Montreal fishing spots

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Costa Rica fishing

Just got back from my first Jungle adventure in Costa Rica. My wife and I were planning some sort of celebratory trip for our upcoming 30th wedding anniversary this summer, so when my brother in law called us about a destination Bar Mitzvah he was planning for Costa Rica a while back, we agreed to join them. Both my wife and I have never been to Costa Rica prior to this trip, and most of it was scheduled to be a jungle adventure, split between the regions of Arenal and Santa Teresa beach.

As usual, most of the other 15 or so participants in this trip had various activities planned, while I knew that I wasn't much interested in much outside of fishing. As such, my plan was to bring along a few lures, some terminal tackle, and my telescopic 6 foot rod paired with a 30 series spinning reel.

We landed in Liberia Airport around noon on Sunday. After renting our car, we made our way to the Arenal Volcano region of El Castillo, where my brother in law had rented a villa for a few nights. We arrived to join them by mid afternoon, as sunset in that area is quite early, around 6 pm, due to Costa Rica being near the equator, and not using daylight savings time.

This is the view of the active volcano from our villa:

My nephews and their cousins at the lookout point:

An most importantly, the big reservoir where I planned to spend all of the following day shore fishing:

After spending our first night in the jungle, I was up bright and early, woken by the sounds of birds, mixed in with the occasional roar of howler monkeys and crowing roosters. After my sunrise prayers followed by a big breakfast, I made my way down to the muddy banks of the reservoir.

The reservoir named "Lake Arenal", contains small numbers of a local fish called "Guapote". Nicknamed as "rainbow bass" in English, it isn't actually part of the bass family. From what I had previously read, they will hit lures similar to what we use to catch smallmouth bass, and some locals near the shore confirmed that spinners and topwater lures may be my best bet.

Unfortunately, Lake Arenal is likely the toughest reservoir I have ever fished. I spent nearly 3 hours casting on foot, without sighting any form of life in the reservoir, aside from one tiny minnow. The water level was a good 15 to 20 feet low, and it's basically a structureless mud bowl, aside from some flooded tree stumps in very shallow water.

Eventually, I made my way back to where I accessed the lake, and rented a kayak for a couple hours, hoping I'd have better luck trolling, of fishing slightly deeper. No such luck, and the wind picked up after the first hour or so. The whitecapped waves were coming over the sides of the kayak, and I had a tough time trying to control the kayak while paddling and trying to fish. 

I did get closer shot of the volcano, as I had paddled my way to the shoreline closest to it's base.

After a couple hours, I returned to fish on foot for a couple most hours, again, without even one bite. The locals were not surprised, telling me that they don't catch much on most days, and I'd be lucky if I did so in one day of fishing. Still, I left happy, knowing that I gave it my best shot, given the circumstances.

My wife and I got a nice evening pic together with the volcano as well, after she spent the day ziplining and rappelling in the jungle with the rest of the family.

The following day, we made our way back to Liberia, and then down to the Western tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, to the surfing town of Santa Teresa Beach. It's most located deep in the jungle, with one main road running along the Pacific Coast. While most of our family booked various resorts and Villas, we chose to stay at a luxury resort on the beach named, Nantipa. 

I'll digress from my fishing adventure for a bit, as I have to give them a great review for high quality of their accommodations, their amazing service, and everything they did for us during our stay.

Hands down, Nantipa was by far the best out of any of the spots the rest of the families with us chose to stay at. So much so, that the family came to us for most of their beach days, meals, and family pictures. Between my wife and I, we have never stayed in a better quality resort, nor have ever found friendlier staff. From extremely comfortable beds and very clean rooms, to the beautiful scenery, and convenient beach front location. The owner (Harry) is on site most of the time, and I was surprised and very pleased that they were very well acquainted with our special requests (Shabbat/kosher) as observant Jews. After all, this is remote Costa Rica, not New York or Miami... After leaving, we ran into issues with local rods being closed dur to flooding, and missed our flights home. After turning in circles on horrendous jungle rods for a few hours, we returned to Nantipa, Where Mariana helped us reroute our travel plans to get us home to Canada safely the following day. I can't thank them enough!

