Sunday, March 28, 2010

Closing Time

Pike season is quickly coming to a close in Zone 20 on the 31st of March and I want to get in as much time on the

water as possible. I decided to head out today and try a different spot as my normal honey hole has not produced of late. This is probably due to the tremendous amounts of rain we have received in the last couple of weeks.

This new spot looked very promising as it has lots of rocks among some
shallow areas which look great for the upcoming spawn. There are also
some emerging weeds that are visible.

With the full moon coming up in a couple of days I thought today might
present some better odds as the moon was at 95% (Waxing Gibbous). As
all avid anglers know, the window surrounding the full moon can
present a great time to be on the water fishing.

I started throwing a Rapala HJ-12 in the Firetiger color and after
about an hour with absolutely nothing to show for, I decided to change
lures. At this point I cut my line and tied on a Suspending Rattling
Wobbler in a Yellow/Pearl Ayu color. This lure is made by Fish Master
Lures, After tying it on and making my
very first cast, I started my retrieve using various jerks followed by
long pauses. I immediately hooked into a small pike that was brought
in rather quickly due to its small size. It was a 21" pike that
probably weighed around 2 lbs. Hard to imagine that I would hook into
a pike on my very first cast after making a lure change but it does
happen. There are a few things that I like better about the SRW over the Rapala HJ. Firstly, it has more weight to it so it

suspends deeper in the water column. Secondly, it makes more noise due to the multiple tungsten rattle weights inside the
chamber, thus attracting fish better. Finally, I just love the
Gamakatsu Blood-Red treble hooks. Overall this lure is awesome.

Although it was a pretty cold day on the water I still managed to
catch one pike in a little over an hour, and while 21" may be
considered small for a pike, I thought I would put it into perspective
for myself. This is the same size as the smallmouth bass I caught this
summer on Rice Lake. If these two fish were next to one another, they
would have had the identical length and one would have dwarfed the
other. It was now that I realized just how big that smallie was
because I had something I could actually compare it to.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Deer Grazing

Early Saturday evening prior to the sun going down, 8 deer came out of the woods and were grazing just behind the chain link fence that separates our backyard from a conservation area. It was a great site to see after spending the entire day outdoors. I had the pleasures of listening to the wind and the ways earlier on Rice Lake as well as the various birds already present. Now I got to relax and take in some does and their young. A great way to spend a quiet Saturday night.

Afternoon On Rice Lake

The weather this weekend was not the best so my plans to hunt some more pre-spawn pike went out the window. I was also apprehensive about paying $50 prior to even hitting the aisles of this weekends Toronto Sportsmen's Show, so I decided to head up to my cottage and spend an afternoon on Rice Lake which is located in the Kawarthas

As I pulled down my secluded cottage road, I noticed that all the ice seemed to be gone. The weather was also much cooler then previous days. The thermometer was showing 3 degrees Celsius but because there was some light wind lakeside, I would say the temperature was closer to the freezing mark. It was quite calming, listening to the wind and the ways and hearing the various birds already present in and around the lake. Very relaxing indeed.

Being the "Extreme Angler" that I am, I could not resist wetting a line in these chilly conditions. I love the fact that Zone 17 is open all year for perch, crappie and sunfish. Gives you something to do while you wait for the walleye opener in May and the bass and musky openers in June. I spooled up my Shimano spinning gear with some 4 lb Berkley Vanish and I tied on a small jig with a 2" grub. I tied on a bobber stop and clipped on a bobber a few feet above the jig and casting away I went in 8 feet of water. Over the next couple of hours I tried various presentations but nothing seemed to work as I didn't even get a nibble.
Spring is definitely in the air and I can't wait to open up the cottage, get my boat in the water and catch some panfish prior to walleye, bass and musky opening up for the season.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pike In The Rain? Weekend Plans?

Once again I decided to hunt some critters of the toothy kind, this particular outing fell on the new moon which just passed. Most of my outings towards the end of last summer, and my outings so far this year have revolved around these crucial dates.

