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!

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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.

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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.

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Fresh fish on ice!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

Salisbury Steak – Venison Styles

As winter arrives here in southern Ontario, It seems my appetite shifts towards the hearty side of the food spectrum.  And lets face it, nothing says hearty like Salisbury steak.  Since I have an abundance of venison this year, and I am on a tear cooking venison, I decided to take a proverbially kick at the venison Salisbury steak can.  This was to be a big change from the meat pies and sausages I typically make with ground venison.

Salisbury steak is a moniker most people recognize but may not really know what it is.  So what is it?  Salisbury Steak is a traditional meal heralding from the united states, and created by Dr. J. H. Salisbury.  This meal gained in popularity throughout the USA as it was seen as a more affordable alternative to expensive traditional steak cuts.  This meal, or meals like it are popular around the world, having equivalents in countries like Japan (ハンバーグ – hanbāgu), Russia(котлета рубленая – kotleta rublenaya), South Korea(햄버그 스테이크 – hambeogeu seuteikeu) and the UK (grill steaks) as well as many others.

Salisubury steak recipes are plentiful and can vary widely.  This dish can be made with beef, pork, venison or any combination of the three.  Accompanying sauces can also vary widely from beef broth based, to cream to tomato based  (all of which taste delicious).

My recipe includes the following:
3 strips of bacon
1lb of venison (or equivalent)
2 table spoons of breadcrumbs or ground butter crackers
2 teaspoons of thyme
a pinch of savoury
1 egg
a dash of salt and pepper
one small yellow onion
mushrooms (button works or chanterelles for the foragers out there)
1 cup of beef base and water
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
extra water if to desired consistency
water and cornstarch solution to desired consistency.

I start by frying the bacon strips to a crisp redish brown.  Removed the bacon, chop, and set aside.  Save some of the bacon fat in the pan for future use.  This will add another layer of taste complexity to your dish while not over powering it with bacon deliciousness.

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Mix together the 1lb of ground venison, 2 table spoons of breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons of thyme, pinch of savoury, salt, pepper and the egg.  If the mixture is too moist, feel free to add a bit more breadcrumbs.

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Shape into small patties or “steaks” for a more traditional feel. Heck, you could turn them into miniature deer shapes if you really felt like it.

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At this point I reheat my bacon drippings and place the steaks into the hot pan for a few minutes on each side.  The goal is to obtain a golden brown sear.  Once browned, removed from the pan and set aside.

Next, sharpen up your knife and chop up the mushrooms and onion.  Some people slice the onion into rings for aesthetic value, me, I’m all about the taste, so I chop or mince.  Why? more surface area = more flavour.

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Add the onion and mushroom to the pan and sauté until lightly cooked.  Add the cup of beef broth, 1 tsp of W sauce and simmer on medium heat.  freely add salt and pepper to taste here and once your ready add the steaks and cover.  Cook for about 10 mins.

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Once cooked through, I remove the steaks and add to a plate (with whatever side you desire) and I finish the sauce with the cornstarch and water mixture.  If you haven’t thickened a sauce this way before, remember to constantly stir and add little bits at a time to prevent clumping or over thickening.

Finally, assemble, top with bacon bits, and viola your done.

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It may not be the most pretty dish in the world but it certainly it packs a punch in the taste department.  Not to mention it is as comfortable as comfort food gets.  Besides who said comfort food needed to look good?

Cheers from my Kitchen

Albert

Please feel free to comment and suggest any venison dishes you would like to see me take for a test drive here.  I am open to cooking anything!

Loughborough Lake Lakers

My Ice fishing season has started slow this year and without any real success.  Hence the lack of posts on the blog.  Thankfully I have had some recent success and am able to post an update on my recent goings on with some actual results and juicy fish pics for all to enjoy.

