While wading rivers for Trout I find it interesting just how closely my guide dog Moby watches my every move.
A mid-November day on the St. Lawrence fishing with Luc Girard and John Chang for monster Musky can be a cold and frustrating experience.
We explored a stretch of river between Lake St. Francis and Cornwall, a section known for plenty of structure, deep channels, endless shallow flats, and rocky shoals that go for miles. The day offered up cold winds, plenty of waves and strong current. Thank goodness the sun kept temperatures just above freezing, with water temps in the low 50’s.
My guest aboard the Ranger 620 Fisherman was Luc Girard. Luc is a member of Musky Inc and Cornwall’s Lunker Hunt fishing club, and a dedicated steward of the river. Luc is one of those anglers who truly cares about the future of fishing. In addition to his love for the sport, he’s volunteering for numerous local water conservation initiatives.
He’s fully equipped to conduct fish tagging on behalf of the St. Lawrence River Institute for Environmental Science, helped organize a shoreline clean-up with 400 volunteers that pulled over 12 tons of garbage out of the river, monitors oil slicks on the river and reports spotting to the Coast guard over a 3-month period following the sinking of two tugboats on the river, supports several area charity fishing derbies, and so much more.
Luc does all this with a smile on his face and a positive attitude even though the arthritis in his hands is growing increasingly severe, and the three surgeries on his back have still not addressed the problem with his spine. His dedication to the river and love of fishing make up a large part of who Luc is, and he’s happy to share his passion with others, young and old.
After our sprint home up-current into the wind and waves at a thrilling 55 mph, we were all feeling a bit cold, wind-burnt and tired. And then the sun went down and everything changed. The red sun sunk into the river bringing to an end the wind just as a huge ocean-going ship lit up like a floating city came into view. Moments later a super bright “Super” moon popped up from behind one of the 33 islands clustered along this stretch of river. Even though I only have the one tiny window in the upper left section of my left eye, I still managed to witness both the day draw to a close and the night commence. After we finished gawking at this dramatic shift in time and space, my buddy John Chang idled the Ranger over to the doc. The solar/lunar sightings and meal of Perch at a near-by restaurant with good friends, new and old, was a well-deserved end to a bone-chilling day.
You really don’t need to go far from Canada’s capital and forth largest city, Ottawa, to access hundreds of prime Bass Canadian Shield lakes. How lucky can one guy be.
Thankfully, Navionics has many of these lakes included on their various digital map offerings, which is pretty cool given it’s a company located in the U.S. And trust me, you want a good map; especially when you see birds that appear to be standing still in the middle of lakes.
Finding the often un-published public boat launches can be a challenge, given that cottage owners try their best to discourage non-residence from enjoying their wilderness sanctuaries. It also means taking responsibility for ensuring one isn’t transporting foreign life such as Zebra mussels or invasive plants from one lake to another.
Once away from the launch, it doesn’t take long to find you’re completely secluded from all signs of human activity. The fishing can be spectacular.
I always come prepared with an assortment of super-strong TroKar hooks. Flipping baits into fallen trees that litter the shoreline makes for amazing action. It does mean however, that my sighted partner has to give me some hints on where to pitch, and especially where not to. My 7’6” heavy Shimano flipping rod, 65lb PowerPro braided line, and a Shimano Antares reel winds it all in, regardless. Crazy times for sure.
There are also the weed beds. Tossing wacky-rigged stickbaits using medium-heavy spinning tackle like the new G Loomis 7’ E6X paired with a Shimano 2500 Sustain spinning reel spooled up with 15lb PowerPro braided line is all it takes. I prefer using TroKar 2/0 size octopus hooks. They may not be weedless, but what is. It’s not a tournament, so I have no problem pinching down the barbs.
Days like this leave you with raw skin on your thumb. Bass have no teeth, but after catching 30 or more, their mouths leave their marks. It’s only when your driving home though, that you notice you have “Bass thumb”. A secret reminder of a great day of fishing as you sit through the first office meeting of the week come Monday.
One of the perks of pro staffing for Orleans Boat World, Evinrude and Ranger Boats is getting the opportunity to test pre-release innovations like this new E-TEC G2 150 hp outboard. Hung on the back of a 2017 Ranger Z118 bassboat, it was a match made in heaven.
Fellow anglers rest easy, insurance adjusters back down. As tempting as it was to take a turn operating the boat, it was my buddy Jason Cox who did all the driving. The last thing anyone wants to hear about is a blind guy piloting a bassboat on the Ottawa River at 60 mph (LOL).
However, I can report that the throaty growl of this motor between 2000 and 4000 rpm is truly impressive. High performance all the way. Engine volume does taper off quite nicely making it easy to talk at rpm’s over 4500.
