Collins Lake Bass Tournament (2017)

It’s a week after bass opener, and the annual Collins Lake bass tournament is finally here.  Its the day I look forward to all year, the day I can’t miss.  Is it because there is money on the line?  Because I get to compete with some like minded individuals? Because I get to spend 1 and a half days straight on the water with no distractions? Heck no, its because Fatima, our host, cooks up some unbelievably tasty Portuguese food, which, I get to stuff unceremoniously into my gullet.  Seriously, some of the magic she pulls off could kick some serious butt on master chef Canada, or other shows of the like.  Im talking as good as those tasty videos everyone seems to posts on their Facebook wall.

I could go on about the delectable Portuguese treats for paragraphs, but since this isn’t a cooking blog I’ll get down to the details of the tournament.

For those who haven’t read past posts the tournament is structured like so:

  • $100 entry per person
  • 4 fish limit: 2 weighed in the first morning (with an option to cull in the afternoon), and an additional 2 fish weighed in on Sunday morning.
  • Live bait is allowed

We had a total of 15 participants this year, from all across the province.  The weather seemed favourable, at least for a couple hours each morning, and we were a week after bass opener, which, we were hoping would lead to some calmer fish.  Hoping was the key word. Unfortunately, our hopes were in vain as the fishing was slow.   The fish seemed apprehensive and the bite was light.  Not to mention our afternoons were ruined by some pretty significant winds.  Ever try to cast a senko in 30 kph winds?  I don’t recommend it.

DSC_0008

DSC_0014

The tournament progressed, and although weights were smaller than past years, we still had a good group of folks near the top after the first day.  there was a lot of room for anyone to run away with the tournament.

My personal weight was much lower than I was used to on Collins.  It seems my luck had run out a bit.  I wasn’t the only one with bum luck that day.  On the way into the launch we came across a boat having motor problems.  it seemed like something we couldn’t fix on the water so we tied the beast to the green machine and towed it back to port.  First time towing for me and the Green Machine.

DSC_0016

Weights on the last day were nothing to brag about.  most folks added another 2-4 pounds to their bag.

The winner (my uncle) finished with 9lbs for 4 fish followed by Jim at just over 8lbs, and Jody following close behind.

DSC_0053 (ii)DSC_0058

Congrats to the winners.  Fishing conditions were tough and each of you earned it.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

Early Season Bucketmouths

The blog has grown cold.  Cobwebs have gathered in the digital corners of the site leaving many, including myself, sad.  What the hell happened? After all I was on a role  with my outings… Well, life happened, as a matter of fact.  Project schedules at work, family time, etc.. Things seem to have piled up leaving little to no time for me to continue my explorations of the Wilds of Ontario.  I know, boo hoo, first world problems…

Thankfully there is always bass opener.  I’m pretty sure it would take a category 5 hurricane to keep me from participating in this, the holiest of holies, Bassmass!  With Schedules on hold, and a solid morning carved away from any commitment, I found myself and two others headed to Loughborough Lake for some greenback action.  My compadres were Dave, a regular here on WOO, and Jamie, a beginner fisherman who made his debut on the fishing scene with an 18lb rainbow trout.  Talk about beginners luck! Jamie had never caught a largemouth bass prior to our trip and was eager to explore what all the fuss was about.

Loughborough was an obvious choice for a first bass outing: no tournaments there to my knowledge, great habitat for both small and largemouth bass, lots of water to cover, and the right orientation to take advantage of the southwesterly wind we expected that day.

We fished the eastern basin heading from the centre east and immediately were met with action.  As luck would have it, Jamie’s Beggineer’s luck streak was still hot and he managed to catch the first fish: a healthy 1lber.  All three anglers were soon into many more bass with the odd pike to boot.  things had worked out exactly as I had hoped for Jamie’s first outing.  Considering the conversations we’ve had since, It seems we may have another convert!

 

 

Bass opener was great.  A little too great.  In fact I liked it so much I decided to extend the opening weekend into Monday.  Frank, another regular on WOO, was in town all the way from Pennsylvania, and was looking to target some of the local toothy critters.  His visits had become something of a yearly thing but as of late, they seemed to always conflict with bad weather or my busy work schedule.  The wind was up so our original plan to fish the St. Lawrence had to be revised.  Big water + big wind + my small boat is not a good combination, so after a quick scouting trip to some sketchy launches, we decided to head to an old standby: Newborough  lake.

After a tough start, we finally started to hook up with pike and bass.

