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.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Carp on the line

It had been a late spring, the river was high and the current swift, some geese were nesting in the bushes near by and you could hear an eagle call in the distance. As I contemplated my options for the day, a pool of slack water sparked my interest.  With no one in sight at a typically pressured spot, I was excited to test the waters.  It was a bright sunny day and I did my best to stay low to the ground, I baited my hook with a chunk of worm and cast out to see what might take it. 

It wasn't long before something took the bait, my line slowly headed in a different direction and I set the hook, the fight was on. The fish bolted straight into the current and was determined to head down stream, tightening my drag I began reeling in playing the fish as best I could.  After a few minutes I managed to get it near shore where it became clear it was a carp, one look at me and it was off to the current again with my drag just screaming.  I began to question my ability to net the fish but after a few more runs, it was tired out enough to do so. The fight was phenomenal and I was shaking with adrenaline, this was my first Master Angler carp, not exactly what I was expecting and I knew there had to be more in there.

As the sun passed along over head, I repeated the process many times that day.  A lot of fish were landed and a few lost. Unless the carp are really tired before netting, it can be tough to do so on your own. Sizes ranged from 26 - 31 inches with a few larger that broke off or spit the hook while I was trying to net them.  I was shocked at how fun the fight was and how well they were releasing after the battle, throw in a few suckers and walleye to give my arms a rest and this was turning out to be a great day.  I continued fishing for as long as time permitted and on the way home I added another species to the addiction list. 

Carp originated in Asia, in China they have been raising them in ponds all the way back to roughly 500 BC.  Somewhere along the way, they were brought to Europe as a food source and over the last hundred years have become a prized and sought after trophy fish known for its fight and size. As far as Manitoba goes, carp were first noticeably caught in the 1930's and by the 50's their presence in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg became evident.  The common carp kills aquatic vegetation and stirs up detritus on the bottom of water bodies, degrading spawning habitat and contributing to loss of food sources for wildlife and fish. Many attempts at preventing entry to some water bodies have been made all over North America with almost all of them unsuccessful.

The Common Carp have proven themselves quite adaptable, they are typically found in muddy bottom areas with vegetation and slower current.  They can also be found in shallow bays, bottoms of dams and sadly, marshes (where they do their most destruction).  They are some of the first fish to show up in the warm shallows in spring and summer to spawn, becoming visible to the keen anglers eye.  When targeting large carp it's good to keep in mind they are smart, keeping quite and avoiding unnecessary noises will be in your best interests, along with keeping your shadow off the water and low to the ground.  When they rummage around the bottom feeding they will spit out anything that doesn't feel natural, often the fist sign of a bite is your line moving in a different direction in the water, close the bail, set the hook and hang on!

A medium heavy to heavy spinning or bait caster rod works well for carp, 14 to 30 lb line is best (some like heavier) with at least 150 yards on the reel. Hook size and weight depends on current, the size of the targeted carp and the situation you are fishing. Free slider sinker rigs, hair rigs and slip bobber rigs all work well, different days call for different set ups. Simple baits are: worms, corn, marshmallows and white bread, another option is home made dough baits (made from flour, cornmeal boiled water and molasses)  Remember, the more of the hook that gets covered by the bait the more likely the fish will take it.  Chumming the water with your chosen bait is a good plan as well, it can stimulate the feeding and get the fish a little more active.

I have since pursued carp at a few different locations purely for the fight, some days more successful than others. When the time is right you gotta have at 'er.  I can see why serious carp anglers from around the world pay big bucks to hit certain rivers in Canada to have  a chance at fighting these monsters.  It's doubtful we will ever eradicate carp in Manitoba, however projects are in the works whether they be fish grates preventing the carp from entering key areas, commercial harvest and export or even a fertilizer plant in the works. With so many hard fighting freshwater species in our province you are missing out if you haven't battled with a big carp at one point or another.  So if you are after a good fight and something different from your usual targeted species, try carp on the line, I have a feeling you won't regret it.