Having owned 250 hp E-TEC’s for the past four years, I was also more than surprised just how much seat-pinning power this new 150 E-TEC puts out. No sleeping dog for sure.
This is my second year running a 250 high output G2 E-TEC. Prior to the G2, I ran Evinrude’s E-TEC for seven years. Everything from a 115 hp on up. What amazes me is the fuel efficiency of the new G2 motors. There have been plenty of occasions when we put in under $10 in gas to top up the tank following a day of fishing.
Not only are the new Evinrude G2 outboards easy on the wallet, but the environment too. It may be a 2-stroke motor, but through continuously regulated oil injection, it’s the cleanest burning outboard on the market, and that includes the 4-stroke competition.
So, while my boat and motor may be big and fast, it can do it all with little negative impact. It’s nice to know I’m safe on the water, and that I’m not leaving behind a mess for the fish to put up with.
For the third time in four years I brought together two seemingly different groups with a similar interest – to catch fish. The Ottawa Valley South Bassmasters, for which I’ve served as Conservation Director for the past three years, and Ottawa’s largest Girl Guide troop.
The trick is lots of worms, tiny 1/16 oz. ball-head jigs or smaller, floats, and did I mention worms?
Each volunteer Bass Masters Club member was paired with 2-3 Girl Guides. Sure, there was a bit of fishing rod sharing, but every girl caught at least two fish – some as many as eight.
Distributing worms started orderly enough with 2-3 in the bottom of cut-down disposable cups, and ended with girls grabbing worms by the handful to expedite the fish catching process.
A little Q/A section at the end to go over fish species caught, and to discuss the stewardship tips learned that evening.
Amazing how many fish can be caught from one doc in 90 minutes using 20-odd fishing rods – great job girls!
The morning seemed “fishy” with heavy cloud cover, but that didn’t take long to burn off and flat-calm water and “blue-bird” skies to dampen my optimism. Jason Cox, Scott Campbell and myself were aboard my Ranger 620 Fisherman at 6: a.m for the second event in this tournament series.
Using 3/8 oz. EagleClaw Walleye jigs tipped with live minnows dragged on bottom at depths from 30’ to 20’ got the ball rolling, but it was my hunch that the bigger fish would be up shallow in 8-10 feet relating to weed edges that secured our second place finish. Bottom bouncers with spinner-rigs baited with minnows trolled at 1.3 mph netted us the bigger fish of the day.
Unfortunately, time ran out before we were able to up-grade several of our smaller fish. All were caught, photographed and instantly released back into the exact area of the lake from which they came.
What I like best about this club, for which I have served as the Conservation Director for the past four years, is the exchange of information that takes place between competitors both during and following each event. By ensuring that all members are schooled on successful patterns, the likelihood of their becoming long-term members increases. So far the approach is working. Our club has gained a half-dozen new members each year, and drops on average 1-2 annually. Slow but steady seems to be winning the race…
It may be the case that Canada’s capital Ottawa has one of the least developed and inaccessible shorelines anywhere in the world, but that doesn’t deter people from fishing. In spite of the limited shoreline access, we anglers still manage to partake in their sport in sight of Canada’s federal legislators and public service mandarins.
No Doubt, fishing with friends after work is a great way to end the day. Spring fishing for catfish off Victoria Island behind Ottawa’s Parliament Hill is one of many urban fishing options the city of Ottawa offers. These cats can reach upwards of five kilos. Bring a lawn chair, some heavy 2-3 oz. weights, size 1/0 non-offset circle hooks, a stout rod and some worms. Tie your rig so the line can slide freely through the weight by putting the weight ahead of a swivel, then attach your hook to the swivel using a 12-inch section of heavy 20lb mono. Set your rod in a holder and slack off the drag. When a catfish takes, simply tighten the line and the circle hook will take care of the rest. No need for a hook set.
The fishing is best around sundown. However, the comradery is always good no matter whether the fish are biting or not.
You can spend a lot and fly in to some remote wilderness resort, or you can just pull out your grandparent’s old fishing rod from the back of the closet. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.
You often hear rumours about anglers who go fishing in spring and catch a hundred Crappy. The first thing we all ask, is where? Early ice-out conditions can be like fishing through the ice. The fish seem to be no where until finally you find them, and then they are in numbers that boggle the mind. Go back two weeks later, and it’s a totally different story. So why are Crappy so hard to find, and what explains their split personality?
Getting the boat out of storage or wetting a new boat for the first time is an exciting start to any angler’s year. Taking the boat for a shake-down cruise in April goes hand-in-hand with searching for spring Crappy. It’s a good fit because finding crappy can take a lot of running about. No doubt, lot’s has been said and written on where to look, but in the end, it comes down to a process of elimination. Once you find them though, its knowledge for life – they seem to be creatures of habit. It’s why everyone is so tight lipped about where to look.
