Migratory Hunting Regulation Changes – Ontario

Hunting is a fairly new and still very mysterious world to me.  I obtained my hunting and PAL about four years ago with the sole intention of trying something new and perhaps bagging some interesting meats for my table.  As most new hunters are, I was gung-ho and trigger happy with the thought that I would soon be dining on all sorts of delicious meats! I was going to be the friggen Davy Crocket of the north!  The Hank Shaw of Ontario (shameless plug for my favourite chef http://honest-food.net/)!

Well things didn’t really work out that way.  I soon learned that these were the lofty expectations of a niave and ambitious young man.  Both the difficult nature of hunting and time restrictions of my work and family lives hit me with a pretty hard dose of reality.  In the first year of hunting I ended up not shooting a damn thing.  I was green, loud in the bush, and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Forget hitting a flushing grouse or a running buck.

Since those days I’ve progressed, learned to stay calm, and most of all respect hunting and the animals involved.  Things came together after that and I have slowly ticked off animals from my list of firsts.  Not just in the bush but on the table as well.

This year I plan to take full advantage of some great water fowling and deer opportunities which I have stumbled across here in southern Ontario.  This has me feeling very excited about the upcoming 2013 – 2014 season.  So when I read that the regulations regarding geese were changing to remove all possession limits, both me and my stomach were ecstatic.  And then as if I wasn’t excited enough, I noticed that the MNR has added a morning dove season for my area.

I know some people are hesitant about hunting these birds, but I like to think I keep an open mind about trying new experiences so I am sure I will try it out.

Who knows, maybe this year will be the year I bag my first morning dove!

Cheers from the Wild

Albert

Migratory Regulations for Ontario (2013-2014):

http://www.ec.gc.ca/rcom-mbhr/default.asp?lang=en&n=99FDEC59-1#_005

Free Fishing Week in Ontario

For those who don’t know, you and your family can fish license free in Ontario this week from July 6 to the 14, 2013.

Why not get out with the Family and cast a line or two?

More details below.

http://www.ofah.org/news/2013-Family-Fishing-Events-July-6-14

An Ontario Special – Four Species day

Southern Ontario is blessed with an abundance of great, albeit often overlooked, fishing opportunities. I know I am starting to sound like a broken record on this issue but hear me out.

The misconception is that you need to travel a great distance to get to good fishing opportunities but in my experience this is not so. While there is great fishing in the states and Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario has many vibrant watersheds that are not only conveniently located near major centres but afford the angler a chance at quantity and quality of fish.

Case in point, my report below:

I packed a light bag and hopped in the car at 8:30 pm Thursday evening headed for Bethany to meet up with my uncle.  After a few hours of sleep we awoke at 4:30 am and were on our way to Port Darlington.  We launched the boat and sailed out of port into 80 FOW.

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We dropped the down riggers and dipsy divers and instantly had a hit but couldn’t capitalize.  We trolled for another hour out to 117 FOW with no hits and no sign of bait balls.  Things were looking grim with no fish in the boat so we decided to head back to the scene of the crime where we had the first hit.

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Sure enough we had two quick bites and boated two rainbow trout: one was 6lbs the other was 9lbs.  Both were healthy fish and provided a strong fight.

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An hour later and a after  couple more near misses we received a strong hit on the down rigger.  I set the hook and proceeded to reel in the fish thinking we hooked another decent rainbow.  You could imagine my surprise when the fish kept up its impressive run for what seemed like forever.  Fifteen minutes and a couple blisters later we boated a beautiful 18lb Chinook salmon. This was a truly magnificent beast, built for speed and strength.  The truly impressive thing about these fish is that they will fight to their very last ounce of strength making it essential for proper equipment and proper release techniques.

One more impressive thing, they are located just minutes from the 401 along almost the whole stretch of southern Ontario.

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With our Big lake appetite sated we pulled the boat and took a few hours break giving me just enough time to make a quick stop at SAIL and have a quick nap.

In the afternoon we towed the boat to Sturgeon lake, located near Lindsay Ontario to take a crack at the resident walleye population.

The walleye cooperated and we boated multiple 40cm fish which put them convienently in the 35-50 cm slot in force on the lake.  All within a couple hours.

Since I can’t resist the taste of fresh walleye we kept two nice eating sized fish for the table and released the rest.

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(my new abu Garcia verdict and cardinal in action)

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All in all an impressive day on the water with a total of four species caught ( included a jumbo perch caught while trolling) and all within less than an hour’s drive.

Once again, I recommend trying the fishing opportunities in Sothern Ontario.  Not only is the fishing great but you will save on gas too!

Cheers from the Wild

Al

Round Lake – Early Season Stress Releif

Work has been tough lately.

I have been putting in long days at the office  for as long as I can remember with no foreseeable end in sight.  Not only is this tiring but its draining in every way conceivable.  Its times like these that a little stress relief is in order, so when my co-worker jokingly suggested a quick fish after work tonight I decided to take it seriously and jumped at the chance.  Enough of the late nights at the office,  I decided a break was in order (not to mention well deserved).

