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

 

Early Summer Walleye on the BoQ

After the trip up to the French River I felt like chasing some more Gold around, and one of the best places to do that in Southern Ontario is the Bay of Quinte.  So I loaded up the Green Machine and hopped on the 401 headed towards Deseronto.

The morning crisp and pristine and the roads were vacant.  In my opinion, one of the best parts of fishing is the calmness and serenity you get to experience when you get up at 5 am and hit the road towards your destination. Nothing quite like it.  Not only does the early bird get the worm, but also a nice sunrise to boot!
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With the sun at may back I was on my way.

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on the way to the water I stopped and picked up my Dad and Brother.  Both were eager to get out on the water to try to search for the elusive eyes.

We started off fishing 9 to 14 FOW at the Mouth of the Napanee River to no avail.  Plenty of boats in this area and we were feeling a bit crowded.  With that we left and head down long reach to the Hogs back and Further on to Hay Bay.

Aside from perch, we weren’t having much luck until my brother connects with a hefty fish on one of our troll lines.  Using a crank bait, he was sure it was a healthy Walleye.  No such luck though as he quickly found out when a decent largemouth came towards the boat.  My brother worked diligently to de-hook while snapped a couple shots and the fish was released.  We promptly left the area and headed south down long reach.

We made it to a favourite spot of mine where I had caught my personal best last year and proceeded with another troll line.  Sure enough, the spot lived up to its reputation and produced this somewhat elongated Walleye.  Still a nice fish by any standards.

 

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My spot produced a few more strikes and a fairly hefty pike that was about 30″ in length.

Mid day approached and we decided we had all gotten enough sun for one day, so we packed up and  boated back to the launch.

The numbers were huge but the trip was still enjoyable.

It always is when your out with family.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Range Work – Blast Away the Winter Blues

Here in southern Ontario, winter continues to press on with snow storms and demoralizing drops in the mercury.  This can be disheartening for those of us looking forward to spring turkeys and the spring foraging season.  So with a free Saturday on my hands and -10 temperatures outside, I was looking for a compromise; something fun and entertaining outdoors that didn’t require too much exposure to the lingering cold temps and bitter winds.

Then the phone rang…. It was my uncle.

Range you say?

Getting to shoot a plethora of hunting rifles in preparation for the up coming season you say?

The range is within a partially enclosed structure and the wind is blocked you say?

I say: YES PLEASE!

Back Story

Now most years I have hunted in areas where regulations only allow the use of shotguns and slugs for deer.  This year, however I have been invited to hunt in an area where rifles are the gun of choice which allows for significantly longer shots.   This style of hunting is new to me and my gun cabinet for that matter, so I jumped at the chance to test out my deer rifles.

And with that, I packed up my rifles and started the 2hour trek to my uncle place near Bethany, Ontario.

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For those of you who hunt, you already know how invaluable a range like this can be.  A few hours spent here can mean the difference between a successful hunt  and the bitter taste of a ” Deer Tag Sandwhich”.  These facilities are located across Ontario and offer a safe, controlled environment with targets set specific measured distances.  Usually 50 yrds, 100 yrds, 200 yrds and up catering to any kind of firearm.  Coupled with something called a “lead sled” these facilities can help a shooter hone in the accuracy of their firearms.   What is a “lead sled”?This piece of “high tech” technology basically consisted of a cradle for the firearm which allows you to securely place the gun in a rest and a weighted base to absorb the shock of the recoil after firing.  The lead sled then can be adjusted to provide a relative reference point for each shot.  This is the most accurate way of sighting in a rifle.  For those non-shooters, shooting in the standing, crouched or even prone position can still introduce a ton of variability in the shot from sources like flinching or even something as innocuous as breathing.  The lead sled, negates these problems.

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My choice for deer this year includes an .270 and a .30-30.  we tarted with the Remington .270 and cycled a variety of shells ranging from 110 grain all the way up to 150.  During our down time last deer season we had put together a variety of shells within this range of bullets all using differing amounts of powder.  Basically, the ballistics change with the grain size of bullets and amount of gunpowder used.  Being able to fire a range of bullets with a range of powder charges allows the hunter to find the exact combination that fits his gun and his shooting style, essentially optimizing the hunting rifle for the specific person using it.  This, coupled with physically setting the scope for specific distances can greatly increase the accuracy and turn the rifle into a finely tuned hunting machine.

Sound a bit fanatical to you?  Don’t get me wrong, Im not a gun nut by any stretch of the imagination.  I do however believe, if your going to do something, do it right the first time and ultimately, knowing your gun and what powder/bullet combo works the best can help you as a hunter make better shots. This in turn minimizes missed and foul shots.  Something no hunter ever wants to experience.

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Next up, was the .30-30.  This calibre and make of gun has quite a bit of history and is often the choice for deer hunters who hunt areas with thick bush.  Equipped with open sights and a lever action, this guns is one of the fastest non-semi automatic deer guns available.  Its downside: it is pretty useless after 150yrds. Upsides: this gun definitely brings the FUN factor to shooting and if you ever dreamed of being a cowboy as a kid, this rifle is for you! YEEHAW!

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(an excellent grouping for 100 yrds!)

Ranges offer great fun and are a great tool for hunters to hone their firearms.  Even if your not a gun owner or hunter and are interested, it is worth checking with any friends that may have memberships and with the ranges them selves to see what the access requirements are.  Non Pal holders may be allowed to attend and enjoy the facilities if accompanied by a PAL holder. The following link lists a few gun clubs throughout Ontario.

http://www.firearmscanada.com/resources/gun-clubs/#Ontario

Cheers from the Wild Range

Albert

Loughborough Lakers – Dinner time

My recent trip  to Loughborough Lake proved fruitfull with a decent average sized laker which I kept for the table.

