Mega-Cabin on Ice

The Ottawa River is a significant body of water with an even more impressive current. So imagine my surprise when my good friend and area fishing guide Yannick Loranger called me up and asked if I wanted to be his first guest in his brand new 12 x 20 ice shack? “Sure”, I said over the phone all the time thinking, “I hope this thing has an escape hatch in the roof”.

After picking up some super lively minnows from Charlie’s Minnows in Rockland we met up with Yannick outside the biggest fishing shack I’d ever had the pleasure of entering.

Yannick thought of everything. Furnace, stove, lights and even a flat screen TV. Bunks for up to 8 anglers, table and chairs, and four holes in the floor to fish all night.

Well, word soon got out that I was going to inaugurate Yannick’s new cabin and before long I was turning down friends who were suddenly all too eager to “help out”. Even still, we had at least eight guys hanging around and inside that very cool “man cave” that night – just the four of us stayed the night, including Yannick himself.

Late into the night my BlueTipz wireless bite alarm sets off the warning on my smart phone that there was action outside on my Frabill tip-up. Yannick flipped back on the 500 watt spots and out we stumbled into the cold where I was certain I would find a huge pike morroding my 7’ minnow fixed to a single 3/0 EagleClaw j-hook. With everyone gathered around I surprised myself and popped what must have been the hungriest 15” Walleye out of the hole with just the tail of the minnow still visible. Wasn’t hard to get the rest of my minnow back, but that was it for the night. 2:28 a.m. – time to hit the sack.

The next morning Yannick was the first to hit the deck and before long had the generator fired up and the stove going. Smells of bacon and eggs had the rest of us soon rolling out of bed.

I never went far though, having only to put my feet on the floor to start jigging a small Emerald Shiner. I just finished my breakfast, still fishing the entire time, when there was a strong and pulsing sensation at the end of my line. I reeled up to set the hook but it was gone. A quick check to make sure the minnow was still there, and then back down using my Frabill in-line reel and rod combo. Wasn’t long and the fish was back.

The fish felt heavy. I hoped it was one of those monster Walleye’s the Ottawa is known for, but after three good long drag ripping runs, Yannick reached way down and dragged up a very decent 10 lbs Muskie.

Thankfully the Trocar TK150 size #1 drop shot hook was perfectly lodged in the corner of the bruit’s mouth, making extraction simple. Without pause I had her back down the hole where she departed with a swish of her tail.

That was one fun adventure. While Yannick’s cabin may lack somewhat in polish and decor, it sure makes up for it in size and functionality. No doubt, a big hit judging by the number of bookings Yannick is making. It may be a while before the mates and I get back out for a second round of late night ice fishing.

To book your own stay on ice with Yannick Loranger contact:
Tel: (613) 419-0565

Talking Tackle Depth Whisperer

This past winter I received an email from one of the founders of Talking Tackle depth Whisperer. This led to our talking by phone and my hearing again a not too uncommon story about the potential benefits of having a talking depth sounder aboard a boat. These guys decided enough talk, and did something about it.

The product they invented is one of the best examples of audio technology being applied to a fish finder that I’ve come across in the past eight years. The voice is pleasant, the controls are simple to understand, and the technology is relatively easy to install. I now use the talker on my HobieCat, Porta-Boat and Ranger fisherman and love it. The nice thing is, so do my fishing buddies.

The technology features:

  • Weather and water resistant
  • Easily mounted nearly anywhere on boat with DUAL-LOCK tape (provided)
  • Cable provided for connection to 12 volt cigarette lighter plug
  • Power-on/processor-active indicator
  • 3.5 mm audio output port for connection to alternative speaker devices
  • Volume adjustable too easy to hear 85 decibel output
  • Verbal output menu selection system
  • Customizable time interval between VERBAL depth announcements
  • Customizable VERBAL Shallow Water Alert and Bottom Structure Alert
  • VERBAL Low Boat Battery Alarm
  • Tracks Bottom up to 450 feet

Yes, you read correctly, this device will even tell you if your cranking battery is starting to run low – how cool is that.

For more information about this technology I strongly suggest you visit their website where you can see and hear it function for yourself.

Anchors up, Lawrence

All Aboard “Fresh Off the Boat”

Lunker Walleye, Bass and One Extraordinary Fish

I first met John and Suzette Chang through our local Walleye league. Not only were they competing together in every event, they led the organization of our club’s yearly kids ice fishing derby. Several years back they took their love of Walleye fishing to the next level with the purchase of a 25-foot fishing boat that they overhauled and renamed, “Fresh off the Boat”. The boat is kept docked on Lake Ontario where the couple along with a partner offer daily charters. When my family received an invitation to join John and Suzette for a day of trolling for Walleye, we jumped at the chance.

We were hardly out of the marina before Suzette took over the wheel and John began running out planerboards – three on each side. We were trolling cranks over water that averaged 35-feet in depth. As John predicted, within minutes after he passed out the food he had only just prepared using the boats on-board BBQ, planerboards started to drop back.

My wife and our youngest two kids, aged six and eight, had plenty of fun reeling in 6, 7 and 8 pound Walleyes, with a chunky 4.5 lb Smallmouth caught by my son for good measure. Walleye of this size in most parts of Canada would be older fish well into their productive years, but on Lake Ontario, range in age from three to five years. John and Suzette routinely boat Walleye that push the mid-teens.

The highlight of the day was a drag-ripping call-to-action take on the left inside planer board. John pulled the rod out of the holder and called my name as next up. According to the Tekota’s line counter there was 352 feet of line separating me from the fish.

After an initial short but intense run, the fish stopped dead in the water. Unfortunately, the forward progress of the boat meant Line just kept coming off the reel. To avoid spooling the reel, Suzette had little choice but to take the boat out of gear.

We knew it wasn’t a salmon because the initial run wasn’t that long. John speculated that maybe the crankbait was snagged on bottom, but even through the elastic stretch of the mono I could tell that whatever had my line was alive. Eventually, with gentle pressure and coaxing from my end, the fish slowly turned towards the boat. Over the next 20 minutes I managed to reel about 100 feet of line in – enough for John to remove the planerboard. That still left 250 feet or so of line to go. It was then that the fish showed itself for the first time.

