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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Shore fishing in Bermuda

Back from my first ever cruise, courtesy of my in laws, who set up a mega family event for their 50th wedding anniversary. Basically, 35 of us boarded a cruise ship in New York, then sailed to Bermuda, where we docked for a few days, before sailing back to New York.

While various family members of various ages has all sort of outing planned on the island, I simply brought along a telescopic bass rod with a few lures and some terminal tackle. 

My plan was to give shore fishing in Bermuda a decent shot, and at worse case possibly going out on a mixed or private charter, in case the shore fishing was tough or non existent.

Turns out that I didn't have much to worry about. I had access to deep water in walking distance of our ship, which is where I ended up spending the entirety of my off board time.

Day 1:

We docked at the naval dockyard, which is a tiny strip on the Northwest side of the island. Getting off the ship, I noticed some areas near the tour boats where fishing was not allowed, so I ventured a bit further away. I tied on a a small jig and rubber grub, much like I'd use for walleye or bass, and within a few casts, I landed my first fish. Turned out to be a Red Hind, apparently a member of the grouper family. Nothing big, but a very welcome start to my Bermuda fishing adventure.

A couple casts later, I hooked into another fish, this one ended being a snakefish, also known as lizardfish.

Check the set on teeth on these critters

After catching some more red hinds, I caught a squirrelfish. Giant eyes on these.

After seeing some small bar jacks swimming by near surface in deeper water, I tried fishing for them without any success. Eventually, I decided to cast back to the shallower rocks where I started, and caught some more red hinds.

At this point, I decided to make my way to the other side of the dockyard, after a pit stop on the ship for some food and water. I found a small shop on pier 41 that sold frozen bait, and picked up a small box of frozen squid. 

Working my way along the industrial section of the dockyard area, I stopped to fish off the sides of the concrete structure. The water off the wall is a straight drop into a good 25-30 feet of water, which is clear enough to be able to see at least 20 feet below the surface. 

I baited a jighead with some squid, and on the first drop, clouds of colorful fish of all sizes swarmed my jig. Didn't take long too hook up, and I landed a species of wrasse the locals named "slippery dick", due to it's extremely slimy texture secreted when trying to escape being held. 

Good fight, and super colorful fish.

Next drop off the wall caught me a blue striped grunt, which turned out to end up being the majority of what was biting over the next couple days. 

As it was small enough and legal to use as bait, I tossed it out to deeper water, and within a minute or so, I got a nice hit form something bigger that cut through my 25 lbs flouro leader within a couple seconds. Most likely a barracuda, as apparently, there aren't any sharks in the area I was fishing.

Caught many more bluestriped grunt off that spot, as well as some more red hinds, wrasse, squirrelfish, and a small barred hamlet.

Eventually, I made my way around the deep water structure, and found a old decaying wooden wharf. Again, giant schools of fish schooled up under it, mainly blue striped grunts, as well as some decent lane snappers.

Again, I decided to use some of the smaller grunt for bait. I managed to catch 1 needlenose fish and small barracuda, but was unable to land them due to being about 7 feet higher than the water. Both fish came off when I tried to lift them from that height, so no pictures, but I did enjoy a decent fight with the barracuda.

After a while decided to cast some lures, managing some follows form various jacks, but unfortunately, no takers. No topwater action, all interest came while twitching jerkbaits at moderate to high speeds.

Eventually, I decided to work my way back towards the ship, stopping at the spot where I had most of my success earlier on. Some bigger fish had moved in, I managed to lane a nice Bermuda bream.

After a more of a mixed bag of smaller fish of the species I was getting used to, I hooked into something bigger near bottom. After a good fight, I landed a nice sized triggerfish.

Released it after a couple quick pics, as the ship would not allow us to bring any fish on board.

That ended my first day of fishing in Bermuda...

Day 2:

After my success on the first day, I planned to hit the same areas using more grunts as bait in hope of possibly catching some bigger fish. This time, I started at the dock shop to pick up some more squid, as well as some bigger saltwater hooks to rig on heavier fluorocarbon leaders. 

I then headed for the wharf, where I had caught the barracuda and needlenose fish the previous day. Unfortunately, the few jacks I saw weren't interested in eating anything bigger than the tiny minnows busting surface every now and then. 

