Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Round 2 ...... Fight!!!

After a truly fantastic outing for bluegills, I had the itch and we decided we would head back and try our luck again. A few days later we were off to the same lake as our previous trip, but this time earlier. We made it to our spot by daybreak and met with a second group of anglers as we had arranged to. It was cold out, -30 or so, that meant shelter and heat was a priority so we punched a bunch of holes where we had success days ago and set up shop.

The first few fish landed were perch ranging from 3 to 9 inches, not what we were after. The clouds above at daybreak had all but disappeared and it was warming up significantly with the wind dieing down. I started to try a few holes outside of the shelter in a little bit deeper water and found some more responsive fish. It wasn't long before I iced a nice bluegill followed by a few missed bites, sniffs and follows.

Hopping between holes for about an hour I landed two more and missed a couple, key here was watching the rod tip for the tiny quiver of a bite. We relocated the shelter over the hottest hole and continued fishing. Looking down one of the fresh shack pattern holes it was obvious we were half on top of a sunken tree, the water was so clear you could see it down below. Structure!!!, although it was difficult to vertical jig in it with a lot of sonar interference. Again it seemed there were more perch below us than bluegills, as the tent beside us was hammering them with tiny pieces of meet.

It wasn't long before the mid day drawl was upon us and after a quick snack, a few of us headed to a near by bay to see what we could find. Ten holes or so about twenty feet apart were drilled and down each one we were seeing very large marks uninterested in our tiny offerings. It was here I landed a few 12-14 inch walleye which were a great fight on the ultra lite rod with two pound line. It became obvious we were not on bluegill grounds so we headed to a point with a weed line and punched a few more holes. The wind was picking up again and line icing up easily, the spot could have been good, but weather was making bite detection difficult. With two hours to go before sundown and a long drive home we made it back to our original spot to warm up and hopefully catch some more.

I figured like the previous trip, it was just a matter of time before the bite would pick up and had confidence in our original spot so I sat and waited it out. A few perch and a walleye, were caught using erratic lifts, and then it was time for the subtle finesse for the bluegills. The clouds rolled over as the sun was going down and I was able to coax a few more gills to bite. All in all the action wasn't as steady as the previous trip, less bluegills were landed but more species were caught.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Finally ...... A Bluegill

It is a fish many grow up fishing for, an "easy" catch to get kids hooked, in our province there are very few places to go to catch one and we are the most northern range. I had been interested in bluegills for a while now, what is a common fish in most states is very rare here. Panfish has appealed to me greatly since my first successful outing, ultra lite gear, with lite line and small jigs, the fight and action can be quite memorable.

After hours on end this summer trying for them on a river and catching everything but, I was off with two friends to a different location to try my luck on the hard water. We arrived later than I would have liked but I can't complain, none of us had fished this body of water before and there was still plenty of daylight.
Out on the ice with some holes drilled, sonar down and lines in the water, the fish were hugging tight to the bottom and my first few offerings got sniffers but no takers. It was good to know our first location was on top of fish, but I needed a bite. I changed up to a short shanked very small jig head and tipped it with a chunk of scented plastic that had done me very well with all sorts of species over the years and it wasn't long before the tip of my rod bent and I set the hook.

A quick but exhilarating fight followed and up came my first ever bluegill at 9 inches and I was beside myself. 7 inches and up is classified as trophy in our province, the record being 11.5 inches. Such a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, a species I had wanted for so long and I finally got to see one and land it.

Cloudy skies and no wind we kept fishing and I landed two more 9 inch gills, followed by my fishing partners each landing a nice one. The action continued with my personal best of the day a 9.25 inch gill and some smaller ones over 8 inches. We decided we were on the fish and knew the wind was to pick up by noon, so we set up the six person shelter and continued fishing in the warmth and out of the wind.

The action slowed for a while as we tried other lures and baits, I was shocked that they were not interested in multiple kinds of fake waxies. The colour schemes and scents that they would commit to were very specific it seemed, as well the bite would heat up and die down often. As the sky cleared and wind picked up the bite had really died down, we took this opportunity to dead stick and eat some food.