I wasn’t sure what to think when John saw the back of the fish. He was convinced that it was either a Sturgeon or a Musky. Whatever it was, I’m pretty sure the fact that it was hooked to my line hardly registered in its predatory brain. What I did know, based on John’s reaction and my limited ability to move the fish, that it was big.

To keep the other lines from tangling, especially the outside line on the right that was also showing signs of fish-on activity, Suzette put the boat back in gear and began slowly moving forward. Over the next 30 minutes or so I managed to recover another 150-feet of line. This left 100 feet of 10 lb monofilament line separating the monster fish from me and, hopefully, the net.

We still weren’t sure what we would do even if we were able to get the fish to the boat. John was convinced that there was no way he would be able to fit it into his 30-inch hoop landing net. What choice did I have but to continue to carefully take in line when possible, and just hold on when the fish refused to give another inch.

With 60-feet of line still to go, the fish adopted a position directly below the motor. Suzette said she could see the fish on the depth sounder as a steady line. My nine-foot medium-heavy powered trolling rod was bent 180 degrees straight down. It became clear that while the fish was willing to join us for a cruise, it had no intention of coming aboard.

About 50 minutes into the fight, things changed dramatically. The feel at the end of the line became electric as the line started to sweep upwards. John began yelling, “It’s coming up, it’s coming up”. For an instant I thought I was in a re-enactment of the movie Jaws.

The fish made three dramatic leaps behind the boat as it angled to the left and back. It cleared the water by at least four feet. After its third and final display of acrobatic prowess, the line separated and flew back in our faces. The fish was free, or so we thought.

My wife, John and Suzette all had a good look at my fish. The consensus was Musky. A fish known to inhabit the deeper waters of Lake Ontario. John swears it was the biggest fish he had ever seen, and my wife thanked God we didn’t have to bring it into the boat. Much to all of our surprise however, we weren’t through with it yet.

Not 15 seconds after breaking off my line the rod to my right began to scream out line. John, the first to react, surmised the Musky had become hooked on a second rod. He pulled it from the holder and again handed me the rod. What was I to do, but finish the job.

Unfortunately for the Musky it still had the crankbait from my first line in his mouth. One of the hooks must have become wrapped in one of the other lines being trolled behind the boat. Yet again, I was dealing with several hundred feet of 10-pound monofilament line. This time however, the Musky had no intention of joining us on a leisurely stroll, and was instead heading off in a perpendicular direction to our own.

For the next 15 minutes I worked on slowing down its progress. Suzette even altered course to parallel the Musky’s direction. In the end though, it wasn’t enough, and with another strong surge, the Musky cleared itself of the line.

The final departure of such a large Musky from our grasp left us with mixed emotions. We felt bad that such a large fish was now adorned with a crankbait with two treble hooks, although research on this issue tells us that the fish would be free of the bling within three to five days. We also all wanted badly to have landed the Musky, but none of us had any idea of how we would have managed to complete this aspect of the fight. In reality, the best we could have hoped for was a quick and easy hook release with the fish beside the boat. If not a complete release, then Cutting the hooks at best, or worse case scenario, cutting the line. There was no way we had a net anywhere near large enough to fit that fish without causing it significant injury.

I can say here with all honesty that I lost what would have been the largest Musky of my life. Keep in mind this isn’t my estimation, having never actually having placed my hands on the fish to determine through touch alone its actual size. No, I’m going strictly on what others in the boat observed with their own eyes. It was most definitely a musky that everyone saw leap three times behind the boat, with an estimated length that easily exceeded 55 inches.

For me to have experienced such a fish for over an hour on what would arguably constitute tackle that was far too light, was an experience to say the least. Honestly, I doubt the fish even knew it was hooked until it had grown tired of following what it had likely misunderstood to be pray that simply refused to give up the fight. It wasn’t until it tried to spit the bait and couldn’t did it panic resulting in it shooting up to the surface to shake off what it now understood to be a threat.

Some might muse that perhaps I overly tired the fish, but in my defense, the light line and drag setting never did allow me to actively engage the fish in a battle for its freedom. While interesting, in no way could the hour we spent connected to each other by means of first one and then another thin strand of monofilament be considered an epic man versus fish struggle for supremacy. In reality, it was more like the Musky had assumed the role of guide fish for the blind, and had simply joined me for a leisurely stroll.

Later in the day, after being driven off the lake by threat of lightening, I don’t think there was a single one of us who didn’t feel somehow different. Most certainly the hospitality and comradery was top notch and the fishing first rate. However, swimming in each of our consciences was an extremely large Musky that played us more so than we it. We were little more than a play toy to a rather large apex predator. A fish that new most certainly it had nothing to fear. Without exception, we were all left feeling awe inspired and humbled.


Renegade Pro-Am

This year’s annual Renegade pro-am bass tournament was held once again on Mississippi Lake in Carlton Place, Ontario, and it was my good fortune to be invited back to fish with one of their amazing professionals. My guest Renegade pro aboard the Ranger 620 was Corey Gaffney, one half of the famed Gaffney brother team that dominated routinely throughout the Renegade tournament series up until Spencer Gaffney’s career progression within the fishing industry transported him to southern Ontario bringing to an end this dynamic dual, for now.

Corey Gaffney started his professional fishing career at the age of 19, and over the next nine seasons he’s proven that he’s more than capable of competing in Ontario’s premier bass series. A competitive hockey enthusiast, Corey grew up fishing Mississippi Lake, which contributed to his second place finish the day prior to the pro-am. Corey and his new partner Trever brought in a bag of five Bass weighing over 18 lbs – three of the Bass tipping the scales at just over 4.5 lb each.

Corey’s Mississippi Lake game plan for our own pro-am competition was to focus on Smallmouth Bass first, and then go looking for a kicker Largemouth to put us over the top. Weather conditions had changed dramatically throughout the night.  Instead of bright sun, we were facing a day of dark clouds, high winds and heavy rain which, you guessed it, was exactly what we experienced up until one hour after the weigh-in concluded.

