Sunday, 7 May 2017

Goldfish and a Cane Pole

The cane pole is a marvelous tool for fishing, it's primitive and basic and can shine in many aspects of angling. One morning on our first trip out east a few years back I came across an old cane pole hanging on the wall of a barn and I swore I would rig it up and try for goldfish in the pond. There wasn't time that first trip to do so but that opportunity finally presented itself this trip. With some small hooks and tungsten jigs along with a bit of sewing thread, I was set to try and catch some goldfish with my nephew and niece.

The goldfish in this pond were stocked long before my relatives ever owned the property, there were even a few koi added over 30 years ago as well. They have turned into a self sustaining population with hundreds of juveniles, and plenty of 4-10 inch fish. There are lots of colour morphs and a few even appear to be possible koi/goldfish hybrids. There is a kingfisher and a few muskrats that prey on the goldfish regularly and the kids often play around the pond with a net while supervised, so these goldfish can be weary and definitely recognize the silhouette and shape of humans.

On two separate afternoons I spent a good chunk of time with the kids waiting patiently for the fish to forget we were there while dangling a tiny chunk of garden worm in the water from the cane pole. Keeping a pair of 6 and 4 year old siblings quiet and still is easier said than done and I was very impressed with their ability to do so. A wide array of sizes and colours of goldfish were caught and released with a few biting twice in the same day. It was a great lesson in patience for the kids as once one was caught, it could take a few minutes for the schools to regroup and come by again. The salamanders and their tadpoles swimming about the pond kept us entertained as well as some wood frogs basking in the sun in anticipation of enough warmth for mating.

It is a real joy putting a child on his or her first fish and I was a truly proud uncle sharing those moments with my niece and nephew. I do hope there are many more fishing experiences to be shared with those kids in the future. And yes if you were wondering, that is a goldfish tail sticking out of the mouth of a glutenous larger specimen. Fun was had by all and I hope to move on to bigger and better species with those kids in the coming years.

Monday, 1 May 2017

First Chain Pickerel

This April my wife and I found ourselves out in Nova Scotia visiting family. A few opportunities arose for some fishing and although weather and season wasn't ideal, we made the best of it. Being a flat-lander and resident of Manitoba, I am very familiar with the local term for walleye being "pickerel". Contrary to popular belief a walleye is not a "pickerel" and that sparked an interest in catching a true chain pickerel as they are not native to Manitoba. They are an invasive species in Nova Scotia and some lakes are out right "polluted" with them according to some locals and with the ice off the lakes and season open, I was going to try my damnedest to catch one.

We arrived at our destination lake a few hours after sunrise, there was minimal wind and the sun was out, however the mercury was barely breaking 5 degrees Celsius. The only available shoreline of the lake was the northern most bays and I had high hopes of fish basking in its warmth. The water was crystal clear and we could see a great distance but its temperature was a little cooler than I had anticipated. I set my wife up with a marabou jig and myself a small 5 of diamonds spoon and we got to casting and covering the available shoreline. An hour had passed with many casts and a few lure changes with nothing to show for our efforts. A few locals had come and gone as well having similar results. It became clear that the lake still needed some time to warm up, at least for those stuck fishing from shore.

Not to be discouraged, we continued casting and working our way back to where we started. I spent a little more time on a beaver lodge I was sure could hold fish and finally got a familiar tap on the end of my line. A fish was hooked, but a fight there was not. There was barely any weight to this fish but I didn't care as my first chain pickerel was to shore. It wasn't a two footer like I had hoped, but it was a new species and I was ecstatic. We continued fishing for another hour or so, again with nothing to show for our efforts and with places to be and things to do, we cut our angling session short.