With that snap decision made, off I went to change and grab my gear and a half hour later we were at the launch pushing off in a canoe.

The trip was nothing fancy.

There were no huge expectations for trophy fish.

Just two dudes, a canoe and the lake.

Part of me wonders at how many world problems would be solved If every person got to experience this feeling on a regular basis.

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Ok. enough rambling, here is the report:

The afternoon was an exceptional one, with warm sunshine and a very slight breeze.  Temperatures were fairly warm and the evening was gearing up to be a good one.

The first fish (a small Pike) came a few minutes later on the fifth cast of my senko.  Nothing big, but definitely fun.  Fishing was nothing exceptional, but certainly decent enough to make the evening enjoyable.  We totalled around 8 bass for the evening, plus a horde of Rockies and that first Pike.  All fish were caught on a variety of plastics, crank baits and jigs in varying depths.  The fish were modest, with the biggest being between around 2.5 lbs.

It was interesting fishing as the lake is basically a deep bowl with 20 to 50ft drops right at the edges.  Really no weedy flats to fish at all so typical tactics don’t usually apply here.

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(Apparently I approve of this fish!)

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Heres a nice shot of me landing a LMB (Photo credit: Dave Hodgson)

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(Above Photo credit: Dave Hodgson)

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We were sure to take advantage of the beautiful scenery to be had on this quaint little lake.  Something Southern Ontario has in abundance.

Definitely one of the best ways I can think of to recharge the batteries after a tough week at work.

Reminds me of a saying:  “All work and no fish make jack a dull boy”  … or is it play? … no its definitely fish.

Cheers from the Wild

Al

Bass Opener 2013 – Collins Lake

After a half year wait, bass season is back!  This year bass season has opened a week early in our zone.  This has come as a blessing to many anglers in the area who have felt for years that the season opened unnecessarily late.  Coupled with some recent cold nights and warm days, things were looking good!

With boat pre-rigged, a new 65 lb thrust minn kota on the bow of my Legend, and the rods rigged, my buddy Dave and I hit the road at 5 am.  45 minutes later we were on the water with rods in hand.  The morning turned out to be tough fishing with only one largemouth (approx. 2lbs) in the boat.  Temperatures were fairly chilly and a sweater was required.

As the morning pressed we changed up techniques and areas, targeting flat expanses with sparse weed formations.  Fishing picked up almost immediately as we made the changes with several largemouth and pike caught.  Dave even managed one decent sized smallmouth which is pretty rare for Collins.

 

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Great shot of a local loon family….

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To my surprise, one of the fish I pulled out decided to relieve it’s self all over my jeans.  This was definitely a first for me!

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All-in- all we had a fairly decent day with multiple 3lb bucket mouths and some decent sized pike.

Ultimately, our success was directly related to trying techniques and fishing areas that differed from the other boat on the water.  More than a few times, we have found this was the key to a successful fishing day.

I hope everyone enjoyed their opening day!

Cheers from the wild

Al

Ontario Trails Map

Looking to get out for some hiking in Ontario.

Check out this handy little interactive map showing trail locations near you!

http://www.ontariotrailsmap.com/ontariotrails.html?town=toronto#

 

Awesome Job Ontario Trails Council!

Summer Salmon – A Lake Ontario Specialty

Summer brings many things to Southern Ontario. Soccer teams flock to the fields to test their mettle against one anotehr, bikers are out in droves pushing their machines to the limits on our endless Ontario highways, yard sale/antique season is in full swing.  Great hobbies to be had in a great place. but perhaps my favourite thing to do in the summer, besides sipping an ice cold Ice cap from Tim Hortons, is to head out on the big lake to enjoy pitting my wits against the steely Rainbow trout or a Majestic Salmon.  Thanks to stocking efforts from the MNR and agencies in New York, Salmon fishing in lake Ontario is some of the best in the country.  Sadly, few people realize the resource we have so close to home.

I was definitely one of those few people until my uncle (watch out here, comes the shameless plug!), who runs RP Salmon Guide Charters, asked me and a friend to join him one warm June day in 2011.  A tad early for the bulk of salmon fishing but a beauty of a day no less.

We left port at about 6 am from Newcastle, On, a popular launch site for many salmon charters and headed out to 60 feet of water (FOW).

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Once we got there we rigged up the rods with an assortment of giant spoons, flies and cut bait rigged up to down riggers and dipsy divers. I’ll spare you the explanation of these amazing contraptions.

This was quite the set up as most of my fishing is fairly minimalistic when it comes to hardware.  However, I trusted my uncles experience and knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong.

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First fish of the day went to my buddy who had never really caught anything bigger than a small bass in his life.

Im not sure what was running through his mind when he set the hook this giant Rainbow Trout, but when he couldn’t gain any headway, I’m sure holy sh*t was among his thoughts!

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What a beautiful 13 lb 8oz fish! After some quick photos of a beautiful fish and a proud/excited fisherman, the trout went back into the lake.

My friend still bugs me ever summer about when we can do the trip again!

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Now that the appetizer was out of the way it was my turn for the main course.  bout 30 minutes later we trolled through a large school of bait and just after got a hit on one of the flies.  This was a big fish and consequently, my first crack at a Lake Ontario Salmon.