Our arrival welcome pic:

Back to fishing... After arriving and unpacking by mid afternoon, I headed straight for the beach, armed with my fishing gear. All beaches in the area are open to the public, but Nanitipa resort has their own private area with a beachside resto bar, hammocks, and tables. Extremely convenient.

The tide was closer to the low end when I arrived. 

Having only fished the Pacific ocean once before while on a trip to Hawaii, I started off with what had been my most successful tactic back then, namely, micro fishing off the rocky reefs. I found a bunch of snails on the rocks, plucked a few, and hooked one for bait after cracking it's shell.

I dropped the bait hook into a deep pool between the rocks, and sure enough, I immediately hooked into a small fish, possibly in the squirrelfish family.

 If any of you can positively identify the species, feel free to contact me.

After catching a few more of the same species, I headed back inside for the night.

The following morning, I was up bright and early, ready to hit the Pacific Ocean by boat for the first time ever. I had booked a  6 hour inshore fishing outing with Jason Tours, launching out of the nearby fishing town of Malpais. None of the family members I invited along seemed to interested into venturing out on the deep blue sea in 4 to 6 foot waves in a small 23 foot bay boat, so I went solo. Just as well, more chances to catch fish myself...

I met up with Captain Erik, who proceeded to launch his boat from a trailer lowered down to the waterfront from his "slip" by a powerful winch.

We were on the water in no time, and headed to troll his first spot, hoping to hook into some Mahi Mahi or Yellowfin Tuna.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any success trolling that spot. We moved further out, to deeper and clearer water. Set up the troll, and again, no luck, despite running 4 lines along some floating weedbeds, which often attract the smaller baitfish were were hoping the pelagic species would be feeding on.

Erik spent much of the time on the CB radio with some of the other guides, and one of his friend had mentioned getting on to a good bite 10 miles or so further offshore, He asked me if I wanted to try there, and I agreed, as I just wanted to catch fish, inshore or not. On the way, he mentioned to we need to look out for diving birds and bottlenose dolphins, as fishing near them would likely be out best bet to catching fish. As we got close to his friend's hotspot, we encountered the birds and dolphins we'd been looking for. Unfortunately, no bites. I asked if we were going to try some inshore fishing, so we planned to head back closer, to end the day. 

Before doing so, he passed by his friend, and sure enough, his guest was hooked up to a mahi mahi. Even better, were were completely surrounded by pelagic fish species, clearly visible a few feet under the surface in water about 500 feet deep. I cast out a skirted jig, and as soon as it hit the water, I hooked up to a skipjack tuna. Erik planned to keep the skipjack for bait to use later on, so into his livewell it went. 

I took another cast, and again, as soon as he put the boat in gear, I was hooked up to another skipjack tuna. Rinse repeat, over and over. Eventually, he gave me a rod with a slightly bigger jig, and I started doing the same, except that I was landing a mix of mainly Mahi Mahi and yellowfin tuna, with a few skipjacks in the mix.

I managed a couple dozen fish in less than an hour of fishing, basically nonstop action. My jig barely made it longer than 10 seconds of trolling without a bite, truly insane while it lasted. Unfortunately, we had to head back, as to 6 hour outing was nearly over, and we were now 20 miles offshore instead of the inshore outing I had planned. Still, I was more than happy at the crazy success rate, and now had enough fish to feed out family for the rest of the trip!

Took a few pics before the long ride back to shore:

Mahi Mahi:

Yellowfin Tuna:

Skipjack Tuna:

After getting back to shore, I helped Erik fillet the catch, packing the yellowfins and most of the Mahi Mahi on ice before driving back to Santa Teresa  Beach.

When I arrived back at Nantipa, I made myself a fresh plate of delicious sashimi, drizzled with olive oil and lime, seasoned with Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper. Accompanied by a celebratory double shot of aged tequila of course.

Perfect way to end my successful day.

The following day started off by attending my nephew's bar mitzvah across the road at the local synagogue, Chabad of Santa Teresa. 

After brunch there, I decided to try my cluck at fishing with live bait. I started of by catching another of the small fish in the reef, which I then hooked up under a popping cork style bobber using 40 lbs fluorocarbon as a leader. 