After a lul in the action and a tiny pike landed, Jeff beside me hooked into a 10.5 inch pie plate of a bluegill, followed by a few more 9 inchers within 5 minutes. I had missed a few bites and switched back to my faithful scent and waited it out. As the afternoon wore on, the fish got hungry again and the fun picked up. Many double headers and a few fish lost on the bottom of the ice. The fight in these feisty little bluegills was more than I expected, I can really see why these are a favorite of so many.

With the sun setting we wanted to stay but had to start packing. It was hard to turn off the flasher and power down the heater, but we had all been rewarded not a fish under 8 inches. I plan on going back sooner than later, maybe even tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

First Ice Fishing Trip 2013/14 Season

Winter has arrived and reasonably safe ice was finally available in some areas of the province, nowhere near home however. A friend had let me know he was making a day trip to a well known trout lake and had room in his vehicle, this meant a 3 AM wake up and four hours of driving one way but I was not deterred. It had been a long twenty eight days since I had caught a fish and reports were that the ice was 6 to 8 inches thick where we were heading and the trout were biting.

Minus 25 Celsius leaving home and it only got colder as we headed north. The drive to our destination was filled with good conversation of tactics and our hopes of other potential trips this season along with a handful of shooting stars to the northwest. Just as the sun began to show itself we reached the lake, we loaded up our sleds and headed out to a predetermined spot. Along the way about thirty feet from ice access a pop up shelter was set up already and as we passed, a quick conversation was sparked and we saw the ice was 8 inches thick, on we went.

A few holes drilled, and I had a lure down the first one, as my fishing buds set up the shelter. It was a beautiful morning with minimal wind, we were all ecstatic to be back on the ice. In the five minutes it took them to set up the Eskimo FF9416 and punch the hole set up, I had marked 3 cruisers on my Humminbird Ice55 and missed two very subtle bites. With the line icing up quickly I headed straight for the shelter where I was shocked with what we were about to discover.

As I looked down the holes inside the shelter, I realized how clear this water really was, you could see all the way to the bottom in 5 feet even 12 feet as well.  We were stationed in 7 feet of water near a weed line where we hoped the trout would be cruising by. It wasn't to long before we saw our first fish approach, sniff a lure and head off. Sight fishing was extremely invigorating, the first few fish came by slowly and mostly sniffed and circled our lures, most movements below spooked them easily. 

Tom ended up getting the first good strike followed by a solid hookup and the first fight was on. The trout below was ripping all over the place and I quickly reeled in my two lines to get them out of the way and get by the hole to help land it. After an impressive fight, the trout made it to the hole and I scooped it out, it was a nice 18 inch brown, his first ever. We took a few pictures and sent it back to fight another day, keeping our excitement to a minimal as to not spook the area.

 The conditions outside our shelter were not optimal for fishing, line would freeze up in under five minutes, as well as the holes. We would try for short periods in some other holes but the heat in the shelter would always call you back. After about ninety minutes of fishing and a few more sniffers, I got a strike and a frisky 15 inch rainbow was landed, and my limit of one was retained. I fish mostly for sport but had been craving fresh caught trout for about 3 months, between landing what I consider a nice sized eater and the crystal clear sight fishing, this was slowly becoming my best first ice trip yet.

As the sun crept along over head, it seemed the action was slowing and the intervals of cruisers swimming by were further apart. The outside temperature had risen about 5 degrees but this cold snap seemed to be slowing the activity. Some time around lunch Dave drilled a few holes shallow and deep while I chipped out our already drilled holes. After two holes drilled in the shallows I could hear Tom screaming "Fish On!!!" over the sound of the auger full bore. I hustled back to the shelter and as I unzipped the door the fish snapped off the line with his lucky lure. 

Earlier when he was fishing outside we had seen a big brown trout come up check our lures and artificial baits and head off in disgust it was easily the biggest trout I have seen in person. The way Tom described his lost fish, we figured it was the visitor from before, all estimating over 25 inches. Tom was totally crushed. With the clarity of the water you can stand over the hole and just watch for the strike and that he did, there was no mystery of what was down below, he saw it!!

