The Freshwater Phil guide to Montreal shore fishing spots

Montreal's best shore fishing spots

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mid summer carping with the kids

After having targeted predators for most of the past 4-5 weeks, I was ready for some more relaxing still fishing for carp, one of my favorites species to fish for, that I've kind of neglected a bit so far this season. Avi and Eli came along, Levi opted to stay at home, seems like he isn't too thrilled by still fishing any more. Oh well, his loss.

As the outer temp is above 30 degrees Celsius these days, the water temp is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit or so by now. Funny how I calculate outer temperature in Celsius and water temperature in Fahrenheit, I guess it's all that exposure to American fishing products and media. Either way, water is basically warm enough to increase increase the size of my hookbaits. Being able to use 3 lines gave me the chance to test 16 mm boilies against my 20 mm boilies, new for this season. Having a variety of flavours/colors/scents only enhanced the testing, and as expected, the kids were willing participants, as I let them fight all the carp we catch.

Got the 3 rods set up around 10:00 AM. Took 1/2 hour for our first hit, the carp took a 20 MM Garlic Pepper boilie. Eli fought it most of the way before tiring. To his credit, fighting a wild carp at their most active period on a 12 foot rod isn't too easy for a small 8 year old. As it neared the shore, I took the rod and let him land the carp, first one of the outing. He insisted on weighing the fish, weighed in at 15 lbs, Avi held it for the picture.

Ai was up next. We reset the lines, again took about 1/2 hour for the line to go, this time the bait being a 16mm sweet vanilla boilie. Avi took the rod, his first chance at fighting a fish on my Beastmaster rod paired up with a big 90 series baitrunner reel. Fish stayed hugging bottom all the way in, Avi handled it very well on the sturdier rod. When he finally got it closer in, I realized it was a big channel catfish. Eli had a bit of trouble landing it as it thrashed and rolled around, so I gave him a hand. A hefty 13.5 lbs, Avi's second biggest ever.

Eli got to fight the next carp, which hit a 16mm chocolate cinnamon boilie. The carp headed stright for a big weed bed, no way Eli was able to horse it out with the 2.75 TC rod he was using. I had to get the fish out for him, and he preferred to be the net man again. Landed the small 8 lb carp with about 5 lbs of grass tangled on my line. When I unhooked it, I noticed the carp had a crooked jaw, kind of reminded me of Moby Dick and our ex prime minister Jean Chretien at the same time.

Avi got the next run, again on a 20mm Garlic pepper boilie. This one started peeling drag at high speed, so I knew it was a bigger one. As it was heading straight away from us without turning, I was sure it was tailed hooked. I adjusted Avi's grad accordingly, and he eventually turned the big carp. I got in the water and climbed onto a shoal where I was sure it would run, and surprised the carp by netting it just as it tried to crash the shoal. Lucky for us, as it was barely hooked. Avi was quite sure the carp was his biggest to date, and he turned out being right, as it weighed in at 24 lbs, edging out his previous record of 23 lbs set about 3 years ago. He had trouble holding it up for the picture, so I gave him a hand.

Eli got the nest carp, this one was back onto the smaller 16 mm Chocolate cinnamon boilie, and smaller in size as well. It ran straight for the same weedbed, and again, I had to drag it out for him, another small one in the 10 lbs range.

Avi got the next carp, this one coming on a 20mm licorice spice boilie I cast to the spot where the previous big one had hit, as I was out of garlic pepper boilies. Again, another heavier fish on the bigger boilie, and the drag system on my old Penn Liveliner reel started slipping during the fight. I thought I had fixed it, as I haven't had that issue in a couple seasons, looks like it's back again. Either way, Avi managed to land the fish. Although it was only 33-34 inches long, it had a huge belly for it's lenght, which I measured at a 24 inch girth. Carp weight in at 23 lbs. Avi was all smiles, check the "beer belly" on this beast:

Eli got the next fish, again on a 16 mm boilie, another smaller one at about 10-12 lbs.

After losing a couple to bad hookups, I lost a third to a line cut way above the 35 foot shock leader I was using. Sent that line back out with a 24mm boilie, hoping for a take, but nothing doing. Avi landed another carp in the 15 lbs range shortly before we were set to leave, so we called it a day.