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It was probably at this point where I realized that 1) this was probably the biggest fish I had ever hooked into and 2) this wasn’t just some big empty mass of blue we were trolling on.  This was a healthy fishery with some world class trophies swimming about it.

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Following a decent 15 – 30 minute fight I managed to wrangle this 22 lb salmon into the boat.  I was absolutely stunned, excited and ecstatic all at the same time.

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A few minutes after dealing with the big beast, it was my uncles turn.  He boated this decent little 8lb 9oz rainbow.  A respectable fish by an account!

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Followed again by several small salmon (shakers as the guides call them because they are not strong enough to pull the lines from the down rigger balls).

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Unfortunately they did not make it back to the lake, but take it from me they make quite the feast compared to store bought/ farm raised fish.

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So next time your cruising along the shores of Lake Ontario, remember, there is more than meets the eye out there and I am not talking about transformers!  Maybe, if your brave enough, you will decide to attempt to catch one of these majestic beasts.  Trust me, if you pull the trigger on a trip out to Lake O, and hire a guide worth his salt, you will not be disappointed!  You may even walk away with a feast fit for a king.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert P

RP Salmon Guide Charters – https://www.facebook.com/pages/RP-Salmon-Guide-Charters/128039840606982

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

Harvesting Wild Leeks

Ontario is blessed with foragable wild foods for almost every season.  The least of which is definitely not Spring.  Spring in Ontario, means some of the finest table fare can be gathered including leeks, fiddle heads, cattail hearts and morels.

Finding most of these treasures can be difficult as they are heavily dependant on temperature, sufficient rain and their ability to hide from other foragers!  Thankfully leeks are one of the easiest to spot due to the stark contrast of their green on the brown hue of last years fallen leaves.  Leeks are also very plentiful in Ontario and can often been seen after the first couple weeks of 10 – 15 degree weather.  Just remember when looking for leeks early on, the contrasting green is the key.  They are one of the first plants to sprout.  Also, you will probably smell the delicious onion odour a mile a way!

*****Please keep in mind when you are harvesting wild leeks it is best to only remove one or two leeks from a cluster or, more preferably, clip off the green and leave the bulb in the ground.  This way they will continue to proliferate in the area.  Consider it an investment for next year!

My recent foraging trip saw me getting up at 5:30, heading out my door at 6:00, stopping quickly at Tim’s on highway 15 and blasting up Sydenham Road by 6:15.

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I met with a friend of mine at a favourite spot about an hour north of Kingston.  Set with bags, a large bladed knife for digging leeks and our trout gear (cause you never know when a fishing oppourtunity will present itself), we headed up the trail with eyes focused on the ground in search of green gold.  I guess it was by chance then that my friend spotted a decent sized Barred Owl perched on a nearby pine.

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Quite the specimen!  Further down the trail, and after some failed attempts at some speckles in a few local lakes, we found the spot we were looking for and began our harvest.

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Lots of leeks to be had but no sign of any other forageables.  Lots of signs of spring and remnants from last winter. I am always impressed by how fresh and stunning Southern Ontario looks in the spring.  Not to mention how tasty it can be too!  More on this once I have cooked a few of these tasty guys into a soup or two.

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Hiking in Ontario – The Ultimate Resource

Do you enjoy a little jaunt in the woods from time to time?  Perhaps your a seasoned trekker who has spent half their life pounding trails.  Well if your either of these or at any point in between, and you live in Ontario, I have the perfect website for you:

http://www.hikeontario.com/bulletin/links.htm

Just like it sounds, Hike Ontario is a website dedicated to hiking in Ontario.  I am not going to “re-invent the wheel” by summarizing what they are about.  Instead I have just included a quote below from their mandate section:

Hike Ontario is the sole provider of province-wide hiking information and services. Hike Ontario is also unique amongst Canada ‘s provinces and territories in many of the services it provides to this province’s hiking associations and citizens. Eighty-five percent of Canadians walk for leisure and recreation.  Thus, Hike Ontario acts as the voice for over 9 million hikers and walkers in Ontario.

Hike Ontario recognizes and supports trails throughout Ontario and appreciates that every trail is unique. Every trail can’t be all things to all people but all trails can play beneficial roles. Trails play roles in the economy, play roles in the environment and perhaps most importantly, play roles in our health.

While Hike Ontario recognizes the diversity of trails and trail uses, our focus is on the representation and promotion of pedestrian based trails and their benefits, focusing specifically on;

Connectivity, Economics, Education, Environmental, Health, Heritage, Recreation Transportation 

Hike Ontario does not make or maintain trails,  nor does it offer organized hiking/walking events, except through its member associations. Hike Ontario is the umbrella organization  that provides these province-wide associations with resources  and services to build on these long-established local and regional                  initiatives in a way in which complements and enhances them.”

Bottom line:

  • great resource for finding tails throughout ontario
  • provides links to trail associations
  • provides links to equipment suppliers
  • Promotes getting active in the outdoors, specifically in Ontario.