The 7: a.m. blast-off started with an exhilarating run down the lake at just over 60 mph. We  began by drifting flats of 6-10 feet in depth which had emerging weed growth, a mixture of sand and rock, and 71 degree water temperatures. Corey started off with a top-water bait and, in the interest of trying something different,  I was burning spinnerbaits. As the wind picked up Corey changed over to jerk baits and later a spinner bait as well. All proved effective but, to our surprise, we caught only Largemouth Bass, as well as numerous Northern Pike    in the 3-6 lb range. (If this had been a Pike tournament we would have clinched first prize for sure.)

Even though my Ranger is equipped with driver and bow mounted Lowrance sonar systems, I discovered later that morning that Corey hadn’t bothered to turn either of the HD units on. Upon my pointing out this slight oversight, Corey said he knew the lake more than well enough to run “blind”, although he did regret not having access to his waypoints.  In the end, he didn’t seem to experience any difficulty finding our targets.

Our largest Bass of the day, a 3.5 Largemouth, came on a white / chartreuse double-willow Jackle spinner bait. Hard baits and toads also performed well. With the fish on the move we had little choice but to stick to search baits.

After watching me retrieve my toad, Corey recommended I keep it on the surface where Bass had less opportunity to observe that my bait was an imitation. I pointed out that I had caught Bass in the past fishing toads sub-surface, but Corey felt larger more experienced fish would be less likely to strike a sub-surface toad as they would have more opportunity to reject the bait. He also suggested I could eliminate having to reel quickly to raise the toad to the surface after each cast by stopping the cast just prior to splash-down so that the retrieve could commence instantly. It worked. On my very next cast I caught a decent keeper.

Corey truly has the competitive spirit. I don’t think he stopped fishing once the entire seven hours we were on the boat other than to pilot the Ranger. His work ethic paid off. With ten minutes to go, not only did I catch another Bass that culled, on his last pitch for the day Corey produced our second largest Bass of the day. Not quite the kicker we were looking for, but enough to assure our finishing well into the top half of the field.

Weights of the 25 competitive pro-am teams ranged from 8 lbs all the way up to 16. However, only two fish were caught over 4 lbs, and the vast majority of the bags were between 11 and 13 lbs. everyone caught plenty of fish which meant a lot of smiling faces. A Shimano spinning outfit, $50 gift certificate from a local fishing tackle store called Paddle Tales, a bag full of goodies from Berkley, and a complimentary BBQ all helped broaden those smiles even further. Lowrance Elite sonar systems for the top three amateurs rounded off the prize package. The Renegade pros donated their boats, time and gas, and can take pride in the fact that they introduced 25 new potential tournament fishers to the competitive sport of Bass fishing.

Big thanks to Corey Gaffney for agreeing to join me aboard the Ranger for the day. Even though we got more than wet from the rain, we both enjoyed the stable ride the 620 Fisherman provided – not to mention the more than ample power of the 250 HO Evinrude E-Tec. I’d also like to acknowledge all the Renegade pros, shoreline volunteers and event organizers for putting on another incredible event. And, it goes without saying, having Big Jim on Stage as the MC is certainly an event highlight.

Musky on the Ottawa River

John Anderson 2014 Opener

As a Musky Canada member opening day of Musky season is always a celebratory event. This year was no different. Over 50 Ottawa chapter members showed up. Making the opener especially significant was a surprise call from my friend John Anderson inviting me to join him aboard his boat for the morning fish. John had experienced a rare cancilation – a rare event for his guiding service which is normally booked solid through to October. I graciously accepted with one condition, my regular partner David Mingie join us for the morning.

We pushed off from the Tredwell launch on the Ottawa River just east of the city of Ottawa at around 7:30 on Saturday June 21. Weather was perfect with slight overcat conditions and moderate winds and temperatures. Water temps were in the mid-60 range with reduced visibility – 3-feet and less — common for the Ottawa River. Even though spring was incredibly late weed growth was coming along strong with many weed beds coming within a foot of the river’s surface.

John and I were anxious to try out the new Shimano Compre Musky rods each of us had acquired following their release in late winter 2014. The variety of split and full cork handles with longer telescopic models reaching 9-foot 6-inches in length are light weight, powerful and sensitive. .

We started the morning with a short troll to the mouth of a bay that was on average 6-feet deep. John’s philosophy says that if it’s possible, go for it, and fishing sub-surface baits in waters that will soon be weed-choaked, seem to make sense.

Before long David hooked up on a nice 40” Musky using an in-line spinner while executing a figure eight beside the boat. He missed on a second not long after, which I may have caught shortly there after on our next pass using a jerkbait. John, the ever-respectful guide, first-and-foremost, was standing a mid-ship covering water David and I had already worked over. His suggestions and words of encouragement had there effect though, and we both owe him a big thanks for extending us this very generous offer to spend six hours.

Truck Camping with My New Ford 150 and Four Wheels Hawk

Loading a camper on to the back of a pickup and having the ability to then tow a boat to ones favorite lake opens up an entire new realm of possibilities. Now, instead of contemplating a trip to a distant lake for a day of fishing, knowing full-well there’s going to be two good long drives involved, it’s now possible to stay for that evening bite and catch the early morning bite the next day – sweet!

Guys seem to grasp the opportunities truck campers represent instinctually. Women understand the premise, but would seem to view truck campers as a barrier between their planned household improvements and the man in their life they’ve associated with many of the heavier tasks on the list. However, this doesn’t explain my six-year old son’s fascination with my new Hawk Four Wheel Truck Camper now occupying the 6-foot 6-inch box of our new Ford 150.

Researching the ideal truck camper took some time. Four Wheel Campers isn’t the only manufacturer of pop-up slide-in truck campers, but they certainly produce the lightest ones on the market. Their use of aluminum gives my Hawk model a weight of 1,100 lbs. On the truck the top of the camper is only a mere 10-inches above the roof of my Ford, resulting in only very minor additional wind resistance.

My goal was to avoid having to purchase a ¾ ton pickup or heavier. Gas engines in the heavier rated pickups on the market today offer less than ideal fuel economy, and their diesel counterparts are far over-rated for the job. I don’t need to pull 20,000 lbs, nor do I need to carry 7,000 lbs of weight.