Ended up with a total of 8 carp landed on 11 runs, and Avi's bonus catfish. All of the bigger fish hit the bigger 20mm boilies versus the smaller fish hitting on 16 mm boilies during our 6.5 hour outing.

Avi's been on a roll lately, breaking 3 of his personal best records over the past month or so, for channel catfish, Northern Pike, and now carp. He's now looking forward to try fishing for musky and sturgeon when he returns. Eli was happy with his 15 lbs big fish of the day, though he had hoped to break his current record of 16.5 lbs. That's it for their fishing for a while, as they are heading South to visit their grandparents who don't fish at all, for the next few weeks.

I must say, I'm jealous of my kids childhood fishing experiences, I don't think I caught anything over 5 lbs until I was in my mid twenties. Having a fishing freak as their dad sure does have it's benefits.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fishing the Lachine Canal in Montreal

The Lachine Canal runs through much of Montreal's core. Originally built as a shipping route, it has long since been replaced by the St Lawrence seaway, and turned into a recreational park by the city of Montreal.

The canal presents some difficult challenges in regards to fishing. For starters, it's basically a big 12+ KM rectangle filled with water, without much structure in comparison to your average lake or river. Then, you have the fact that the Lachine canal is fully drained every fall, and refilled only in spring. So much for any chance of establishing a canal population. The fish simply come in and out through the locks and dams as they are opened. The canal is also open to boat traffic throughout the summer, as well as late spring and early fall. From powerboats and yachts, to kayaks and dragon boats for rent on the canal, the boat traffic on the Lachine Canal can become a nightmare when trying to still fish for species like carp. The water quality in the canal is one of the worse in the city. Signs advising contact with water due to contamination are posted every spring. Furthermore, access to many segments of the Lachine canal can be very tricky by car, as much of it runs through industrial areas bordering hwy 20, which leaves little options for parking. Lastly, the canal is located in some of Montreal's most deteriorated areas. Slums, abandoned buildings and factories, and graffiti are all part of the urban landscape, a far cry from the pristine mountain and forest lakes or rivers out in the countryside or forest.

So why would I bother fishing the canal at all? For starters, it is quite close to my house, only 6 KM away. As I love cycling, the canal and it's bike trail offers a unique fishing experience for me. I simply throw some gear and a rod into my back pack, hop on my bike, climb over Mount Royal, and within minutes, I'm on the Lachine canal's paved waterfront bike trail, 12+ KM long with relatively low fishing pressure compared to other spots around the city. Not having to worry about downtown traffic or parking, I am mobile enough to cover the a variety of good spots, straight ride of entire canal  trail from end to end is do-able in 1/2 an hour.

In this article, I'll cover the 3 styles I use to fish the canal:

1) Still fishing:

This is the method I least use in the canal. Due to it's structureless shape and it being drained every fall,  bottom feeders like carp are very tough to target in the Lachine canal. They may be schooled up in a spot at a given time, completely gone a few hours later. Casting to one spot over an other is just about guesswork when fishing a structureless body of water. Current flow increases and decreases with the opening and closing of the locks for boat traffic,  and the narrow canal pretty much ensures that boats of all shapes an sizes will be hovering right over your line, likely spooking the fish. Night time is a better option for still fishing, though, at times, the canal can be productive during the day as well.

2) Casting for predatory species:

Casting in the canal is more interesting to me than still fishing. As I mainly fish the canal by bike, I have the option of running and gunning my spots, mainly where fishing attracting structure and shore access is possible. The Lachine canal doesn't have a big population of game fish, but the specimens found in their can be surprisingly big for a small body of water. After all, they are coming in from the biggest river in the country. I typically power fish a given spot for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, then move to the next area. More often than not, I end up catching nothing. Suits me fine, at least I get a good workout biking over the mountain both on my way there and back, and along the canal from spot to spot.  That being said, I've caught some big bass, pike, walleye and even musky in the Lachine canal over the years, mainly on spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater lures. Here is a decent walleye I caught there yesterday, on a short 2 hour outing, not long after losing a big bass.