We were contemplating a move out deeper for the mid day and back to shallow for the last two hours but that didn't happen. Instead we fried some bacon and eggs and waited it out. Tom caught and released another beauty 18 inch brown trout, he really had them dialed in. The lake is artificial bait only and we were trying everything with a small handful of baits and lures getting interest. I was convinced the small spoons and rattlin flyers were catching some trouts attention from a distance but not inducing a strike, almost like calling in a buck.

Last fish of the day went to Tom, a nice Rainbow under the size limit for this lake and it put up one heck of a fight. The trip was a total success in all of our opinions even though the numbers caught were low and one member of the team skunked. It was our first time fishing that body of water and in talking to others we did as well or better than the fifteen or so people out.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Let the big girls go

Not very many responsible anglers will keep trophy walleye, pike or trout for table fare.  Regulations in our province prevent this in some ways, examples being; only one pike over 75 cm or only one walleye over 55 cm allowed kept.  Certain bodies of water have slot sizes where within a certain size, species must be released.  Some anglers like a walleye in between 16 - 20 inches to keep to eat, they don't want to take the big spawners. Why is it then that some haven't a problem catching and keeping trophy perch or crappie to eat. The catch and catch again segment from can apply to smaller fish too!!

A simple answer is, panfish are such prolific spawners, harvests are needed to sustain good sizes and prevent stunting.  This is true, however a ten to twelve inch perch or crappie tastes just as good as a fifteen incher, and letting the bigger ones go keeps those genetics in the body of water. Our water bodies are considered northern range, and crappie up here can take five to ten years to break 12 inches.

I enjoy catching all kinds of species and feel they all have their place, from the "nuisance" bullhead to the hungry pike.  Once and a while we will keep a meal, if we all caught and released everything we hooked into, we wouldn't be able to fish, it would be deemed cruel and unusual towards the fish.  I'm not a seasoned veteran of the sport, but I plan on fishing and learning for as long as I walk the earth, I may not personally have children, but I want the children of the future to have the same chance at fishing our provinces diverse water ways as I have had.

With the word spreading of great fishing at some smaller bodies of water in the province, some will take advantage of this and abuse the resource, others will feel it necessary to keep a large pike to protect the perch or crappie. Large predators are needed in these bodies as well, they help maintain balance!.  Some can say that the males are smaller when it comes to some species and removing just males can harm populations as well, I will not argue this. 

After pursuing crappie and perch along with lots of other species, appreciating the beauty of all different sizes and striving to beat my personal bests, I realized many things.  Perch and Crappie this size are a true pleasure. Fish like this make bigger fish, we need to keep them going and keep fish with these genes in the lake to make more big perch/crappie. With or without the internet people will fish them out, and not think about the quality of the fishing. CONSERVATION is key!!! What has happened in the past with over fishing and people filling freezers and not understanding limits can change if we all do our part, keep an eye out and share responsible angling practices with friends and family.

If you are lucky enough to get into fish like this, Please put at least some of them back!! Keep some of the smaller ones for a dinner, and leave the trophies for a better future of  fishing, and a possible new Manitoba record! If we all do this, slabs and footballs like these will become the norm, not all the buzz for a few short years and then the distant memories.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Not the Easiest Day Out There

The time had come for what I hope is becoming an annual trip to the Red River for the fall walleye run. Our initial trip had to be cancelled due to work commitments but we made it out a week later. The days were getting shorter and colder, the wind had been blowing for a week from all different directions and to top it off, the locks had been opened fully making an already dirty river even dirtier. Everything was stacked against us and the reports were not looking good but we didn't care we were going for our chance, however slim it was, at a trophy greenback.

We left for Selkirk at 3:30 in the morning and made it to the launch with lots of time before the sun was due to shine. With the boat quickly prepped and in the water we were the first ones out there. The fishing was phenomenal the previous year at a spot away from the crowds and it was decided that was where we would start. The water clarity and current were not in our favor, but we needed to give it a try. Regular jigs, flasher jigs and knuckleballs tipped with frozen shiners or chubs were used with some rattle baits as well. A few missed bites and two solid hook ups with something heavy but both were lost on the way up. A handful of boats had gone by, but nowhere near the numbers we saw last year. It was in our best interests to try and find better water clarity so we headed north.