Ford offers two options on their ½ ton line of pickups that clinched the deal for me. First, a heavy payload option that boosted the capacity of an F150 to 2,330 lbs, and two, a heavy duty tow package that gives me 11,300 lbs of towing capability. All this in a half-ton pickup that has as its power-plant the now famous Ford Eco-Boost 6-cylinder engine.

The numbers break down as 1,100 lbs for the camper, 400 lbs for the weight of the tongue of my boat trailer, 204 lbs of fuel, 400 lbs of passengers (2 guys), another 80 lbs of dog, leaving me 146 lbs surplus payload capacity. Fishing gear is in the boat, which weighs about 4,500 lbs including trailer, motor and batteries. Add another 500 lbs of gas and gear in the boat, and the total weight of the trailer still leaves me 6,300 lbs of room to accommodate all the weight being carried in the truck. All said, I still have around 4,000 lbs of left-over towing / hauling capacity. The Ford handles it all beautifully!

Setting up the Hawk camper takes under a minute, Release six clips around the outside, step into the camper and push out the rear and front walls – done.

A double full-length bed over the cab can be extended to queen size, while the comfortable couch down below tumbles into a second double bed in fewer than five seconds, and it’s capable of sleeping people up to 6’5”.

Across from the couch is a fully equipped galley. A 3 cubic-foot fridge / freezer, gas furnace, 2-burner cook stove, stainless steel sink with a 20 gallon fresh water supply, and all manner of storage. The roof came with an electric exhaust fan on the inside, and a set of roof racks on the top capable of easily holding   three kayaks.

Another nice touch was the Arctic Pack that gave an extra interior liner to boost the internal warmth and dampen sound. Ample windows that fully open and a screen door ensure plenty of light and fresh air accesses the interior, while the windows in the rear door and front of the camper provide the driver with a view behind the truck.

Cargo hauling needs are addressed in several basic ways. The Super crew configuration of the truck means with the rear seats flipped up, there’s tons of space for gear and dog. Even with the seats down my dog has more than enough space to stretch out on the floor. I’ve never experienced a pickup with such a large rear seating area before. The floor in the camper can also accommodate plenty of gear and can be fully accessed even with the roof in the lowered position. Finally, The cab-over design means that my fishing rods longer than 6’6” in length have a safe and secure home in the camper by simply resting the butts of the rods behind the couch’s back rest, and their tips on the upper bunk. Rods of up to 10 feet can easily be accommodated.

Altogether this truck / camper package still represents a sizable chunk of space. Manually extending over-sized camper mirrors from Ford on the front doors provide the driver with excellent views behind the truck, and the camper itself only sticks out past the sides of the truck by no more than two inches. It extends past the rear of the truck’s box about the same, which allows the rear step-up bumper of the truck to be used as a step to enter and exit the camper. The hawk came with a separate set of fold-able steps, but these only become necessary when accommodating children.

Designers of the Hawk also allowed for storage of a portable toilet. I admit, that my knowledge of these systems was fairly rudimentary up until recently, giving me many misconceptions of the potential mess and stink portable toilets represent. However, after exploring the many different options for sale at my near-by Sail outdoor store, I began to feel a lot better about meeting the call of nature.

The unit I purchased for around $100 includes a 4.5 gallon water tank in the top half that can be pumped into the bowl of the toilet prior to usage. A very comfortable seat at a more than satisfactory height accommodates even my 6’3” frame. Once one has completed their absolution’s, a simple tug on the release handle sends all bowl contents into the second tank below where it remains sealed off from the rest of the toilet, and more importantly, the general environment. To empty the holding tank one need only separate the top portion from the bottom by disengaging two clasps, and then carry the lower sealed unit to any nearby toilet. Attach the included dump spout to the drain hole after removing the cover, (the spout is cleverly stored in a recessed area in the bottom), open the air valve, and dump. Modern flush toilets will flush automatically as the level in the bowl rises so one need not watch closely the emptying process, but can judge by feel alone when the tank is empty. A swish inside the tank with some fresh water afterwards isn’t a bad idea.

While the hawk offers everything one needs to stay high and dry and out of the bugs, bringing along some camp chairs and a kitchen tent isn’t a bad idea when contemplating longer than quick over-night stays. In my case however, it’s more important to be able to break camp and get on with launching the boat in as short a time as possible. It means more time in the morning to take advantage of that early morning bite on the water, instead of spending valuable time rolling up tents and storing gear. The roof of my Hawk can be lowered and stowed in less than a minute, and one need not even store the bedding.

So far I’ve had about a half-dozen people back my boat down boat launches, and no one seems to mind the camper. I ask, but they all recognize that once you’re behind the wheel you can’t really see the camper, so it doesn’t factor into the reversing process. The hawk’s light weight also means it poses no potential threat to the Ford to become mired in the soft bottom of un-paved launches. Four wheel drive helps keep everything well in hand too.

Fishing and now camping alongside my favorite lakes and rivers has made it possible for me to develop an even stronger personal bond with nature. Listening to the sounds of birds, frogs and other wildlife while safely tucked away inside my Hawk is a great way to relax, and means I’m in a far better frame of mind when I start off each day in the boat compared to my usual feelings of fatigue and anxiousness to get started fishing when I arrive at the launch after a long drive in the morning. It really has made a big difference in my mental preparedness on tournament days.

Backwater Adventures in the Florida Keys

We’ve all watched on TV people sight fishing for Bonefish and Permit along the flats located in and around the Florida Keys. Spotting fish and accurate casts are crucial. Well, there’s more than one way to catch those marauding saltwater game fish and I’ve got the proof.

Arranging a day’s charter should be simple, and it would be if I never bothered mentioning that I’m completely without sight. First and foremost, guides question how that’s going to work. Then there are the personal safety issues.

I’ve been told more than once my money was no good by guides simply unwilling to test the parameters of their insurance providers. I don’t take it personally because a rogue wave just might sweep me away, or I could fall off the dock, or I could stumble down a bank, or stick myself with a hook, or get bitten, stung or speared by a fish, etc., etc… So naturally, when I do come into contact with guides like Dave Denkers of Islamorada, a man who respects people who take chances that involve their own personal safety, I’m always thrilled and relieved.

