something new. 🙂 Now let’s get back to fishing.

It’s been a strangely cold June and early July so far as most of you are aware, but the fishing has been decent. I had to chance to fish with my old friend Donald twice in June and luckily the fish were cooperative. I was able to put Donald onto his personal best walleye and we did quite well numbers-wise also. We caught most of our fish on channel rockpiles but this larger one lingered in shallow spawning waters. I have caught larger fish returning from their spawning run a few times quite late in the season  when most anglers have moved over to the deeper summer structure.  When the fishing slows on the big lake in late June sometimes it really pays to take a look to the shallows to see if you can find a lingering fish; particularly late in the day. I assume these are female fish who took a longer time to recuperate after spawning, hence them usually being at or better than the 5lbs mark. They stay in shallow water longer than most people, myself included think. Either that or they migrate in and out of there. I know walleyes move a lot and this is also possible. Point is, don’t give up on the shallows two weeks into the season. Fish will stay there into water temps nearing 70.

donald-walleye

 

I really enjoy finding new spots and having a chartplotter immediately made me a better angler. It allows you to pinpoint your boat location on structure instead of relying on maps and visual reference points like islands for example. It’s a tremendous advantage because you can fish new areas without the need to explore them first. You can understand the piece of structure you are fishing without seeing it and you can be absolutely sure you are in the right spot. Walleyes really like rock. That’s no secret. Thing is, finding rocks in deep water on lake St-Francis can be a real challenge. There are cues on the surface that you can use if you don’t have a chartplotter. You’ll notice rock piles create a distinct effect on the surface in current. As the current hits a rock pile the water gets rushed to the surface and creates a small noticeable backwash on the surface. The presence of these on the water surface often indicate that something is going on on the bottom and they usually mean that  you are on good walleye holding structure.

andre-walleye

Once you have found these pieces of structure it’s a matter of presentation. This can get tricky on lake St-Francis for two reasons. First you have the water clarity problem. It’s no secret that the zebra mussel invasion has greatly cleared up the waters of the Great Lakes and St-Lawence. I remember as a kid that the water was always slightly coloured and now we see bottom in 20 feet of water or more in certain cases. The solution to this problem for me has been the use of fluorocarbon leaders on all my applications. Learn to tie a uni to uni knot and you’re all set. I’ve never had a uni to uni knot slip on me and I use it with Fireline and other super braids. Fluorocarbon is tougher than mono, more abbrasion resistant which is a huge plus when fishing rocks, and it is virtually invisible under water. This allows me to use a heavier pound test leader than I would using mono. Second you have the current. Some guys are really good at presenting jigs in current on top of structure. It’s not one of my fortes so I usually prefer to troll although you will catch lots of fish on jigs.  I was fishing a spot with two other boats and had a little chat with a guy who was jigging so violently it looked like he was trying to chop wood or something. I caught 3 walleyes for his 8 that night. “They like it North South” he said to me. Regardless of the way you choose to target the fish you need to be on (or near) bottom so prepare to use heavy sinkers and you can expect your wrist to feel like it’s going to fall off at the end of the day. However the reward is definitely worth the pain, as my mother will confirm.  This very nice fish, her personal best, was patroling a rock pile and didn’t hesitate to eat. When the fish are on top of the rock pile as opposed to the edges of them you can assume they are there to eat. They hover over the rocks in search of forage. If you spot arches on your sonar over deep rock piles indicating that the fish are about 2 feet off bottom it’s a safe bet they are on the feed and you can catch them. If the fish are hugging bottom on the sides or behind rock piles they may be tougher to coax into biting.

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As always the fishing slows after about 1 or 2pm until the sun lowers after dinner. It pays off to try your luck at dusk if you’ve had a tough day. The fish definitely become more aggressive as light dims even into complete darkness. Fishing late in the day can also allow you to witness spectacular sunsets and there is a good chance you’ll be the only one on the water. Well, other than me that is.


value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/bHKNYrnrf7M&hl=en&fs=1″>andre-night-walleye

Stay Outside! Jigger.

june-sunset

My Tern

 

Sometimes I long to be a tern. Sure, I’d have to eat raw fish, but that would be a small price to pay considering I’d have the manoeuvrability of an F-16 and the life-long free spirit of a teenager. Besides, if you know me, you know how I feel about sushi.