Northern shorelines in the backs of bays over bottom that is black, or at the mouths of in-flowing streams or rivers are features that are often identified as places to look. Of course, timing is another important factor as nothing turns Crappy on more than direct sun, and the lack of sun can just as quickly shut these little big-mouths down. The problem seems to arise when so many of the seemingly likely spots don’t seem to hold fish. It’s often just the one spot, but which one.
Water temperatures between 40 and 50 F could be considered pre-spawn. Crappy, like most all fish, are still experiencing a slow metabolism and have minimal appetites. They will bite, but prefer slow moving or stationary meals of smaller proportions. Float fishing is the answer because fish need to study their meal first, and they are probably in fairly shallow water. This is also the time of year that Crappy are taking the bite while moving up in the water column, which means the line grows slack when they bite, and doesn’t jerk or tighten. Round bobbers hardly move, but a stick bobber might tip over on to its side. Personally, I use the smallest float that will suspend my bait, cast out, and then reel in as slow as possible, setting the hook when tension is detected.
Later, when water temps warm up to between 55 and 70, Crappy come alive. They become just as difficult to find, but more aggressive when you do. Small 1/16 oz. jigs with 2” to 3” tubes or grubs work well, as do tiny spinners or jigs rigged with blades. A cast and retrieve is all that’s needed. Northern Pike might also be feeding post-spawn, so Crappy will be using cover like wood in the water or early growth weeds to avoid being eaten. Prepare to be bitten off.
A third technique that works on less than cooperative Crappy is a mini drop shot rig. I personally use 4lb braded Power Pro line, a tiny 6mm swivel, and 3-feet of 4lb floral line as a leader. A #6 extra wide gap hook from EagleClaw and a 1/16 oz. tungsten weight from Ultra Tungsten completes the rig. Fish the line a bit slack, and take your time setting the hook. Setting the hook after solid resistance is detected is sufficient and will avoid needlessly pulling the bait out of strike range before the Crappy has properly engulfed the bait.
Last, I never make it a point to count the number of fish caught. I don’t want to fall into that numbers game, and would rather catch some, enjoy the bite for a while, and then get back to cruising the lake to look for more areas where the Crappy are holding up. I always pinch the barb on my hooks as Crappy have paper-thin mouths and there’s no point tearing them a new hole every time I catch and release a fish. If I intend to keep a few for dinner that night, I release the biggest ones, thinking these are the primary breeding females, and keep just enough of the average size males to feed the family.
So, slow fish fast fish, it really comes down to the water temperature in the end. It has nothing to do with their astrological sign. Same fish, totally different experience. Try them both ways and enjoy your first days out on the boat in the new year.
I recently received an inquiry from an angler about to purchase his first dropshot rod and was looking for advice on whether he could use a regular rod, or would need something more specific. I had to stop myself several times from pounding out a quick reply, and after reflecting more thoroughly on the question, I realized there’s no one answer.
I personally have and use five different rods for dropshotting. Each is different, and each was adopted over time to address specific needs. And, I’m not even talking about power-shotting large plastics, which is simply a different style of flip-pitching baits. Let me explain.
Dropshot rods mostly all have one thing in common, and that’s a soft tip. Matched up with a strong lower 2/3’s of the blank, and that’s pretty much it. The soft tip is there so you can check for bites without necessarily lifting your dropshot weight off the bottom and pulling the bait away from the target. It also allows fish to engage your bait without the fish detecting artificial or un-due resistance. All of this is based on a stationary bait presentation, which is not always the case.
Dragging dropshot baits behind the boat is never a great idea, but sometimes it’s the only way. Specifically, I’m thinking about rivers with current and being swept along in a boat. Trying to maintain a stationary position is impossible, which is why you instead execute a sort of controlled drift while keeping your line as near vertical as possible. Detecting the difference between bites and what you’re drifting over is crucial. Hard flat featureless bottom and you’re probably wasting your time. Rocks, transitions, drops, etc. are different and often present ambush points for fish. This is when a more typical spinning rod comes into play. Again, a good stiff bottom 2/3’s, but a more typical extra-fast tip found on your worm and jig rods. Heavier weights like ½ or ¾ might also mean going medium-heavy power. Thus, drifting deep over transitioning bottom can be accomplished with any decent spinning rod with the power and action needed to manage lighter 10-15lb braid, heavier dropshot weights and stronger river fish – often Smallmouth Bass.
Dropshotting for Largemouth bass is different than dropshotting for Smallmouth. Largies like a bit of action, which means you can either swing the bait out, let it sink, then work it back to the boat. Or, if fishing beds, target your bed and then apply action to the bait without pulling it out of the strike zone.