The plan was for Dave to pick me up out front of the RV park where my family and I were staying. “Look for the guy with the white stick” I texted Dave the night before, to which he replied, “I’ll be driving a black Dodge” – a common rookie blind encounter mistake that happens more often than one might think (LOL).

At 7: a.m. the next morning I heard Dave’s SUV pull to the side of the road. I knew it was him by the sound of the empty boat trailer rattling along behind is truck. A quick hand shake and I piled in for a short ride to the marina. Five seconds of sighted guide technique instruction and I was safely on to the dock and seated in Dave’s 16-foot bay boat.

Dave was excited about the prospects for the day. Reconnaissance gathered from fellow guides led Dave to believe that the Tarpon would be on fire. I asked if this was based on reports from the day before, and Dave confirmed this to be the case. Both guides he had spoken with reported the Tarpon had been on fire. Now, I’m not a superstitious guy, and all that talk about “should have been here yesterday” stuff does nothing for me, but I did note the full moon eclipse the previous night and may have expressed some scepticism.

Sure enough, following a 30-minute cruise down the coast, weaving between islands and crossing sizeable bays, we arrived at the promised grounds. Unfortunately, all the Tarpon we spotted, and there were probably over two dozen, expressed not a flicker of interest in what was on offer. This being Pin fish drifted under floats using tidal currents and sand bars to our advantage.

After three hours our eagerness and anticipation were soon set aside along with my Tarpon float rod. We rolled up our sleeves and got down to the hard work of catching fish. We decided to switch it up and set off for a series of backwater bays.

Upon approaching our first bay Dave killed the motor and resumed poling from his elevated rear poling platform located over top of the boat’s outboard engine. We first had to cross over a set of what turned out to be astonishingly high breakers to enter the bay. I took my place at the ready on the front casting deck, but finding the rocking and pitching boat almost impossible to stand on, elected to stand in the cockpit instead. It was around that time when I heard Dave’s pole clank against the gunnel. “Dave, you O.K.”, I called back over the sound of the crashing waves that were now pouring over the bow? “I’m fine”, Dave replied, “I just fell out of the boat”.

Dave explained that while in mid push the boat dropped out from under his feet. His choices were to either attempt a landing on the pitching deck, or in the shallow water where there was less chance of him incurring an injury. Dave said that was the first time he ever fell out of the boat, and I have no reason not to believe him since it never happened again that day. It did make me pay more attention to my environment though, just in case it was going to be me poling Dave’s boat home alone. In reality however, the water was only three-feet deep and neither of us were ever in danger.

It wasn’t long after that Dave spotted a 20lb Permit feeding actively with its tail out of the water. Time after time I launched my shrimp in the direction and distance Dave instructed. The 40 mph winds weren’t helping though, with cast after cast being blown off course. Normally, I’m a relatively accurate caster with the ability to land lures within inches of the sound of surfacing fish. This time however, whether it was the wind or a communication breakdown, I’m not sure, the entire frustrating process seemed to have lasted for tens of minutes, but in reality was over within 90 seconds. O.K., try one and we were learning.

Opportunity number two came not long after. Dave spotted a Bonefish 30-feet off the stern on the down-wind side of the boat. We had agreed on a system by then. I would fire bullet casts just above the waves, and Dave would let me know when to stop the bait’s flat trajectory. By keeping my rod tip slightly elevated as the line tore through the guides, and then dropping the tip at the same time I stopped the cast, I was able to drop the bait quietly into the water and avoid startling the fish.

With directions from Dave such as “hold”, which meant not to reel, and “reel”, which meant draw the bait away from the fish to trigger a reaction, along with the various commands we adopted to target my casting, we began hooking up.

First fish over the gunnel was this pretty little Bonefish weighing in at around 3.5 lbs. I was blown away by the relatively small stature of this fish given the number of drag-pulling runs it was able to execute over the 3-4 minutes it took me to reel in. No wonder people fly all over the world to capture this species – they truly are athletes. Not a bone could I detect on its body however, which made me question why these fish were given such an unappetising name. Dave said the bones were all on the inside, and plenty of them. From what I could feel Bonefish were solid muscle.

Next to come over the gunnel was one of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding. It was a 4 lb Permit fish and I was awful glad it permitted me to feel its amazing fins and tail. It’s also toothless which makes it even that much more inviting to hold.

Like the Bonefish, Permit too are capable of destroying drag systems on smaller spinning reels. After each fish was caught using 6 lb Power Pro line spooled on to a Shimano Sahara 2500 spinning reel, I had to carefully cast out the bait while at the same time pull line off the spool that had become impacted. I suggested Dave look into the Shimano reels that feature aerowrap technology designed specifically to prevent this from happening and to provide longer casting distances.

Aerowrap is one of those innovations Shimano has engineered that has put them well ahead of their competition. However, being the only reel manufacturer that has adopted this innovation, not many fishers know it even exists.

Later that day Dave introduced me to a deadstick method of fishing that might make many sceptical, but made a believer out of me. Once Dave had located some slightly turbid water generated by contrary currents coming into contact, he anchored the boat using an ingenious method of tying off to his 24-foot long pole that he first sunk into the soft bottom, and then bent over 90 degrees.

The method called for me to fire my shrimp attached to a 3/8 oz jig head onto a stretch of submerged white sand over 100-feet away next to the turbid water and flats grass. Keeping the line slightly slack, I was able to detect fish pick up my jig, and after a few exploratory nibbles, wolf down my bait at which time I would simply raise my rod tip while reeling down.

Using Dave’s dead stick method I was able to bring a third species into the boat – Bonnethead shark. The shark were between 3 and 4 feet in length, and while they weren’t able to provide near the fight of Bonefish or Permit, they were a welcome addition to my checklist of species captured and released.

Returning caught shark to the water is a 2-handed affair. One to hold their tail and the other the body just behind the head. Caution should be exercised to make sure sharks are released by both hands simultaneously. Shark are known to twist around 180 degrees and bite those who maintain a single grip on their tail.