On the frigid ride north it was clear that the opened locks had turned a lot of folks away from the Red for a while, many possibly went to Pine Falls where reports had been better. The shores however were as packed as last year but no one seemed to be catching. The wind was still blowing at least 30 kmh as we stopped in a sheltered slack water area to try our luck. We spotted a few bald and golden eagles perched in some tree tops as different depths were tried but not a bite, and barely a mark on the electronics. The water looked the same as down south so on we went further north.

Our next stop was just past the mouth of Netley Creek where it turns out we should have launched from, as the water was slightly clearer.  There were more boats out this way but it didn't look like anyone was catching. We anchored up in 15 feet of water and the current was a little stronger than we would have liked, it was almost 11 am by now and not a fish in the boat yet. By this time last year we had easily caught and released over 100 fish with a handful of nice keepers in the live well. After 15 minutes with out a bite I suggested we move closer to shore anchor up again and wait it out, so that's what we did.

It wasn't long before I missed a bite and then Jay landed a bullhead, soon after that another one. We hoped that was a good sign and boy was it ever. "Yep, net!", Jay blurted out, I reeled in quickly and grabbed the net and instantly there it was, a beautiful jade green walleye.  "Shouldn't you play it out a bit?" I asked. "Hell no! Get it in the net!" was Jay's response, so that I did. Scooped up and in the boat I couldn't believe how heavy it was, this was the biggest walleye I had seen in person but am well aware they get bigger than this. Hook out and measurements taken, it was 28 and 1/8th inches, a few quick pictures and off it went. The fight was so quick and water so cold, once it was released it shot off with vigor. There wasn't any hooting or haulering, but the excitement was there and shared quietly, however the brief photo op attracted a few near by boats to pull anchor and come closer.

When a fish like that is landed it really gets the blood flowing, even if you weren't the one fighting it. Not long after, a goldeye, a few sauger, some bullheads and a larger burbot than last years trip were all caught and released by the other two guys in the boat. Burbot are so cool! This is a species I hope to target in the future. As for me, well I was still fishless, missing bites and losing a jig to one hammer of a bite off. At this point I was coming to terms with getting skunked, at least we had seen a few fish landed. But what about those eater walleye, the nice 16 to 18 inchers, where were they? Certainly not where we were as the other two in the boat landed a 24 and 26 inch walleye within thirty minutes of each other.

After a lull in the action we pulled up anchor and moved a few hundred feet, it was there we found some eaters. Finally another hook up on my part and boy did it fight, head shakes and short runs it was hard to tell what was on the end of my line, although it did not feel like a giant. Up came a 16 inch walleye, no skunk stripe for me!! We continued fishing until around 5 pm with a few more eaters kept, but a very slow day all in all. One last kick at the can before ice up would be great but if that was it, we made the best out of a very tough day on the Red.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fall Weekend in the Whiteshell Part 4

Our last day and another cold morning. As we made it to the lake, the water was still as glass and the mist was rolling across. The chill in the breeze worked better than coffee to wake you up. The previous morning the bite slowed once the sun passed over the tree tops so we felt our optimal time was limited. The surroundings were so breathe taking it was difficult to pay attention to our bobbers, with each moment passing it seemed a new view was provided.

A few small trout were caught right off the hop followed by some misses as we watched a grebe hunting in the bay. As the surface feeding seemed to die down I changed over to a spoon and it wasn't long before a nice 18 inch brook trout hammered it. I was ready for the fight and savored every moment, knowing I may not be back any time soon. With time ticking on and the sun passing the trees, we went back to the cabin to pack up. Cabin cleaned up and car loaded we were off to try a different lake for a while.  The drive there was a reminder of how fast things can change, in the short time we were there the leaves had changed colour just slightly.