It wasn't a giant success, but complete failure was diverted and if opportunity arose to target them again, I definitely would. However with plenty of other angling options throughout Nova Scotia, I think it might be a while before I try again.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 3

Day 3 had a solid morning of pike and burbot action however in the afternoon they seemed to shut down and had things to do and places to go. They were fairly tight lipped if we were lucky enough to have them inspect our lures. Our host had invited us for some moose burgers that evening so we decided against prospecting and called it a day in time to get back to camp by 630. The food was stellar and company top notch, jokes and stories were shared over the rest of the evening. Jay and I decided against heading back out to fish late so we could get up early and scout new grounds in pursuit of whatever would bite.

Day 4 our plan was to scout out new tree lines and rock piles. Our first spot wasn't too eventful with a few burbot and pike along with a single walleye. So after 40 minutes of fishing our group of four split into pairs and hunted out some new grounds. After a move of a few hundred yards and some more prospecting, Jay and I found an active area. Tom and Dave were off in search of big pike and whitefish about a mile away while we found some deep water adjacent to a winding treeline, lots of rubble and some mudflats. After catching a few fish we thought it best to finally try out our new Otter XT Lodge. The bite was on, camera set up and action consistent! We caught upwards of 40-50 burbot and a few pike with a 3 footer being the biggest.

VERY LARGE whitefish were seen cruising the bottom and circling our offerings. I'm talking like 2 foot plus humpbacked sharks! But getting them to bite would present its own challenges. Jay did hook into one on the trip but lost it on the bottom of the ice. They can be elusive on this lake but have been caught hook and line. There are only so many rods you can have handy when ice fishing for multi species, especially when you are repeatedly landing squirming burbot and the occasional pike over 30 inches. More often than not, by the time my whitefish lures were dropped, they were already gone and the burbot or pike returned.

Part 4 of this adventure will surely make its way to this blog in the future, but that's all for now folks ....

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 2

Day 2 of the trip brought an early rise, quick breakfast and right off the hop,phenomenal fishing. We started right where we left off and it was on fire! Chris brought out a 30 inch TV for the camera and powered it with a battery and generator. It made for some of the most exciting fishing ever! This allowed Jay to use my Marcum camera and boy were we set. We were seeing tons of burbot and the occasional pike roaming through, when early on a big pike showed up on both our screens and without hesitation, smashed Jay's rattle bait. The fight was on and I reeled my line up quickly so as not to get tangled. After about 3 or 4 minutes of fight Chris exclaimed he was pretty sure it was mid 40's and after another 3 minutes of fight, we were absolutely positive it was. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and after one chance at landing it, she bit through the line and was gone.

That's how it goes some times and when you are up at Cedar there is always a chance at a 40 plus inch pike. The camera and water clarity often allow for a good oportunity to judge the size of the fish when close to the lure. Coincidentally we had 4 more chances at excessively large pike through the day all resulting in bite offs. It was a heart wrenching reality. Pictured above is the second tube I lost on the bottom of the lake to the same trophy pike. Her and a friend hung out near by and beneath us for over 10 minutes. We wouldn't see anymore pike over 40 inches on the camera this trip but one member of the group did get on some nice ones in a back bay over the weekend.

We pounded burbot with unbelievable action all day and as the evening approached a nasty white out storm rolled in. As the front of the storm flew over the permie, the wind picked up and the snow began. It was then that I hooked into and caught a nice burbot over 31 inches that made my day. Lucky for us I had our path back to camp plotted on my handheld GPS or we would have had to leave 30 minutes before the big girls came to play to avoid the storm. We again fished well into the night, catching and releasing plenty of burbot while keeping enough for a few meals. The ride back to camp was slow and steady through the winds and snow and by the end of the storm 7 cm of fresh snow had landed. This would make for a treacherous stretch of drive for the rest of the group coming up the next day, but smooth travel on the lake for sleds.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Moak Lodge, Cedar Lake ICE 2017 Part 1

The time had arrived for what I believe will become an annual trek up to Moak Lodge at Cedar Lake. Just North of the 53rd parallel, it is one of Manitoba's best drive-to fishing destinations and one of my favorite areas to ice fish. Large northern pike, walleye, burbot and whitefish are all found in this flooded reservoir and I had high expectations for getting on some bots.