3: Micro fishing for panfish with the kids:

This is where the canal really shines. While most people don't bother messing with fish averaging 4-8 inches long, they are excellent for teaching younger kids how to fish. Strong populations of perch, sunfish and rock bass exist all through the canal, and are just about everywhere. A small #10 or #8 hook fished on bottom with 1/2 a worm is my weapon of choice, and can provide non stop fishing action. For young kids getting started fishing, it's all about numbers, not size. Also very important to avoid overstaying the outing once they start getting bored, so being a few minutes away from home with non stop fishing is ideal for people in this situation. Miles of safe, child friendly waterfront are about as good as you can get for shore fishing in Montreal.

Took my 5 year old daughter Chaya to one of my spots on the canal last night, plan was to have her practice her hook setting. She did a smashing job, landing over 70 fish in about 2 hours, mainly perch and sunfish, along with a couple small bass and a log perch.

Nothing too glamorous, but in her young mind, she's a already fishing legend, and can't wait to go back again. Exactly as planned.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fishing trophy pike at Le Domaine Shannon

Headed back to Le Domaine Shannon for the third year in a row to chase some big pike with the kids. Brough along Avi and Eli aged 13 and 8 years old. For the third time in as many years, we booked the lone cabin on Lac Wahoo, as relatively small lake, filled mainly with smaller pike and walleye. However, Lac Wahoo does contain some of the biggest pike to be found at le Domaine Shannon, apparently going up to 25-30 lbs in that lake.

Having a lake out in the deep woods to yourself for a week is quite a treat if you enjoy fishing as much as we do. Not having any power, plumbing or toilet in your cabin is a relatively simple inconvenience to die hard anglers, and we manage to make due with what we have over the course of our stay. 

As usual, we headed out late Saturday night to make the 4+ hours drive to the main lodge. Arrived their around 7:30 AM, kids we happy to finally get out of the car.

I spent some time with Serge Danis (the owner), while the kids admired the different mounts at the main lodge, which included some moose, bear, wold, fox, big walleye, and trophy pike:

Headed out to make the 29 KM drive to our final destination for the week, namely Lac Wahoo. Arrived about 45 minutes later, broke camp, had breakfast, set up the boats, and headed out on the lake just in time for our first rainstorm of the trip. Not much biting, but we spotted a moose walking her calf in the lake, Eli was more than thrilled as he had really hoped to see a moose in the wild for the first time.

We decided to wait out the rain in the cabin. Eventually got back out on the water, Eli landed some small pike while trolling: 

Fish were just about shut down most of the day, very finicky. I've had 50+ fish days on Lac Wahoo, unfortunately, we ended with only 3 pike landed on day 1, Avi catching the last one just before dark on a big Jitterbug:

Mosquitoes were worse than I've ever experienced in my life. We got bit up through the night despite the deep woods off, killed about 75 mosquitoes the following morning in our cabin. With heavy rain pouring, going out on the lake didn't seem tempting, so we headed back to the main lodge for a while, simply to get out of the 4 walls, and kill some time. Taught the kids how to shoot pool, and picked up some off lightable repellent designed to fumigate / kill off the rest of the mosquito population in our cabin. Got back for lunch, then played monopoly all afternoon until the rain died down a bit just in time for us to head out to fish a a few hours before dark. Again, trolling was effective, size started going up, Avi started off landing a nice keeper:

Ali followed up with a smaller one caught trolling a classic red and white spoon:

As the wind died down and evening rolled in, I attempted to catch some pike using a topwater lures, namely, my Zara Spook. After hooking some small ones, I eventually managed to get a big pike after my lure. The pike exploded out of the water, crashed my lure, but I unfortunately pulled it out of it's mouth without hooking it when I tried setting the hook. A bit frustrating, but I was glad that I saw the big pike and managed to raise it. I estimated it to be in the 10 lbs range. Oh well, something to dream about for day 3.

Next morning, I decided to put out a big sucker as bait, as Serge had mentioned that most big ones on the lake are caught using dead bait. Rigged up and old baitrunner reel on a stiffer rod, and set it up in the rod  holder on the boat, right in front of our cabin. 

