Lake Trout Opener – 2019

Trout have steadily garnered more of my fishing attention over the last few years.  It started with a couple really successful brook trout trips, and was followed up by some pretty sweet rainbow and brown trout fishing on some stocked back lakes.  What was once a curiosity, has now become a full blown obsession.  So when the opportunity came to join a co-worker on his favorite lake on Lake Trout Opener, it was all I could do to keep from bursting at the seams with excitement.

Our trip began around 4am with a quick 45 minute drive north of Kingston to a quaint little back lake rumoured to contain a viable native population of these bruisers.

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We canoed to a few transitions zones in 40 to 50 FOW next to some deeper drop offs looking for spring time lakers.  In the spring, many of these lakes turn over which creates consistent temperatures throughout the water column.  Lake trout take advantage of this and unlike summer, the trout can be found throughout the water column.  We were trolling spoons at varying depths and connected with two very decent lakers within the first hour.  One estimated to be between 10 – 15 lbs. Tagically, we left the instructions for the net at home, and we were treated to a nice view of their tail fins as they swam away.  Dave, did manage to hook a third fish, and I miraculously remembered how the net worked.  Voila, finally a fish in the boat! 20190525_104001

The Lake Trout species is a perfect candidate to showcase on this blog considering that approximately 25% of the worlds population live in Ontario. they are only native to North America, but successful stocking efforts have established populations in Europe as well as South America.

We took a break from the fishing  and took a stroll in a nicely wooded section on the north side of the lake.  Lake trout are great, but there are many other species in Ontario worthy of attention.  Like this wonderful spotted newt.

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Or this four-toed salamander.20190525_092323

Or this young and fresh looking dryads saddle mushroom.20190525_092449

Spring is magical time in the woods here in Ontario.  Get out there, grab a rod, paddle, or shotgun and see what you can discover.

Cheers from the Wild,

 

Winter Trouting in Frontenac County- 2019

Southern Ontario has experienced some cold, albeit, intermittent, weather of late.   With minus double digits in the evenings for several days straight, my mind started to drift northward to possible ice fishing adventures.  Southern Ontario doesnt always see fishable ice before christmas each year, but it was looking like a real possibility this year.   With that possibility, the usual suspects and I began hatching plans for a quick trip during the holiday break.

Over the past few years our group has spent more efforts on pursuing the various trout species the province as to offer.  It started with some eventual success on a stocked rainbow trout lake, and was followed by excellent outings on several brook trout lakes.  Sprinkle in a few lake trout and splake trips into the mix and voila, you have a full blown hardwater trout addiction.  This year we decided to tackle a new goal.  The Ontario Trout Grand Slam.  One Brookie, rainbow, brown, and laker or splake.

Very few of the trout species remain native to southern ontario.  Heck, very few lakes have trout at all in our neighbourhood which makes our addiction and slam goals very difficult.  Thankfully the MNRF maintains a healthy stocking program in southern Ontario, all of which can be accessed via their website Fish Online.  This is where all our trout trips begin, and this will be where any description of where we fished, ends.  After all finding these lakes on your own is half the fun.

Here are some pics of the trip for your viewing pleasure.

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Although we fell short of completing the slam, we did manage to ice both a rainbow and a brown trout, not to mention a few other incidental coarse fish.   Ultimately, the chance of a competing a slam, without the use of a motorized vehicles to cover ground, is very difficult.  At least during the winter.

Cheers from the Wild

Late October Nip Trip

I had planned to go on my very first moose hunt this year.  Sadly due to some injuries sustained by some of the group members, the plan kinda fizzled out. I needed a consolation trip and happily jumped at the opportunity to fish Lake Nippissing with my Uncle instead.

The trip was a bit of gamble.  Neither my Uncle or I had experience fishing walleye in the fall on Lake Nippissing.  Not to mention the weather can be pretty shifty up there in October so we weren’t even guaranteed a full trip on the water.

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Fishing had definitely slowed down more than normal and the number of walleye caught were severely diminished from the summer time.  Fish didn’t seem to be stacked up on shoals or on structure making them much harder to target with worm harnesses. We toyed with the idea of switching to cranks but on a lake the size of Nippissing this can be a risky move as there is so much ground to cover.

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Thankfully we managed one walleye in the slot.  1 for 30 Isnt a bad ratio especially if you have conservation in mind.

