Christopher Pollon on the Proposed Site C Dam

The Peace River that still flows wild in north-east British Columbia is as unusual as it is beautiful, but that won’t stop its being dammed once and for all. Journalist Christopher Pollon has dug into the story including a canoe trip along the Peace itself, and still hasn’t figured out why is the mega Site C dam being built after all these years when demand for hydro in BC has been falling steadily for ten years.

The 93 km stretch of the Peace River is the last stretch still to be dammed according to a 1960’s plan that has already seen two dams go up 40 years back. The project itself was exempted from further environmental review, and a pre-historic treaty with the native groups that will be affected has given government the green light. But why?

Mega dams are expensive short-term infrastructure projects that may offer solid evidence of a political politician’s delivered promise, but in so many other ways they are as harmful to the environment and the people that live there in as they are big in size. Mercury contamination, habitat destruction, and in this case, the submerging of super productive farm land that’s unique to North America.

Yes, the Peace River flows north, joins the McKenzie River, and ultimately splashes down in the Arctic Ocean. It’s not a waste of perfectly good water though. The Arctic needs every drop of water it can get, given that technically, it’s a desert. Without water coming into the region, the Arctic could become as arid as the Sahara.

Nine billion can get you a lot of alternative energy without having to string up massive hydro lines. Think small local energy production. It may not be as sexy as a monster dam, but it sure can make life a lot better for people living in areas of the country not presently being serviced with green friendly electricity.

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should; especially when we know all too well what the down-sides are, such as fish contaminated with mercury for decades to come.

Sport/recreational angling and native groups should all be at the table when taking fishery management decisions

My input on the department of fisheries and oceans ideas on-line forum was submitted Saturday, November 25, the last day of consultations with the public through this on-line tool. My input was that:

“All fishers, commercial, native, sport and recreational now have and use innovations that allow them to fish efficiently. All stakeholder fishing groups now need equal say on how fish stocks will be managed and shared. All have an invested social and economic interest in the health of fish stocks”.

When local people work together to manage a resource and do so using science along with their own local observations, the result can be far greater than when each works in isolation. A lack of communication leads to mistrust and a race to secure their own share of what everyone now knows is a limited resource. Its pure competition and survival of the fittest. It’s why all stakeholders need to sit down together and decide together how the harvest of a resource will be managed fairly, equitably, and with a view to the future.

Canada’s Fisheries Act is under review. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is in the midst of a study that will offer recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on ways to improve and modernize the legislation. Anastasia Lintner was commissioned by the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) to prepare a formal submission to Standing Committee recommending changes to the Act to better protect fish and fish habitat in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

On a recent episode of Blue Fish Radio, I spoke with Anastasia about the importance of using protection zones prudently, the need to include both indigenous and local voices and knowledge at decision making tables, why ministerial discretion needs to be transparent, and the importance of putting back safeguards that were removed from the Fisheries Act in 2012. Link here to hear the interview live, or visit www.BlueFishRadio.com.

Luc Girard Citizen Scientist

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.

John Chang and Lawrence

John Chang and Lawrence

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 Girard and Lawrence

Luc Girard and Lawrence

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.

Fishing for Bass on Canadian Shield Lakes

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.

Lawrence fishing on the prime Bass Canadian Shield lakesThankfully, 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.

Lawrence holding his catch of a bass using the new G Loomis 7’ E6X 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.

Trials of New Pre-Release Evinrude 150 HP G2 E-TEC Outboard

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.

Jason Cox at the helm

Jason Cox at the helm

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.

Outdoor Canada Magazine and Lawrence Gunther on Aquariums of North America

The following links to an article I wrote for the spring 2016 issue of Outdoor Canada Magazine. It addresses how aquariums are actively ensuring the future of both fish and fishing. Not only do they support fishing, but they depend on anglers and fishers to collect important data, make observations, volunteer for various initiatives, and implement their tools and research trials.
http://www.outdoorcanada.ca/Why_anglers_should_help_public_aquariums_conserve_our_fisheries

To link to the Blue Fish Radio special on Aquariums of North America please visit www.bluefishradio.com

In Town and Out

CBC Radio One asked if I would talk about fishing the morning of the family free fishing day in Ontario. The following is the audio recording from the In Town and Out episode that aired the morning of July 2, 2016.

The interview was recorded along the shore of the Rideau River, a favorite place for Moby and I to go and very near our home.

I think this producer / radio host really got what I’m trying to get across to the public, which is sustainable fishing. The message is a positive one and really shows anglers as ready and willing to approach their sport in an ethical way – one that’s respectful of the resource, and one that will help ensure the practice of fishing and harvesting wild fish will continue for many future generations.

Girl Guides Catch Fish Fish and More Fish

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!

Ottawa Region Walleye League 2nd Place Finish!

Lawrence and Jason with 18inch WalleyeThe 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…

Catfish Fishing in Canada’s Capital

lawrence-moby-catfishIt 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.

Follow me on Twitter @lawrencegunther, and catch my Feel the Bite Videos and Blue Fish Radio shows.