Guides like Dave who spend good parts of entire days poling their sports around the flats of Florida definitely earn their pay. It’s hard work, not to mention the effects of the sun and salt water on the body. A big thanks to Dave for agreeing to take me out for the day, and to his wonderful wife who prepared for us the most amazing brownies – each chunk was the size of my fist.

We never were able to hook up a Tarpon in spite of our trying on three separate occasions that day. Too bad as it would have meant a grand slam in Florida. It was our goal at the beginning of the day, but by the end, we were feeling quite proud of what we had accomplished by working together. A true first for us both.

Blind Fishing Kayak Up-Date

Without doubt, HobieCat’s Mirage drive system for their kayaks has made a huge difference in my fishing and overall navigational ability on the water. Because I depend on my non-visual senses for all things in life, having my hands free to feel what’s taking place both above and below the water is crucial.

The Mirage system allows me to keep one hand on my fishing rod at all times to feel the bite, and the other on the rudder control. My sense of touch allows me to detect even the faintest bites, and my talking technologies and listening skills keep me on course. The fact that the Mirage drive makes virtually no noise also allows me to hear even the slightest sounds around me. It all adds up to be Zen-like perfection on the water.

The 2013 year was supposed to start with a blind kayak fishing adventure. Jenda Paddle Sports generously provided the use of 10 fully equipped HobieCat kayaks with Mirage drives, and HumanWare provided the talking GPS systems. I had waterproof tactile maps made for the ten blind competitors, and we had four shadow boats ready to assist with the measuring, photographing and release of the Northern Pike on the water. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. 70 km/h winds and whitecaps that lasted all day meant way too many fish stories were told while we hunkered down in the cabins.

Jenda Paddle Sport’s 2-day kayak fishing derby on the Rideau River was a lot of fun. The weather more than cooperated making for a very enjoyable couple days. No doubt, sharing the river with powerboats and cruisers keeps my senses honed, and in close proximity to my fishing partner. A carefully placed small bell on his kayak let me know where he was at all times, or at least until the bell fell overboard.

Catching and releasing a number of decent sized Bass and Walleye certainly added zest to my kayak fishing tournament experience, but sadly, none of my fish earned me top spot. The excellent hospitality provided by Jason Kirby and his wife more than made up for my finishing out of the money.

A humorous tale worth repeating involved a TV shoot I was featuring in for CTV’s news at 6:  for their “amazing People” segment. I was selected for the feature because of my water stewardship initiatives, and I thought what better way to demonstrate sustainable fishing than to showcase my fishing aboard my HobieCat Revolution kayak.

After the on-shore interview component was wrapped up, we moved on to the water. The host and videographer aboard my buddy’s boat, and me aboard my Hobie. We weren’t out on the lake five minutes before the heavy cloud cover let loose with a torrent of rain. Water being a problem for several of my talking navigation aids, I quickly stored the devices below deck and fell back to my human senses to navigate by. However, the rain was falling so hard that the sound made it almost impossible for me to hear. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just keep moving along and casting my lure. Well, I guess my homing instinct was working pretty well because not ten minutes later I t-boned my buddies boat. He told me after that he warned the videographer that a collision was immanent, but the grip insisted they not move as he was relishing the footage he was recording of me face-on. Of course, no one wanted to call out a warning and have their voice spoil the shot.

No damage was done to either boat or yak, and we all had a good laugh. Secretly, I was just glad I found them as I had no idea which way led back to the launch. The segment has been in rotation on CTV’s website and over their networks for over six months, and culminated with a gala dinner and award ceremony on February 22, 2014.

As far as organizing another blind kayak fishing tournament in 2014, I think not. I’ve found a better way to teach fellow blind people to fish by partnering with the CNIB’s Lake Joseph Centre. Starting last summer, we now offer daily fishing adventures out of their central Ontario facility located in the Muskoka’s. I’ll be up there myself again this spring to train-the-trainers, and again in the summer to head up a week of fishing instruction for deaf/ blind adults.

With water temperatures now finally having risen above 60 f. I’ve dusted off the Hobie and prepared my kit. A welcome new addition to my electronics this year is a “Talking Tackle Depth Whisperer” made in the U.S.

With its pleasant female voice and control settings, I think the device will go far towards improving my fish capture rate.


Paddles up,

Lawrence Gunther

2014 Spring Update

While January offers me plenty of opportunities to ice fish, February is show season and pretty much every weekend has me exhibiting and speaking at outdoor shows. Shows this year included the 4-day Ottawa Boat and Sportsman Show, the 4-day Toronto sportsman Show, and the 2-day Toronto People in Motion show. In total over the ten days over 155,000 people visited the three shows.


I’ve also been busy giving seminars at conferences, fishing club meetings, derbies and tournaments, and during in-store events.  . Demand for delivering key-note addresses also continues to build.

Blue Fish Canada:

The fish stewardship charity I founded in 2012, “Blue Fish Canada”, has received several considerable grants this year. Ozilles Marina on the Ottawa River stepped up in a big way, and I can’t say thanks enough to Yves for his tremendous support. The Pietrie Island Ice Fishing Association also generously donated the proceeds’ of their ice fishing tournament, and Tides Canada and the Fresh Water Alliance awarded Blue Fish a very generous grant.

Blue fish volunteers were able to assemble and distribute just over 1,000 free shoreline clean-up kits and stewardship guides. More program activities are being planned, including a joint venture with the Ottawa Valley South Bass Masters and their hosting the 2014 Ontario B.A.S.S qualifiers. I’m also participating on the planning committee for the National Fresh Water Rally scheduled for October in Ottawa, and have a media event planned to help launch the event.

Blue Fish Radio:

Blue Fish Radio continues to gain popularity. I’m continuing to host semi-weekly episodes of the program, which has been picked up by Reno Viola’s WRVO internet radio program. Twenty-two 30-minute episodes have been broadcast to date.

Public Media:

I’ve been profiled on a number of TV networks again including Rogers and CTV twice. The Toronto Star and Ottawa Sun newspapers published good-sized pieces. Lund Boats also included an excellent information piece on my work with the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre for the blind in their spring magazine / catalogue.

