The Freshwater Phil guide to Montreal shore fishing spots

Montreal's best shore fishing spots

Friday, May 29, 2015

Still fishing for big bottom feeders

For the few us us in the angling community that truly enjoy still fishing, there is nothing better than when it all comes together as planned. Still fishing for big fish such as bottom feeders requires proper gear, a good knowledge of the target species, and most of all, lots of patience. As with many other things in life, good things come to those that wait, and fishing is no exception.

A group of clients from the USA hired me to take them out for carp a couple days ago. After their fishing trip up North ended in disaster, with them getting hopelessly lost in the maze of uncharted dirt roads up to Parent. Not being able to find their way to the outfitter they planned to fish for pike and walleye, they headed back to Montreal, and were desperate to land some fish. Being a group of 4, no one was able to accommodate them by boat, which is another advantage to being able to target fish from shore, as long as the bank space is unlimited.

After all that driving and their ordeal, they were weary of joining me anywhere outside Montreal, where I take all my clients for good carp fishing. Though I fish Montreal for carp once in a while for short 2-3 hour outings on my own, the fishing here is more sporadic, typically a toss up between chasing trophies in small numbers, or targeting smaller carp. As we were a total of 5 people, I also needed a spot with enough bank space to get a good spread on our lines, all while trying to ensure success.

We headed to own of my fall spots for carp, which I previously never tried this early in the year. In fall, the spot doesn't yield big numbers. The tradeoff is size, most carp we've caught there go over 25 lbs. But we are in mid spring now, so I knew I'd have to adapt my tactics to this time of the year.

We got set up shortly after 9 AM for a short half day outing. Took nearly 2 hours to get the first carp, and I was surprised that the carp we landed was only mid size, about 11-12 lbs or so. The fish hit in less than 3 feet of water, so I moved a couple of the other lines shallower as well.

The move took about an hour or so to produce results. After a brutal fight, one of the boys landed his biggest fish ever with a nice 28+ lbs carp.

Needless to say, they were all thrilled with the catch, and I'm hoping it made up for some of the frustration they had to deal with during the preceding days. One things for sure, the chances of them catching a 28 lbs pike on a trip up north was very close to zero. Sometimes, simplicity, patience,  and a bit of knowledge can make all the difference...

The following evening, I took my 9 year old son Eli out for a short 2 hour evening outing after he had done his homework. Plan was to chase so trophy sized channel cats with him.

Fishing for big channel cats may sound simple enough, but in reality, there are a number of factors to consider. While smaller ones bite earlier on in spring, it isn't before mid to late May that the bigger ones get very active. It is imperative to stay away from spots that have large number of smaller cats. Focusing on prime spots that contain big fish is the key. Look for deeper holes in moderate current, and fish them starting about 1 hour before dark. For the most part, bigger catfish lay low and virtually inactive in those holes during the day, coming out to start hunting their prey near sunset and through the night. Lastly, don't bother targeting trophies with small bait. I use 6-8 inch dead suckers or chubs. The smaller fish may peck at them every now and then, but when a bigger one takes the line, you generally have a good idea that it's going to weigh in the double digits.

Back to Eli's outing, we got set up about 7:45 PM. Didn't take 5 minutes, and we had a catfish messing with our line. Within 5 more minutes, it took a nice telltale run. I set into the big cat, and handed the rod to Eli.

The fish but up a brutal fight in the current, probably the best I've ever seen from a channel cat. Being only 9 years old, Eli started tiring pumping the heavy rod and big reel trying to gain on the big cat that kept peeling the tightly set drag, keeping it's huge head and shoulders towards the bottom in the river's current.

Finally, when he was at the point of exhaustion and couldn't take it any more, I took over for him to give him a break and let him land the fish with the net. The fish still had a ton of fight left, and wouldn't surface even in shallow. When it finally did, I knew Eli had likely broken his previous catfish record. We landed the big catfish, which weighed in at 18 lbs even. Turned out to be Eli's biggest fish ever, topping a mid size carp he landed a couple years ago.