Our story starts a day before heading north. We acquired a brand new Otter XT Lodge and spent from 4:30 PM to 11:30 PM putting it together, which turns out is quite a process. Pre-drilling holes, installing runners and brackets, bars and arms, fabric, bench and hitch took a lot of time. We also had to run 3 or 4 last minute errands in between said tasks. It was a handful and we agreed we may be leaving a little later than expected. Sleep did not come easy that night as I had been looking forward to our trip for months.

Day 1 involved some more strategic packing and we were on the road shortly before 9 AM with a roughly 5 1/2 hour drive ahead of us. We left the melting snow and flooding ditches in our rear views in eager anticipation of fresh snow in the North. With a stop or two for fuel and trailer checks we arrived at Moak Lodge and Campground by about 3:30 in the afternoon. We were greeted by the owner Chris and he let us know the fish were biting and that he was on his way to move his permies. We unloaded the sleds and vehicle of all our supplies, grabbed a quick snack and headed out to meet up with Chris.

He offered us the use of his heated (luxury) permie and we gladly obliged as it was sitting on some great grounds. He had it set up on the edge of the flooded forest along some rubble and rocks. It was ample fishy structure and with a few prospecting holes and a minor re-positioning of the shack we were on the fish. When we dropped the camera down below we were all very excited with what was directly beneath us on the screen. A spawning ball of burbot, 6 or 7 at least all swirling around in an embrace like I've never seen. These sights are rare I'm sure and with confidence Chris exclaimed we were about to light them up and boy did we ever. A flurry ensued with a handful of burbot landed right off the hop. Their mottled pattern and streamline body is a work of beauty and their ability to coil and curl back down the ice hole makes for an added challenge to land them. Every so often a pair or small pack of pike would emerge from the sunken forest like wolves, they too were almost always eager to bite the lure or the camera.

We were on the fish and had no intentions of heading in until we were out right exhausted. We started fishing at 5 pm and ended up staying until right around midnight and when it was to dark for the camera to work anymore, I switched over to the Humminbird 55. We were consistently marking fish but the bite was a little less aggressive then when the sun was up.

Northern lights danced across the sky from east to west after the darkness took hold and dozens of shooting stars flew by in the south. We had cracked the code for day and night burbot and location was definitely half the battle. I couldn't thank Chris enough for his generosity. Sleep came easy that night and dreams were filled with burbot TV.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Run and Gun Short Form

3:30 AM wake up ..... Check!
2 hour drive ....... Check!
Sled out a mile and a half from shore and drill some holes before the sun is up ..... Check!
Don't catch fish ........ Check!
Watch insanely beautiful sunrise ..... Check!
Don't catch fish ....... Check!
Realize upon daylight that you are surrounded by commercial nets in every direction ....... Check!
Commence running and gunning ....... Check!
Catch fish .......... Check!
Continue running and gunning ......... Check!
Pass piles of pike left on the ice to waste ....... Check!
Catch more fish ......... Check!
Release pike back to the water because leaving them on the ice to rot is just plain ignorant .... Check!
Lose fish ......... Check!
Miss fish ......... Check!
Run and gun some more ...... Check!
Watch wind pick up and fog roll in ........ Check!
Hunker down and set up a base camp ......... Check!
Miss a bite ........ Check!
Set up tip ups ....... Check!
Wait for a flag while waiting for a bite ....... Check!
Land a few eater walleye ......... Check!
Miss a good bite ......... Check!
Get a flag seconds after missing a bite and pull up a 25 inch walleye ....... Check!
Let tip up walleye go to hopefully avoid other anglers/nets until spring for the spawn ...... Check!
Spook a few fish with the wrong jigging cadence ....... Check!
Call it a day earlier than we should have due to long drive home and busy week ahead .... Check!
Navigate safely back to the access point before dark ..... Check!
See 6 hawks within 10 miles on the drive home and think to myself "that seems rather early" ....... Check!