As soon as we approached the waters edge we could see and hear the bald eagles across the lake, there were three of them each in the tallest tree tops. Two of them seemed to be jutting for position swooping at each other, winnieing and screeching as they fought. Again it was difficult to focus on the bobber with an abundance of beauty around us. We could have spent the day there had it not been for life's responsibilities, we needed to get home before dark and make a stop in the city as well.  One last stop where my wife lost the big one at our most productive lake for a few more brooks and rainbows and sadly it was time to go.

One of the bonuses about the lay of the land in the Whiteshell is with some of the smaller lakes, one might be windy and another may not be depending on wind direction and lake positioning. Not owning a boat or canoe,  I am usually willing to try and travel to multiple spots near by in the same day if action at our first choice is not ideal. The sights, the smells and the lack of people and bugs in fall was a treat, we plan on trying to go back at least once every season and possibly with a canoe or kayak.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Fall Weekend in the Whiteshell Part 3

Our next morning brought frost and a layer of ice on the car windshield, the sky conditions were the complete opposite from the previous day, clear and not a cloud to be seen. We made it to the lake with 45 minutes before sunrise, still light enough to fish though. Beyond casting distance a rainbow trout of decent stature breached multiple times, it seemed everywhere you looked a fish was breaching or surface feeding.  We repeated the process from Saturday with a few small rainbows and brooks caught and released before the sun broke the tree line, with the bite slowing down as the sun rose. It was agreed we would head back for a snack before fishing some more, so I took one last cast with a spoon and I had the pleasure of landing my personal best 18.25 inch brook trout, a good fight that probably scared off any fish in the area.

After a quick bite to eat we decided to head to the Whiteshell river in between West Hawk and Caddy lakes. The trail in is a self guided interpretive one, and after about 30 minutes of scenic hiking through the forest and over and down the rocky surface we arrived at the trout stream. This is strictly a catch and release area, and is used by some novice fly fishers to hone their craft. What a cool place! This experience was honestly one of my best times fishing yet, I forgot we were in Manitoba for a while, it could've been BC or Montana for all I knew.  Pristine crystal clear stream, fallen logs and rip rap areas leading to deeper pools, I knew as we approached that the trout would see us before we saw them, luckily if we spooked a pool, there was another one near by to try.

It was here our lighter set up was useful. Multiple lures and flies produced, but they had to be small. My wife and I started by each working a different pool with different tactics, I used a small fly and she her go to lure, both producing about equally. After hiking and trying multiple areas downstream catching and releasing rainbows and brookies in almost every pool, we headed back near the first area to settle in. We made a point of casting in all the previous pools as we went back having great success. Clear sky, barely a breeze, no one in sight, not even a piece of garbage, we continued to fish for a good hour with a few double headers as well. We landed well over a dozen each and agreed it was worth the hike. Small trout on light tackle is a blast!

After a great meal we were off for 90 minutes of fishing before dark, we approached the shore quietly and took care to stay low to the ground avoiding any shadows we might cast.  It wasn't long before we began to see trout surface feeding and soon after that a brook trout took my offering. I had an ear to ear smile as the fish fought, it wasn't a giant but it was determined to stay away from shore. Soon after my wife landed another an inch or two shy of twenty as well. Catching these brook trout for the first time and good numbers of them was a true pleasure. In the spirit of learning and trying different lures I changed over to a spoon again and began to cast out. after a few casts covering some different areas I hooked into and landed a nice 18 incher. The brook trout fight with such voracity and I now know why so many anglers enjoy pursuing them.

With no sign of the one that got away the previous day and one last chance the next morning, the sun had set and we were forced to retire for the night.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Fall Weekend in the Whiteshell Part 2

My wife had not landed a fish yet, I had mentioned maybe she should downsize her presentation, but she refused. She changed over to her go to bait that has done her well on multiple species and bodies of water and it was not long before she got her first bite. Hook set and the fight was on, line peeled off her reel and she tightened the drag, this was clearly bigger than what I had been catching and I think I was more excited than her. In my mind I had serious doubts she would land it as she was using a setup more appropriate for a small trout stream than a lake, but with the help of a good angler that rod and line had landed fish that it should not have before.