We got back to fishing again, nothing doing for the next hour or so. Then, shortly after 9 PM, the bite turned on. Eli landed a nice 12 lbs cat, followed by 2 more that we lost. one due to a pulled hook, the other cut the line on a rocky shoal right near shore.

As Eli had school the next day, I had to leave at 10:00 PM, so the rest of those cats will have to wait for next outing if ever they feel like making an appearance on my blog.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Week of father and son fishing

Jewish tradition has considers a boy's thirteenth birthday as his passage into manhood. This event is also known as the bar mitzva. With Levi turning 13 in a few weeks, I decided to take him on a father son week of fishing, as I did with my older boys.

Our original plan was to go up to Le Domaine Shannon for a 5 day trip to chase pike. A couple days before I was scheduled to go, I got a call from the lodge, asking me if I can give up our first day there to another group who's cabin had burned down. As I go to the lodge a couple times per year, I agreed, much the the chagrin of Levi.

Being that our trip up North was cut short, I offered him a day of carp fishing instead, and a possibly 1/2 day extension of our trip up North, weather permitting.

Levi and I hit the St Lawrence River on Friday morning. The carp were around, but in a very negative feeding mode. Despite pulling out all the stops, we couldn't manage a bite for most of the outing. Neither could a couple other groups of carpers set up not to far from us. Finally, with less than 1 hour left to the outing, I baited a line with a new hookbait I was considering testing. The bait worked like a charm, producing a false run within less than 5 minutes, and then a take about 10 minutes later. Levi made no mistake, and landed his first carp of the season shortly after.

After heading home for the weekend, we left for Le Domaine Shannon at the crack of dawn on Monday morning. Ride up was quick, the dirt roads up to the main lodge are in very good condition. After checking in and setting up at our cabin, we headed out to fish a small chain of lake I had never fished yet. Lac Boss is located near the Western edge of their territory, and contains small to mid sized pike, as well as some walleye. 

Water temps were still cold for walleye, so we focused on trolling for pike. Didn't take too long for levi to land his first fish of the trip.

As the section of Lac Boss near the cabin is quite small, we headed up a small creek that feeds into the lake. We eventually found our way to the next segment of the lake, which was a bit bigger. After some more small pike, Levi landed a nicer one:

We eventually made our way back, and setup some line with dead minnows on larger rods with baitrunner reels and bite alarms, similar to what we use for channel cats and carp fishing, in hope of hitting some bigger fish while we cooked up the some fresh caught pike for supper.

The dead bait only managed some more small pike that evening. The next morning, we set out to explore the outflow creek on the other side of our lake, which eventually leads to 2 other lakes Lac Hebert, and Lac Pearl. Lac Hebert was far more productive, producing another few pike, mainly under 3 lbs or so. 

Lac Peral didn't produce any pike, but Levi hooked some sort of salamander or possibly an amphibian on a Rapala husky jerk. 

Should have brought along more snacks on the boat:

Unfortunately, the weather that afternoon took a turn for the worse. Strong 40+ kmh North winds blew in a cold front, and we woke up to some snow and -12 wind chill temps the next morning:

Being too cold to head out on the lake in high winds, we fished dead bait from shore for a while, managed 4 or 5 small pike in front of the cabin. 

Levi hates cold more than my other kids, so when I offered him the option of heading home and chasing carp locally the following day, it didn't take him long to agree forgoing the option of sticking with small pike, to swap for the chance at some rod banding, drag peeling carp action in the warm sun. We made it back to Montreal by mid afternoon on Wednesday, and headed out for the makeup outing on Thursday. 

We set up the carp lines shortly before noon, as the moring was still quite cold. Despite the high winds, the sun warmed up nicely, and shortly after lunch time, Levi had his first run. The fish fought well, and we were both surprised to see a 10 lb channel cat on the end of the line. Levi was happy, as it's been a while since he's caught a big cat.

It's body was slim in comparison to the huge head:

We got the lines set up again, and the non stop action started. Over the next 5 hours, Levi hooked 11 carp, landing 9 of them before it was time to head home by late afternoon. Most of the carp were in the mid to upper teens:

2 of them were over 20 lbs:

All in all, an action packed week of fishing for Levi, and hopefully a lifetime of  memories he'll cherish.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Walleye opener in Montreal

May 8th 2015 was the walleye opener in zone 8 around Montreal. I'm not much of a walleye angler, save for a couple trips up North where the pristine forest lakes I fish have healthy populations of walleye that produce nice easy bag limits of delicious, non polluted walleye.