Social Media:

Lures and Tours publications has generously stepped up with a commitment to feature my initiatives in their social media and hard-copy publications. T.J. from Ontario Fishing Network also continues to host and distribute related content over the web. Websites now include:

In Store Appearances:

I worked an evening at the Sail Outdoor store in Ottawa on behalf of Muskie Canada. Plano/Frabill also had me helping out throughout May at the launch of the new “pro Fishing Sections” in many of the Canadian tire Stores located in Ontario. I managed to work six stores over five days. I enjoy hanging out in the fishing section of a store under any circumstance, but to be compensated to talk fishing is a real bonus.

Articles Published:

My articles published under the Feel the Bite tag line continue to be published in Ontario Fishing Network, Outdoors Unlimited, Yamamoto Inside Line, and other magazines and websites.


My 90-minute documentary is near finished after not quite four years, and should be released in 2014. Making a movie is far more resource intensive then filming video for TV? Sound production involves four stages of production alone.


TV opportunities are growing in number. Several discussions are now underway, but it often seems to be the case that “hurry up and wait” are the only two speeds this industry knows.


As of June 21 2014 I’ll have fished in six fishing tournaments – can’t wait until Bass season opens. Results include two 2nd place finishes, a 4th, one big fish finish, and longest total length of Musky captured.


I’m being featured as part of a 24-month travelling exhibition throughout Canada called “It’s An Honour!” for my having received the Meritorious Service Medal from Canada’s Governor General. The interactive exhibit is visiting towns throughout Canada that have populations of below 50,000 with the exception of a 4-day visit in Ottawa over Canada Day.


Orleans Boat World, Ranger boats and Evinrude Outboards have come to my assistance once again and have up-dated my ride. Sticking with the Ranger 620 Fisherman powered with an E-TEC 250 HO. Ran this same combination last year and I love it!

Four Wheel Campers Canada has assisted by topping my new Ford 150 pickup with one of their pop-up truck campers. With the roof down it only sticks up 10 inches above the truck’s roof, and when expanded I’m easily able to walk around inside. It has two large comfortable beds and a fully equipped kitchen. Weighing only 1,100 pounds, I leave it on the truck full time and have experienced only very minor fuel usage increases – thank you Eco-Boost.

Action Car and Truck Accessories has generously stepped up with some add-ons for the Ford. My priorities for the truck right now include a backup camera and obstacle detection sensors on all four corners of the vehicle. Don’t worry, I have no plans on driving. I’ll wait until I get one of those new Google self driving cars – do you think one could pull my boat?

New Shimano Rods and reels continue to astonish me with their continuous evolution, as with their Power Pro fishing line and Jackle Baits.

Scotty, Plano, Frabill, Minn Kota, Lowrance, Trokar, Salus Marine, HumanWare, Berts Custom Tackle, all lend their support to keeping my various endeavours fluid. Eukanuba pet foods has been a key sponsor for the past six years, but news of PnG’s recent sale of their pet food division to Mars has raised concern over this relationship’s future.

Summer / Fall:

Stay tuned for reports of up-coming activities including a 24-hour fish-a-thon as part of the national fresh water rally planned for Ottawa this coming October.

Aquatic Adventures along the Gulf of Mexico

In April of 2014 my wife Anne, our two youngest children ages 6 and 8, myself and my guide dog Moby along with our 3lb Yorky, traveled down the east coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Our accommodations were a 34-foot ultra-light travel trailer that we towed with our V6-powered half-ton truck.  The entire trip lasted just over three weeks and covered roughly 7,000 kilometers. Before we could get underway however, I first had to dig and salt the trailer free from the mountain of snow that covered and surrounded our portable shelter.

Our first stop was Sarasota Florida where we jumped directly into a series of aquatic exploration activities. The 10-acre fishing pond with fishing dock located on the grounds of our first campground featured a large sign warning against feeding the Alligators on penalty of $5,000. My son and I scoped out the banks of the pond, and after determining the coast to be clear, hurried on to the fishing dock to give the fishing a try using his 3-foot ice rod. He caught the biggest Sunfish I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding. It was a Red Eared Sunfish that was as big as a dinner plate. I had to hand-bomb it in in the end as his rod just didn’t have the guts to lift it the ten feet to where we stood. He hooked it on a yellow fuzzy-grub. It may have been the size of a dinner plate, but we set her free anyway. Wish I had my camera….

The next day’s field trip to Miakka State Park had us on a 100-acre lake that scientists claim is home to over 1,000 Alligators. We weren’t disappointed. Lots of reptilians of all sizes sunning themselves on shore in groups of up to 15 at a time. We also witnessed a rare day-time viewing of a large male gulping down a good-sized 20-inch fish that he caught in a mid-lake weed bed. The air boat tour of the lake was excellent, and we learned a lot about Alligator nesting, feeding and aggression behaviours – turns out they are poor runners on land because of their soft under-bellies. Interestingly enough, on offer at the park’s restaurant was alligator stew.

Still in Sarasota we took a half-day pontoon boat cruise on to the Gulf to explore the islands and tidal grass flats. The 28-foot pontoon we were on held 20 visitors, the operator, and a biologist from the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

First stop was a small island where we explored the plant and island life forms. The second stop was on a tidal flat where each of us was equipped with dip nets on 5-foot poles. The biologist collected a sample of the numerous various life forms we gathered and placed them in a bucket for examination and explanation later back aboard the boat. Critters included Needle Fish and Starfish.

This foot-soaking, hands-on adventure was the real-deal and worth every penny. To catch and hold such a variety of sea life convinced my daughter that her ambition in life is to become a marine biologist.

Next stop was Fort Myers where we took a long walk to collect sea shells on barefoot beach, fed turtles living in the small pond behind our campsite, and spent a day aboard a 100-foot head boat fishing off shore with 80 others. A variety of pan-sized fish were caught, and my wife matched me fish-for-fish.

On several occasions while at the rail fishing aboard the headboat, a shortish elderly gentleman would appear at my side to offer assistance with rebaiting, untangling lines or unhooking fish. I was usually managing fine. I just assumed he was one of the deck hands. It wasn’t until we were disembarking that my wife identified the individual as the captain. While disembarking our diminutive captain noticed my white stick and commented that he hadn’t been aware I couldn’t see, to which I replied that I didn’t know he could drive a boat. The crew had a good laugh and so did the captain as we shook hands warmly and I thanked him for the great day. My 16-inch Black Spot narrowly missed out on winning the big fish pot.