The water being as clear as it was, we were able to see the fish many times making the fight even more exciting as it would run to a sunken tree or head to a rock pile. After a few more runs and lots of thrashing we finally netted my wife's very first brook trout, it measured out at 19 and 1/4 inches, we snapped a few photos and quickly released it to fight another day. The smile on her face says it all, she had cracked a code that we would soon see would pay off and produce all weekend, clear sky or cloudy.

After that fish we changed over to stronger rods and line, the action had slowed since the fight had ran all over the area we were fishing.  We caught a few more small trout and decided to break for lunch.  A quick snack and we were right back to the spot that had produced for us earlier, still cloudy and a little cool but steady action of small rainbows and brooks.  A lot of our hits were coming out of a very specific casting area, I began casting small spoons and cranks missing a strike or two and then it happened.

To fast to comprehend my wife's bobber went under and she reeled in the slack and set the hook.  Instantly the bobber headed out towards the middle of the lake, the sound of line peeling and the wake of a wave the little bobber and fish beneath it made got my heart pounding. She tightened the drag and reeled as best she could but it just kept going, at least 200 hundred feet of ten pound line had been taken and the end of the spool was in sight. Before one of us could react with a last ditch effort to grab the line it snapped off the reel and the beast was gone. Silence ... I could feel my wife's heart break, I have been spooled a few times in the past, typically in rivers where the "what was it factor?" is huge. Carp, drum, catfish, sturgeon and pike are just a few of the options.  This lake was a trout lake, no pike, no carp etc, she had just been played by one beast of a trout, a fish of a life time trout. Maybe more experienced anglers would have had a better chance, but really I don't know.

We kept fishing until it was time for supper, I knew on the drive back to the cabin that after we ate it was in our best interests to go back for the hour before dark. A quick drive back and that call payed off with a few small trout caught and released and my wife landing a personal best 17.75 inch rainbow trout that put up an awesome fight. With the sun down and plenty of fish landed and lost we headed back to the cabin for a hot tub and a few drinks.

Fall Weekend in the Whiteshell Part 1

This October my wife and I were given a 3 night stay at a cabin at West Hawk Lake.  The weather
forecast was not looking promising, but we were determined to make the best out of our time away, whether it was warming up in the hot tub or freezing solid at day break fishing. After a brief stop in Winnipeg, we were on our way east, the drive out was pleasant and we arrived in the Whiteshell a little earlier than our check in time. We decided to try our luck fishing off a dock for a while catching stunted perch and small chubs, while taking in the surrounding beauty. After over a dozen very small fish we decided to check out our cabin at Tall Pine Lodges.

Settled in and unpacked, we took a scouting/sightseeing drive around the area. Driving down the
winding roads we found trail heads, possible shore fishing spots for the weekend, and an abundance of  deer. The fall colours were in full force, the white trunks of birch topped with bright yellow and
dulling orange stood out amongst the dark greens of the fir, cedar and tamaracks. With a few hours of daylight left, we decided to spend 45 minutes hiking half of the Dragon Fire trail at the campground in town. It leads you up and around one of the high points near the lake giving some great vantage points with a few interpretive signs about the history and creation of it.

The next morning was a slow start, the weather cool and clouds covering the sky, we did not make it out at daybreak, but the days events would motivate us to do so our next few days. After coffee and some sight seeing, we made our way to a trout lake to test our luck and tackle, and that is exactly what happened.

The water was crystal clear and wind direction in our favor as we were protected by the tall trees at the spot we chose. My wife started by still fishing and I thought I would toss a spoon or two. It wasn't long before I had my first strike and a missed hook set, a good sign none the less as this let us know we were near some fish. A few feet down shore and I got my first glimpse of a Whiteshell trout, a sudden flash caught my eye in the shallows and I was instantly intrigued and lowered to the ground. I made a cast past that direction and as my spoon came through where i saw the fish, I got another bite and set the hook. The fight was brief yet feisty, I thought it was a rainbow but as it came out of the water i was pleased to see my first ever brook trout. Nothing huge, but a new species and I was ecstatic, the colours popped, tiny red spots with blue halos on its sides and squiggly dark camouflage on its back, the white lines on its fins were pristine.