When it comes to the St Lawrence river however, their is no question that it is a world class fishery for big trophy walleye. Early on in the season, they are easily accessible from the shore, so I brought along some jigs just in case I'd find some walleye friendly water to cast them into.

I headed out for a short 1/2 day outing with Ari, it was his first time going out in waders. After hooking a few bass to start the day, we switched spots as bass season doesn't open for another 5 weeks or so, and targeting them before the season is against the law. We hit some pike friendly water at our second spot, didn't take long for Ari to hookup with some pike:

As Ari kept catching pike, I spent my time in shallower, warmer water, sight fishing for gar. Most were small, and not very interested in my offering, but I did hook and eventually lose a nice 3 foot longnose gar.

Eventually, I ventured off to a spot with deeper, colder water, with some current. Recognizing it's potential as a walleye sport, I tied on a nice 1/2 ounce orange jig head, with a 3 inch red grub with a white tail. On my second cast, I hooked into a nice heavy fish, I was quite sure it was a walleye from the way it was fighting. Sure enough, I turned out to be correct, it was a hefty 6.5 lbs walleye, my first of the 2015 open water season.

Later on. we made out way back to shallower water, with Ari losing another pike, and then a big longnose gar he had hooked while sight fishing. Casting my pike rod, I suddenly got a massive hit in shallow water. As I set into the big fish, I saw the big gold/brown body of a carp come up. At first, I thought I had snagged it by accident, but when I got it close enough for a better look, I was surprised to see it had my big Mepps spinner in it\s mouth. The aggressive carp put up a very tough fight in the warm shallow water, especially as I was using a small 6.5 foot bass rod. Ari made his way over and shot some video footage of the end of the battle, which must have last a good 4-5 minutes.

Snapped a couple quick pics, and released it to grow some more for another day.

So our walleye opener / wading outing turned out better than expected, some nice pictures and great memories during a short father and son outing on the St Lawrence river.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My biggest brown trout

Changed it up a bit and headed South of the border to the Adirondack mountain of New York sate for some trout fishing. Besides the breathtaking scenery and crystal clear rivers and streams, New York state stocks many thousand of brown trout and rainbow trout into the river systems every spring.

The trout stocked by New York state early in the spring are typically under 9 inches long. With a minimum slot size of 12 inches required to keep trout, they have a chance to grow nicely, and possibly be caught and released a few times as well.

Every now and then, a trout will survive for a few seasons, and grow to decent size. These "holdover" trout are somewhat rare, but a few nice ones are caught every season. While catching any eating size trout is always fun, these trout are considered trophy size. Furthermore, their flesh texture and taste are a lot better once they have been on a wild fed diet for a few years.

After hitting some spots without any success, we finally hit more familiar water shortly after 3:00 PM. Jimmy immediately connected with a small brook trout, very rare in those waterways, and most likely a natural non hatchery fish. I slipped into my new neoprene waders, and was very glad to have picked them, as the water is still just above freezing temperature, with snow melt off still pouring into the rivers.

Tied on a floating jointed Rapala (j5) in brown trout pattern, and started casting into a deep pool. Within a couple minutes, a large trout crushed the lure, and as soon as I set, I new it was going to be a nice one. Once the brown trout jumped, I knew is was likely on of the biggest ones I caught. As I slowly waded back to shore while fight the fish, I was hoping it was well hooked, as it put up a wild head shaking battle despite the near freezing cold water temperature. Once I landed it, I knew I had just beat my personal best record for brown trout, which ended up measuring 17.5 inches, and weighing 2.25 lbs.

After a while with not much else biting there, we switched spots. The next spot was quite productive, Jimmy and I landed a good 20 trout. Mostly brown trout and 1 rainbow, they were all hatchery sized, and must have been stocked very recently.