Headed up to make breakfast for the kids, and watched from the window. Didn't take too long, the line took off. Eli and Avi weren't ready yet, so I ran down to the boat and grabbed the rod. After letting the pike take the bait fully, I set into a nice fish. Brought it in with relative ease in the shallow water, and was surprised that it was bigger than I thought, just over 9 lbs:

Kids were pumped to see a fish that size come out of the lake, and they immediately wanted to go out again. Unfortunately, we didn't get any bites trolling and casting for 3 hours, despite the warm sun shining for the first time of the trip. Headed back for lunch to BBQ some steaks. Before setting up, I put out another dead sucker, and started preparing lunch. Within 10 minutes, the line took off again. This time, Avi was ready for his shot at landing a big pike. When he finally set into it, the fish took off, giving a couple nice runs before I caught my first glimpse. I knew that it was the biggest pike I've seen in that lake, and it was barely hooked. Luckily, I had by carp landing gear, including my net with an 8 foot handle. Was able to net the fish just before it spit the hook. I estimated it to be at least 12 lbs, when I finally weighed it, it topped the scale just over 13.5 lbs. Avi had just broken the family record for pike!

Eli was ready for his shot at a big pike, so I rigged another sucker for him. We had lunch, relaxed for a bit, and again, the line took off. I set the hook for Eli, he brought in another pike, but unfortunately for him, it was a lot smaller, maybe 2.5 lbs or so.

With no more hits from shore and clouds moving in again, we decided to troll a bit. Just as the rain started falling, Avi landed the first couple walleye of the trip, including this nice 16 inch keeper:

Rain got too strong, so I headed back to filet the walleye and prepare dinner.

Day 4 started off with us waking up to more rain, and a strong wind blowing in a cold front. Kids were bundled up in winter gear, and it looked like it was going to be another monopoly day instead of a fishing day, much to Eli's delight (he loves monopoly as much as fishing). Avi wasn't to thrilled, but the fishing was miserable, and the fish completely shut down. When we did eventually head out for a short while in the rain, all we caught was another small walleye. 

Tried casting a bit as the rain died down before dark, nothing doing net even 1 hit.

Day 5 started of colder than day 4. Ground temp was down to 10 degrees, and wind gusting at 40-50 KM/H. Made trolling much of the lake just about impossible, casting and still fishing from shore were no better. Called it quits for the day after lunch, and headed back home a half day earlier than originally planned.

All in all, the trip was saved by the short window of good fishing we experienced on day 3. Bad weather for 5 days straight threw us a nasty curveball, and pretty much shut down the fish across the 30 some lakes on the outfitter's territory. But with a bit of patience, perseverance and lot's of luck, we managed our 2 biggest fish out of that lake.  

Planning to head back to Le Domaine Shannon again in August, this time to target some walleye, a species I rarely target. Should be a good challenge, as I will be on a new lake and cabin I've never tried yet. 

Most people would cringe at the idea of spending a week without phone or internet service, electricity or running water/toilet. The shear thought of using the woods or an outhouse for nature calls, or bathing in leech infested lakes, is enough to send most people packing.  

But the call of the deep woods and pristine lakes is more powerful than logic or reason. And Le Domaine Shannon with it's friendly owners and top notch service, are one of my favorite venues. If you have any questions regarding fishing at le Domaine Shannon, feel free to email me at  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Big bass at Mijocama outfitter

Headed up North for my yearly bass fishing trip with the kids, to Mijocama outfitter up in the upper Gatineau region of Quebec. I have been fortunate enough to be able to fish Mijocama at least once a year since 2002, the natural beauty of the place and the big largemouth bass keep me dreaming of returning every summer.

My dad was feeling a bit old this year, so he didn't come along for the first time since he started coming with us back in 2005 or 2006. I brought along my 4 boys, and no one else in our deluxe chalet, so ample room for all. We rented 2 boats, I ran one boat with the Levi and Eli, and my elder son Ari ran his boat with his brother Avi.

Day 1:

Nice weather, we arrived around 10:30 AM, got the boats set up and started fishing shortly after 11 AM. Levi and I opted to throw some topwater lures, while Eli used a worm. He caught the only fish, a nice chunky sunfish:

As our cabin was ready early, we headed to our dock to unload and have some lunch. We were ready to fish by mid afternoon, I opted use some worms for a bit before heading out for the topwater bite later that evening. Didn't take long, landed this beauty of a bass on my 3rd cast:

Nothing like landing a 4 lbs bass within the first few hours of fishing a weeklong trip! They don't get much bigger up there, so I was fairly sure that the big bass would end up being the lunker for the trip. Ari did well too, he managed a nice 3.5 lbs bass later in the evening.