Being motivated to try different lures and techniques, I changed over to a fly under a bobber with some small split shot to get it down. A few cookie cutter rainbow trout were quickly  caught along with a few small brook trout, again no big ones, but extremely fun and an entertaining fight on light tackle. The rainbows really took to jumping out of the water over a foot and head shaking trying to spit the hook.

Now on the note of light tackle, I knew some decent trophies have been caught on this lake, but the general consensus was a lot of small hatchery fish get caught. I was under the impression that our chances at a trophy were slim to none being we were limited to shore spots, so we were using light line and light rods. We would soon learn, as we had in the past, there is always a chance at a trophy when fishing in Manitoba even if it is minimal, and you should be prepared.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Fishing in Manitoba, you gotta love it!  Every day can bring a new adventure, a great catch and awesome memories. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of the more frustrating experiences from this open water season and to encourage anglers to program a certain number into their cellphones.
At one time or another we have all witnessed someone breaking the rules.  Depending on our personalities, some of us will try and educate folks, others may get confrontational, sadly many do nothing.  It appears as though people seem to forget there is a number you can call to turn in poachers and violators, and it's on your fishing license!

Now I know the old "I called the number and reported it and no one showed up" ,  I get it, that is definitely discouraging.  The officers are spread so thin, and completely underfunded it is hard to be everywhere they are needed. Many people would shudder if they knew the square kilometers districts are in charge of.

I've personally witnessed many the violation this season, some of them where no cell service was available. I was not about to pack up shop, give up my spot and drive the 20 minutes back into service range, but I definitely pulled over on the way home once in service range and called TIPS to report what I saw.

If an officer can not make it in time the report still goes on file and the more calls that come in about certain spots, the more likely it will be that the officers check on them more often.  We have witnessed just that at a few popular spots and it is somewhat making a difference.

A lot of the violations we witnessed are almost unbelievable to me. Families of five or more hanging out on shore, a line in for each member, fishing or not. While the fathers watched over the lines, the children would be playing near by, but not once would we see a child cast out, or retrieve a fish.  Individual people fishing with 2 rods in the water and a hand line as well, dipping their walrus sized net for any kind of fish they can get, keeping everything big or small.  A van on the side of the road selling "pickerel" for five bucks a pound. In some situations it is difficult to try and educate, language barriers present themselves, numbers may not be in your favour, other obstructions arise as well.  Many a time myself or a friend would try and politely inform people when we witnessed rules being broken only to be responded to with hostility.

An example being: My wife and I were meeting up with a friend at a well known spot on the Red River outside of Winnipeg. He got there before us and saw two men fishing with four lines in the water. He's a really friendly guy, always helpful and educative to all sorts of people. After a bit of friendly banter he went on to tell them it was illegal in open water to use more than one line.  They shrugged it off, basically told him to mind his own business.  My wife and I showed up and could see the multiple lines in the water, our friend told me he tried to inform them of the law, and through conversation other obvious infractions came up.

I was on the phone dialing 1-800-782-0076 before he could even finish talking.  A report was taken, with our location given, a description of the people, the offense and their license plate.  My name and contact info was requested and less than an hour later I got a call from the nearest CO.  Sadly they could not make it that day, more details were taken and I was assured, as I was in the past that they would make their presence known more often when time permits.  So they had a license plate and description of the violators, maybe it wasn't the first time or the last, but if they come across those folks they will have a better idea of what they are up against.

But wouldn't you know a few days after that I received another phone call, a local CO I had spoken with in the past was setting up a sting at the location I reported and looking for as much detail as possible.  It was nice to know they were putting in some time and effort at a spot on the extreme outer edge of their district.  I wont know if a bust was made or not but I do know that the tip was taken seriously and I know others are too!