When fishing died down at that spot, we hit our last spot for the day, which ended up the most productive by far. We landed another 30 trout or so, again, almost all were brown trout, with a couple rainbows, and even a fallfish. Most were small, expect for one more brown trout over the 12 inch slot size for Jimmy. Most were caught using small spinner, though Jimmy caught a fair share using a fly rod, and I caught some more on the Rapala J5. We called it a day shortly before 7:00 PM, just in time to do some cross border grocery shopping before heading back home.

Hope to head back there again later on this spring.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ice out carp fishing

As the ice thaws around Montreal, most of us can't take it any longer. Seeing fishable open water after 4-5 months of ice cover is an annual wake up call to get out and get fishing.

Though many so called "sport fish" species such as pike, walleye, bass, musky and sturgeon are closed and forbidden to fish for, other fun species such as carp and catfish are open year round.

Most often, my first open water outing will be for carp. Though they are much easier to target in warmer water, the early season challenge, coupled with the serenity of being able to still fish open water while relaxing on a warm spring day is about as good as it gets after a long and cold winter.

The key to successfully targeting carp at ice out, is to find shallow flats with slack water, where the water temperature tends to rise faster than faster moving or deeper water. Carp will head for warmer water in big as soon as the ice starts thawing. All that movement along with the warming temperature will kickstart their spring feeding pattern.

A huge mistake often made when targeting carp in cold water, is too much chumming. With the water just above freezing temperature, it doesn't take much to overfeed carp. A few well placed boilies will be enough to attract the carp, if they are in the general area. Next step, is to make sure you maintain a proper presentation. Shallow bays tend to get quite a bit of dead weeds accumulated after the winter, so fishing with popup boilies may be the only way to keep a clean presentation, especially on light current.

Headed out for an afternoon of carp fishing, hoping to land my first open water carp of the season. Rigged a short 6 inch hair rig,fished about 3 hours using one of my Fireball popup boilies, as that flavour / scent has done well for me in very cold water in the past. No hits at all, switched to a Sweet Dream popup boilie instead. Got a screaming run with less than 5 minutes, not typical at all for this time of the year, when carp are quite lethargic in the near freezing water. Unfortunately, the carp dropped the bait after running a few yards. After resetting my line, took about 30 minutes to get my next hit. This one was more typical, starting off very slow, and gradually increasing speed.

The carp put up a very nice fight for this time of the year, when they are often easy to bring in as "dead weight". This particular carp ran in many directions, surface a few times as well. Finally landed the carp off the steep bank, nothing too big at 12.5 lbs, but extremely satisfying to land my first carp of the open water season.

With no one else there to snap a picture, had to use the dinky autoshoot function on my camera. Though I'm getting used to it, not exactly the best fishing pic I've taken.

That was all for the day, no more hits for another hour or so, I called it a day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ice fishing for pike at last ice

As the winter ends and spring arrives in Southern Canada, most of our lakes and rivers are covered in the thickest ice of the season. Ice fishing at last ice seems to slow down for some species, but can be great for others.

Northern Pike are predictable this time of the year, as they move shallow and start staging to spawn. As the winter draws close to it;s end, they tens to congregate in large numbers in shallow bays, adjacent to spawning areas like feeder creeks and marshes. While this makes them easier to target, be prepared for some serious drilling, especially if you don't have a gas powered auger, as the ice will typically be between 2 to 3 feet thick.

As there usually isn't more then 1 to 2 feet of water under the ice in the prime pike spots by this time, there isn't any point to jigging or using a flasher. Tip ups are the way to go, and suspending your bait a few inches off bottom is the best bet to successful ice fishing for pike in shallow water. Popular bait choices will be live shiners or live suckers in the 4 to 6 inch range, where legal (such as Zone 8 around Montreal). Frozen smelt, mackerel or herring will do fine as well, and is typically the bait of choice in zones were live bait is prohibited.

Headed out for a few pike outings late this winter, in hopes of catching a trophy pike. Unfortunately, the fat females we were after never came to play, but we still managed to land some decent fish over a few outings.