I made my way down to my favorite pike flats but I didn't have a good feeling as it rained heavily for a few days leading up to new moon. I figured that at least having this phase in my favor would help increase my odds and balance out the fact that the water had a sloppy chocolate milk color to it.

Needless to say after casting for a couple of hours with various cranks I came away empty-handed. As I mentioned, the water was quite a mess. It was very dirty and that was due to the heavy rains that we encountered, as well as the fact that all the ice and snow had melted. It's amazing what a couple of days of warm weather can do to the ice. It was completely gone and the snow on the banks disappeared as run off into the lake. As I was casting it was difficult to see my lures in the water. On my previous outings, they were clearly visible which is important if you get a follower. Today, I couldn't see my lures 8 inches below the surface. Quite a difference in a week.

The outlook for this upcoming weekend once again looks bleak so I am again making some backup plans. My first alternate is to head up to my cottage on Rice Lake to check on the latest ice conditions. The ice has melted to a degree, but it would be nice to have some open water beyond the end of my dock so I can throw out a minnow and a bobber and try to hook into some perch or crappie.

Another alternative is to head to the annual Toronto Sportsmen's Show. After giving this option a few seconds of consideration, I decided against it as they are charging $17 for admission not to mention at least $15 - $20 for parking. Throw in a beer or two while you cruise the aisles and I am already out of pocket, close to $50 dollars. The way I look at it, that is $50 less I can spend on various items like plastics and hard baits.

The final alternatives are quite attractive and those are to either hit BPS as they still have their annual Spring Classic on or go to LeBaron's as they are having their tax free event. The options to stay closer to home are much more attractive. Stay tuned to see what the weekend brings.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic

Earlier this week I was looking at the upcoming weather forecast, and the outlook up to at least the end of the weekend is for rain, so I figured that the pike action would be slow. Therefore I opted for my backup plan and that was to head up to Bass Pro Shops at Vaughan Mills for the first day of their annual Spring Fishing Classic Sale. Upon my arrival I wasn't surprised to see the parking lot full right at opening. When I got inside it was very busy and most of the traffic seemed to be at the reel counter for the trade-ins. As with most experiences there, you can never find someone to talk to when you have a question.

I originally only went up for a couple of things on my list for the upcoming season, but as everyone knows you always pick up a few extra things that aren't on your list. Here's what I picked up for under $300.

- Cotton Cordell lures
- YUM baits that included wooly beavertails and stick worms
- Rapala SXR-14
- XPS double bladed Musky bucktail spinner
- Jitterbugs
- 12 lb Seaugar Fluoro Leader
- 8 lb Maxima Fluoro Leader
- 50 lb Spider Thread
- Seat hardware and new pedestal seat
- Large Net
- My favorite item there, various bags of Jack Link’s

As there are daily door crashers and ongoing deals throughout the classic, I see myself making a few other visits there.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ice-Out Pike Part II

After a semi successful day yesterday, I decided to try my hand at some more pike action today. The weather was once again spectacular along the shores of Lake Ontario. I hit the water in the late afternoon and it was amazing to see what another day of sun and warm weather can do. The ice retreated a great deal overnight and there was much more open water to cast cranks.

Yesterday, I did something which I never do when I am heading out, and that is forget my camera in the car. I think I was to excited to hit the water. After landing my one fish yesterday, I ran back to the car to get it and naturally there were no more fish to be landed after that. I didn't make that mistake today as I had it ready for a photo opp.

After some time I once again hooked into a pike in the 30" range. As it got close to shore, I reached for the net and as I was going to scoop it up into the net, it gave one last head shake and it spit my lure and returned to the mirky depths. After many casts over the last couple of days, I figured out that the most effective presentation was to jerk it 2 or 3 times followed by a very long pause. It was usually during this long pause that they would inhale the unsuspecting crankbait. A few times I could actually feel some pecking going on and I knew it had to be a fish since I was not running bottom as my bait was suspending in the water column.