Unfortunately, presenting the rig was very difficult in 6-8 foot waves crashing the reef I was on. The bobber was all over the place, and I had to free it from rocks quite often, until I eventually lost if after a good 20 minutes or so. I gave up on the idea of using bait, and reverted to casting lures.

I decided to attempt casting the surf using a Rapala X rap. Not luck casting, but I did speak to one of the locals I ran into, telling me that the best spot was directly behind the Nantipa resort, which is were the both of us were casting. He didn't do any better that day, but mentioned having hooked snapper, Spanish mackerels, and Jack Crevalles there. 

At some point, I decided to try casting the reef instead. Walking along, I found the bobber rig I had lost earlier on, the baitfish was still on, but dead by now. Sure enough, I turned around to find a huge dog, probably a stray doberman coming straight at me. 

Though it was one the of biggest ones I have ever seen, I wasn't too worried, as most the the stray dogs all over the beach seem more friendly, trying to get some food or company from people passing by.

Sure enough, it came at me licking its lips. 

I figured I would feed it the fish, the dog seem happy to take it.

It then changed it's mind, spitting the fish out after chewing it. Maybe the spiny dorsal fin had something to do with it.

No more luck casting my X-rap, I had to end the fishing early due to  a scheduled family photo shoot on the beach with around 17 or 18 of us.

After the photo shoot, around nightfall, I decided to have a family dinner of Mahi Mahi for those of us on the trip that keep kosher. We were extremely happy that the Nantipa staff allowed us to us our own utensils and ingredients, as well as "kasher" on of their gas burners for us. Was not expecting this great level of service and accommodation in the heart of the Costa Rican jungle, but they were more than happy to do so.

The results were great. Everyone (including my fish hating wife) enjoyed the fresh cooked Mahi Mahi, and even went for double and triple servings.

Another perfect end to another day in paradise.

The following day was my final chance at fishing in Costa Rica. I dedicated the day to casting, starting with a hair jig, and then a Rapala Husky Jerk I normally use for pike and walleye. 

Spent a good 3-4 hours casting the surf both from shore, as well as a deeper dropoff I was able to access from a small cliff on a nearby reef, due to low tide. No bites, no a fish in sight. Oh well, at least I know I gave it all I could, and headed back to enjoy a cold beer near the pool, while reflecting on all the fishing I was able to do.

All in all, Costa Rica was one of the toughest places to shore fish, and until the miraculous last hour of success on the boat, it wasn't much better. That being said, as a lifelong angler, sometimes you are just  happy enough knowing that you gave it your all.


Thursday, May 2, 2024

Spring fishing for brown trout

Finally made it back to fish the Adirondacks for brown trout for the first time since 2022. As usual, my fishing partner for this trip was my good friend Jimmy. He and I have fished for trout there on many occasions, for well over a decade, success rate is typically pretty good.

We got a late start, probably around 11 am or so. He started off casting a #2 spinner, and I used a #3 mepps XD spinner. Jimmy started off the day hooking a couple small trout, and I followed up with a decent fallfish.

Jimmy then followed up with a nicer brown trout, in the 13 inch range.

While he was able to cast a mile using a 10 foot rod spooled with ultralight line, I wasn't able to achieve the distance I wanted with the #3 Mepps. Luckily, I brought along a few bigger spinners, the heaviest of them being and old #5 classic Panther Martin spinner. 

Weighing about 1/4 ounce and throwing off a significantly big flash, I was hoping to tap into some of the larger brown trout in the 12 to 16 inch range. After missing a fish on my first cast, the second cast landed me a splendid 15 inch brown trout.

The success kept coming, despite the upsized lures. After landing 2 smaller brown trout in the 9-10 inch range, I followed up with back to back 14 and 15 inch fish again.

Eventually, Jimmy went up to a #4 spinner, and sure enough, he landed another good trout.

Although New York state allows a bag limit of 5 trout each, only 2 of the 5 can be over 12 inches. So, after keeping 4 big trout, we had to release another 3 trout in the 13-14 in range. We ended up keeping 5 more brown trout in the 9.5 to 10 inch range, and released a few smaller ones as well.