DSC_0027

Frank has been talking (and dreaming) and talking of connecting with a 10+ lb pike for a while now.  This isn’t such a pipe dream for an outing on the St. Lawrence, but it is certainly a tall order on the back lakes around Kingston.  We hammered the bays and weed edges with all manner of spinner baits in a desperate search for Frank’s elusive prize.  All to no avail. However, on a long bomb cast into a weedy bay frank hooked up with what turned out to be a tank of a largemouth, weighing in at a whopping 5lbs, 1oz.  Respectable for sure, and quite the catch considering we were fishing immediately after the busiest bass fishing day of the year.

DSC_0019

This was Frank’s biggest largemouth to date, which left him happy.  It wasn’t what he wanted, but it certainly left him with a smile on his face.  I’m reminded of the classic rock lyric: “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!”  Indeed he got what he needed, a big fish, just a bit less toothy than what he was looking for.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

Early Season Crappie

Spring heralds a season of renewal.  The landscape begins to green and the cycle outdoor activities begins again.  One of the very first of these activities, that are non snow related, is chasing the unique fishing experience that crappies provide.

Crappies are well established in Southern Ontario, especially the Kingston area.  With lakes like The Rideaus, the Cataraqui River, and many others, Crappies are a firm fixture in the Kingston Wildscape.  In pursuit of these be-speckled beauties, we launched onto Loughborough Lake on an overcast Saturday, Mid April.  Armed with slip floats and small jigs, we fished 7-15 FOW and immediately hooked up with more panfish than we could count.

We ended the day with a couples crappies, tons of panfish, and a few overeager out of season bass (all of which were promptly released).  We didn’t get onto the schools of crappies we expected, but we suspect the cold weather and overcasts skies may have had something to do with it.

Enjoy the Pictures.

 

Ice, Ice, Rainbow

My focus this winter has been stocked trout.  Here in Southern Ontario there are numerous opportunities for stocked trout including speckled, lake, brown, splake and rainbow.  After success with splake and brook trout It seemed like a good time to chase after another trout species and there was a small local lake we had in mind.

Dave and I had tried the lake before with no real success but still remained optimistic for the lake.   After doing the math, based in the size of the lake, the location of the beaten path, and the number of stocked rainbows, there had to be catchable fish there.  So, with confidence from my recent trout trips, we decided to give the small lake another shot.

Aside from a bout of car sickness on the way to the lake, things went well, and after a nap, I was feeling up to actually fishing.  May be it was the nap on the ice, or maybe it was waking up to a set line flag that turned into a beautiful Raindbow caught by Dave. Either way I was suddenly well enough to fish and moments later I had a decent hit.  I fought the rainbow for a few minutes and it seemed like there was a real chance I was going to catch some chrome.  Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and the fish got off.  Even still, a fish and a miss is way more success than we have ever had on the lake, and in my mind that counts as a win.  As a plus, this was Dave’s first Rainbow trout! Congrats Dave!

dsc_0042-ii

Congrats Dave on your first Rainbow Trout.  I wonder what to target next, Lakers or browns?

Cheers from the ice,

Albert

 

Southern Ontario Brook Trout

Brook trout hold a place of reverence among many anglers for their colour, fighting ability, and taste.  For some anglers like my dad they have attained a place of reverence among the freshwater species of our province.  As a lad, I can recall growing up listening to him tell stories about fishing for these colourful creatures in the local streams around the outskirts of Bancroft.  By his account they were plentiful, sensitive, yet easy to catch (if you knew how), and a  source of a great number of fond memories.  Personally, I can recall some of our camping trips to Algonquin park where my dad would pull our station wagon over and disappear down the side of the embankment, only to return with a few of these little creatures.  Pan-fried brook trout over a campstove was my first real taste of wild food, and very likely one of the sparks that ignited my passion for fishing for these delicious fish.

Times change, populations grow, and land gets developed.  In turn our, impact to the environment (at least locally in Ontario) sent the population of brook trout into somewhat of a nose dive in many areas.  In the back of my mind I knew that development and things like agricultural run off can effect the water quality of small streams.  But this effect really didn’t hit me hard until my dad reported back after a return visit to some of those streams a few years ago.  I’m told he only caught a single trout for the whole trip.  Sadly I felt like the days of bountiful brook trout were lost.

