Sunday, 14 October 2018

Nova Scotia 2018 Part 1

It was half past midnight, not a cloud in the sky and the moon was full with its reflection dancing across the lakes of Northwest Ontario below us. My wife and I were on our way to Nova Scotia, a province I am slowly becoming more familiar with and having increasingly good luck fishing in. The flight took a little over three hours and as we began our decent towards the airport outside of Halifax the cloud cover and low lying fog was thick. This made for an interesting landing with the runway visible to us at the last second. Modern technology sure is something!

Our first leg of the trip would be spent near Five Islands with family and after meeting up with my sister and grabbing our rental car we were on our way. A quick pit stop for some supplies included but not limited to Covered Bridge potato chips, caffeinated beverages, alcohol and pepperoni took place in Truro before heading onward towards highway 2. With the Minas basin to our left, the smell of salt in the air and the mountains to our right, it was good to be back in this part of Canada.

I've fished for striped bass in the Minas Basin a few times now, strictly from shore with a bit of success, reward and heartbreak. An acquaintance of my brother in law has started a sight seeing/fishing guide business, showcasing the Five Islands region and I jumped on the opportunity to hire him for a day on the water. Conditions were not ideal with some stronger than anticipated winds but we made the best of it and before sea sickness kicked my wife's butt we were able to bring a few fish up from the depths.

The highlight was my new personal best striped bass topping out at 3 feet in length. Between the current and the strength of the fish, the fight was straight up remarkable. Even with a heavy action saltwater rod and line this fish gave me a run for my money. My first "legal" keeper in those waters shook the hook almost a year ago to the date but this one never even had the chance.
Before the weather and my wife's sea sickness could worsen we were back at shore after an extremely bumpy ride. That night I cooked up some of the fish with butter, salt and pepper, and finished it with a splash of dry white wine and I can honestly say it was one of the best tasting fish I have ever eaten. Between the fight they provide and quality of flesh when a legal keeper is retained, I can see why so many anglers spend there time after these fish!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Moak Lodge Open Water Highlights

Stellar Skies
Big Walleyes

 Northerns a plenty
Ample fish flies 
 A few native flowers

I could write for hours about the good times and experiences up at Moak Lodge on Cedar Lake but figured the pictures and smiles could speak for themselves.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

midnight gold

Late the other night we happened upon some goldfish and while the pictures aren't the best, the fishing was both a challenge and rewarding. Tiny hooks, tiny bait, lite line, a sensitive rod, patience and an open mind was all that was needed.  

Thursday, 14 June 2018

A May Carp Session and the One That Got Away

The second weekend of the opening season found us on a marshy bank with water still too cold for the carp to think about spawning. They were on their way to the shallows putting on the feed bag as they often do this time of year and with a late spring in Manitoba, some great early season action can be had. Frodo had spent the previous evening making boilies and ground bait and with a bit of chumming while we rigged up, the action wouldn't take long to kick in.

Frodo hooked up with the first carp and each one that followed was a little bigger than the previous. His hair rig seemed to have equal success with corn or boilies and he was putting on a bit of a clinic while I was missing takes and dealing with a few drops. The reward of catching fish on bait he made himself was evident and the action only exemplified it. I finally had a solid take and hook up only to have the carp break me off when heading into some structure, it was a little heartbreaking to say the least.

The ground bait was doing its job and the carp were loving it with one of us getting a take at least every 10 minutes or so. I was eventually rewarded with a few to shore under 30 inches in length and finally mid morning, one over. It fought with the determination most carp have once hooked and it was a real thrill to be putting the gear through the gauntlet. Pulling drag with ease and plowing through the water with seemingly little resistance, this fish was exactly what I had been looking forward to throughout the work week!

The morning was a cool one and with wind from the north blowing across the lake steadily picking up speed, the action seemed to taper off towards noon. Our spot had produced well for hours but it was time to try another one, however our efforts proved futile. With little success and a hankering for new scenery, we decided to head off to a nearby river for some bottom fishing and sanctuary from the wind.

After a bit of a drive and a stop for a snack we began prospecting potential spots along a river and found one with a nice deep hole and back eddy. It was littered with fish, though most of them small and held a lot of potential for a range of species. Juvenile channel catfish and a few large stonecats were eager to seek out our baits in the deep pocket while goldeye and mooneye were plentiful in the current seem and slack water. We even pulled a few walleye and a freshwater drum out while bait fishing.

Now I am all for catching new species of fish and sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it just happens. Whenever it does happen, I gotta admit I get pretty excited. Now as is often the case this trip involved a bit of an early rise and a few hours driving and at this point in the day we had been fishing for over 10 hours. After a long work week and minimal nights sleep, my judgement and thought process might not have been 100% when I brought a new species to shore.

While unhooking this feisty little guy he fell on the shore and got a little dirty and in my haste and worry for the health and well being as well as the desire to document this new species for positive identification I needed to rinse the fish off in the water. Instead of using the net to cradle the fish in the water to clean off some mud I decided to just hold it in my hand and well, you can imagine what happened next. In the blink of an eye, my poor judgement was exposed and away swam this beautiful creature, the image forever burned in my mind. Depressed, flabbergasted, befuddled, shocked .... I couldn't believe what I had done and neither could Frodo.

I would return to the spot in the weeks that followed while coming home from other destinations in search of that elusive chub. I just wanted one picture, proof of the catch and after about 12 more hours of fishing over a few pit stops, I was lucky enough to make it happen.