I ended the day landing a surprise perch, despite seeing hundreds of them staging to spawn right at my feet. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Fishing open water in March

I was hoping to find some safe ice to fish after getting back from my trip to Florida. Instead, I arrived home to record breaking temperatures that got rid of what little ice we had left around Montreal. While some of the smaller lakes up North may still have been frozen, I didn't have much time to make the long trips up there, still unsure of their ice conditions. For the first time in well over a decade, all my March fishing outings ended up being in open water.

March 4 2024:

This outing was to be my first time fishing from my float tube this season. Spot I planned to fish has some warmer water, and I've been able to landed a variety of species there in previous March outings. Mainly pike, as well as some largemouth bass, crappies, and even a couple bowfins.

After testing all my gear the previous night, I got out to my spot by mid morning. Unfortunately, one of my float tube bladders popped at the seam as I was inflating it, and without my spare tube in the car, I was forced to wade the muddy marsh on foot. 

Despite the horrendous conditions, I managed to land a small bass, pike and sunfish, all on spinners.

March 12 2024:

After replacing my float tube bladder with an older spare I had at home, I returned to fish the same spot, hoping for better results. This time, the water had gone up a few feet due to strong rains over the previous days. Conditions were very tough in the colder and muddier water, fish were not active at all. I managed 1 small pike that spit the hook right next to my float tube, and that was it for the day.

March 14 2024:

Done with my float tube spot, I decided to take my son Zev along for my first attempt at carp fishing this year. I hit my usual ice out spot, a large shallow bay that tends to draw in good numbers of carp as the ice thaws. 

We got set up around 11 am, hoping the warmest part of the day would be the most productive, as half of the bay was still covered in thawing slush. Unfortunately, I didn't manage any bites, despite using 3 rods and fishing a variety of boilie flavors, both sinking and popups. Spotted only one carp surfacing late in the day. March turning out to be slower than ever...

March 27 2024:

With the season for gamefish dwindling down in Quebec (closes on April 1st), I was faced with the choice of making a long trip up North in hopes of finding some safe ice to fish after a local cold front, or staying closer to home to fish open water, either from my float tube or on foot.

I packed my float tube and waders, and headed out to a spot that normally draws in warmer water species later in the spring. Water level was quite low, so I didn't bother launching the float tube, and opted to head out to fish on foot in my waders. 

I was hoping that some pike would be lingering over shallow weedbeds after the spawn, and I turned out was correct. And then some. 

It didn't take long for me to land my first pike of the day, on a small Mepps 3 spinner.

After another pike landed, I switched up to using a variety of Rapala Jerkbaits, and landed a few more, with the biggest going just over 30 inches.

After landing 7 pike, I moved to try a couple spots nearby, both of which didn't produce anything. After a couple hours, I returned to my hot spot, and in the warm sun, the pike bite turned on bigtime.

Sticking with the Rapala Husky Jerk , I ended up catching over a dozen more pike, and ended the day landing 20 out of 22 pike. Broke my record for most pike landed on a March day, as well as the most I've ever landed in a day while fishing on foot.

The pike ended up being way more aggressive than I imagined in the cold 36-38F degree water, and made for a perfect end to my March fishing.

Fishing season in Quebec is now closed for most gamefish, which start to re-open in May. For those of you fishing here, Quebec fishing licenses are up for renewal, which can be done online or in person at the usual sporting stores. As well, some new rules have been put in place, please be sure to have a look at them before heading out.

Wishing everyone a successful open water season!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

South Florida shore fishing February 2024

Back from a few days visiting my daughter and her family in South Florida, namely North Miami beach. Of course, my plan of action is to get in as much Florida fishing as I possibly can. With her and her husband working full time, and their kids in school, I pretty much had an 8am to 4 pm schedule open to fish as I pleased.

As opposed to past trips there, my plan was to work the area around her home on foot, all fishing from shore. Didn't even bother to rent a car during my entire stay.

The first spot I planned to fish, was the snake creek trail which runs along the Royal Galdes (or is it Glades?) canal. I've fished their in the past, and though it has been quite tough fishing, the peacock bass always intrigue me, as we don't get them up here. In addition, I've spotted some grass carp in there, and as we don't get those either, I brought along some very basic gear to help me try to target the grassers as well.