My best days fishing brook trout have been in the middle of Algonquin park, and in Gaspésie, Quebec.  Fish were plentiful on both trips, however, in each case I had to work extremely hard, and sometimes travel for days, to find the places of historic abundance.  Anytime I tried to catch them locally, I always ended up with an empty basket. After these local trips, my view of brook trout fishing was fairly pessimistic.  My conclusion: good easy local brook trout fishing just didn’t exist any more in southern Ontario.

My pessimistic view changed during a grouse hunting/fishing trip this past fall, after having some unexpected success with the square tails in a not to distant location.  Our goal was grouse, but we ended up pulling several brook trout out of the lakes on the way.  Still uncertain about the fishing, I planned to return one day to fully explore the area.   I reported my success to my uncle who was intrigued and suggested we do a winter trip.  I got to work right away scouring the MNR fish online tool to scout the area, and contacted cottages in the area to secure accommodations.  When the dust settled we had planned a three day trip planned for the area that was not too far for any of us to drive.  I could tell you where we went, but in my experience, half the fun is finding these locations out for yourself.  Fish Online

Day 1 arrived on January 18th, and we met at our rental cottage and prepared the snow mobiles and gear for a days run into the woods.  Although we got off to a late morning start we were still hopefull.  Afterall, there were five of us, two snowmobiles, an array of fishing rods and tackle.  We could cover a lot of ground with that set up.

dsc_0257-i

We started the trip on the lake where I had some success the previous fall and spread out along the shoreline.  There was at least 12″ of ice wherever we drilled with a max of 14″ in some places.  Simple live bait rigs with gads were the ticket and within the first 30 minutes, I had 3 fish on the ice.  Another two were iced among the remaining members of our group and the fish kept biting.  We ended the day with a respectable 10 fish iced, about the same lost at the hole, and countless more missed hits.  Tired yet happy, we returned to our cottage for a celebratory beverage.

dsc_0269-ii

Fresh fish on ice!

dsc_0271-ii

We beat the sun up on the second day and started our trek back into some of the more remote lakes.  The ride in was several kilometers and things got pretty hairy with three dudes on the back of a snowmobile.  Half way in the three man machine was working a bit hard so we moved one of the guys to a towed sled.  We resumed our trek and made it to the lakes.  Thankfully I was the navigator on this trip which secured me a permanent position on one of the cushioned seats.

dsc_0283-ii

One of the gents with his first brook trout ever through the ice.

dsc_0299-ii

Fishing was tough on the second day, and we worked real hard moving around the lake to try and locate fish.  Our efforts paid off and we racked up another 6 fish on the day, with the majority of them being bigger than the previous day.  Shallow wood seemed to work well for us as well as rock points.  Just like that, another satisfying, albeit hard, day was behind us.

img_2559img_2560

dsc_0351-ii

Having satisfied ourselves on brookies over the first two days, we decided to switch things up on the third day and target a different lake that was stocked with splake.  For those who don’t know, these fish are hybrids between a lake trout and a brook trout.  This presents some added complexity to fishing for them as they have been known to behave like both species whenever the mood strikes them.  With this knowledge in our minds, we varied our presentations with a mix of setlines and a couple jigging presentations in deeper water.  As luck would have it, the splake were feeling brookish on the third day and while exploring the area with a depth finder, I looked back to see that my Gad had disappeared.  Not sure what to expect, I began pulling up my line and eventually pulled my gad right out of the hole.  Seconds later I felt a familiar tug and I set the hook on a beautiful 5lb splake.  I eased the tank up from bottom and attempted to remove the line from the gad so I could use my rod.   Murphy’s law kicked in and the line snapped.  I was left with a gad was in one hand and business end of the line n the other.  With no more time to be gentle, I hauled the fish up and grabbed the fluorocarbon leader.  The fish crested the hole and I took a breath.

dsc_0338-ii

img_2580

 

Aside from the interesting fight, I also noted the deep gold colour of the belly of this fish.  Most of the splake I have caught in the past were distinctly silvery, however this one seemded to lean towards its brook trout genes.  I’m guessing the lake may have something to do with the colour.

This splake happened to be my largest of the species to date.

dsc_0344-ii

We visited one more small lake and added a few more brookies to our tally.  All said and done, we caught about 22 brookies and one big splake between 5 of us over the course of 2 and a half days.

Its not the big numbers I used to hear my dad talk about, but its definitely respectable for the size of the lakes we were on and for where we were fishing.  Catching that splake also made the trip real special.