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Walleye Tacos with a chili lime mayo is one of the finest ways to enjoy freshly caught walleye.

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Cheers from the Lake!

Albert

Wild Mushrooms – 2018

The fall season in Southern Ontario offers opportunities to get out into the wild and enjoy a number of activities, often many at the same time.  My buddy Dave and I headed out recently to take part of this seasonal overlap.  With a canoe on the roof of the car, rods and a shot-gun in the back, and a mushroom field guide-book in hand we headed out on some crown land north of Kingston.  Our aim was to target walleye early, stop periodically to see if we could take advantage of the early goose season, and walk some public land to see if we could find some edible mushrooms.

Unfortunately, the goose hunt didn’t really pan out and our fishing success was limited to one walleye and a few bass.  Thankfully the mushroom hunting salvaged the trip as we found a large number of lobster mushrooms and a few chanterelles among many other curious fungal species. Pictures have been included below for your viewing pleasure.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

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Hank Shaw Book Tour Dinner at Antler

Hank Shaw. The man, the Chef, the culinary genius.  For those who don’t know, Hank Shaw is a chef hailing out of California, who in my opinion, has revolutionized wild game cooking.  He maintains a website that documents his numerous wild game recipes and has crystallized his extensive knowledge into several books.   Were not just talking a pot of ground venison chili either (although he has a great recipe for this in Buck Buck Moose), but elegant meals such as Duck aux poivre, venison in morel sauce and barbacoa.

Hank’s recipes exude a rare combination of worldliness and technical detail all supported by solid wild game theory.  He seems to be constantly exploring foreign cuisines and creatively merging them with wild game.  His efforts and dedication to perfection are obvious in each new recipe I attempt.  My current status of “no failed recipes” is likely due to Hank’s expertly crafted recipes more than my skills to implement them.

While cruising around on his website I noticed that his recent tour for his new book, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail had some Canadian dates.  More importantly he was planning a book dinner in Toronto on a date I actually had a chance of making.  Even more importantly, the dinner was to be held at famous Antler Restaurant; a place I’ve always wanted to visit.  Everyone seems to know this place by its chef’s recent clashes with vegan protesters.  I imagine though that anyone who stops in soon learns that there is more behind this place than just the one dimensional media coverage it has received.  The chef, Michael Hunter, has some serious cooking chops and knows his way around Canada’s wild game species.   A simple call to Antler, and moments later I had a reservation for this event.  Now I just had to wait a few months.

The day arrived.  It was a Monday, and I had a just started a week of vacation. I left Kingston in my rear view mirror around 2 pm and arrived in Toronto an hour or so early.  I decided to kill a bit of time in the nearby bar “the Loveless Cafe”.  It was a good choice as the beverages were delicious and the decor was really getting me in the mood for the game dinner that awaited me at Antler.

The exterior of the restaurant is simple and humble.  The meal, although comprised of simple ingredients, was much more extravagant with an obvious flair that showcased species covered by Hank’s new book (Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail) and local igredients.  The menu was a combination of Hank’s and Michael’s creations and I could spend pages raving about it.  Instead I’ll let you browse the menu and give your saliva glands a workout while perusing some pictures.

(Both the terrine and duck liver mousse were light, flavorful, and worthy of praise)

(I eaten lots of rabbit before but nothing seemed to compare to the delicious Rabbit Ragu Hank and Michael pulled out of their hats for this meal)

(Much of my upland game culinary experiences have centered around grouse and woodcock.  I can honestly say that the main dish of Pheasant Cacciatore was every bit as good as the finest forest chicken I have enjoyed)

As the meal progressed, my interest in taking pictures waned and was replaced by a desire to enjoy as much of these delicious meals as possible.  You can’t eat pictures right.  Not to mention I became preoccupied with sharing hunting stories with fellow wild game enthusiasts that sat on either side of me.  In my experience, most hunters jump at the chance to tell the tale of their last seasons hunt, even if they have a full mouth and especially if they are somewhat new to the game (myself included).

To cap the experience, Hank actually made the rounds to chat with those who attended the dinner and was more than willing to share his experience and answer questions about specific meals or species.  I can honestly say I was impressed with the depth of his knowledge.  Really though, after reading so many of his articles and trying out his recipes, it didn’t really surprise me.