Day 1:

Woke up bright and early, in order to make the first morning prayers at the local synagogue (Bais Menachem) before sunrise. First time I can ever remember needing to wear a sweater in Miami, I think it was a chilly 9C.

Warmed up ever so slightly on my way home at sunrise about 1 hour later...

After the 12 minute walk back to my daughter's home, we had breakfast together. They headed off to their days at work/school, and I grabbed my 2 rods, a backpack of mixed tackle, and enough water to last a while. 

The first segment of the canal that I planned to fish at has a fitness trail and circuit, where most of the locals go for scenic walks, jogs and bike rides.

I proceeded to chum a spot with half a bag of frozen corn, hoping it may attract some grass carp. I then worked my way casting the entire segment of the canal on both sides, using a variety of lures. The only ones that garnered any interest at all, were a #3 and #4 spinner. About 2 dozen follows from juvenile peacock bass, but no hits at all, just chasers. That took about 3 hours.

I then proceeded to stop and fish the spot I chummed for carp, using a variety of frozen corn, popup chilli lime corn, and peanuts. No carp in sight, I went on to do another 3 hours of casting, spotting some more peacock bass. Still no hits, and I ran out of drinking water after around 7 hours, so I headed home, skunked.

Day 2:

Warmer weather had me in a t shirt. Switched plans for the day. After seeing kids off, I decided to start at the spot I had chummed, as I had dumped in the second half of the corn before leaving the previous day. Set up my rods, and while they were fishing, I took advantage and got a good workout in the warming sun amidst the palm trees. Mix of callisthenic, isometric, aerobic, ending with a bit of yoga and stretching. Still no carp in sight, seemed the ducks and other aquatic birds were more interested in the corn, and that segment of the canal is loaded with all sort of these birds.

I decided to try a bit of sight fishing, and spotted the biggest grass carp I have seen there to date, probably pushing 20 lbs or so. It spooked real quickly, but I decided to chum that area with a bag of corn again.

I then proceeded to head out exploring another segment of the Snake Creek trail, on the other side of Miami Gardens. 

The segment of the same canal turns into Sky lake on one side, and there is a small lake across with a few secluded casting spots. I couldn't find it's name on Google maps, but it seems to be called Pickwick lake based on the homes/estate at the road entrance.

After casting Sky lake with a couple more follows from peacock bass, I tried Pickwick lake. Seeing a nice topwater splash from my first spot, I made my way through some pine trees for a better shot at casting to the fish. Sure enough, first cast with my topwater lure (walking mullet) was money, and I landed my first fish of the trip, and decent little largemouth bass. 

I eventually made my way further down past I-95, and started fishing a new segment of the canal, but was getting tired from all the trekking in the heat, and starting to run low on water. Before calling it a day, I headed back to try to fish the area I chummed for carp again. This time, the flock of birds that came when I had chummed, basically ate all the corn I put out, and when I cast, one of them dived and nearly got hooked trying to steal my bait. 

So much for "wasting" any more time with carp. Truth is, that grass carp are put in those types of waterways to eat the overabundant grass, so throwing in some corn does not have the same effect that it would on common carp. With very few grass carp there (I only spotted 1 in 3 days), and insane amounts of ducks, geese, turtles, and other aquatic birds, it's little wonder that I wasn't able to have any success. I headed home and planned to fish Sky lake hard the following day.

Day 3:

The hottest day of my trip. I had a bit less time to fish as it was Friday, I decided to beat up both Sky lake and Pickwick lake with a large variety of lures. Topwater, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits a spinners in various size and colors each. 

I was always wondering how accurate these signs were.

Sure enough, I finally found out, as I spotted a couple manatees, a big 8-10 foot mother and it's calf swimming near the surface.

A bit after noon, I saw a splash on Pickwick lake, tossed a small spinner, and landed my first peacock bass of the trip. 

Nothing big, but very welcome.

Minutes later, I saw another surface splash, this time on Sky lake. Again, the small spinner did the trick, this one a bit better in size.