A person’s intention when calling someone a bird-brain isn’t usually to compliment them on their intellectual ability, or their particularly quick thinking. I suppose the insult is founded on the simple observation that birds happen to have very small brains, and therefore must not be endowed with a high IQ. In fact, if your little sister or brother knew about a bird’s ability to recognize, decipher and communicate, they just might say: “thanks”, when you call them a bird-brain.

I always thought of birds as somewhat strange. They certainly are masters of attracting attention. Whether it is a swallow’s fly-by inches from an unsuspecting wanderer who found himself too close to a nest or the proud strut of a wild-turkey gobbler, bird behaviour seems to draw plenty of attention and curiosity. There are plenty of people who spend great amounts of time and money observing birds, and now, I think I’m beginning to understand that it isn’t only because of their beautiful plumage. 

When I was in University, I had the pleasure of taking a class with a certain Dr. David Bird, of McGill. He is foremost a great guy, a passionate nature lover and, believe it or not, an ornithologist (look it up if you don’t believe me). His passion for the subject changed my perception of birds. He allowed me to realize that bird behaviour differs from that of a lot of other familia of animals. For example, he tought me that birds of prey, falcons specifically, are specially trained to seek and kill any smaller birds on airport runways. I had no idea the ancient art of falconery had this modern application. He also told us countless stories of banded birds returning to the exact location where they lay their nests year after year.  Indeed, birds are worth a second look.

Apparently, a bird and his keeper can develop a relationship comparable to that of a horse and his master. Dr Bird invited one of his friends who raises falcons (incidentally falconry is legal in every province with the exception of Quebec) into our classroom for an advanced version of show-and-tell, if you will. I was amazed and quite taken aback by the grace and poise of this animal. It commanded immediate respect. However, what I retained long after this presentation was the handler’s response to a fellow student’s question. She asked the man to describe his relationship with the animal; whether it was purely utilitarian or if emotions were involved. The handler then looked up outside the window for a brief second and said “think of it as a flying dog, who probably wishes you had wings so you too could be up there flying alongside him”. Now I wanted my own flying dog.

I put this little encounter with the falcon and his friend away in the memory bank and did what I do best; I went fishing. 

Solitude is something we as fishermen sometimes struggle with. It can be nice to be alone in the boat, with only thoughts to keep you entertained. Yet sometimes you feel the urge to share the countless events of a day’s fishing with another soul. During almost every fishing outing, something unusual happens; something that is out of the ordinary. It could be a sudden storm you had to hide from, the discovery of a new shoal or small island, engine problems, an amazing sunset, the big one that got away, dropping your new sunglasses in the water, or anything, really. Here is one of those moments.  

I was on a roll, the perch were hitting hard and the action was fast and furious. The bites came as soon as my sinker hit the bottom. The unlucky minnows that filled my bucket were quicly noticed by a playful tern. At first he circled overhead, scanning, debating and planning his attack. He wanted a minnow. After a few minutes, as he approached closer and closer he came down and snatched one of my minnows from the surface. The audacity and determination of this little vertebrate wowed me. Following his successful first attempt he repeatedly came flying down in a scooping motion not 3 feet away from me catching discarded minnows out of thin air. It was a uniquely intimate feeling to be hand feeding a tern. I turned my head to look at him but I couldn’t see anything, I could only hear his screeeee screeee screeees, as he got more and more excited at the thought of gulping another discarded minnow. It’s almost as though he actually knew how to stay out of sight but still get his minnows. I could turn my head to the right, up, left, and have a real tough time locating him. Then I would throw another minnow in the water and swoooosh!, down he came in a graceful demonstration of evolutionary aeronautic perfection. 

This little game went on for a while; sometimes he disappeared off to land for 10 minutes and returned now and then to see if I had more shiners for him. Eventually, as I built a little confidence in him, I was able to call him in close with a sound I can’t begin to describe in words. I could get him to circle and come in really close with a series of tsk, tks tsks.  He became more and more trusting as time went on, as long I rewarded him with minnow after minnow, of course. I had made a new friend. I’ve decided his name is Terny. 

The unique thing about Terny is that he only comes around when I’m not accompanied by someone in the boat. Anytime I’m perch fishing alone, he comes to visit at one point in the day. When he does come around, I ask him how the fishing is that day and he responds with another barrage of Screeee! Screeee! Screeeee!, which I’m starting to suspect means Give me minnows! Minnows! More!! I’m starting to really like this little bird.