As the season closes on March 31st, I'm done with ice fishing until next winter. Ice fishing gear and tackle has been packed away, and getting ready to go after some open water carp as soon as the ice melts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ice fishing for carp, first carp on ice

Targeting and catching carp on ice has been on my bucket list for a while. I tried a couple times in the past, but wasn't successful, as carp are notoriously tough to catch when the water temperature is near the freezing point. While one may find large concentrations of carp and other warm water species huddled up in huge schools unders ice, they aren't there to feed, it's usually a matter of conserving energy and staying out of current or in slightly warmer water. This leaves the carp, and some other warm water species such as catfish, gar, etc very vulnerable to illegal/unsportsmanlike snagging.

The spot I originally tried a few years back is well known by snaggers that show there every winter, and after witnessing their illegal activities while I was staying legal and not catching any carp myself, kind of put me off the idea for a while.

Last winter, my friend Andrew started successfully catching carp through the ice. I was excited about this news, as he had found a good spot, and discovered some feeding/baiting methods to get them to feed in winter, under the ice. The combination of proper winter baiting and well formulated winter bait proved very successful.

Andrew finally invited me out to attempt catching some carp on ice with him. I arrived around
8:30 AM, he already had his lines set up. I set up 2 rods with baitrunner reels for carp, baited with C-quake boilies produced by Feedlab. I also brought along a couple of some old hand lines I had originally designed for ice fishing northern pike a few years back. I modified them for carp, running a 7-8 foot fluorocarbon line to keep my presentation nearly invisible. One of the handlines was actually a 7-8 foot fluorocarbon hair rig, tied directly to my mainline.

I supposed the carp would be very finicky, so I avoided using a sinker on any of my lines, as their is no current in the area we fished. This would further avoid spooking them. I used my Humminbird flasher to ensure proper bait placement, on my nearly weightless rigs. As I only brought a few lines, Andrew put out some tip ups baited with live minnows, and we both set up some jigging rods for other species.

To a few hours to get our first hit. One of Andrew's rods went off, and he set into his first carp of the day. As expected, the carp put up a nice fight under ice. I brought the big landing mat right up to the side of our oversized carp hole, rolled up my sleeves, and stood by ready to land to fish. When the fish eventually tired and came up the hole, I carefully slipped both hand under it to avoid touching it's gills, and eased it onto the mat. Andrew was quite happy, as the carp hit a new "maggot ball" bait he was testing. Basically a small ball of artificial maggots molded together and dipped in a pineapple scented/flavored attractant.

Though we were hoping for a flurry of carp action, it didn't happen. Our 10-11 carp lines stayed completely silent. Luckily, the live minnows produced some fish, including some perch, pike and largemouth bass for Andrew.

Eventually, I decided to check my handlines. In contrast to the rods that had bells or bite alarms, and the tip ups that have flags, my handlines don't have long range indication of a strike. If you aren't next to the handling when a fish takes the bait, you won't see it until you check them. Luckily, they are well spooled with lots of line. Only sense of indication on them is that I have half covered in grey duct tape, so if any fish moved the line, the color change will be apparent.

As my crude hand line indicator had now changed colors, I had a good suspicion that a fish had hit the bait. I slowly lifted it, and felt a very slight resistance. The line was high up in the water, so I knew there was a fish swimming with it, oblivious to my weightless, and invisible fluorocarbon presentation. When I felt an ever slight increase in weight, a quick tug set the hook into my first carp. I was super pumped about hooking my first carp, even sweeter that it hit the only hand line we rigged for carp, as I had switched the other handline to a giant minnow for big pike.

As the carp was very close to the hole when I hooked it, I was it dart down a few times, while I kept or loosened tention by pinching the line with my fingers. By far the most enjoyable handline fight I've ever had, as I typically use ice fishing rods and rarely catch put out handlines.

When Andrew showed up with the mat, I eased to carp up to the ice hole, and he scooped it out of the oversized ice hole, and onto the mat. Though the carp was quite small by my standards, it was one of the most enjoyable carp fishing moments I have experience in roughly 10 years of carp fishing.

The carp was taken on a C-quake boilie produced locally in Montreal by Feedlab, a company run by my friend Phil Tabry. As you can see, the rig is barely visible out of water, let alone under ice.