Levi and Eli both enjoy fishing topwater lures, despite the average bass being smaller than what we would typically be able to catch on worms of soft plastics at Mijocama. I'm pretty much the same, preferring a topwater catch to a dozen subsurface fish. Levi and I challenged each other to see which of us could land more fish using the same topwater lure. We opted to start of using a Pop R, one of my most successful topwater lures at Mijocama over the years. I gave my self a handicap, letting Eli do much of the retrieving and fighting all catches I would hook.

After landing a couple small bass, Levi finally managed to get on the board with his own first bass of the trip:

Nothing huge, but better than nothing. We kept at it, eventually saw a big splash in the trees just behind us. I prompted Levi to cast there. Try as he could, he kept missing the spot. After 10-12 failed attempts, he started casting elsewhere. I took advantage, cast my Pop R right into the spot, and got a nice hit within seconds. Handed the rod to Eli, he brought the fish in very nicely, fighting it out of the trees with some guidance.

Needless to say, Levi was kicking himself for not casting there again... Tally ended up 3-1 in our favor for the evening.

Day 2:

Another nice day, everyone was up for the morning bite.Again, we opted to use only topwater lures on our boat, starting over the challenge. Ari and Avi went subsurface, and ended up doing much better than us, landing some more big ones.

Back at the dock, we started noticing lots of snakes, much more than in previous seasons. We took advantage of them as they were sunning themselves lazily in the hot sun, made them easy enough to catch. We started with a nice garter snake:

Followed by a mid size Northern water snake:

Eventually, we left them alone, and kids started dock fishing for sunfish. Eli noticed a big snapping turtle, he decided to temp it with his worm. Surprisingly enough, the big turtle went for the worm, and Eli hooked it as it did. We wasn't prepared for that sort of fight on light tackle, luckily I was nearby and netted the snapper:

Later that evening, I decided to try an area of the lake I don't usually fish, It's a large shallow mudflat, just where the lake end and turns to swamp. As opposed to the rest of the deep lake which is mainly sunken trees, this area is all mud and shallow weeds. Following out topwater theme, I decided to teach Levi how to use weedless frogs. We both tied on Spro frogs, and re-started our competition. As we got deeper into the slop, Levi missed a couple hits, and I managed to hook up a small bass, about 13-14 inches. The bass took the frog deep down, and gave us a nice run and a couple jumps before I horsed it out of the grass and onto the boat.

We eventually headed back to our regular spots as evening rolled in, and we decided to restart the competition using Lucky 13's. Again, Levi missed a couple hits, and so did I, until I hooked into the only landed catch of the evening. Again, Eli landed it without any problem. 

Ari caught caught some more bass on his boat as well. We made a nice bonfire along with mandatory fireworks that night, and hit the sack just before a big storm rolled in.

Day 3: 

We woke up to pouring rain, so didn't plan to fish until it stopped. Eventually called home to find out that the rain was to fall all day and into the night. Kids spent the day playing Risk and Monopoly, as well as catching up on much needed sleep. I did see some boat head out, the anglers all dressed in heavy raingear. I didn't bring any along, but decided to fish the rain wading in my shorts, as the water was quite warm. The move paid off big time, I landed 4 bass within 1/2 hour, 3 of them over 3 lbs:

Excellent results, far better than I had imagined, many others on the lake seemed to be having a tough time catching anything.

Day 4:

My wrist was started to get sore from all the Pop R twitching and casting, as I aggravated an old injury. Levi wasn't catching much either, so we decided to try worms again. Unfortunately, fishing was very slow, we only managed some sunfish and very small bass.

