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.

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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.

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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

Downtown Ducks

A Sunday or two ago my wife and I decided to take a walk near the water front in down town Kingston with our little one.  The night was calm and cool and it was a perfect evening to be out and about downtown.  We had no destination in mind aside from some ice cream at white mountain and we ended up strolling along the water front near confederation basin.  Once along the shores we were greeted by a pretty large flock of mallard ducks interdispersed with some geese and other birds dabbling in the harbour.  This excited my little one to no end and as she played I realized how often I have overlooked these birds.  Bobbing the in waters of the harbour, chasing each other around or dabbling for food. They seemed like part of the background or worse, are considered nuisances because of the amoutn of feces they produce.  On an easy night like tonight though, they seemed to appear just as beautiful as the wild ones I encounter in the blind.  As my little attempted to feed the quacking mass my thoughts drifted towards these birds and how such vibrant things could exist in the middle of a city.

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Upon further reflection I marvelled at these birds and that no matter how much we change the landscape, destroy habitat, pollute our environment, life still seems to find a way to survive and flourish.  Mallard ducks and Canadian geese for that matter, are a prime example of this as they seem to flourish when living near humans.  While enjoying the relative safety a downtown park brings, the ducks and geese are provided with ample food from passers by, grassed lawns and number of other plant species that thrive in our harbours.  We have essentially created a custom fitted, bread laden paradise for these little creatures.

Although its not their naturally intended setting, its nice to see that in this case, destruction of natural habitat has actually ended up having the exact opposite effect from what would be expected.  Further, its nice to have this aspect of nature still prevalent in our downtown cores.  Perhaps next time folks get upset about the amount of duck and geese poop on their lawn or in a field we should take a moment and imagine what it would be like if they weren’t there.

I wonder what my little one could feed during our Sunday evening walks then…..

Cheers from the wild in the middle of town,

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

Bass Tournamanet on Collins – A Yearly Tradition

Last year Dave and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a local bass tournament in the Kingston area on Collins Lake.  The tournament isn’t a huge one with between 10 and 25 people every year, but regardless of the size, the people are nice and the hosts always put on an amazing spread of authentic Portuguese delights.  You can count on plenty of laughs and good times too boot!

Based on all the fun we had last year (not to mention Dave winning the tourney), we jumped at the chance when we received the invite again this year.  Regardless of there being bigger tournaments out there, this one really focusses on the community aspect of the sport which plays a crucial role in why we returned this year.

The tournament started with drinks and poker at the hosts house followed by an early morning start at 6am out of the launch.  Im not going to lie, this was “difficult” to do for many of the fisherman as the night was late one.

However, foggy as we were, Dave and I manned my the Green Machine and arrived at the launch followed closely by Jay, the participant who invited us.

Out of the gate the day started with a bang as I landed 4 solid bass weighing in between 1 lb 13 oz and 2lb 11oz each.  This was a solid bag considering lasts years tough conditions and Dave’s win with only 7lb 15oz.  But as the rules dictate, only two fish could be weighed in during the morning so two went back into the drink.

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Dave started late into the fish but managed two decent 2 lb ers at about mid morning.  We pulled the plug at noon and headed into the shore to weigh in and see how we fared.  Things were looking good for me with my 4lb 13 two fish bag until Mark, another participant from Mississauga, came in to show us his whopping 3lb 4oz beast.  It was a race, and Mark was winning with me trailing closely behind and Jay and Dave closely behind me.

We headed back out after a delicious sandwich prepared by Fantima with a renewed sense of competition and a satisfied belly.

It was anyone’s game and we all knew it.

The afternoon confirmed my worst fears, the fish had shut down and pickings were slim.  I wasn’t able to fill my last two slots and wound up stagnant.  However, Dave saddled up a swim bait rig he had been working on and managed two average size fish from some large weedy bays.  Dave had his four fish and was now the front-runner with 7 lbs 12oz.

The following day had me tied up with family duties but most of the other participants made it back out.  I am told Mark landed more fish to bring him to 6oz shy of Dave’s bag and Jay hooked, and unfortunately lost a 6lb beast.

At the end of the day Dave held onto his title and the trophy with a weight consistent with last years total.  Koodos to Dave for thinking outside the box and to Jay and Mark for bringing such stiff competition.  You guys are excellent fishermen whom id rather be fishing with than against any day of the week.

Pics posted below (please ignore my wild disheveled look.  That’s the look of a man running on 4 hours of sleep and a few too many beers the night before).

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(Above: The green machine at the weigh station)

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All in all,  a solid bass Derby with great folks.  I am sure I speak for Dave when I say we are grateful for the chance to fish with such great people.  Not to mention such healthy competition.