My next encounter proved to be interesting as this particular pike managed to cut right through my fluoro leader. It must have followed the bait as I reeled in. All I remember is a splash followed by a slight weight on the end of the line. Then as I tried to set the hook, it rolled a couple of times and then all of a sudden I was left holding a rod with a stretch of dangling Power Pro in mid air. At first I was mad and then I thought I lost my Rapala Husky Jerk but then I saw it floating on top of the water. I quickly used my net to pull the water towards me as I made every attempt to save my ten dollars. Call me cheap or smart, I prefer the latter. Needless to say, today would have been the day to have waders on as I got a slight soaker. In the end I did however manage to save my lure so I was happy but still angry at having been sliced off.

After being patient, I was confident I would hookup before the day was over and sure enough I managed another 30" pike that went about 8 lbs. This time all my previos efforts were in my favour as I was able to net it and quickly release it after a photo.

Ice-Out Pike Part III to come in the near future.

Ice-Out Pike

There's just something about ice-out Pike fishing that gets me excited. Is it the thought of hooking a monster toothy critter towards the end of winter? Is it the thought of the upcoming soft water season? Is it knowing that spring is in the air? Is it knowing that my boat will be in the water permanently for another season soon? Well it's all the factors listed above.

The last couple of weeks have brought some unseasonably mild temperatures and with these temperatures come not only the melting of the ice, but the accessability to vast spaces of open water, which until now have been hidden. When and wherever you can find open water, chances are you'll find fish. Even if it's in winter. I have been monitoring the ice out conditions for some time now and I have been excited to dust off my Shimano Citica Crucial baitcasting combo to start throwing crankbaits for another year.

Yesterday presented the perfect opportunity to do just that. With the temperature in the mid single digits and just enough open water to make some long casts, it was time to start hunting some ice out pike! My favourite spots at this time of year are in and around The Big "O", Lake Ontario.

Most of the spots that have brought me success in the past all have a similar habitat. Shallow flats that drop off into deep pools with lots of rocks. The rocks are great for pike that are coming into the flats to stage and feed as they absord the suns rays and they retain heat.

After taking a few casts it quickly became clear that the 2010 fishing season had officialy begun, even though I went ice fishing a month earlier.

My bait of choice today was a suspending crankbait (Rapala Husky Jerk) Gold colour. I was using various retrive methods until I found one that worked. After about 10 minutes, I gave it a couple of jerks and I paused. I let it sit there for what seemed to be an eternity, when all of a sudden as I was ready to give it another couple of jerks, I hooked into my first ice-out pike of the season, a nice 30"er. The battle didn't last long as they are slow and sluggish, but having said that it's still exciting and it put on a show as it came to the surface. A small dance and a few rolls later I managed to reach into the icey water and land it. Wow did it ever feel good to get the proverbial monkey off my back, as many a fisherman get skunked while trying their hand at ice-out pike fishing.

Another hour and twenty mintutes passed before I saw any signs of life in the chilly waters. I looked to my left and I saw something swimming as it came out from under the large ice sheet that was yet to thaw. It looked rather fat and at first I thought it was a carp but then a closer look revealed that it was a rather wide and fat pike that was cruising along the outer edge of the ice just under the surface. It crawled along at a snails pace. This gave me 3 chances to flip my crank in front of it's nose but it wasn't interested at all. It turned and headed under the safety of the ice. A few minutes later, after another eternal pause I managed to hookup with another pike in the range of about 30" but this time I lost the battle as a few head shakes shook the battered crank from it's toothy jaws a few feet from my grasp.

The winds along the shores of Lake Ontario at this time of year are generally anywhere from moderate to strong. After spending a couple of hours outside, I quickly realized how fast the temps can drop as the sun goes down and the winds increase. I had a very enjoyable time on the water and it beats sitting indoors. If you are serious about fishing, then this time of year presents the perfect oppurtunity to hunt pike. You have to be dedicated enough to find open water, and strong enough to brave the elements.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Afternoon On Ice

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of going ice fishing with a buddy of mine who many people say, should have his own show on television. Why you ask? Well the following post will once again prove that my friend, lets call him "G" for the purpose of this story, is a fishing god and can in some magical fashion coax these underwater creatures to the end of your line, which in this case proved to be mine.