Stocked lakes.  They are out there and are stocked for a reason, so go fish them!  There are so many reasons to target these lakes like the more you target stocked lakes, the less your focussing on natural strains of fish, which preserves the genetic diversity of our province.  Also, part of your license fees go to stocking these lakes so why not reap some of the rewards from a program you help fund.

Cheers from the ice,

Albert

 

 

 

Public Land Hunting and Fishing

Public lands are tough.  Fishing and hunting opportunities and often limited due to over use and too much competition.  Or are they?

We decided to figure this out for our selves last weekend.  Dave and I loaded up the car with the canoe, our shotguns and fishing rods and headed north of Kington to the north Frontenac parklands.  Snow had fallen in the Kingston area the day before however it had melted in the city proper.  This was not the case as we approached Parham on highway 38.  Snow had began to accumulate and it as obvious the plow had made its rounds on the roads to the north.

dsc_0635-ii

The snow was a surprise although not altogether unwelcome.  Prints would be fresh and our quarry (grouse) would be more visible.  We continued on in anticipation, admiring the fresh blanket of white and the quaint architecture of small town Ontario.

dsc_0639-ii

We arrived to our destination, parked the car at the trail head and began our hike.  We intended to camp that evening but decided it would be better to get on the trail early and worry about our camp later in the day.  With our hopes high we began our trek with guns loaded and eyes peeled into the mysterious Frontenac Parklands.

dsc_0660-ii

The parklands have long been on our list of properties to visit.  These parklands constitute a large area north of highway 7 from Lanark county west to highway 41.  These lands are a prime example of the Canadian shield where rock outcrops and plutons are common.  Topography is highly variable and the forests contain a rich variety of conifers and deciduous trees.

These lands are also home to some pretty exquisite looking lakes containing all manner of finned creatures.  One of the more prominent of these being the brook trout.  With this knowledge in our heads, we were sure to pack our spinning rigs and so after several kilometers of hiking we stopped at one such lake rumoured to contain these desirable creatures.  To be clear, many of these lakes are put and take, as in they are stocked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  We tied on a couple of small silver spinner baits (panther martins and mepps to be exact) and took a cast into the pristine waters.

dsc_0665-iidsc_0667-ii

After a few casts Dave sounded off that he had a hit, and a follow and another hit.  Seconds later he had a fish squirming on the bank and our impressions of the area grew.  Minutes later I felt a familiar tug and set the hook on a chunky little brooky.

dsc_0671-ii

dsc_0673-ii

These creatures are impressive, for their fight, but also for their colour.  Nothing looks quite like a brook trout sporting some colour on its belly.

dsc_0669-ii

dsc_0678-ii

After a couple fish from the first lake, we moved on in search of another quarry: grouse.  We walked for some time taking in the scenery and covering alot of ground however no grouse were seen.  The curse of public land seemed to be on us.  Although I’m not one to put much stock in the metaphysical, the curse seemed as real as the ATV tire tracks we followed along the path.

dsc_0680-ii

We continued to hike along the path for several kilometers, and remained grouseless.    Discouraged we decided to change our tactic by taking a smaller path into the bush.  The path began to petered out into nothing until we ended up hiking in old logging cuts.  With all the small bushes and conifers around we were sure we would scare up a grouse.  Approximately 16 kilometres later, many of which were off the beaten path in the woods, we sluggishly stumbled upon one bird.  One bird which, we were not even close to being ready for.  It seemed we had our answer to the public land question.  We did however manage to get a couple more brook trout for the pan from another little lake, which rounded out are dinner nicely.

dsc_0746-ii

We visited several different lakes in the area and drank in as much of the scenery as we could in one and a half days.  Regardless of how much this place gets hit by other hunters and trail riders, it hasn’t detracted from it’s beauty.

dsc_0721-iidsc_0726-iidsc_0734-ii

dsc_0740-ii

It also hasn’t detracted from the deer population which seems to be thriving despite the numerous tree stands we encountered.

dsc_0710-ii

dsc_0712-ii

North Frontenac is gem.  Its an amazing amount of land generally close to Kingston.   Although it receives a lot of pressure, it remains a great destination for many other activities.  The area boasts several campsites and lots of room to roam free on or off trail.  Bring a topo map, compass and enjoy!

Cheers from the wild

Albert

 

White Water Canoeing on the Madawaska

This blog could be accused of focussing too much on the Hunting and Fishing aspects of Southern Ontario and I would be hard pressed to refute the accusation.  I mean they are my two favourite past times, which explains why they often make their way to the forefront of this blog.