Tried sight casting a few lures to some cruising largemouth bass, but no takers, and I called it a day about an hour later.

Day 4:

This was to be the big highlight of my trip. An afternoon going into night of shore fishing for giant sharks, namely hammerhead, tiger and bull sharks, near Jensen's Beach Florida, with one of my childhood friends that now lives in South Florida

Unfortunately, the guide that I booked (No Name charters / Jake Barker) through a web site called turned out to be one of the worst / unprofessional guides I've ever booked.

Without going into all the details of the failed outing, results were no hammerheads, tiger or bull sharks, despite the guide promising the moon before I booked him. We were lucky to avoid the skunk with this decent blacktip shark.

Day 5:

After getting home a lot earlier than planned from the previous days shark outing, I was originally thinking of saltwater fishing for my last day in Florida. My thoughts were to have my daughter drop me off at the Sunny Isles Pier for the day on her way to work, and then pick me up at days end. Between not wanting to overburden her, and still being a bit groggy from a night of drinking with my friend after the failed shark outing, I decided to stay on foot and do more exploring further down the Snake Creek trail.

I got a later start than usual, got to my first spot at Sky Lake around 10:30 AM or so. After a bit of casting to some inactive bass there, and a bit at Pickwick lake, I made my way further West along the trail, to a new segment of canal I hadn't fished yet.

Made my way down casting spinners, was getting a decent amount of hits from tiny largemouth bass without any hookups. After fishing the entire length of that segment of canal without anything to show for, I tried working my way back up casting another topwater lure, the Berkeley Choppo. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing tons of drifting grass towards the side of the canal I was fishing, so I couldn't get a clean retrieve. I switched to a small spinner, and not long after, I caught my first Florida Bluegill sunfish. Decent size for the species, and it hit at the end of my retrieve, about 1 foot from shore.

Kept working my way East using the spinner, until the point where drifting weeds were no longer an issue. I switched back to using the topwater Choppo, and sure enough, it got crushed by a nice peacock bass. During the entire fight, another peacock bas of identical size kept chasing the one I hooked, and twice, it tried to steal the lure from the first one's mouth. Would have been totally nuts to catch the two peacock bass on the same lure at once, but it didn't happen.

I landed the first one, a nice 15 inch fish that put up a great fight for it's size, and now my biggest of that species. 

As well, it was my first topwater peacock bass, as all the previous ones I have manage to land over my past few trips to the area have all been caught on spinners.

I kept casting the area for a while, hoping for the other one to come back, but it likely took off to an other area. They seem to do that more than largemouth or smallmouth bass once they miss a lure, most often giving you only one shot at catching them.

As the day went on and I kept working my way East towards my starting point, I made my way back to sky lake. I ran into two other guys fishing the same stretch of shore line. They were locals, and it was their first time fishing the area. We got to talking a bit, and they were very excited to hear that I had landed a peacock bass, as they hadn't had any success all day.

I showed them the picture, and then the lure I was using. Just as I was demonstrating how the lure worked, I nice largemouth bass swam right up to us, and stopped about 8 feet from where I was standing on the shore. I tossed my lure next to it, and within 2 to 3 twitches, it nipped at the lure, and I was hooked the nice bass. 

Managed to land in right in front of them, and my demonstration of the lure could not have worked out more perfectly!

I didn't bother weighing it, but I'd guess it was pushing the 4 lbs mark, about 20 inches long or so. While quite small by Florida bass standards, it is my biggest largemouth bass landed in Florida, as most of the fishing I have done there in the past was in saltwater.

Kept seeing more bass cruising the shallows at Sky lake, but unfortunately, none were active enough to hit my lure, and I ended up heading home about an hour or so after that.

As it was my final outing of the trip, after a quick shower, I sat down for a self celebratory drink. One of all time favorites when visiting the USA, pity we don't get these here in Quebec.

For those of you old enough the remember their TV commercials, thought I'd share one of my favorites:

Gotta love them Aussies!

Got back to the warmest temps I have seen here in February, I was even wearing the same clothing in Miami and Montreal on he same day. Hoping to find some safe ice to fish up North next week.