These are resources for everyone to appreciate, be it hunting out of season or over fishing, we all need to do our part and help be the eyes and ears that conservation needs to protect it. You see over harvesting of fish, or too many lines in the water, take pictures of license plates if it is obvious of the vehicle they are associated with and make detailed notes of the situation, then call TIPS 1-800-782-0076.   Take some time to contact your local wildlife federation and let them know where you are seeing problems as well, and while you're at it contact all levels of government requesting more funds for conservation and protection of our natural resources.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Urban Fishing

Most cities and towns are situated along some form of a body of water, be it a creek, lake, river,
even a retention pond.  A lot of people don't have the means necessary to go far for fishing and
are stuck only able to fish close to home, that doesn't mean the experience can't be fun and full
of memories.  Many areas receive a lot of angling pressure, while others off the beaten path might
not, it is usually evident by the amount of garbage in the region. For every caring and conscious
angler there seem to be ten who are not.

A recent family emergency had disrupted our mid summer fishing plans and my wife and I were spending more time in the big city than we would have liked to.  None the less with many options and bodies of water to wet a line, we were going to make the best out of the time and surroundings we had to get some bites and land a fish or two.  Little did we know over the next few weekends we would be catching and releasing hundreds.

Cars in the distance, train horns sounding, airplanes coming in to land over head, these aren't the familiar sounds I associate with fishing. They were easily tuned out though, once we were relaxed and settled in on the shore.  Empty bait tubs, loose line, tangled rigs and jig heads, empty coffee cups and all kinds of plastic, not the kind of shoreline I'm used to seeing but again easily dealt with.

For those intimidated by larger rivers, creeks and slower moving rivers can be a good place to start
and sharpen your skills, even the odd retention pond can produce the occasional bullhead, sucker or
creek chub.  Light tackle and small jig heads tipped with scented plastics or a worm chunk slowly
drifted under a bobber or worked along the bottom is a good way to start.  It isn't long before you
can differentiate where the bullheads are holding up from the goldeye, or where the rock bass like to
hunt as oppose to the young sauger or walleye.

Smaller rivers and creeks in the Winnipeg area never failed to show us a good time, mostly juvenile fish with the occasional large carp, medium sized catfish or toothy pike thrown in the mix. Most creeks and smaller rivers have walking/biking paths or deer trails that make good access points. Once we found a few different spots, we made a point of working them when ever time permitted.  Wetting a line for an hour or two helped me deal with what we were going through and provided an added challenge of fishing new water bodies.

Different times of the day call for different tactics, I used our trips as an opportunity to try new techniques and lures once we were familiar with what was in the water. Small spinners and spoons produced some fish but a bobber and worm would never fail.

Returning to a few of our favorite spots to get to know them a bit better we would find ourselves catching the same drum we did a week ago or the same torn up young walleye.  I even got glimpses of a resident pike through my polarized glasses, that took to biting off my small jig head on a weekly basis.

Whether it was the frogs calling before a storm, the fishers hunting in the shallows or the herons poking in the mud, there was always something to put a smile on your face.  Sometimes it was the ounces of lead stuck in the trees above.  Watching the schools of bullheads grow in size as the weeks went on became something we looked forward to as well.

The Red River and the Assiniboine are two large, typically heavy flowing rivers that meet in the
centre of Winnipeg. With an abundance of spots to fish from shore, the opportunities are endless. One
should remember that some property owners have land rights to the waters edge and keep their property private. With a bit of hunting around and checking out the different green spaces, many a good spot can be found along these rivers. Slack water and current edges are the easiest areas to fish, with stronger current holding fish as well, but beware of the many sunken trees, shopping carts and rocks that can snag your lure or line.

The Forks is where these two rivers meet and with ample parking and tons of shore space it's a great
place to take the family.  A slip sinker catfish rig or a bobber and a hook baited with whole shrimp
or cut bait work well for catfish there, leave the bail open, wait for the take and hold on!!  Jig
heads and a worm or minnow seemed to interest the juvenile cats and stonecats. Many other species
call the river home and are caught at different times of the year, word has it the odd sturgeon gets
landed once in a while there as well. Snacks and shade are easily sought out and there are bathrooms
near by as well.

The weekend trips appear as though they may be lasting well into fall at this point, with new spots to try and old ones to check up on, my wife and I plan on continuing to make the best out of our time urban fishing.