Jubilation!!! The now properly identified flathead chub was landed and documented!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Opening Day 2018

The day couldn't come soon enough and although our initial plans got a little skewed, we made the best of it. Arriving at the waters edge for daybreak it was one degree below zero. The birds were already awake and active with red-winged blackbirds calling and swooping amongst the dead pencil grass. We weren't the first anglers to reach the shore and luckily for us, there was some space upriver from the small crowd. It's been one of the driest springs on record in Manitoba and because of that, an area of marshy shoreline along the river had somehow caught fire in the weeks past opening up a bit more shore space.

The action was fairly steady for most of the morning with a 28.5-inch freshwater drum being the biggest fish landed. Dozens of drum, a catfish, and a carp or two were caught while bait of all kinds, as well as soft plastics, were getting bites. The action was steady, however by lunch time we had a few boats surrounding us and with the added lures and bait in the vicinity we decided to move on scouting other shore spots and the big lake if needed.

With partial ice cover still on the main lake and all available shore spots on the river taken we decided to push to the Assiniboine River. Water levels there were lower than normal and we were able to find a nice back eddy with a noticeable current edge. We were rewarded with good action as well as some needed shade. Juvenile catfish, stonecats, walleye, and goldeye were caught there, with a couple of heavy fish lost.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Moak Lodge, Cross Bay, Cedar Lake Ice Trip

What a weird and wacky winter this one has been. Insanely cold deep freezes, too much wind for anyone's liking, awkward mild spells and barely any snow in the south. The last week of March had us heading up to Moak Lodge on Cross Bay of Cedar Lake in search of trophy, pike, burbot and whitefish. When we arrived we were greeted with more than enough snow, at least four feet of ice on the lake and a pretty good first day of fishing. However the weather took a turn in the days to come, bringing in 30 - 70 kmh winds for most of the duration of our trip.

With the conditions for prospecting and fishing outside basically nil, we decided to rent Chris's tricked out ice shack. With the wood stove raging and quiet gas generator charging the batteries, we had everything we needed. Not to mention a 32 inch flat screen T.V. to hook the camera up to. My wife definitely approved of this set up and was more than willing to put in some time while we all tried our luck. While the weather had seemed to make the fish finicky we still managed to hook into a few good ones, with a couple large pike giving us a run for our money, but none made it ice side.

From the comfort and shelter of the ice shack we saw groups struggle to set up and more than a few pop up shelters were collapsing in on themselves. We even had a group use the ice shack we were in as a wind break. They were even so "kind" as to lift my snowmobile out of their way and set up ten feet from us.

While the weather and fishing left something to be desired, there were a few notable fish caught including my wife's first burbot at 29 inches. (pictured on the right) There was also a nice 23.5 inch whitefish that comes with quite a story .....

This reservoir is known for trophy whitefish and many were seen on the camera throughout our trip, getting them to bite was a different story. Often the whitefish swim by a foot or two off the bottom with minimal interest in lures or bait and they are BIG! These fish don't attain this size by being dumb and many the presentation gets snubbed. Occasionally a feeder cruises by and cleans up the minnow pieces that have fallen off lures, it's then that the best chance to hook into a beastly Cedar Lake whitefish is had. But one needs to be prepared and have a bit of luck on their side ....

Our group had decided to set up a rig for whitefish while fishing in the ice shack and take turns keeping an eye on the rod and camera screen. A small hook was stuffed inside a minnow chunk and dropped to the bottom among a few other pieces. The idea is when a feeding whitefish comes along, the piece with the hook hidden inside gets sucked up and the fight is on. When it was my 15 minute shift at the whitefish rod, no more than five minutes had passed when one showed up. This one was hugging the bottom and eagerly sucked up three pieces of minnow but not the one with the hook. This fish continued to swim around beneath us inspecting lures and sucking up other minnow chunks while completely avoiding the one with the buried hook...

When my time was up at the whitefish rod, I quickly dropped down a minnow piece with a hook buried in it tied on to my ultra light rod with two pound test line. I had the rod along in case we were going for tulibee, which Cedar is also known to crank out trophies of. I wouldn't recommend using such a light set up for these giant whitefish but I had landed a few upper 30's incidental pike while perch fishing in the past so I had the confidence needed if I was to hook up. My minnow piece slowly sunk down through the water column, each second of descent feeling like an eternity. Luckily the whitefish was still around and right as my minnow piece hit the bottom, the fish zoomed over and sucked it up. The fight was on and the battle that followed was one I won't soon forget. The fish had weight and tenacity, pulling drag at will and after a few minutes I was able to get the upper hand. After some tense moments right under the ice, I was able to guide it up the hole and Frodo landed it with care.

With a cabin booked up that way for the end of June, it looks like the next crack at Cedar Lake will be in the open water season. There are still a few weeks left of ice fishing up north but it looks like schedules and life might not allow me one more chance on the ice this season.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Bees in the Shack

One of my favorite winter destinations in Manitoba is the Whiteshell Provincial Park in our eastern region. With a plethora of lakes to fish and species to target, one could never get bored. We found ourselves out that way braving the cold recently in search of tulibee and were rewarded with a day of stellar action and trophy class fish.

The sky was dark and littered with stars and the roads were bare and empty. It was 3:30 in the morning and we were on our way northeast for a day of fishing. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful moon rise as well as some faint northern lights and although the wake up was early, it already seemed worth it. After a cold start with the snowmobiles, we were on our way to our predetermined spot and were the first anglers out on the lake.

The first hour of daylight provided us with steady action. The small offerings tied to our lines were not easily refused at first and the fights that followed on the ultra lite rod and 4 lbs test line were treasured. The biggest bee to the ice came out at 19 inches and the smallest was around 15. A few were retained for meals and the smoker but many more were released to fight another day. While the weather wasn't ideal for running and gunning and seeking out other species, we had put ourselves in a productive area and did not need to change location all day. The bite slowed down over the lunch hour and into the afternoon but we were still lucky enough to mark plenty of fish and entice a few of them to bite.