The reason I was so excited about fishing this time, was the fact that it had been 20 years since I last went ice fishing and I can still remember being out on Lake Simcoe with my brother having a blast as we hunted out favorite prey. Back then, I remember being in University, drinking beer and putting less emphasis towards the fishing. I remember getting sick and being cold. Well a lot has changed in that time. "G" was confident leading up to our outing and said that we would be hooking into some Slabs for sure but to be patient and to tell the wife, not to wait up.

Fast forward to an unseasonably warm January afternoon on Lake Scugog, which happened to be a day after a full moon? It seems every time I have gone fishing of late it coincides with either a new or full moon. That alone should bring you success on the water or in this case the ice but as we all know when it comes to fishing, you have great days on the water but there is also the odd time that you get skunked.

We arrived in the early afternoon and upon proceeding on the ice with "G's" truck, he mentioned that I should roll the window down. It didn't dawn on me until about a split second later that there was always a chance of going through the ice. I now knew what it was like to be an Ice Road Trucker. After speeding to our spot, the anticipation grew as I knew that "G" managed a limit the previous 2 days out on the ice. Today we were after the mighty Black Crappie.

After drilling a few holes, we were quickly set up, and our lines were in the water in no time at all. I remember a tournament angler saying to me once that the best tip he could give when it came to catching fish was to keep your line in the water. I was expecting to hold them and jig them up and down like the guys out on the ice were doing but he rigged them from the ceiling of the hut so we didn’t even have to hold them. That way when the Crappie started to hit, you would see the line get pulled sideways.

Next on the agenda was starting up the propane heater. A lot of things have changed in 20 years but I don't remember there being heat back then. This was ice fishing in style.

The action started out slow but less than a minute into our adventure we all ready had some small perch on the end of our lines. This went on for some time but most of the perch proved to be small on this day. So patiently we fought of the perch and tried to save our minnows. We were setup over some nice weeds that showed all the tell tale signs of being alive. The water depth was around the 8 foot mark and our choice of gear was ultra light rods with "fly type" ice rigs mounted on them, jig heads and live minnows that were suspended a few feet below the ice. The perch action continued for another hour or so and I was beginning to wonder if we would see any signs of our target fish. "G" assured me that it was still to early for them but they would come out of the depths sooner rather than later. Then, finally just like my fish god had predicted, we managed our first Crappie of the night.

Having only been on the hard water once or twice before I was amazed at how sensitive the bite was. You had to keep a keen eye on the rod tip and the line as the most subtle bite would move the rod and line ever so slightly. Not sure if "G" is a fish god or just has more luck. He was landing way more fish then me, he was able to see the subtle movement in the line. It seemed that "G" was manning all the lines as I was to slow with my observations. I really needed to visually see the line move a lot to catch them but he seemed to detect even the subtle movements. Half the time I wasn't paying attention and he would say fish on. By the end of the night, I was much better at it and it felt good to land a couple of big ones. The action was quite fast and furious for a few hours but just as quickly as it picked up, it seemed to disappear almost instantaneously a few hours later.

I went home with a total of 16 Crappie and one Jumbo Perch and "G" ended up with a limit. I also beat my personal best which now stands at 14”, 1 lb 12 oz. I also remember it being like this whenever we get out on the soft water together. “G” just seems to outfish everyone on any given day. When I got home I got them all cleaned up and had an incredibly tasting fish fry the next day.

Things that I learned: get a hut, gas auger and propane heater if you are going to be serious about it, other then that it was pretty simple. Dress warm as the winds can pick up at any instance. However if I was doing it by myself I probably would have had the hut in a completely wrong section of the lake where there were no Crappie.