Unfortunately, we didn't get any more carp hits for the rest of the day, but I was more than happy to have experienced some carp fishing on ice, and catching my first ice carp.

As  got back to jigging a small Rapala W2 jigging rap tipped with a mealworm, I noticed a mark on my flasher above my lure, it came under, then up a nailed the lure hard. I knew it wasn't one the the perch we'd been catching most of the day when it pulled down and started peeling drag. After a short but feisty battle, I eased it's head up the ice hole, and I had my first bass of the day, maybe 10 minutes after releasing the carp.

The days ended with some more perch, a small bass for me, and another small pike for Andrew. Hope  to give ice fishing for carp another shot or two before the winter ends.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fishing blue cats in North Texas

Over the past few years, I've visited Dallas during the month of February for a few days. Though not exceedingly hot, a bit of sunshine with temps warm enough to wear a light sweater or t shirt are a great way to break up our long winters. As I have family in Dallas and quite some airline points in reserve, the trips typically don't cost me much besides for my rental car and whatever I decide to spend on fishing.

This year, the target species we big blue catfish, which are prevalent in many of the reservoirs in North Texas. After doing some research, I decided on Lake Tawakoni, probably the best and most fished lake in Texas when it comes to trophy sized blue cats. Booked 2 days of guided outings, and figured I'd chase some carp and possibly buffs on the third day. As Ari is on spring break, I brought him along as well.

Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate. We landed on Sunday in heavy rain and quickly cooling temps. By early Monday morning, we were in the midst of an ice storm. As Texas doesn't have much infrastructure to deal with ice storms, everything simply shuts down until the ice thaws out. Our guide cancelled the planned Monday outing due to the bad weather.By Monday afternoon, Ari was itching to get out, so we with a new spot on the Trinity River in Dallas for carp or buffs. With sub zero temperature and ice built up along the banks, I wasn't expecting much, but at least we got out a bit.

As nothing was biting for a couple hours, we hit another spot where we've caught some winter carp in the past. Unfortunately, the water was to high and current was quite strong. We couldn't get to our fishing spot, but tried further upstream. No success for an hour or so, we headed home.

By Tuesday morning, most of the roads were driveable to to the traffic getting rid of most of the ice. The boat ramps were another story, as they were still covered in ice. As the ramp on Lake Tawakoni was too steep, our guide brought us to Lake Lavon instead, which is nearby. It contains some mid size blue cats up to about 50 lbs, with a few exceeding 60 lbs. Not nearly the number of trophies we could get on Tawakoni, but better than nothing for the lack of better options.

We got a late start to the day, our guide "Tex" got us onto the first spot close to 11:00 AM. He secured the boat by pulling us tight between 2 anchors, the proceeded to setup up the whopping 16 rods we were fishing with (8 rods of stern and 8 of bow). Lines were baited with chunks of cut shad, and fished on 7 foot rods mounted with Abu Garcia C3 clicker reels, much like using a baitrunner reel on a spinning rod.

Action started immediately, Ari landed his first blue cat ever:

Nothing big,but a good start. We took turns catching the cats, with Ari landing the better ones throughout the afternoon.

I landed my share of smaller ones, and we had some double headers as well:

All in all, a decent afternoon of fishing, felt nice to be out on open water despite needing our winter clothes to stay warm.

Tex was booked for Wednesday morning on the same lake, and had offered us another afternoon outing when our Monday plans fell through. We met up shortly afternoon. His morning customers had better success early on in the rain/sleet and snow. By the time we got there, the weather was warming quickly, and the sun came out for the afternoon. About as close to spring as I'm going to get for the next couple months, felt nice being able to fish in a sweater again.

Action was slower than the previous day, but the average sizes were bigger. Ari landed the 2 biggest cats at 32.5 and 33 lbs, while I caught them up to 18 lbs towards the end of the outing when the temperature started dropping again.

Overall, another productive day on the water, with Ari earning his bragging rights after landing the big ones. Definitely plan to return next winter, hoping to finally get out on a lake with some giant blue cats, and possibly down to Austin to take a shot at landing a big buff as well.