Eventually, I got bored of catching mainly smaller grunts there, and headed under the road bridge along a small stream, and came out onto the surf. Climbing some treacherous coral rocks, I was able to find some spots to cast jerkbaits into the crashing waves for the first time during my trip. Fish had other plans though, and all I managed was some more follows from small schools of jacks.

Decided to work my way back towards the other side of the dockyard. Stopped at my deepwater hotspot, landed some more red hinds, and another nice Bermuda bream. A few more shots at jack resulted in one missed hit a few more follows.

After stocking up on some more water and cold beer at the dock shop, I headed back to where I had started fishing on Day 1. This time, I opted to cast a perch pattern Rapala xrap for the first time during the trip. 

I fished a wide deepwater pass, where all the boat and yachts pass through to get from the dockyard to the big water and rest of the island. 

Twitching and ripping the lure at a fast pace, I hooked up within a few casts. The fish made one of the most blistering runs I have ever experienced on light tackle, I'd say similar to bonefish. After turning around and running towards me, the fish then ran real fast again, I was starting to question if I had enough line with 400+ feet of braid on my spool. I thought I had hooked into a big jack or possibly a bonefish, but after finally managing to subdue and land the fish, I was surprised to see it was Little Tunny, also know as False Albacore or "Alby".

I had no clue these fish had that much power, apparently, they run at over 65 km/h! Unfortunately, the fish had a treble hook embedded deep into it's gill, as wasn't going to survive. I kept it, unsure of whether or not it was edible, but hoping it was going to be similar to blackfin Tuna, as it looked sort of similar and they are a related species.

After about 10 to 15 minutes of casting the area hoping for another one, I decided to make my way back towards the ship, hoping I could get some more more insight from one of the locals.

Sure enough, as I passed the first tugboat, the two workers on board saw me carrying the Alby, and came over to talk. Turns out that very few people eat them, and only if they are immediately bled and iced. As it had been about 20 minutes in the heat, the Alby was basically good for bait now. I offered it to one of them, who happily accepted it to use for bait after work.

Both Trey and Ryan grew up fishing in Bermuda, and were able to identify most of the fish I caught from my pictures, better so than some of the others I had asked about them up until that point. We made small talk about fishing, and honestly, I could have kept talking, but they were in middle of work, their boss passed by a couple times, and I was running out of daylight to keep fishing. 

Managed one more snakefish on the xrap, and made my way back toward our ship. Just before getting there, I noticed a small crowd had gathered around a shallow pool near a ship, and one of them called me over seeing my rod. There was a big school of small bar jacks swimming in circles, and I hooked up immediately as I cast into it.

Shortly after, I was finally holding my first Bermuda jack, though it was a lot smaller than what I had hoped for...

I assumed that was it for the day, and boarded the ship. 

My room was located on the port side of the ship over deep water, and later that night, my younger son and I were sitting out on our small balcony while everyone else was out enjoying the ships various entertainment venues. 

I looked down and noticed that they had turned on the deck light, about 50 feet above the surface of the ocean. In the kight, we saw hundreds of jacks busting the surface, chasing tiny minnows. I got the crazy idea of making out way down to the deck, and trying to hook a jack off the side of the ship. Easier said than done, but I did manage to cast to a good hundred or so fish, that kept circling or chasing my lure. Unfortunately, not one hit!

At least I have a good story to tell...

Day 3:

I originally planned to spend the last day at the beach with my younger son, while the rest of the group went on a sightseeing / shopping excursion to Hamilton. However, their plans changed, and they all opted to take a private shuttle to the beach. Being that it was my last day, and I hadn't stepped foot onto the main island, I did consider going with them... for a few minutes. 

Then my fisherman instinct kicked in, and headed out to try a half day of exclusive casting. LOL

I started off casting the area where I had caught the Alby, only to get a few more snakefish and a couple red hinds on the xrap.

I then made my way over to some other spots, just waiting to sight fish big schools of jack busting the surface for minnows. I did get plenty of good opportunities at them casting from various angles, but again, all I got were lots of follows and swirls, but no hits.

Made another stop at the docks shop for some beer and rum.

Finally, I decided to avoid the crowds and board the ship early, as we were sailing back to New York by mid afternoon.