Cheers from the Wild

Al

Newboro Lake – Spring Pike

We are a week away from the opening day of bass here in South Eastern Ontario.  Most people are spending the weekend polishing up their spinner baits and putting new braid on their bait casters in preparation for this holy day. For me though, this is just another weekend to chase the last remnants of spring pike around with the bonus of little to no boat traffic to get in my way.  Kicking things off at 6am, my friend Dave and I took the 45 minute drive to the Crosby/Westport area and launched at Newboro Lake.  I had only ever fished Newboro twice before, and Dave had never been, so although we had a slight inkling of where to start, the majority of the trip was an exploratory one.DSC_0054

As almost always for spring pike, we started with a troll line using spoons on a line that had produced on my previous two trips (thank goodness for Navionics path tracking!).  This produced two decent 2 -3 lb pike.  Moving on we tried a two edged approach by trolling along sharp drop offs near a set of islands where the depth changed from 9 to 25 ft over a distance of about 15 ft.  One line targeted the shallows and the other probed the deep. This produced some pike as well as a decent 2 lb out of season small mouth that was promptly released.  On to the next area!

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We toured around a good 1/2 of the lake and continued to pick up stragglers throughout the rest of the morning using a multitude of techniques including spinner baits, crank baits and even some extra large swim baits.  Fish were caught in a variety of depths and conditions indicating a high degree of variability.  In my opinion this is indicative of the transition between spring spawning and the usual summer haunts.

The trip was a great way to explore and put some time into getting to know the lake.   Not to mention a great way to relax after a busy week in the office.

Hopefully next visit will see us catching some of the elusive walleye that are said to inhabit the lake.

All in all a great way to warm up the rigs for the fast pace action that is bass fishing in southern Ontario.

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Cheers from the wild!

Albert

 

Early season Pike on Collins Lake

Pike fishing has always been a passion of mine and early spring is one of the best times to catch these fish.  Spring finds these fish thick in shallow water and can be caught by both casting and trolling.  Spinners and spoons are go to’s for these fish however swim baits and crank baits are also effective.

Lucky for us Ontarians (especially in the kingston area) we have many Eutrophic lakes that are absolutely teaming with Pike.

Two of my work mates and I left work early on May 14, 2013 and headed to our favourite local Pike spot, Collins Lake.  The water was a bit choppy with a 15 km/hr SW wind that ran right through the large fetch on the lake so we were limited to trolling at the beginnning of the outing.  We immediately hooked into a decent 1-2 lber and then hit a lull.  Ever persistent when using techniques I have alot of confidence in, we kept trolling and the fishing slowly picked up.  By about 6pm we were getting into decent pike on a pretty regular basis.  When the action died down on the trolling we decided to switch up and throw some spinner baits into the shallows.  Sure enough, the switch in gear paid off.  The action once again heated up and our numbers swelled to around 30 fish with at least one double header ( two or three if you are using Tarpon rules and leader touches count!).

All in all, a good first kick at the pike can in 2013.

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Harvesting Dandelions – Syrup!

Each year I try to get out in the woods and learn a little but more about foraging.  Last year was leeks.  The year before, mushrooms.  This year its dandelions!

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Yes, dandelions. No joke.  Dandelions are an incredibly delicious foragable.  Not to mention so plentiful you can pretty much pick your fill anywhere inthe province (any wherenot sprayed by pesticides that is!).  In my case I needed to do something about hte dandelion infestation in my back yard and decided, why not make use of the plant?

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Dandelions have three main uses that I am aware of:

1) Salad.  the leaves of a young dandelion plant make an exception green to be added to any salad.

2) Coffee.  the roots are roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute.

3) Syrup or so called “May-Honey” in Poland.  I was skeptical at first but suffer from a uncurable sense of curiosity so I had to try this.

Everyone has a favourite salad which dandelion greens can be substituted into and I have yet to try dandelion coffee so I will focus on the syrup here.

Dandelion syrup has a rich sweet taste very similar to maple syrup except I has a slight herbal undertone.  The syrup can be made to be thin, viscous, dark, light, pretty much any way you please and pairs well with fruit.

Step 1) pick a crap load of dandlion buds.  The bigger the better and try to limit it to the heads only.  Stems can impart a nasty acrid taste.  I usually pick around 100 buds.

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Step 2) wash the buds and set out to dry.  This will get rid of any hitchhiking bugs.

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Step 3) pinch the bottom of the buds just above the hips of the bud itself with four fingers.  After pinching just pullout the petals of the danelion. Save the petals, discard the bud.

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Step 4) cover with water and bring to rolling boil.  Let the petals steep in the water over night.  Remeber the more petals you use the stronger the taste of the syrup.

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Step 5) strain out the petals and add a half a cup of sugar to the remaining juice.  boil this mixture to whatever viscosity you like but be careful of letting this dry out.  Cooking for too long and not paying attention is a good way to wreck a pot and make a mess.DSC_9554DSC_9556

Step 6) use in place of maple syrup on almost anything.

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Dandelion Wiki in case you would like to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taraxacum_officinale