Verona Lake

The second our corner of Southern Ontario had safe, fishable ice, my work mates and I were out looking for the early season bite.  Our first trip was to Verona Lake, which is, surprise surprise, right near Verona.  We didn’t end up catching much but was it was a good way to brush the rust off our gear and get back into the swing of things on a new lake in the area.

Long Lake

I followed up the first outing of the season with a trip to my friend Dave ‘s Cottage on Long Lake. we managed a few decent perch and marked quite a few decent sized fish on the finders.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to coax any of the lakes elusive walleye into biting.IMG_1311

Despite the lack of eyes, The trip was still very enjoyable as we were treated to an amazing sunset.  Sometimes thats all it takes to make a fishing trip worth while.

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Little Clear Lake

The third trip of the season was to Little Clear lake for some Trout action.  Once again, caught lots of perch but no trout.  There was lots of ice on the lake but a tough slog hiking in due to a thin layer of crust which made walking very tedious and tiring.

Deadman’s bay / Loughborough Lake

Once again, Dave and I found ourselves with some time on our hands so we gathered up the fishing gear and headed out.  Our first stop was at Deadman’s Bay located just south of Fort Henry.   Although we didn’t catch any fish we enjoyed an amazing view through 6 – 8″ of clear black ice through 10 to 20 of crystal clear water.

Pretty awesome.

Since things were dead ain deadmans bay, we made a snap decision and headed up to Loughborough Lake hoping to get lucky with the Lakers.  Upon arrival we headed out to the laker grounds in 80 – 90 FOW and punched a few holes through the ice.  It was a beautiful afternoon with near 0 degree temperatures and very few fisherman on the ice.  Our lure choices included silver jigging shad raps, cleos and wobblers all jigged a varying depths throughout the water column.

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Id estimate the fish to be a solid 2lbs.

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With the first real success of the season achieved I am looking forward to the next outing.

The plan is to hit up the Bay of Quinte in a couple weeks for some monster Walleyes.  Here’s hoping they cooperate!

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Crotch Lake & Tumblehome Lodge

Most avid anglers have a list of places they would love to fish.  I am no different and Crotch has held a spot on my list for a while.  Partly because it is local but also because Ive heard the walleye fishing here is pretty good.  Till now I have never been able to venture out on Crotch but when a friend of mine named me his best man and wanted me to throw a modest outdoor bachelor party I started looking closer at Crotch Lake.  Finally, after much research I decided we would stay at Tumblehome lodge, which is located at the southern tip of Crotch Lake.

That’s a lot of Crotches right? Alright, go ahead, get all of the crotch jokes out of your system before reading further.

Done?

Great, because although the fishing was average when compared to walleye powerhouses like lake Nippissing or Bay of Quinte, it was a dynamite weekend for the area and deserves a serious report.

To prepare for the weekends festivities, I took Friday off and hit the road at 8:30, heading north towards a weekend of fishing and most likely drunken debauchery.  They guys were starting to call the weekend “Sausage Fest at Crotch Lake” and they were looking forward to some heavy drinking.  I just hoped we would at least get some fishing in between the beer and harassment of the groom.

So I Loaded my car with a ridiculous amount of beer and hopes for catching fish and I arrived at Crotch lake an hour and 45 minutes later.

For those of you who don’t know, the most direct route to Crotch lake from Kingston is to take highway 38 through Verona, turn left onto highway 7 and then turn again onto Highway 509.  Take a left onto Ardoch Road, and 15 minutes later you will arrive.

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Although there is a launch at the North end of the Lake, the best access point is by Far Tumblehome Lodge located at the southern tip.  The folks here know the Lake very well and are great to deal with.  Not to mention, Tumblehome Lodge has some of the best accommodations around with the best prices!  I can assure you, staying here will give you the best bang for your buck.

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Now to the fishing.  Crotch lake is approximately 3,850 Acres in size with 55 miles of shoreline.  Lake depths extend up to 100 ft and the majority of the lake is 20 + ft deep.  Crotch lake has very little weed growth due to its sharp sloped rocky shores and hard rock bottom.  This translates into a lot less Largemouth bass and a lot more Smallmouth.