All in all, I'd say my Bermuda shore fishing experience was one of my better DIY saltwater fishing trips. I landed 53 fish of 13 species, and missed countless others. I managed to outfish most of the locals that I ran into by far, only downside was that I didn't get to experience fishing anywhere else on the island, let alone anything else Bermuda had to offer.

On the flip side, that would have meant renting a scooter and devoting more time to exploring than fishing, and being that we were in Bermuda for a total of 2.5 days, I was sort of shot on time.

Oh well, the Bermuda beaches and exploring will have to wait for next time, if ever that happens. 

Mijocama bass fishing - June 2023

 After a surprisingly good pike fishing trip to Mijocama a couple weeks earlier, I headed back to Mijocama hoping to target largemouth bass with my family. Late June has been our set date for our yearly Mijocama trip for over 20 years now, and over those years, we've landed many hundreds of largemouth bass, and some really big ones at that.

With forest fires still raging strong throughout Quebec, not only were we facing a strict no fire ban, but we were driving up through thick haze and smoke to get there. An eerie haze covered most of the Southern portion of the province, and we were also facing a week of forecast heavy rain.

I paired up with my son Avi, while 2 of my other sons shared a boat, along with their girlfriends. My youngest son opted to stay on shore to fish for sunfish from our dock, and chase turtles.

Day 1: 

We arrived at Mijocama around noon, got out boats set up and broke camp. While unloading, I realized that I had left a good potion of our planned meals at home, namly all the chicken I had prepared for 8 of us. This meant that we would be substituting the chicken with fresh caught fish. Sure enough, I landed our first bass at my first spot, noce topwater hit in middle of the day was a welcome surprise, and we had some protein lined up too.

After landing another keeper size bass, I followed up with a small pike as well.

Day 2: 

Tough morning with nothing interesting to show for. By mid afternoon, Avi caught his first bass of the trip, which ended up being the biggest one for the week.

I also spent some time targeting sunfish with my younger son Zev. Seem like he didn't have much patience sight fishing for the giant pumpkinseed sunfish guarding their nests, optin to rather fish big schools of small fish for non stop action.

Evening bite yielded a few more largemouth for me, amid the pretty nasty horsefly and mosquitoes. Luckily I was dressed for the occasion.

Rain rolled in just around dark, so we called it a day.

Day 3:

Rain cleared up early enough for us to get back out on the water mid morning, but I was solo. With strong wind and nt much bass action, I headed to one of out better pike spots. First cast hooked into a surprise bass, which turned out to be the last one of the trip for any of us.

Next cast landed me a small pike

After not much to show for during the afternoon, we started actively targeting pike during the evening. Avi landed the biggest one of the day.

Day 4: 

After a night of heavy rain and wind, Avi got a late start to the morning bite, but we were immediately rewarded with a double header, landing 2 pike simultaneously. Again, Avi managed the bigger of the two.

A few more smaller pike, and we headed in for brunch. As my other kids were leaving, we helped pack and see them off, leaving Avi and I| alone to fish together for the rest of the trip. 

Just as were were going to head out to chase some more pike, my son Levi came back to report some car trouble. Luckily, it was still driveable, and after a couple hours ordeal, we manage to resolve the issue by driving to a mechanic in Gracefield. Once that was done, and he was finally on his way, Avi and I headed out for some more pike fishing.

Again, he managed the biggest of the evening, and of the trip up to that point.

That was it for the day.

Day 5:

We finally woke up to a nice sunny/calm day. Again, no bass to show for, we just decided to stick with pike for the rest of the day. We managed a few more eater sized pike, and then, mid afternoon, Avi hooked into our biggest of the trip, measuring 33/34 inches.

After that, the bite died down completely, but lucky for us, they had finally lifted the fire ban. |We fished until sunset.

Later that night, we enjoyed and big bonfire with a large group of my friends that had rented some of the other chalets, along with good drinks and some spectacular fireworks, which were long overdue. We packed it up and left early the following morning.

It seems that the largemouth bass fishery that once made Mijocama has started to fade out over the last few years. Drastically less bass, and not as many big ones since 2021. However, the pike have taken their place, with numbers we have never seen before, in a large variety of sizes / year classes. I was lucky enough to harvest 6 bass of 5 pike to make up for the chicken meals I accidentally left behind, but bass numbers and sizes were significantly weaker than what I have become used to catching at Mijocama.