Thanks again to the staff at Antler and to Hank for putting on such a great event and for all the efforts put into exploring wild game and bringing it into the mainstream.

Cheers from the table,

Albert

2018 Turkeys

I have been turkey hunting for close to 5 years now, but haven’t really had any success until the last few years. Of course this has nothing to do with my hunting ability (or lack thereof)…right?  Instead, I choose to attribute my new found success to the property I now hunt and three years of turkey hunting with some skilled fellow hunters.  These gents grew up hunting the fields, hardwoods and shield ridges of the area and they seem to know the local wildlife like the back of their hands.    They taught me the sounds to listen for, animal habits and patterns, how to call and basically all the tid-bits of information required to understand how to Turkeys.   Exposure to seasoned individuals like these was exactly the thing I needed in order to cut my turkey teeth.  I’m certain it is this experience by osmosis that eventually led to my first successful solo turkey hunt and the harvesting of my second bird of the year (my first Tom).

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We started out around 5 am, and headed into the woods on one of our favorite properties to hunt. The property was a mix of active agricultural lands, small pasture and hay fields,  and a large maple bush located next to a small lake.  This is a dream mix for turkey hunters and we often encounter many birds here during deer season.

Despite the perfect habitat and some promising gobbles, we struck out that morning.  Deflated yet still optimistic we returned to our vehicles.  I wasn’t quite done though and decided to head to another area at about 10 am where we had harvested turkeys in the past.  I settled in to a rhythm of short nap, wake up, call, repeat… After about the third cycle I woke up to see three birds staring at my hen and strutter decoys from about 30 yards away.  my gun lay on the grass beside me and my decoys were between me and the birds.  This was going to be tricky.

Thankfully the birds milled about behind some tree cover as they continued to size up the strutter, reluctant to make a move on the hen.  This gave me a few periodic moments where I could inch the gun up to my shoulder and take a shot.  Moments later, a Jake was down and my yearly tradition of wild turkey for mothers day dinner was saved.

The following Friday, my co-worker came into my office around 11 and casually joked about leaving early.  I looked up from my work and paused.  There was an awkward moment of silence where our minds started to process the possibility of actually following through with this.  Were my projects caught up? Did I have any meetings later that day?  Our mutual realization that we actually could take the afternoon off started to become obvious and our conversation changed into more of a “how to” than a “should we”.

Fast forward, we returned to the clearing where I shot my first Jake hoping the other two would still be there.  Again, we settled into the short nap, wake up, call regime… Things were quiet with the exception of a group of flickers that seemed to be playing in the clearing.  Then a barred owl chimed in and the game changed dramatically.

An immediate gobble sounded from further in the woods.  The owl sounded off. The gobbler returned in kind.  I struck up the box call and let out a series of 4-5 yelp kee-kees, which at first, didn’t seem to be phasing the gobbler at first.  The owl went quiet and suddenly the gobbler started to take an interest and began returning my calls.  After about 3 round of this I let off the call and waited.  The gobbler seemed to be getting closer and continued to gobbler in efforts of attracting our non existent hen.  Moments later I made visual contact and excitedly reported to Dave that there were two birds and both were sizable.  I continued with some light putting and purring and the birds continued to advance, albeit at a snails pace.  Finally they were both in view, the smaller bird taking my left shooting lane and the bigger sticking to the right.  We began a count down to shooting and were about to pull the trigger when the birds decided to cross paths.  The larger decided to trade places with the smaller and the shot clock was back on. 3, 2, 1….My big bird was down and the smaller bird was off into the wind.

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Despite missing out on the double, the experience was good fun and full of lessons to be learned.  I’ve done my best to summarize these below in order to help out other beginners out there.

My Tips

1) Turkey hunting is an all day affair.  Mornings, as exciting as they are with all the calling and hootenanny, don’t hold a monopoly on bird harvests.  My solo bird was harvested around 10:55 am.

2) Remember the location of every bird you locate.  You may not connect with it on your first encounter, but knowing its general vicinity can go along way to help you harvest it at a later time or day.

3) Be quiet.  Be still.  Be Patient. A gobbler may stop calling back, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped looking for you.  Patience kills turkeys.

4) Turkeys don’t always come in loud and aggressive.  Be ready for the subtle silent approach.  My bird came in with a group of jakes and didn’t make a peep.

Good Luck!

Cheers form the Wild,

Al