The reward of this interaction, and I suspect the reason I’m writing this, is difficult to explain. The best way I can put it is that it feels like the discovery something extraordinary, that you want to share with everyone but cannot, because only you can see it. The experience provides me with something that I can’t objectify, quantify or measure. It brings me back to a time when everything had yet to be discovered ; a time when becoming a bird was as simple as closing my eyes and picturing the growing distance between myself and the earth below as I flapped my wings ; a time when there were no limits to imagination. In the moments when Terny comes by and we hang out, there is no death, no war, no disease. I can’t help but think that in his mind, there’s curiosity as well when he looks into my strange floating machine and that he too, for that moment feels an overwhelming sense of simple serenity. I bring him minnows, and he thanks me with a reminder of just how trivial and petty many of the things we so strongly hold onto really are. 

I really do long to be a tern, just for one day.

my-tern

Until next time, stay outside. Jigger

 

Unfortunately, It Wasn’t a Musky Tournament

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The Lancaster pike tournament version 2009 has come and gone. As usual, Mother Nature provided us with some of her infamous Victoria Day weekend wrath. Saturday started off fairly nice with reasonable temps and a calm Easterly wind. However, the day quickly deteriorated and the rain (a load of it) came falling from the sky in a heavy torrent for hour upon hour. On two separate occasions throughout the day, my fishing partner Pat and I were forced to seek shelter as thunderstorms hovered ominously overhead. I can certainly handle the rain, the wind, the cold temperature and freezing fingers. However, when it comes to lightning in a 16′ aluminum boat out on lake St. Francis you quickly become aware of how very, very small you are in the grand scheme of things. If you are anything like me you realize those are times when even the best of fishing is not worth being fried like a piece of chicken over. Our escape from possible electrocution landed us in a lovely spot called King’s Marina located in the St. Regis Canal. Seeing as they didn’t sell coffee, we decided to order a poutine. We figured it would make it less obvious that we were only there for shelter. Aside from being a little bit shell-shocked to see the two of us there on a day when most wouldn’t even consider going outside to get the paper, these folks were great. When Pat tried to use his new Interac Microchip card to pay for his poutine the machine wouldn’t accept it. I suppose this is what the bank means by enhanced security features. The card is so safe, you can’t even use it! So there we were, completely soaked, and unable to pay for food. Trouble is, Pat’s poutine was already cooked and served up. In what I think was a grand gesture, King, the man who owns the joint and sits behind the cash register offered to front Pat the poutine. That didn’t really work for us as we had no plans to be back there for quite a while so King was ready to give Pat the poutine free of charge. “You’ve gotta eat” he said sternly. Seeing as Pat felt quite uncomfortable with this entire situation I paid for his poutine with my credit card. No microchip in that one! That’s what I call hospitality. King was kind enough to offer the food free of charge to help out a couple nutcases crazy enough to be fishing in that weather. For this reason, King is now in my good books. Props to you King!

As for the fishing part of our little adventure, we started out the morning of day 1 targeting shallow water. We did quite well doing so the week before. Well, this time the fish weren’t exactly what I would call responsive. In fact, we caught nothing but snags in spots we did quite well pre-fishing the week before. So we reluctantly headed for the deeper water. I say reluctantly because if you know me well it’s a bit of a dirty secret that I am no expert jig fisherman. In fact, I tend to avoid jigs whenever possible. I’m not sure why, I’ve just never been able to master the fine art of jigging. I’ve seen people have 40-50 fish days fishing jigs exclusively so I know they work. It’s just a personal phobia I guess you’d call it.