Later that afternoon, Ari to Levi and Eli on a tour of the lake, plucking lost lures other had left behind in the trees. I offered Avi to head out to fish for a while, as he hadn't had any luck at all on Ari's boat. We pulled up to one of my usual bass spots on on the lake. I fished surface, and advised him to go deep to see if either of us could find any bass. Didn't take long, he got a nice hit on his jig, but the fish spit the hook before we were able to get a good look at it, seemed bigger than usual. He sent his line back down, and within a minute or so, the fish came back for it. As he fought it to the surface, we realized it was a Northern pike, nice bonus if we could land it before it cut the line which had no leader. Avi did a good job, and he landed his first fish of the trip:

I headed back to fillet the pike and prepare supper. As Ari had landed a small pike earlier in the day, Levi decided to try his luck on Ari's boat, so I had only Eli for the evening bite. Again, I took the time to explain and have him practice with one of the popping lures he'd found in the trees. Was actually surprised at his accurate casting, quite impressive for an 8 year old. Eventually, he couldn't cast any more due to fatigue, and the fishing was very slow. Luckily for us, they decided to turn on just before dark, around 8:30 PM. After landing a small one, this beauty of a topwater bass took the Pop R shortly before dark.

Eli's smile says it all, he really enjoyed fight that bass. Unfortunately for Levi, another surprise pike cut his line at boatside, Ari estimated it to weigh about 6 lbs or so. Ari and Avi both landed some more bass, fishing with worms.

Day 5:

Hottest day, but also turned our to be the slowest day, which is quite surprising for Mijocama fishing. From past experience, the hotter it gets, the better the bass fishing at Mijocama gets. But fishing is fishing and fish will throw the odd curve ball once in a while. Levi left back home with a friend after lunch, due to limited space in my car. Ari was the only one that managed any decent fish all day, landing a nice 4 lbs pike in the morning, and a 3 lbs bass in the evening.

We packed it in early the next day, and headed home. 

Mijocama is one of the only outfitters in the entire province of Quebec to offer bass fishing. Due to the short season and limited capacity, we book 1 year in advance each year, in order to ensure our chalet being available. Mijocama offers great rates, friendly service, and best of all, big bass. Though the fishing is tough at times, it becomes magical when the fish turn on and you get a hot bite for a few days, sometimes 1 week at a time.

If you have any questions regarding fishing at Mijocama outfitter, feel free to contact me at . 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saranac River Trout fishing

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm spending some time away from carp fishing during the spawn. Was happy my friend Jimmy called to invite me to fish for trout. We headed South of the border to Northern New York state. The Saranac river flows through the Adirondack mountains. Very picturesque area, and great tout fishery, as the river is well stocked every spring. Besides, nothing like wading a cold river on a hot day.

We were a bit late in the season, most eater sized trout get fished out shortly after they are stocked. Still, there is always a chance to get some over the 12 inch slot limit, and possibly some bigger hold over that survive a few season without being caught.

First spot on the Saranac river didn't yield anything exciting. A few fallfish than hit my lure, and some more hit Jimmy's fly. I ended up catching a small rainbow trout, about 7-8 inches long.

Second spot on the Saranac river hade some small brown trout nipping at our lines, but no hookups.

Third spot spot on the Saranac river proved a bit better. Noticed some rising trout, and caught my first keeper of the day, a good 13 inch female with a nice belly on it.

Caught a couple more brown trout there, as well as another small rainbow trout. All were under 9 inches.

The fourth and final spot spot on the Saranac river was saved for last, as it is typically the most productive. Water was a lot higher than normal, making fishing a bit tougher. Tried live worms for the first time on the outing, caught another few tiny rainbow trout, and a small brown trout. Eventually switched back to my lure, and landed another 12 inch keeper on my third cast. Followed up with a 10 inch trout a couple casts later. After a third trout within a few minutes,  bite got tough again. Jimmy caught some tiny bass on a spinner, and a couple rainbow trout on the fly.

I ended up with about a dozen trout for the day, only 2 keepers over the minimum 12 inch slot limit.

Fishing for spawning carp is tough

With the warming weather and water temp, I knew the carp spawn was imminent. Was hoping to be able to hook a nice fat carp before their drop their eggs. Figured I'd test some new boilies and new Fox Arma point hooks for the first time.

Ari was scheduled to come along, but landed a summer job the previous night, guy wanted him to start right away. I ended up alone on this outing yet again.

Got to my spot, found a few people other fishing for carp there. Most weren't catching much, but one guy landed a very nice 36 lbs carp a few minutes after I arrived, just as I was setting up.