Our next stop was Islamorada — the fishing capital of the world. This key is about half way between Miami and Key West. We had two events scheduled for our stay. The first being a visit to the Theater by the Sea, and the second involved my spending a day on a flats boat with a local guide to explore the back waters. Dinners at several dock-side restaurants, hand-feeding 5-foot Tarpon off the docks and a visit to Earnest Hemmingway’s fishing boat housed inside the local Bass Pro Shop all served to make our short visit at this key even more memorable.

The Theater by the Sea is one of the first ever aquariums to open in the United States and has been around for over 70 years. It includes a large man-made lake formed by flooding a former quarry. The stone taken from this pit was used to create the numerous causeways that now link the various islands together making it possible to drive from Miami to Key West.

My wife and daughter signed up to swim with the dolphins while my son and I stayed on shore under the shade and watched. My son had just turned six, was still learning to swim, and didn’t feel comfortable being used by the dolphins as a human beach ball. Our turn would come later. My wife and daughter on the other hand received kisses, rubbed bellies, splashed, danced and were taken for tows while holding on to dorsal fins. My son and I opted for the dolphin encounter, where we also received kisses, rubbed Dolphin bellies, played fetch, and received gifts of small leaves retrieved for us by the 800 lb Dolphin using its remarkably small mouth.

Stormy, our big male Dolphin had no issue with me feeling his face as I searched his snout with my hands for my gift. There’s no actual nose opening on their snout, (there nasal opening is located on top of their heads), so it’s understandable how Dolphins can kill sharks by ramming their under-bellies with their blunt snouts. It’s like a hard bony club.

My day aboard a 16-foot flats boat with David Denkers for a day of backwater fishing went as well as I hoped, with the exception of missing out on catching a grand slam (Permit, Bone and Tarpon) by one species. To read about this adventure and see the pics, visit my story called…

From Islamorada we set off still further south for Key West. We camped just a bit north of the city on a narrow piece of land that separated the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was directly on the beach under the Coconut trees, which is a mixed blessing. Sure there’s shade, but there’s also coconuts from acorn size all the way up to full-sized nuts that can do actual damage when they drop out of the trees, and they do, right on to the picnic table where my kids and wife were painting seashells.

A short walk from our campground was an old unused bridge spanning one of the countless channels that connect the Atlantic to the Golf. It made for an excellent place to spend late afternoons fishing. The water would be so clear my wife and kids could see the different fish as they passed under the bridge. One minute the water would be empty of life, and the next instant everyone would be getting bit. The occasional large 4-foot-plus fish passing below would trigger screams of amazement, but unfortunately, not screams from our fishing reel drags.

Key West itself was quite touristy. We did tour Hemingway’s home and take a dip in the ocean off the beach, but probably the highlight was our dinner in a small out door cafe.

Chickens roam free everywhere in Key West, including chicks and roosters alike. My wife was amazed and shocked to witness live chickens mount neighbouring but empty beautifully set tables to perch inside the empty wine glasses. The restaurant staff would replace the wine glasses that were knocked over, but not those that served as perches and remained standing.

Chickens and chicks weaved there way between the tables, and even though the signs said not to feed the birds, there were plenty of patrons who did, which would eventually lead to the offending guests being overwhelmed by pushy chickens. Inevitably, restaurant staff would have to herd the more aggressive birds away from the table where the earlier amused and now slightly shaken dinner guests would quietly but quickly finished their meals.

A small thing I found disturbing in Key West was the amount and variety of sea coral on sale at the various gift shops. With an endless parade of monster cruise ships docking in the harbour, the shops seemed to be moving large amounts of specimens that ranged in price from $20, all the way up to $100 for specimens that easily measured 20-inches in circumference. I thought it was illegal to harvest coral.

From Key West we travelled six hours north back up the U.S. #1 highway, past Miami and Lake Okeechobee, and our final destination, Fort Wilderness at Disney World. By far the nicest campground we ever had the pleasure of visiting. Tons of privacy, trees, amenities, and a 5-day rest from driving for my wife.

We visited all the major theme parks, but by far our favorite were Animal Kingdom, where the kids participated in a park-wide treasure hunt focussed exclusively on identifying and learning about the many wild birds and animals that make this Kingdom their home. Each of the over-thirty locations we searched out on the hunt had a Disney staff member on hand to administer a test on what the kids had learned and to apply the stamps after answering the five questions correctly. The associated theme rides designed more to educate and thrill than scare were highlights, as was the amazing afternoon parade of actors, acrobats, puppeteers and folk-art inspired representations of various birds and animals.

The highlight for me was the “Land” exhibit located within the Epcot theme park. There was an amazing gondola ride along water courses that snaked their way through huge experimental greenhouses where all manner of crops were being grown. An accompanying narrative of the agricultural issues facing the planet provided an unflinching explanation of what was needed if the world was to continue to feed itself sustainably for future generations. Afterwards, the lunch counter had on offer the various organic vegetables and farmed animals grown on site. An amazing set of monstrous aquariums were also included as part of another more Disneyesque ride with biologists standing by to answer questions about the various manatees, sharks and  other sea animals swimming lazily in their huge tanks. Some of the more thrill oriented rides had lines that discouraged us from sampling, but most offered virtually instant access. In all, there were five rides / theatrical offerings that we enjoyed thoroughly in the one exhibit building called “Land”.

Our final and least enjoyable experience with water took place on our way home. The weather was overcast and drizzly, but nothing extreme when we pulled into a Walmart parking lot in North Carolina to over-night. I was therefore shocked and relieved the next morning when I heard on the radio that not one but two tornados touched down in that very state destroying over 200 homes while we slept innocently in our ultra-light weight travel trailer among a cluster of big trucks. With one more big push we arrived safe and sound at our home in Ottawa at midnight that night. When we left there was still over four feet of snow on the ground, and when we returned it was gone.  Still cool, but spring had finally sprung.