Once again, National fishing week is upon us here in Southern Ontario (July 5- 13). For those of us hardcore anglers, its just another excuse to get out on the water to chase our lunker dreams. But what about those people who rarely fish, or for that matter, have never fished? Well this week is for you. Twice a year (once in February and again in July) periods of licence free fishing for Canadian residences are allowed. That means you can grab a rod with no license and fish to your hearts content. What a great way to try fishing with no upfront licensing fees!
For those of you who are avid anglers, consider asking a non-fisher or a youth out for a fish. Help the rest of the world see just what all the fuss is about when it comes to fishing. We are all ambassadors of our sport and the more people on the water = the more interest in protecting our fisheries.
As for me, my plans will include taking out some relatives for some exciting bass action. Heres hoping we can get a rod bend or two in!
Its finally here. The day bass fishermen revere as holy. The day where we trade in our walleye and pike gear for braided line and wacky rigs to hit the slop with fervor. Precluded by restless sleeps and early morning Timmies runs, the story plays out much the same across the province. All types of people in all manner of water craft from questionable tinner to decked out bass boat share the same dream of bagging a bassquatch on opening morning.
But its not just this dream that drives us to hit the water with such religious like fervor. No, Bass Opener is steeped in tradition here in Southern Ontario. Tradition that is centred around family and friends. For some, its their only chance to re-unite for a fish with their long lost uncle jimmy. For others, the day is set aside specifically for parent child bonding. For me, I had little to no tradition for this day other than getting out as soon as possible to maximize my bass fishing season. I had no loyalty to one lake and roamed from year to year trying my hand a new water constantly. That all changed though when a fellow fisherman friend invited me to a local tournament on Collins Lake three years ago. With such great hosts, quality participants and amazing Portuguese food, I had finally found a tradition worth partaking in. Fast forward three years later and I am still taking part in this amazing event, made so not by the fishing, but by the quality individuals who take part.
The beginning of this year played out much like the past three. We all met at Gabriel and Fatima’s house the Friday before opener for a few pints and to catch up with one another. Not to mention a little friendly trash talk to keep the spirit of competition alive. The meet and greet was followed by restless sleep for all and an early morning at the launch.
Unfortunately for us this year, there was a lot of traffic on the lake as another tournament was taking place. This put a lot of pressure on the fish and made it even tougher for us. The silver lining was that, the first day was gorgeous and the conditions were optimal for bass fishing.
The tournament itself has a really interesting structure. Fishing occurs over the course of 2 mornings and one afternoon. Fisherman can weigh in two fish after the first morning and have the oppourtunity to upgrade or cull these fish during the first afternoon. The second morning gives each angler a chance for two more additional fish. The great part about this structure is that livewells aren’t crammed with 4 fish and the fish don’t have to spend a whole day in a hot livewell.
Fishing started off at a slow and steady pace. Dave (the former champion) and I had two decent fish each in the live well with multiple culling opportunities. Although the bass fishing was turning out much better than the last year, the more exciting catches were incidental off species. Dave seemed to have a knack for hooking into large versions of anything that couldn’t be weighed in!
The opening morning blew by quickly and the first weigh-ins of the tournament were upon us.
Quite a few decent fish were weighed in, including Dominic’s surprise 3.0 lb small mouth. Those of you who fish Collins on the regular know smallmouth are a rare occurrence on this lake, and a 3 lb smally is even rarer still.
The end of the first day saw Jay with a healthy bag of fish and in contention for a top three finish.
Fortunately for me, the bass gods were smiling on me during the first morning and I managed to weigh in two of the fish above for a combined weigh of 5lbs 5oz. Not a huge number, but then again, Collins is not a huge lake.
Pretty much everyone had something to weigh in by the end of the first day and there was a group of 4 or 5 who seemed to be battling for a shot at first. The fact that the difference between 1st and 3rd was only 3 oz says it all. Everything was riding on the second day and that was a nerve racking concept considering the second day has historically been very slow for fishing in this tournament. Anxiously we completed the day and headed to Gabe and Fatima’s for a little socializing and alot of well needed relaxation. Sleep is a hard commodity to come by during these tournaments, even more so this year with so many people gunning of the top spot. Not to mention a cohort of anglers ranking just behind 3rd who had good solid weights putting them in a good position to catapult to first should they land a lunker. Considering my personal best LM was from Collins and weighed in at just over 6 lbs, I know better than most how very real a possibility this is.
Dave and I hit the water the next day thinking we would start on the shoal we fished on day one. Considering it was immediately next to some deep water we speculated that fish would come back up to the shallows during the evening. Although it was good for some undersized bass on Day 2, we were left with no viable fish in our well and had to make a snap decision to keep trying shoals or to maybe try cranking the flats. In the end I wanted one more crack at another shoal that has always produced and so pulled up the electric and gunned over. This was possibly the decision that made the tournament for us as we quickly located and hooked up with some meaty largemouths. An hour or so later and Dave has a 4 -5 lb bag he would later weigh in and I had a solid 3lber with a little 1lb kicker. Now Dave was looking good to jump from 4th to the top.
