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

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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(Nailed it!)

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(Above: Dave crushing Rifle Chute)

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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.

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(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.

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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

 

Newboro Lake – July 2015

 

Fishing continues to be good here in southern Ontario.  I recently took a trip with my brother to Newboro Lake located near Westport, Ontario to chase the resident bass population around.  Lots of fish were caught using a variety of shallow and deep water techniques in the main area of the lake including the chunky examples below.

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Cheers from the lake

Albert

Proposed Changes to the Walleye and Bass Fishery on Lake Nippissing

Im sure from my posts on here, all my readers are well aware that I absolutely love fishing Lake Nippissing.  In my view, it has some of the best walleye fishing anywhere in the province (for numbers at least).  As a big supporter of the lake, I know many people enjoy harvesting walleye from this water body.  Knowing this I felt compelled to share the upcoming changes with my readership.

Basically the changes are:

For walleye, a change from current slot size of 40 to 60 centimetres (15.7 to 23.6 inches) to a zero possession of walleye less than 46 centimetres (18 inches) in length to come into effect May 17, 2014. There are no changes to catch limits.

• For smallmouth and largemouth bass, a change to the opening date of fishing season to open one week earlier, starting June 21, 2014 (3rd Saturday in June instead of 4th). There are no changes to catch limits.

Though these changes are not reflected in the current Ontario Fishing Regulation Summary (2014), the changes are effective as of May 17, 2014 and will be reflected in the 2015 version of the Ontario Fishing Regulation Summary.

These changes are intended to support the recovery of the walleye population by allowing juvenile walleye to grow and spawn at least once in their lifetime and by promoting other angling opportunities.

(excerpt taken from the EBR posting below)

http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTIyMjgx&statusId=MTgzMzA1&language=en

Opinions on this change will vary I am sure.  Either way I strongly encourage you to comment on this or reach out to your local OFAH chapter to voice your opinion.

Your thoughts aren’t heard if there not voiced.

Get outside…with yor kids! An Outdoors Charter for Kids

The provincial government has recently put together an initiative to promote outdoor activities among our youth in Ontario.

http://www.childrensoutdoorcharter.ca/

Finally! In my opinion the current generation of kids are missing out on the richly diverse experience that is our outdoor environment.

In support of this, they have developed a website outlining a vast array of activities children can take part in.  This is a good first step, and here is hoping they are able to implement activities, outreach programs and connect with other existing programs to actually get kids outside.

oh BTW, kudos to the website for including “Harvest something to eat”.  As a forager, I am happy to see this way of life promoted.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Lake Nippissing – Walleye Success

As promised, here is a report on my recent trip to the Great body of water known as Lake Nippissing.

The Lake: Lake Nippissing meaning “big water” in the Algonquin Language

-Surface Area: 873 sq. Km

-Average depth: 15ft

-contains over 40 species of fish including the popular walleye, pike, bass and musky

– some to countless island s and shoals making for some amazing fish habitat

The Report:

We left Bethany around 9:00 am and head North towards a weekend full of fishing.  We arrived at Promised Land Camp around 11:30 and proceeded to unload our gear.  After a hurried bout of unpacking we jumped in the boat and headed out on the beautiful south arm of Nippissing to warm up with some big pike.

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Unfortunately, the pike weren’t cooperating and we knew it was time for a change.  So we picked up a friend from his dock, changed out our pike gear for light lines and headed out to big water to chase some Lake Nippissing Walleyes.

Although the MNR reports that the walleye populations are statistically seeing a decline, the decline was not apparent during our stay here.  The minute we hit the big water and dropped our lines we were catching fish.  Fish were generally caught while trolling in and around the multiple shoals dotting the lake in depths ranging from 40 to 20 FOW.  All said and done, we caught 23 walleye in the afternoon of the first day, 27 walleye during the morning of the second day and 23 walleye during the morning of the third day.  Not to mention multiple smallmouth bass and perch caught incidentially.  Although these numbers are encouraging, the more exciting thing to see was the variety in sizes.  The fish caught seemed to be evenly distributed throughout the year classes with several fish well into the slot size.  We estimated the largest fish weighed between 3 and 3.5 lbs.

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The other interesting thing is where they were caught and the time of year.  Typically walleye start to progress near river mouths during the fall months in preparation for spawning.  Seeing as how we caught these fish near deep shoals, this could be indicative of a healthy shoal spawning strain of walleye in the lake.

Of the 75 fish caught, only 4 were kept.  The remainder were released as part of a conscious decision made to benefit the fishery.  My thought is I want to be able to take my children to fish the Nip in the future and have them experience the same success.  In my mind, the only way to directly accomplish this is to practice conservation and actively advocate for the lake. For those interested in learning more about Lake Nippissing Walleye, see the attached link:

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@letsfish/documents/document/stdprod_098192.pdf

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But enough of fishing philosophy.  Back to the report.

We spent a few more attempts trying to locate the big pike that inhabit Lake Nip but succeeded in catching only a few medium sized fish.  Still some pike is better than no pike! (sorry no pics, weather was too lousy to break out the camera)

An additional high point of the trip was the stellar accommodations provided by Promised Land Camp.  The cottages were clean, orderly and very comfortable.  Not to mention the hosts were very helpful and super friendly.  This marks my third trip to Promised Land Camp and honestly, I cant think of a single reason why I would try anywhere else.

I like to give credit where credit is due, so when I have a good experience at a place I make a point to promote it.  If your thinking of a trip to the Nip, here’s a tip: give Promised Land Camp a serious look.

http://www.promisedlandcamp.net/

Cheers From the Wild

Albert

Collins Lake – Winding down

As promised by my previous post, a couple buddies and I scooted over to Collins Lake two Thursdays ago.  The fishing ended up being fairly mediocre with only a few bass and pike caught.  This is typical behaviour for the lake as the fishing season winds down.

Still a great warm up for my upcoming trip to Lake Nippissing, and as they say, a bad day fishing is still better than a good day working.

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