However I do occasonally get a chance to step outside of my cofort zone and try something new and exciting.  Last weekend was such an occasion as I was invited to a bachelor party which included a white water canoeing component.

The trip took place on the lower portion of the Madawaska starting at the Paddlers coop in Palmer Rapids and finishing some 41 kms in Griffith.  The route took us through the Lower Madawaska River Provincial Park and over several sets of rapids.

The trip started following an early morning of fishing on a small back lake I frequented in my youth.  We camped at the Paddlers Co-op for the night and awaited the remaining 3 members of our group to arrive.  For those who have never been, the Paddlers coop is a great location to get your learn on when it comes to white water.  The facility is a non-for profit organization owned and run by paddlers who really enjoy what they do.  Its also a great place to get outfitted for the river if you don’t have your own gear (https://paddlerco-op.ca/). It’s funny, I’ve spent a ton of time in the Bancroft area as a kid and had no idea a gem like the paddlers Coop existed.

DSC_0149 (ii)

DSC_0152(ii)Everyone who has ever camped at bon echo or head up highway 41 knows the Kaladar General Store.  There aren’t a whole lot of options for gas in the area and the KGS is a great spot for fuel and odds and ends you may need for your outdoor adventures.

DSC_0161 (ii)Typical foggy morning landscapes from the Bancroft area.

DSC_0200DSC_0201DSC_0243 (ii)

The first day started with a leisurely paddle from the Paddler Coop.  There are several flat stretches right off the hop just downriver from the Coop.

DSC_0255DSC_0260(ii)

DSC_0273 (ii(

Aumonds Rapids (shown above) was the very first set we encountered, and my very first set as a newly minted white water canoeist.  Although it was only a class I in low water, it seemed huge to a newbie.  We did scout this rapid, which in hind sight was probably more for my benefit than safety.  Glad the guys eased me into these things!

But lets not down play the importance of scouting when canoeing whitewater.  Scouting is a vital component of white water canoeing in order to stay safe.  Scouting allows the paddler to assess the level of difficulty of each rapid set and allows for the development of a game plan prior to entering the set.  Rocks can be game enders and since they can be difficult to see from the low angle of a canoe, scouting is critical.  If I haven’t already sold you on it consider this:  Water conditions can vary greatly from season to season or even between rain events and rapids can change drastically over time.

DSC_0281

DSC_0286(ii)

(View of snake rapids above)

Fishing on the trip was dominated by 1-2 lb smallmouth bass.  They seemed to be everywhere in the river and very hungry.  They also made a delicious addition to our evening meals.

DSC_0282(i)

DSC_0387 (ii)

DSC_0288 (ii)DSC_0299 (ii)

To be honest, I was pretty terrified of running some of these rapids.  Most were Class I to II however there were some class III rapids, which on paper seems beyond my confidence level.  Good thing the other gents on the trip were pros and more than willing to teach me the ropes.

DSC_0317 (ii)DSC_0325 (ii)DSC_0328(ii)DSC_0333 (ii)DSC_0339 (ii)DSC_0345 (ii)DSC_0352 (ii)DSC_0354 (ii)DSC_0358 (ii)

(Nailed it!)

DSC_0377 (ii)DSC_0392 (ii)DSC_0423DSC_0436(ii)DSC_0439 (ii)DSC_0457 (i)DSC_0457 (iii)

(Above: Dave crushing Rifle Chute)

DSC_0476 (ii)DSC_0482 (ii)

White water canoeing has inherent risks, and spilling can be a frequent occurrence.  Thankfully the Madawaska is a fairly forgiving river in the sense that most rapids are followed by slow moving pools which easily accommodates spilled paddlers.  Swimming to shore from these pools is usually fairly quick and easy to do.

DSC_0507 (ii)DSC_0516(iii)

(The author hitting split rock rapids)

River features like rapids and specific rocks often come with weird and quirky names.  Some seem to have no meaning at all, while others are aptly named.  We encountered one such feature ( a rock) in Raquette Rapids dubbed “The Canopener”.  This rock is located immediately down stream of the rapids that canoes often get pinned against, leaving them “open” the current. According to the locals, it can be nearly impossible to remove the canoes from the rocks during high water.

DSC_0552 (ii)DSC_0567 (ii)DSC_0586 (ii)

The addiction to white-water grew over the trip and by the end, I was eagerly anticipating the next set.  Definitely a trip I would do again.

Cheers from the rapids,

Albert