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Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 fishing review

As the year comes to an end and our local waterways are no longer fishable using conventional methods, I spent some time re-organizing my "tools of the trade" for the upcoming hardwater season. Again, I plan on targeting pike all winter, hopefully I'll find the monster I didn't manage to catch last winter. I realize that monster pike are somewhat rare in the waters surrounding Montreal, I don't think I'll have much opportunity to go on any major ice fishing trips up North, probably more of the usual 1/2 day trips around town, I'll take what I can get.

Looking back my 2008 season, it was one of my personal best, greatly due to having a boat all season. Although I still have no trailer and my boat was docked on Lake St Francis in Lancaster all season, I managed to target and catch the major species I was after.

To recap, the winter of 2008 was the first time I actually got out and targeted big fish under the ice. All my prior ice fishing was kids stuff, either fishing for stocked trout or perch with the kids. I tried various areas as well as tactics that I assumed would land some monster pike. I fished mainly with 6-10 inch frozen sardines and mackerals that I picked up in the grocery store, but the most efficient were lines tipped with big shiners, which weren't always easy to find.I managed to hook some pike in the 3-5 lb range. Getting them through the holes was something I had to learn, I lose the first few that I hooked, though I'm getting better at it. I hope my experince will pay some dividneds in 2009.

After the huge amount of snow we got last March, the spring water levels were a lot higher than normal, which led to the most phenomenal spring fishing I ever experienced. The marina launched my boat just in time for the pike opener in Southern Ontario, we experienced some great pike fishing thoughout all of May and into June. Although I didn't land any fish over 8.5 lbs, I did land many between 7-8 lbs using various tactics and lures. Most successful was the retreiving 4-5 inch minnow baits such as Rapala Countdowns, Xrap, Smithwick Rogues and similar lures. I did mange some on live minnows and casting spoons as well.

As walleye season opened in mid May, I started targetting big walleye for the first time in my fishing career. The Raisin River run didn't dissapoint us, I manged to catch some very nice ones for a beginner, about 4 or 5 went over 5 lbs. I beat my personal walleye record, a 27.5 inch spawned out female. Most efficient tactics were casting Wally Divers and trolling worm harnesses or minnow baits.

As my boat is a 14 foot flat bottom model, fishing Lake St Francis isn't always an option. As soon as the wind blows in the wrong direction or supasses 15 KM / hour, the Raisin River becomes my refuge. Luckily for me, it is full of all the major species, especially in the spring. I caught some huge "incidental" pre season smallies while tageting pike with live minnows and small crankbaits. My kids had a blast with them, they had never seen smallies that size and in those numbers prior to this season. I managed my personal best, a 21.5 inch / 5.5 lb beauty, while my kids hit dozens in the 4 - 4.5 lb range.

Largemouth bass are even more plentiful in the river than smallmouth, They also remain there all year long, so fishing isn't limited to pre season, which leads to the next season, namely summer.

After a great trip up North to Giles Lake for the bass opener at the end of June, we returned the Lake St Francis and the Raisin River to find the fishing conditions deteriorating. Weeds were choking all our productive spots as expected, so we have to switch tactics. We discovered new 2 new techniques that we hadn't attempted much in the past:
1) Drop shot drifting the seaway with big suckers for big smallmouth bass.
2) Fishing thick weed cover with Weedless Spro Frogs for Largemouth bass and Northern Pike.
We experienced some success with both tactics, although they both had days where nothing exciting happened.
Another mid summer trip up North had some success for pike, we hooked some in the 6-8 lb range, mainly trolling spoons and Rogues in tiny Lac Roche.

Carp fishing was the one area that was really poor compared to previous years. Maybe it was that I just didn't get out carping as often now that I have a boat, but I did save the rainy days for carp. The number and sizes of our catches greatly diminished, I think I landed 5 on my best day, the biggest carp I landed was about 15 lbs. I don't know what happened or why it happened, my best guesses are either gobies destroying their feeding grounds and eating off our bait, and/or heavy fishing pressure from other carpers, as the Long Sault area is home to some of the famous carp runs and outfitters.

Fall picked up a bit, although it was very variable. Some day were really good, other's were terrible. Managed some small pike in dying weeds, small bass moving deeper for winter, and the usual tiny walleyes at the Pointe des Cascades pier.

Mid October had us try the Napanee River salmon run, It was the first time I ever experinced a spawning run, I brought my 2 older sons along ages 13 and 7. Both were thrilled by the big kings coming up the river in 6 - 12 inches of water, splashing their way to the falls with back and tails out of the water. They spent the day snagging them, while I spent my time trying for steelhead unsuccessfully. I did snag one big salmon(not that I'm too proud of it), 36 inch / 18 lbs, just for the thrill, not much of a fight as they were tired and in very shallow water with nowhere to run.

My last planned outing of the year was to be to the Bay of Quinte, unfortunately it didn't happen, maybe next year...

Thank you for visiting my blog, and for all comments an tips you have all provided thought the season. Good luck to all of you in 2009.

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