As well, the outfitter has been put of for sale, and with the possibility of real estate builders buying it, we'll have to wait and see whether or not we will be able to keep on fishing Mijocama in years to come.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Mijocama pike fishing, June 2023

A few weeks ago, my friend Jimmy and I planned a pike fishing trip to Le domaine Shannon. Unfortunately, a few days before the trip, the entire region was evacuated due to the forest fire situation throughout most of Quebec. Figuring our week was lost, I called Mijocama hoping they were still open and had room for us. Luckily, they did.

I have been fishing Mijocama since 2002, and throughout the years, Giles lake has been great for bass. However, bass season was closed for the week, opening only on Thursday morning, at which time we were leaving for home.

The pike fishery at Mijocama has fluctuated throughout the years. It went from being OK , to almost non existent, and then has rebounded again over the last few seasons. I don't typically spend much time targeting pike at Mijocama, many of the pike I have caught there were mixed in with bass. This time, out plan was to target prime pike spots throughout the 4 day fishing trip, and for me, there is no one I'd rather go at it than my friend Jimmy.

With dreadful weather forecast for most of the trip, I wasn't too hopeful. On the drive up, I jokingly mentioned imagining leaving both of our bag limits of pike...

Day 1:

We got to Mijocama and started fishing mid afternoon. With the lake flat calm, I tied on a topwater walking mullet than had produced dozens of pike during my previous trip to le Domaine Shannon during July 2022. First spot we hit produced a follow from from a big pike on Jimmy's line. A couple cast later, I got the first hit, turned out to be a nice sized bass, promptly released after unhooking it.

Moving onto out next spot, I hooked the first pike of the trip casting a spinner. 

Jimmy followed up with a couple more pike before sunset, and just like than, we already had three keeper pike for the fillet table.

Day 2:

The following morning started off with light, intermittent  drizzle. After casting deeper for pike without any success, we decided to try casting topwater lures shallower, near fallen trees and timber. No pike, but I caught a jumbo pumpkinseed sunfish, and Jimmy landed a hefty bass. Again, both released after a quick picture.

The rain intensified, and forced us back to the cabin. The two person cabin we rented for the trip (the Marina), is built on piling in the lake. Perfect for fishing from our porch. I landed another pike from the porch, and got to work filleting our catches.

After a tasty shore lunch of battered pike pan fried in butter, the rain dies down, and was replaced by strong wind. Figuring we would get a good drift, we headed back to our prime pike spot on the lake. After a few passes, we figured out their strange pattern of hitting near surface over deeper water than normal.

Jimmy was on fire, catching pike on his spinnerbait nearly on every pass. This bigger pike ended up being the biggest pike of the trip, and we released it in good condition, as I prefer to harvest smaller ones.

The evening bite produced some more keeper sized pike, mixed in with the occasional bass as well.

Day 3: 

Jimmy and i spent much of the day fan casting pike spots, and intermittent trolling. The casting bit eventually picked up, and I started catching more pike using a Rapala Husky jerk fished with a "twitch and pause" cadence. Mainly keeper sized fish for both of us. 

Once the wind died down and the black flies came out close to sunset, wen landed some smaller pike on topwater lures, including the smallest on of the trip. Not much bigger than my lure!

Luckily for us, the forecast was totally off, and we enjoyed a splendid Mijocama sunset.

Day 4:

By far the best weather, but toughest fishing conditions. After managing a couple small pike mid morning, Jimmy landed another nice pike after noon. 

That turned out to be our last fish of the trip, despite us fishing hard for another 6 hours or so.

All in all, this fishing trip was all about surprises. From Mijocama being open when much of the rest of Quebec was shut down, to the weather forecast being infinitely better than forecast, to the virtually non existent mosquitoes we were dreading that never showed up, and to not getting one trolling bite all trip.

Biggest surprise of all was leaving Mijocama with 2 bag limits of deboned pike fillets (12 pike), for the first time in over 20 years. From trips with amazing success, to others that have been dismal, Giles lake never ceases to surprise us with new adventure. Hoping to be back there very soon for our family trip later this month.