At this point it was about 10am and we had yet to catch a pike so I started working a pattern that drew some follows. Essentially, we had one guy throwing jigs in the deep pockets around Islands while the other focused on the shallow eddies beside them with spoons, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. On one Island in particular we managed to get  a number of pike to follow lures right up to the boat but they simply did not want to commit to striking the bait. I knew there were quite a few pike on this particular flat in the eddy I was working so I kept at it until whammo! I was finally able to say “fish on”! At first I thought it was a hammer-handle but then she decided to head straight for deep water and I immediately knew this fish had some weight to it. The fish sure was putting my new 7′ Medium Heavy Quantum PT Tour Edition and the Abu Garcia Ambassador baitcaster to the test. I have to admit the outfit handled the large musky really nicely. She made two or three really strong runs and had me running around the lenght of the boat a few times but I was able to keep the fight relatively short, which is something I really endorse when it comes to large muskies. I had her out of the water for about 15 seconds which is just enough time for a picture.  Before you could say see you later she was back in the lake with a giant swish of her tail leaving me soaking wet and shaking with adrenaline. Luckily the hook was set perfectly right in the corner of the mouth making the release very smooth. Unfortunately, other than a few more follows and this decent walleye caught on a 1/2 oz jig tipped with a Berkley 7″ Powerworm , that was the highlight of day 1.

kings-walleye-s2

When I woke up at 5:30 the next morning I actually strongly considered staying in bed. It was 4ºC and  the wind was howling from the Northwest. Pat and I launched the boat near Glengarry Park, where the lake is at its widest. We wanted to hit some of our spots on the big water early on before the wind picked up too much. That idea only ended up costing us an hour. It was a bad decision. We were forced to turn around and head back in to go launch somewhere else where we were more protected from the waves. Speaking of which, we were looking at 4 foot or better waves in some parts of the lake that day. We put the boat in the water near Summerstown, which sits in a portion of the river that is littered with islands thus providing a bit of cover and shelter. Although it still didn’t make handling my 16′ boat in 50 km/h wind any easier at least we were out of mortal danger. Ok, maybe not mortal danger but at the very least major discomfort. It wasn’t possible to fish the big lake with my boat that day.

It didn’t take long for us to realize this is the type of day you normally stay in. It was freezing, extremely windy (gusts up to 70 km/h) and very difficult to control the boat. Any fisherman will tell you that you can’t catch fish without at least a minimum of boat control. With the aid of a drift sock, a trolling motor and an anchor I was at least able to work some areas well enough to catch a few pike. Trouble is, they were all small enough to be used as bait. So at the end of the day we once again reluctantly (although eagerly in a way because we could certainly use warmth) headed back in. I filleted a small walleye Pat caught on a 4″ grub, had a beer, and we were off to the Raisin River Marina where the weigh-in station and prize tent were. The tournament was won with a pike weighing in at 11lbs 4oz. This had Pat and I a little discouraged seeing as we had a 14 pounder in the boat the weekend before. That’s just how the dice roll sometimes though. I had time to discuss with other fishermen and most faced the same weather-related problems we did. Those who did well had 19 foot bass boats with large engines and stronger trolling motors. Those boats are heavier, lie lower in the water and are easier to control than a 16 foot aluminum that acts like a sail on the water in the wind. Some of the guys who usually do quite well also came up short and the winning fish wasn’t near the 18 pounder caught last year. The larger fish in the system were tough for everyone to catch that day.

In all events, at the end of the day when meeting up with the other folks who braved the condidtions and made the best of it Pat and I realized that despite it all, we had an absolute blast. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. We didn’t win the tournament, a door prize, or even weigh in a fish for that matter.. But we sure did have an adventure we aren’t about to forget and a story to share. I’ve heard somewhere not too long ago that the very point of fishing is to create stories to share with friends and loved ones. That night, over a beer and a bonfire at a friend’s house, Pat and I told the story of the big musky, our new friend King, the crashing waves, the blistering cold and howling winds. We were satisfied and we were ready for more.

Until next time, stay outside! Jigger.

A Monster Start to ’09

I’m pleased to announce I’m back in business and ready for another fun and fish-filled season out on the big lake. It’s been a long winter and a busy spring in terms of getting setup for this season but we are now officially underway. Pike season has been open for 3 weeks and perch and walleye are also there for the catching as of this past Saturday.
I would like to thank the guys over at Bridgeview Marine in Delta BC for their great service and Mike Prieur over at Mac’s Marina in Lancaster who did a fantastic job getting my boat ready for the water in a very short time. Over the winter months I purchased a 2008 75HP 2-stroke Optimax with 250ish hrs use from Bridgeview Marine and I must say I was quite impressed with the service Barry and Tim offered over the internet and over the phone. I was a little wary of ordering an engine from so far away but the price was quite reasonable and they had precisely what I wanted for this boat. I have now installed the engine on the new Rebel and it is running beautifully. The result is a very responsive setup with tons of fishability and much more speed and control than I had with the 50HP on it. The Optimax is also really quiet. So far, so good!