We started by tackling the bass population in the lake which included testing out the few weedbeds we encountered and hitting the rocky shores and drop-offs with jigs and crank baits.  Mediocre success was had with a few largemouths caught every trip and about double the amount of smallmouths.  The odd Pike fell to our tactics as well.  Although the numbers weren’t huge, we did catch some decent size fish.  We even saw a few guys with a 4lb 7oz beast as we were coming off the lake.

The wind continued to be a problem throughout the weekend as the wind direction was perfectly inline with the lake’s fetch.  Thankfully it was nothing the green machine couldn’t handle.

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With our bass appetite sated, it was time to chase some gold around the lake.  Catching the smallmouth had been a “first” for the groom and he was looking to add another “first” to his repertoire by catching a walleye.  Our attempts to catch walleye included pitching jigs, trolling spinner baits and running bottom bouncers at depths between 18 and 40 ft.  All of these techniques produced fish, however, I caution the use of bottom bouncers due to the large amount of boulders and rocks littering the lake bottom.  You will loose tackle on this lake with this method!  We had pretty good success for Walleye and the numbers remained consistent with 2 to 3 walleye caught every time we ventured out for a fish.  Not to mention the odd incidental smallmouth.  Fish measured between 15 and 18 inches landing a few squarely in the slot size (15.7 to 19.5inches).  We did witness a larger 3+ lb beast caught by another angler when we returned from one of the morning runs.

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Look at the colour on these fish!

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(A face only a mother could love!)

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Dinner!

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I am sure those of you who are dedicated walleye fisherman are probably laughing at these sizes and weights I am posting.  Even though they are not huge, I ask you to think about the sizes compared to walleye fishing in the general area.  Walleye are a hard species to come by near Kingston and they are heavily fished across southern Ontario.  Not to mention this was my first time fishing this lake.  All things considered, the trip was a success.

We certainly enjoyed the fishing on Crotch, not to mention the quality accommodations and delicious beer.

I am sure the bachelor party/fishing trip will not soon be forgotten.

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Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Personal Best! – Shallow Water Walleye on the BoQ

The bay of Quinte has always been an intimidating body of water to fish for me. The stories of giant walleye are pretty easy to find on the Bay, however I have never been able to crack the big fish code here. That all changed today.

This morning’s dawn found me on the road travelling to Deseronto to meet up with my Dad and Brother.  After numerous attempts to get out for a fish together we were finally able to make it happen which was a great feeling in its own right.

The morning was clear and cool with a slight ripple on the water and temperatures were hovering around 12 degrees.  Not perfect walleye conditions, but as my Dads says, “its nice just to get out”.  Regardless of the optimism he always has when fishing, I wasn’t expecting a banner day with the walleye as the temperatures were supposed to climb to the mid 20’s and the sun was supposed to be in full force in a clear sky.  Not to mention little to no predicted winds. Boy was I wrong.

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Fishing started slow with only a few white bass and perch caught, albeit jumbo in size.  My thought today was to run and gun the whole stretch of Long Reach until we found some active walleye.  This took us past hogs back and the entrance to hay bay.   We passed over what seem like endless schools of pan fish until we were nearly to at the end of the reach.  It was at this point I kinda gave up on the walleye and started pitching bass along the shoreline, but still maintained a steady pace for my Dad and Brother’s troll line.

The next thing I know, my dad has a hit and his rod is bent over the boat.

“Drum” I say.

This is my typical response for big hit and run situations on the BoQ.  But as soon as I saw the flash of gold I knew this this was not the case.  Sure enough My dad was hooked into a decent 4lb walleye and was having a blast fighting his quarry.

That’s when I threw everything I knew about walleye fishing right out the window.

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Fish were caught in relatively shallow water on spinner baits.  The water seemed pretty warm and was murky with lots of dispersed algae.  Again, not what I expected considering my idea of ideal walleye habit includes 20+ FOW and crystal clear waters.

