Im lucky to have experienced quite a few hunting and fishing firsts this past year including tagging my first buck. Thankfully this trend seems to be continuing into 2015 with the recent harvest of my first splake and snowshoe hare on a trip to some crown land near Deep River.
The trip was arranged though a friend (Oliver) and a work mate (Dave), with the destination being a land lease located near Deep River. We had spent some of our fall grouse hunting trip installing insulation in the cabin and were excited to reap the rewards. Not to mention, we would be joined on this trip by some of Oliver’s family and a friend of his named Hossam who was here from Saudi Arabia for work. The hope for this trip was to tie into some splake on a small stocked lake located near the cabin (see my previous post to find stocked lakes https://wildsofontario.com/2013/04/02/i-wonder-what-is-in-that-lake-fish-on-line-gis-tool/ ) and to give Hossam a truly Canadian experience in the process. I’ve learned that the area near the cabin is riddled with trails and is home to an abundance of small game. Knowing this I made sure to bring the Stoeger sxs 20ga in case an opportunity presented itself.
The trip began on a Friday afternoon where I met up with oliver’s family to head up together to the cabin. Both Dave and Oliver, being the keeners they are, had already headed up Thursday night and already had a chance to test the waters for some splake.
We dove up highway 15 until we met up with Hossam near Arnprior. After exchanging some introductions we packed up Hossam’s gear and got back on the road to finish the drive. We arrived to the trail head which led to the camp late in the evening tired from the drive and ready to rest up for a big day of fishing the next morning. Unfortunately the hard work had just began as we attempted to follow a foot trail into the cabin with the snowmobile in waist deep snow. This is no easy task, especially when you have downed trees to contend with and tons of gear to haul. Still, we made it to the cabin more or less intact and were happily surprised to see 4 decent splake which had been caught by Oliver and Dave during the day. With visions of monster fish swimming in our heads, we nestled into our sleeping bags for the night.
Boy were we glad to have the old 340 Polaris to pull us and our gear around.
The morning greeted us with -5 degrees Celsius, a picturesque sky dotted with clouds, and some delicious Arabic coffee and dates supplied by Hossam. After a hearty breakfast and some of the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had, we loaded up our gear and headed back down the trail towards the vehicles and beyond to the stocked lakes.
The weather held for most of the day but was eventually replaced by a moderate snow storm near the evening.
We originally set our group up near where Dave and Oliver had caught the fish the previous day in 12 to 20 FOW. Despite having six guys with lines in the water, fishing was slow throughout the day. Both set lines with active minnows and jigging lines with tubes and spoons were used.
For those not familiar with Splake (Salvelinus namaycush X Salvelinus fontinalis), they are a hybridized species that are a cross between brook trout and lake trout. Interestingly enough, the splake is a genetically stable hybrid and is capable of reproduction, however, reproduction is not common due to behavioural traits and the fish are considered behaviourally sterile. For this reason, Splake are often stocked in many lakes throughout Ontario to create “put and take” fisheries. More information is available here https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/splake .
Although the fishing was slow for us, there was another group on the lake that seemed to be having the best luck they have ever had with multiple 5-7lb fish caught. Interestingly enough, we noticed these folks were getting most of there fish in the deeper sections of the lake in about 35 FOW.
We adjusted our holes a bit and kept fishing until the early evening. Suddenly, our lines lit up and we were marking hits on several of our lines. It seems the fish had moved from deeper water to the mid range and our 16 – 20 FOW lines were getting hit.
In the end I managed to catch my very first splake, albeit a tiny 10″ er. Really nothing to write home about, however it was my first and I am happy for the chance at it. Luckily I had an opportunity at a larger fish, however I misjudged its size and foolishly thought I could hand line it in. Lesson learned. Fish lost.
Humbled, and with thoughts of better opportunities for tomorrow, we packed the sled up and started the trek back to the camp.
The weather the following day was equally as nice as the previous and the sun seemed to warm up the woods. As most rabbit hunters know (or so ive been told), rabbits like to sun themselves in these conditions, especially when they occur after long cold periods. With this knowledge, a few of us strapped on our shotguns and proceeded down the trails in search of some elusive rabbits.
To be clear, I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Lots of people have given me advice on how to target hoppers but I had yet to actually bag one. regardless we carried on down the trails for quite a distance peering into the woods for a glance at a hopper. Fresh tracks scattered around fallen logs and pine brush promised of action yet none had materialized. I knew from some more experienced hunters that spotting rabbits on foot was very difficult this time of year since their fur becomes white and they camouflage well with the snowy backdrop. Knowing this, I recalled a piece of advice I’ve received in the past: “don’t try to look for the rabbit cause they are too hard to see. Try to spot the eyes and the ears instead”. Both eyes and ears provide good contrast with the woods around. With this in mind I focussed my attention on areas with fresh tracks hoping to spot the tell tale black dot or grey tuffs of hair. Much to my delight I spotted a single black dot topped with a tuff of grey sitting still in a pool of sunlight about 25 yards back in the bush. A perfect distance for the Stoeger coach gun. I raised the barrel, beaded on the black dot, and took the shot.
Even with 7 1/2 shot, one shot was all it took. As I approached to claim the rabbit, I immediately noticed the elongated back legs and the sheer length of the animal. This was no puny cottontail, this was a full blown snowshoe hare. My first.
The rest of the day flew by in a blurr or residual excitement from harvesting my first hare. Much of it was spent admiring the sheer beauty of the landscape in winter. It seems each season in this area has its own special charm, and winter is no exception. Talk between the group revolved around old hunting stories and we were all lucky enough to chat with Hossam about his hunting experiences in Saudi Arabia as they compare to Canada.
Early afternoon arrived and a few of us packed up our gear to head back to the city. The weekend drew to a close and after a round of heartfelt goodbyes to the group that stayed behind, we started our drive back.
Once again another trip was complete with a great group of folks in some of the most beautiful wilderness around. I’m very thankful to have friends such as these and even more thankful to have the opportunity to take hunt and fish in some of the best conditions Southern Ontario has to offer.
Cheers from the Wild