Now to be clear, I don’t always keep fish to eat.

In fact I probably keep one or two once every ten or so fishing trips.  This is in the interest of conservation and propagation of the sport.  However, after pulling that beautiful laker from that 95 feet of cold clear water my taste buds took control.  For those of you who don’t eat a lot of fish or who don’t know, its hard to beat freshly caught trout.

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Lake trout can be cooked any number of ways including battered and fried, poached, baked etc. but my favourite by far is pan searing.   So after filleting the fish I dredged in a light flour, salt and pepper mixture and seared with a dab of butter until golden brown.

During searing I drizzled a bit of lemon juice on each piece of the fish for a bit more flavour.

I then placed the trout on a bed of rice with hollandaise sauce topped with a few sprigs of asparagus.

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Cant think of many things that come close to the taste of this.  And although this dish already tastes great, the feeling of preparing something I caught myself makes it taste all the better.

I’m reminded of a quote I heard somewhere:  sometimes the best meals aren’t from a restaurant or grocery store…

Cheers from the Dinner Table…

Albert

2013 Deer Hunting Season – An Ontario Tradition

Here in Ontario we are nearing the end of good weather and the cold depths winter are slowly approaching.  The days are shorter and the threat of a crisp frost is ever present.  Its this time of year when the minds of most people start to drift southward to warm beaches and cool drinks.  But, for some of us, our thoughts drift to colder climates full of tree stands, warm coffee, and a the prospect of the hunt.

For a few of the faithfull, it is time to sight in the rifles and shot guns, wash the camo clothes with scent-free soap and don the traditional blaze orange vest and hat.   It is time for the great tradition of the Deer Hunt. Continue reading

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

Fall Feedbag Bass – Southern Ontario Giants

Fall is kicking off in southern Ontario as signalled by the increasingly cool evenings and fall colors starting to dot the trees.  Soon the dull glimpses of orange and red dotting the treescape will burst into an full explosion of fall colour.  This is the time to be outdoors.  Weather your a waterfowler, upland game hunter, hiker, photographer or a fishing enthusiast, everything comes to a head in the fall.

I woke up this morning with hopes of capitalizing on the fall action both for geese and fishing.  Although the geese were a bit sparse for any real success, the fishing sure was hot.

My friend Dave picked me up at 5:30 on Sunday Morning with his canoe atop his car and gear all set. After loading both hunting and fishing kits into his ride we were off speeding north towards a beauty of a day.

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We arrived at a small lake north of Verona about an hour or so later and packed our gear in the canoe.  After five minutes on the water I realize I left my DSLR back in the car.  This is what happens when I get excited about hunting and fishing.

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First up, we spent about 30 minutes in one of my goose spots waiting for some birds.  Unfortunately all we saw were solos and doubles and they were way to far out for the 870.  Ah well, its only the tail end of the early week in our zone and goose season doesn’t really start to heat up until the end of September anyways.  On to bigger and better things!

We abandoned the goose hopes and decided instead to focus on the fishing. After all, it was the begginnings of fall and that’s when the giant bass come out to play.

Fishing started off in a big way with what I believe to be a monster walleye that hit my jig coming off a rocky shore line.  The big guy did the typical “im to tired to fight” walleye dance and got off right by the canoe.  Although this was a big disappointment, soon after my friend caught this jumbo perch which was a welcome addition to the boat.  No quite the consolation prize I was hoping for but it will work for taking the skunk off.

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Following the meager catch, we proceeded to catch a few bass along some weededges near deep water (this is a key tactic for fall bass).

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For a change of pace we decided to hit up some deeper areas near some rock faces along a lake channel that connected two of the lakes larger areas.  This turned out to be a great idea as Dave hooked and lost a pretty massive largemouth.  Almost immediately after, he hooked into another rod bender.  This one was hooked pretty well and wasn’t going anywhere.  Energized and excited by the prospect of a giant bornzeback Dave fought the fish for quite a long while.  I was pretty amazed by the patience Dave showed as he gingerly fought the fish and took his time bringing in the beast.  These are all skills required to bring in larger fish when fishing from a canoe and these traits are especially important when the large fish is a 6+ lb smallmouth and your new personal best!

Congrats Dave, that is one hefty looking smally.

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The adrenaline kept us pushing forward, optimistic for another big fish.

As luck would have it, it was my turn to tangle with a southern Ontario giant of the largemouth variety.  The fish hit on a soft wacky rigged worm just near the edge of a weedbed facing the open lake.  At first the hit seemed light and I reeled in to clear the small fish from my line.  The minute the fish spotted the boat the game changed and my drag was singing the sweet tune only a fat lunker makes.  This fish lived up to the hype the reel was forcasting and was estimated at 5.5 lbs (Scales are a luxury when your paddling in a canoe with goose gear and wo sets of fishing gear).  This fish was definitely my biggest largemouth of the season.

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(What a nice surprise!)

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Fish were caught using a variety of methods including wacky worms, spinner baits, jigs and texas rigged swim baits.  All fish seemed to be caught on deep weededges or rock faces near channels or big water.

In my experience, Bass start to put on the feedbag in the fall in a big way.  Although they move out of their summer shallow water haunts for deeper waters, they still stay proximal to weededges and the like.  Look for drop offs with submerged weeds or weed edges near the larger portion of the lake.   Bass will often hangout near these edges popping up into the shallows when food is around.

One more piece of advice, don’t be intimidated by slower action either and try to have a little patience.   You may not have a 30 fish day, but your bound to tangle with the larger fish in the lake.

Cheers from the Wild

Albert