For the most part, my posts on this blog are mainly about my successful fishing adventures. Being that most of you would be quite bored reading about my occasional failed efforts, I mainly keep them to myself. That being said, in order to discover good spots, seasons, techniques and the like, it's inevitable that will need to also eliminate unproductive spots and tactics.
That being said, this tale isn't about an unsuccessful fishing outing. It's about a planned ice fishing trip that's been a while in the making, and about how we were fooled into booking at a lodge under false premises. The trip also took some very unexpected turns, as you'll soon read.
As my older son Ari had the first week off cegep for spring break, we were contemplating spending a few days on ice together. Being that he will likely be moving out of town for work by summer, it may be out last chance to do this sort of trip together for a while.
With a giant surge of ice fishing across the province this season (due mainly to the pandemic), most of our regular hot spots are getting a ton of pressure, infinitely more than I've ever seen in a couple decades since I started ice fishing. As such, we wanted to get away from the spring break crowds, so we started looking into visiting some new regions for our ice fishing trip. After were weren't able to book our planned trip to Temiscamingue for various reasons, I came across Domaine Pine Grove in the Baskatong region while doing some last minute research. After calling them to confirm they had a chalet available for us, the owner went on to tell us about all the species people catch at his lodge. They included walleye, pike, perch, and lake whitefish, as species I have yet to catch on ice due to their very limited distribution in waterways open to ice fishing in Quebec.
Being only 3 hours drive from Montreal, and on a small back lake that is open to fishing in a closed zone (zone 11), the idea sounded very promising over the phone. We booked the trip, and headed up to Pine Grove lodge on Monday morning. Arriving before noon, we immediately set up 8 lines for pike, baited with frozen mackerels. We then jigged with the help of our flashers, hoping for perch, whitefish or walleye.
I was lucky enough to start off the trip with this nice perch.
Unfortunately, that was the only keeper size fish I caught during the entire 4 day trip! Ari and I both managed a whopping total of 3 more small perch the entire day, despite staying out jigging for walleye unter night time, at a spot over deeper water the owner mentioned was prime walleye area.
The following morning, I set up for pike early, despite a blistering -31 C wind chill. Again, no hits for about 3-4 hours, so after lunch, we trekked across the small lake to where the owner told us we should be able to catch lake whitefish. After another 3 hours or so, we headed to another section of the lake where there were supposed to be walleye, all we managed we a few more small perch.
2 other groups of people were at the lodge and fishing the lake at the same time as us. The one group caught absolutely nothing in 3 days, the other managed 1 small perch in 2 days of fishing.
At this point, Ari and I realized that the owner seemed to just invent stories into selling his spot. Visiting the pictures section on his web site, were noticed only 4 pictures. Once was of a child holding up a baby walleye caught in the summer, the other 3 were of the owner and his wife with a small musky caught after dark. As there are no muskies that lake and even in that region, I suspect he caught it elsewhere. The other was a walleye caught after dark, also in the summer. Not one ice fishing pic. In retrospect, I should have known better...
Not wanting to waste another day on that lake, Ari and I discussed trying a lake about half hour drive away from domaine Pine Grove lodge. After mapping it out on the government's web site, we determined that it was located in Quebec zone 12 fishing management zone. Zone 12 rules state that all lakes there are open to ice fishing, with the exception of la Verendrye wildlife reserve,and a few other lakes. The lake that we fished (Lac Coupal) was not on the exception list, and right off highway 117, so we got there bright and early on Wednesday morning. We were glad to see that the lake had been un-fished, and after having read reports of people catching walleye and pike there in the summer, we were hopeful.
After about 3 hours of fishing and not one fish caught, we were visited by 2 conservation officers on snowmobiles. After having checked out license, bait, and gear, they proceeded to inform us that fishing on that lake was closed in winter. Despite the fact that the lake is in zone 12, apparently, all lakes (with a handful of exceptions) in zone 12 are also part of La Verendrye wildlife reserve, which means that this lake was an exception to the exception, and therefore, not only did we have to leave, but were also in infraction of the law. They said they had to fill out a report, and that we may receive fines by mail.
While I'm not one to fuss and fight tickets in general, in this case, it will be my pleasure to go to court to argue my case if it comes down to it, as nowhere on the government site does it mention that these lake are part of the reserve, most of which happens to be in nearby zone 13. The officers understood that it was an honest mistake. Hopefully, a judge will feel the same way...
Before leaving, I asked the officers which other lake we could fish that were nearby. Once of the options they suggested was lac des Sources in Mont Laurier. It had opened to ice fishing only 2 day earlier, and had an exception to where we would be allowed to keep brook trout there if we managed to catch any. We made our way over there, and sure enough Ari hooked a big one in the 16 inch range. Unfortunately, it slipped out of his hand when he tried to land it, snapped his line and fell down the ice hole. Bummer, as all we managed to catch the rest of the day were tons of tiny perch. I don't think I've ever seen that many under ice, literally had clouds of them showing up on the flashers.
Arriving back at the lodge for the night, we decided to head home early in the morning and stop for bass at a small lake I fished in February. Another blisteringly cold day, Ari and I spent a good 6 hours drilling roughly 80 holes into 20 inches or so of ice (my new Ion G2 auger did great). Out of all those holes, Ari managed to land a very wormy perch out of one hole, and a smallmouth bass (his first ever on ice) and largemouth bass out of another.