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.