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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Monster pike fishing at Le Domaine Shannon

I have been dreaming of catching some really big pike for a number of years now. In general, pike weighing over 10 lbs are very hard to come by in the Montreal region, so I'm limited to targeting bigger pike during the few days a year where I can get out of Montreal, to lakes where the big monster pike exist.

As I have been going up to Le Domaine Shannon for a number of years now, I know that some of their lakes have the big monster pike I've been dreaming about. Having fished those lakes on numerous occasion, I also know that just because they are there, that doesn't mean I'm going to catch them. Along with my kids, we've fished those lakes in both spring and summer. While trolling and casting have landed us good numbers of pike, none ever exceed 8.5 lbs. On the one occasion in the past where I tried targeting them using dead bait however, we managed back to back 9 and 13.5 lbs pike, definitely a much better average than using lures.

As the province of Quebec will unfortunately be banning the use of all bait fish (dead or alive) provincewide starting in April 2017, this year is the last chance I had to dedicate an entire trip to chasing the big monster pike I've been dreaming of. In order to so, I did some research, and combined it with some of my fishing experience.

To start off with, really big pike are extremely opportunistic feeders. They will rarely use the energy to chase down quick moving lures, unless absolutely necessary. Put a big, fresh, dead bait fish in front of them though, and they won't be able to resist having an easy meal of that size. As such, I picked up some giant frozen mackerels in the 12-14 inch range from a local IGA before our trip.

I also got some "smaller" frozen suckers in the 6-8 inch range from the main camp upon arrival

Presenting bait fish that size effectively, requires some unconventional tactics. For starters, I you plan to release trophy pike, your best bet is to use a quick strike rig, and set as soon as the pike makes it's initial run with the bait. This will typically result in the fish being hooked in it's mouth, instead of being throat or gut hooked, although that will still happen at times.

Casting bait fish of that size rigged on a quick strike rig isn't too effective either. You're way better off dropping the baited rig of your boat, leaving the reel in freespool or baitrunner mode, and motoring away from it.

Anchoring a boat to still fish isn't very efficient either, unless you have a big ,stable boat, and 2 very big anchors to properly tether your boat in between them. Again, you're better off going unconventional, and beach the boat with your lines in the water while you wait.

As the big monster pike come shallow to warm up on sunny days early in the spring, we dropped our baited lines in 4 to 6 feet of water, relatively close to shore. The rods were than set into either rod pods or bank sticks with color coded bite alarms, and we positioned ourselves nearby on shore, with the bite alarm receiver. I guess all that carp fishing gear and experience comes in handy at times.

The ride up to Le Domaine Shannon was uneventful. But when we got to the main camp, Serge (the owner) informed us that the road leading to the lake we would be fishing was quite muddy and had some huge puddles, and wasn't accessible with my CRV. My son Ari had his Jeep Liberty which was fine for the ride, and the rest of us packed into an off road pick up truck for the ride up to Lac Wahoo.

Here is a glimpse of what the mud slides on the path look like this time of the year.

Ari shot some footage of him crossing a huge puddle in his Jeep Liberty.

And crossing a small creek near our cabin.

We arrived at the lake in the early afternoon. After unloading everything into our cabin, I proceeded to set up a couple rods for Levi and I, which Ari and Avi head off to a nearby spot where the lake empties into the adjacent lake. Ari brought along his inflatable raft, and wanted to try it out before anything else.

Fortunately for Levi an I, the area in front of our camp was loaded with pike. The first suckers we cast got hit within a few seconds, and Levi landed a nice pike in the 7 lbs range, I unhooked it in the net, and as I was letting it revive before getting some pictures, to my horror, it escaped through a grapefruit sized hole I hadn't previously noticed. I fixed the hole with some fishing line, and cast out again. Almost immediately, Levi caught another pike, this one probably in the 3-3.5 lbs range, which spit the hook just before we landed it. I followed up with the next pike, a decent fish that we released as it was over the size I like to eat.

After hooking another pike that he lost in some sunken logs, Levi an I were finally ready to set up the boat and go out to scout some good spots on the lake. By this time, Avi was only too happy to take over our shore spot in front of the cabin, as he didn't have much luck with Ari on the inflatable boat.

When we returned after about an hour or so, Avi mentioned losing a "big one" that broke his line in some sunken logs. I suggested he stick around, but he opted to back to the other area with Ari. Sure enough, it didn't take long me to hook into a nice pike. I knew it was big, so I yelled for Levi to take the rod. He fought the big pike in with ease, and moments later, we had a first big pike of the trip on my landing mat, by far, Levi's biggest pike.

Later in the day, Ari returned with a 5 lb eating sized pike, which I proceeded to fillet and freeze on the spot.

The following day, we Levi and I headed out together, as I was up for the next big pike. The prime spot I chose in shallow, weedy water, adjacent to a small feeders rivers paid off rather quickly, and I had my biggest pike in the net shortly after.

I was more than thrilled that the big mackerel rig I had planned actually worked. So we set up the lines for Avi's turn at a big one. It took a good 4 hours or so, and Avi line went off. The fish was running hard by the time we got to it, and put up a decent fight. Avi did a good job fighting and landing it, and he had his biggest pike, a monster 39.5 inch fish that weighed in at 18 lbs!

Avi was thrilled to have beaten the family record again, and Ari was up for the next fish. Unfortunately, no more hits that day.

The next morning, Ari got his chance at a decent fish,  just under 10 lbs, so Ari would have another turn at a big one in the double digits.

Unfortunately it swallowed the hook despite the huge bait, so we had to keep it.

When we returned to shore for lunch, I set up a fire to grill some burgers, while Ari and Avi were still out trying their luck at trolling. Again, this worked out very well for Levi, who landed another big one in front of our cabin.

We were lucky to find a run of big suckers setting up to spawn in the lake's discharge creek in the strong current. A small area with dozens of suckers in the 3 to 6 lbs range, hitting just about anything with threw at them.The kids had fun sight fishing for them from shore on lighter tackle in the strong current.

And here is a nice spawning colored one I caught.

Avi managed another eating sized pike later that afternoon as well, and Ari another decent pike too.

The following morning, I baoit a line with a huge chunk of cut sucker that originally weighed 4 lbs, as we were running low on giant mackerel, with only 1 left. The kids laughed at my optimism, but they weren't laughing any more when Ari hooked into a huge pike. Unfortunately, it snapped that metal leader I was using at boatside, just as I was about to net it. So much for that expensive "Not too Kinky" leader material, I'm sworn off it for good, as it kinks easy and breaks even easier.

Finally, later that afternoon, Ari landed his double digit pike on our last giant mackerel.

All in all, an amazing trip to Le Domaine Shannon, by far the best pike fishing we've ever had anywhere as far as size goes, as we all caught double digit monster pike. The weather couldn't have been better, and we were very lucky the the black flies and mosquitoes only hatched on the last night we were there. We left for home before 7 AM the following morning, just missing the start of what seems to be a very harsh bug season up there.

Unfortunately, this type of fishing will no longer be legal province wide in Quebec starting in April of 2017, as the ministry is banning to use of dead or live bait (except for ice fishing) to prevent the spread of the VHS virus. I hope to head back there one more time this summer for a last shot at catching some more monster pike using my newly discovered / soon to be prohibited tactics.

Whether you prefer fishing for big monster pike, tasty walleye, Le Domaine Shannon is the place to go. For those of you that hunt, they offer a spring bear hunt, and fall moose hunting as well.

Contact Le Domaine Shannon by clicking:  , be sure to request the "Freshwater Phil" discount when you speak to Serge (the owner).

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