With the shoal fished out, we probed a few more shallow spots and some lake edges catching a couple more mediocre fish. Our last trick in the book was fishing some large flat areas that had tall weeds with empty pockets scattered throughout. The flats turned out to be the perfect mid morning location and we began hooking into some very decent fish. Thankfully I was able to cull out my 1lber for a nice fish just under 3 lbs. This brought my total up to 11 lbs 5oz but there was no telling what the other anglers would drum up.
Had to get my fish inspected by the resident comedian in our group (above). Thanks for the Laughs Joe!
Sure enough, the lunker factor played a role in the tournament as Fatima (one of the tournament hosts) brought two giants up to the scales. Combined with here 2.4lbs from the day before, these giant fish catapulted her into the top three in no time flat. Possibly the most impressive fish of the tournament was her 3lb 15oz smallmouth bass. Good Job Fatima!!
When the dust settled my 4 decent fish managed to maintain the lead, Dave jumped from 4th to second with his catch from Day 2 and Fatima came from behind to steal 3rd place. The competition was fierce and the fishing was top notch which made for lots of fun and some great memories.
Group shot (below)
Collins Lake always surprises me. It is such a small body of water that receives an enormous amount of fishing pressure, yet it still manages to produce some quality fish and in good numbers. Not to mention the odd smallmouth!
Weighs and numbers from the last two years seemed a bit stunted when compared to the lake’s past glory. This thought was a bit depressing.
However, after this year’s success I am left with an overwhelming sense of optimism for the lake. Again surprised by the lakes tenacity as a fishery, I am confident trophies will still be available when my kids take up the torch. Still, future success on this lake is dependant upon catch and release efforts, proper care of the fish when kept in a livewell and an over all attitude of conservation. If you fish this lake, or any lake, please do you part to maintain the health of those big buckets. Your not only keeping these fish healthy, your keeping the tradition of bass fishing in Ontario healthy as well!
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!
With the sun at may back I was on my way.
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.
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.
WordPress sent me an alert today; Apparently it has been one years since my inaugural post on this blog. Time certainly does fly when your having fun, or in my case, when your catching fish.
Thanks to all my readers and followers for your patronage and bearing with me on the learning curve to a successful outdoor blog!
Cheers from the Wild
Hunting in Ontario is deeply rooted in tradition. The yearly trip to the hunt camp or the weekend jaunts to the waterfowl blinds have significance for many Ontarians, and for most they were introduced to the sport though family members.
So what do you do when you are new to the sport and have no family to guide the way? No property to hunt on?
Indeed, this is the greatest challenge for the new breed of hunters. Family traditions are not the only factor driving people to hunt these days. Many people desire to hunt for ethical, culinary and social reasons.
The concept is simple; Connect likeminded hunters, anywhere in Canada and The United states over any kind of hunting.
Although, in its early beta stages, this is an amazing concept that could pave the way for the future breed of hunters.
The website focusses on a search tool which allows you to find hunters of all skill levels in your area who hunt the species you are interested in. This tool could be vital for those new breed of hunters looking to connect with more experienced folks or even old camps looking to recruit some new blood.
New hunter or old, I encourage you to give this a look and support this amazing idea.
This weekend found me fishing my old stomping grounds: the Bay of Quinte. Together with my dad and another gent, we launched at the Deseronto boat launch around 7:00 am. Winds from the previous day were lingering which left a good “walleye chop” on the water. In addition the sky was overcast and periods of drizzle were common. This seemed like a perfect day for catching walters!
From the launch we travelled past foresters island and headed for Catalaque Shoal where we dropped the trolling motor and proceeded to troll. Bottom bouncers and spinners were our go to lures that day however the action was slow to start with only perch and white bass caught. We criss-crossed the lake fishing in everything from 18 to 40 FOW. Again only perch and white bass seemed to be interested.
Being a firm believer in “If it aint working, try something else” we decided to try a troll line of the eastern shore line where there was a definitive drop. Trolling in everything from 17 to 24 FOW we started getting lots of hits and proceeded to land several nice sized drum. One we estimated to be around 13 Lbs. We tucked in even closer to the shore line to find a submerged weedbed where we caught a couple decent sized largemouths. As an added bonus we even caught a walleye while on the out side of the weedline.
All in all a decent day on the water.
My apologies for such crummy photography work. I left my DSLR at home as the weather was predicted to be pretty lousy.
Ah well, low quality fish pics are better than none at all right?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(my new abu Garcia verdict and cardinal in action)
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!