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Although I absolutely love the boat, I still need to make a few changes. For example, I will be switching to a 24 Volt system for the bow-mount trolling motor for added power and battery life. I will also add a Lowrance X15 unit with downloadable maps and GPS to the boat. I am tired of paper maps and hand-help GPS units. Although that system does work perfectly well, it has run its course and I like the idea of having the GPS, sonar and map on the same unit. It is time to focus solely on fishing. I also don’t have the rod storage of a 19 foot boat and I need to figure something out. I’m thinking it will have something to do with Velcro straps. I’m just not sure where I’m going to set them up yet. I am a far cry from my old Sea Nymph and trust me, I’m going to really enjoy getting used to fishing from this boat.
Speaking of which,
Pat and I were like two kids going out on their grandfather’s boat for the first time Friday night. After the maiden voyage and a few high fives we grabbed two rods and eagerly headed out to one of my favourite spring pike haunts. I picked up 3 or 4 half ounce jigs, a small variety of large trailers, a one ounce five of diamonds spoon, some spinnerbaits, a Zara Spook and headed out. The lake was beautiful and calm on that sunny evening after the rain subsided. The only other boats we saw were Laframboise checking his nets and a few guys looking for pike (presumably) tight in on shore near Greg Quay. This is why I love getting out there early in the season. You have the lake virtually to yourself.
As we approached our honey hole, I started throwing and swimming a large jig with a 5″ flat tail minnow imitating plastic trailer while Pat covered water faster alternating between spinnerbaits, lipless rattle crankbaits and spoons. On my fifth or sixth cast I saw a large shadow following my jig to the boat. I let it drop to the bottom and swam it up 5 feet fairly quickly. The fish inhaled the bait but bit short and I wasn’t able to obtain a solid hook set. You know, with a name like Jigger you’d think I actually were a good jig fisherman. I did get a good look at him though. It was definitely in the 10 pound range and it looked like a musky because I could see the vertical stripes on it reflecting in the sunset light. He came up really close to the surface causing a giant swirl and then disappeared back into the dark, murky waters. I was disappointed in my inability to hook the fish but was encouraged for two reasons: my bait was drawing interest and there were large fish hunting in the area.
After a fiery start, a few more follows from smaller fish, long minutes went buy and just as I was thinking about trying another spot Pat tells me he’s snagged on bottom. Or so he thought. When I heard him say “wait a minute this is a fish” and subsequently saw his rod pump in long and powerful sequences I knew he had a nice fish on. I reeled in, paddled towards his fish a little (didn’t have the battery connected to the trolling motor yet) and watched him battle the fish. My first look at its shoulders almost made my knees buckle. After a few minutes of incredible runs, testing out the drag on Pat’s PT Tour Edition, and even a jump we had her in the boat. She registered 14lbs on the Normark scale. The fish was perfectly hooked in the corner of the mouth. After a few pictures and no longer than about 30 seconds out of the water she was off in a hurry soaking Pat with a cold 50°F shower. Not bad for a year’s first!

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Although the weekend looked really promising, this was unfortunately the only real highlight. We headed out the next morning and the fishing was brutal. A cold front had moved in, bringing constant rain and dead calm waters. I managed to catch and release a nice smallmouth (although we were looking for pike) and that was it. We ended up wet, cold and frustrated so we headed in after only about 2hrs on the water. On Sunday when I woke up the thermometer registered in at a whopping 6°C and it was rainy and windy. I reluctantly opted for a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and fishing shows instead of the real thing. It’s unfortunate because this weekend was also the walleye and perch opener and last weekend was warm enough to water ski. But hey, what can you do about weather except complain right? I supposed all I can hope for now is for this week to go by quickly, better weather for the Lancaster pike tournament next weekend, and hopefully another fish anywhere near this size. 🙂

Until next time, have a good time on the water and stay outside! Jigger.

Oh, and send me your pics of fish caught in the area. I love to see what others are catching.

New Season About to Begin!

Perch and Walleye opening season is a month away. I for one can’t wait…

In the meantime, please take the time to sign the OFAH’s petition to end the waste of tax payer funds that is the long gun registry. Sign petition here.

Jigger.