Both these styles of fishing can be done with either a medium or medium-action casting or spinning rod that has an extra fast tip. Since you aren’t dead-sticking the bait so much as imparting action, the rod doesn’t need to have an especially soft tip. You will be fishing near structure though, so a rod with sufficient power to control hooked fish is important.
In both the above examples I’m not suggesting fast or moderate action rods as this isn’t a reaction bite that fish slam. It’s more often a lazy bite, or something opportunistic as the baits just right there taunting them. You will need a rod suited to setting thinner gage wire hooks, but setting hooks never-the-less.
Smallmouth prefer presentations that are as close to still as possible. This is when a true dropshot rod comes into play with its far softer tip section. The rod allows you to check for soft bites without imparting sudden or strong action to the bait. You’re simply checking for wait. No resistance — let it sit. Smallmouth quite often even chew on your bait without your even knowing, for how long, who knows, but the fact that they experience no artificial resistance to their meal choice is important. This style of motionless or dead-sticking presentation is when the true dropshot rods come into play. A good solid backbone for driving home thin wire hooks, and a soft tip for subtle bite detection.
Walleye, on the other hand, are masters at stripping minnows off hooks. When they feel the metal of the hook, they simply back off, clamp down and tug, and off comes your minnow. Dropshotting for Walleye involves one of two approaches, either you leave a tremendous amount of slack in your line so unsuspecting Walleye can slurp in your entire minnow or worm under zero resistance, or you maintain just the barest of tension on the line needed to execute snappy hooksets. My preference in both cases is an extra fast medium-light spinning rod that has a fast rate of recovery. No sloppy tip needed for this sort of fishing, just good line watching focus on the part of the angler. Step up to a medium action rod with a similar action and you can go to a double hook dropshot system, more commonly known as a pickerel rig.
Power-shotting is simply moving your pegged weight from in front of the bait to the tag end of the line. Some even separate the bait from the weight with as much as 3-5 feet. It’s a technique meant to suspend large plastics just below surface cover, or at the very least, above thicker weed growth at the bottom when fish are feeling a little neutral and require some enticing. Either way, flipping rods are still the best option given the size of weights and plastics, and the proximity to heavy cover.
Lastly, what follows is my own version of presenting stick baits wacky style in and around heavy cover. It takes a 6’, 6” or 7’ extra-fast medium-heavy rod; either spinning or casting. 40lb to 50lb braid is recommended along with a 12lb floral leader. The idea is to use a 1/8 or 3/16 oz. pencil weight about 18” below your wacky presentation. The technique entails long casts over shallow submerged weed and then stopping the bait from sinking completely down into the weeds by establishing pressure on the line after the weight has had a chance to make contact with the weeds. By maintaining only the slightest pressure on the line so the weight doesn’t pull free, you can suspend your bait just above the submerged weed tops and keep it in the strike zone longer. Bites can be both aggressive and passive so focus on line movement is essential.
There you go, five – O.K. six, techniques that each call for slightly different styles of rods, and only one references the traditional dropshot spinning rod known for their incredibly soft upper 1/3 tip section. I hope I haven’t blurred the lines too much, but let’s face it; every new fishing technique is little more than a re-imagining of something old, so keep on experimenting and adjusting to fit ever-changing circumstances.
The 2016 Ice fishing season had to be one of the shortest on record. December was a bust and January crept in so slow that you just knew it couldn’t last. Even still, I managed to creep out on the ice, poke a few holes, and strike it lucky a bunch of times before the February show season began chewing up my weekends.
In early March my friend Jason Cox drove us up to one of his favourite lakes in the Ottawa Valley region. I know this lake well as my Walleye club has a competitive event here every summer, but this was my first time fishing it through the ice. Joining us for the day was my youngest boy, who loves being on the ice when the weather starts to warm up, and of course, Moby my Burnese / lab guide dog.
We took out the two Frabill flip-over’s. Three seats and wind-breaks for everyone. It was the beginning of March and only 14-inches of ice managed to form.
Lots of Perch entertained my son while Jason and I put down larger bait in hopes of tagging a large Pike or Walleye. Always fun fishing with tip-ups especially now that I’ve started using BlueTipz wireless bite alarms that send a private message to my iPhone or BlueTipz receiver announcing each time there’s action. Otherwise, I’m working the Frabill straight line combos that I’ve come to appreciate so much.
Whether it’s the Frabill multipliers or the single action reels I use for fishing 2lb test, they all have their place. Both allow me to get my line down to the exact depth faster than possible when using spinning gear. The free-spool multipliers are lightening quick, and the single action reels for lighter line and shallower water let me strip off the exact amount of line each time – eliminating the guess work.
Good day for sure. Lots of bites, warm nourishing sun, and great company. Moby had a great day too meeting and greeting the ice shanty dogs that had already laid claim to the lake for the season. Funny how dogs always seem to think they own the entire ice surface for as far as they can see.