I readjusted our troll line and promptly dropped a spinner bait in to test this new found success to ensure it wasn’t a fluke.

5 minutes later, the fluke test was passed and I was holding my new personal best walleye.

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Weighing in at close to 9lbs, this beast toppled my previous 4lb record caught on lake Nippissing.  This fish gave me one of the biggest rushes of my life.  We were so excited when this fish came into view we were lucky to land it amongst the shaky hands, thumping heart beats and profanities.

One more decent eye was caught following a location adjustment.

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In summary, this fish gave me a new found appreciation for the walleye species in general and a peak at a slick new way of targeting giant gold in the BoQ.

My advice, don’t get to attached to patterns of fishing.  Sometimes it takes a little “outside the box” thinking to get the job done right.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Land O Lakes Fishing Derby – Kashawakamak Lake

The first annual Land o Lakes Smallmouth and Largemouth Derby was held last weekend on August 17, 2013.  The derby spanned across 5 different lakes in the Land O Lake region including Sharbot Lake, Loughborough, Desert, Big Gull and Kashawakamak.  These lakes represented some of the best fishing Southern Ontario has to offer.

Seeing as how the derby was right in my back yard I felt compelled to attend, but I was left with a nagging question; which lake do I fish?

After much deliberation, my Uncle, who decided to join me fort he derby, and I decided on a lake we both had never fished. Our choice? Kashawakamak Lake.  Renown for its smallmouth population, this lake promised to offer a change from the regular large mouth fishing I was used to and a chance to see a different lake in my neck of the woods.  Although I had no experience with this lake we were confident we could make something happen.

The lake itself is 15 kilometres (9 mi) long, 0.75 kilometres (0.5 mi) wide, has a surface area of 1,159.8 hectares.  The maximum depth of the lake is 22m. The lake bottom consists of sandy bays and rocky bottom with a large amount of fallen wood dotting the shores.  The thing that surprised me most about the lake was the lack of weed beds around the lake.  It seemed there were only a few to be found in some of the bays.  This posed a big problem for me and forced me to fish outside of my comfort zone.

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The derby started at 7:00 am on Saturday morning.  We launched at 6:15 and had chosen a spot to start by 6:30.  Not to many boats on the lake for the kick off which we had expected.  Chalk this up as another reason why we decided on Kashawakamak.

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My Uncle decided he would bring the Boatillac up for the derby.  Let me tell you, this Lund Fisherman really does live up to the moniker, the “Cadillac of boats”.

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Fishing started slow in the morning and we were cycling a variety of lures and techniques to try to coax out some fish.  It wass at this point I was praying the next bay held some weeds so I could drag out a mercy largemouth to at least get on the board.  No such luck.

We kept persistent and tried all sorts of different approaches and techniques.

Finally we cracked the code of the lake and the small mouth tap was turned on.  The final tally was around 23 small mouth with the biggest being around 2 lb 3oz.  No picture of the smallmouth though as we were kept pretty busy with fish on our rods.

Regardless of the action, we were still hungry for a monster.

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(one of the few weed beds we encountered).

Considering the extreme sun, clarity of the water and lack of wind that day we were convinced the fish were deep. And so we tried deep 20 – 40 FOW water.  No smallmouth but low and behold we caught a decent walleye.  This was a nice surprise and it signalled the end of the day.

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Sun beat and tired, we made our way back to the weigh station only see our 2lb 3oz fish was just under the third place spot.

Ah well, that’s fishing, and the lack of quality fish was offset by the numbers we caught.

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The weigh station staff were friendly, and the Derby Spokesperson Ashley Rae, from Captured TV did a great job of advertising and spreading the word for the derby.  Not to mention favouring one of my 5am tweets the morning of the derby (that’s dedication)!  Over all it was a good experience and we will definitely return next year.

Cheers From the Wild

Al