Caught my first carp within less than 1 hour. Kind of small, maybe in the 10 lbs range. Fell for a garlic pepper boilie about 2 minutes after I switched over from sweet vanilla. The bite then died down, no one caught a thing for about 4.5 hours. My rod finally went off, caught back to back 20+ lbs carp, the second a fat female ready to spawn, which fell for the sweet vanilla boilie.

The Fox Arma Point hook worked better than expected. All 3 carp were very solidly hooked in the lower jaw. The hooks also nicked rocks a couple times, yet the hook was intact by day's end, never need to hone it or switch hooks. Half the price of my ESP curve shanx,  more resistant to point damage, and readily available in various North American tackle shops. Couldn't be happier with them, so far so good.

Noticed some spawners out on a flat on my way home, along with some jackass bowfisherman killing them at there most vulnerable time. I guess he isn't good enough to target them using conventional methods, as the bite during the spawn is extremely tough. Personally, I'm going to wait until they are done spawning, and spend the next couple weeks targeting other species.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Alligator gar fishing, Texas river monsters

Went down South for Ari's high school graduation in Dallas, Texas for a couple days. Made sure to save one day to take him fishing as his graduation present, decided to splurge and hire the top guide in the state (and possibly the world) for alligator gar. Captain Kirk Kirkland has caught over 10,000 gar in his life, including over 3000 alligator gar that he has tagged for Texas Parks and Wildlife department. He fishes gar 7 days a week, from April thru October, and rarely has a day that he isn't booked, often for a full week at a time by visitors from around the globe coming all the way to Texas to fish for monster sized alligator gar.

Drove through the middle of the night to meet "Captain Kirk" near the Trinity River at 5:45 AM, about 160 miles Southeast of Dallas. Dropped our car, and hopped into his truck for the rough ride ahead. We launched his boat of the worst "launch" I have ever seen. Basically, a bulldozed cliff off a steep bank, the angle being impossible to launch from, at least in my view. Kirk explained that it was left that way intentionally, to keep the "riffraff" off their spots.

His off road 4x4 pick is equipped with high end tires specialized for mud, but the truck still seems to simply slip down the cliff as he back the big Jon boat down into the tiny creek that leads to the river. His boat is equipped with a 115 HP jet propelled engine, which avoids any prop damaged in the shallow, stump laden waterways he fishes.

Into the boat Ari and I hopped, and off we were, flying under overhanging trees at high speed. Luckily, our captain knows the river like the back of his hand. We got to the river within a few minutes, and then ran down a few miles to fish the first spot. Time for the preliminary fun to begin...

Captain Kirkland uses G Loomis Pro Blue saltwater series rods, outfitted with Shimano Thunus 12000 series baitrunner reels, spooled with 150 lbs Power Pro, followed by 3 foot steel leaders fish under big wooden slip bobber. One the business end, a 3/0 or 4/0 treble hook, bait with 1-2 lb chunks of fresh cut carp.

Redneck enough, until I'm surprised to see him pull out banksticks and bite alarms used for Euro style carp fishing. I am amazed at the innovation, perfect marriage between Euro style and Redneck style fishing.

Sure enough, we set them up on the bank, about 100 to 150 feet apart, running 2 rods on one side of the bank, and 2 rods on the other. Once the lines are in, he positions the boat between them, up on the bank, and we wait to hear his handheld / color coded receiver (or the bite alarms) go off.

Sure enough, it doesn't take too long, and Ari is up for his first experience with alligator gar. We head over the the running rod, Ari lifts it off the bank, and we slowly follow the gar around for a good 10-15 minutes, to give it time to properly take in the big chunk of bait. Eventually, Ari sets the hook upon the captain's orders, and fight a small alligator gar to the boat, ends up spitting the hook at boatside.

No problem, the day is young, we set up again just in time for another rod to go off. This time, the gar somehow ends up cutting the line above the leader, probably double back and came over it.

3rd time's supposed to be a charm, Ari gets the next line, and finally hooks into another taker. Only problem, it ends up being an alligator snapping turtle instead of alligator gar.

Ari's getting worried...

4th run ends up being a gar, Ari works it to the boat. Captain Kirk slips a noose over the gar, then hauls it overboard. No sense in trying to net fish that often reach lengths of over 7 feet, and filled with hundreds of razor sharp teeth in their massive jaws.

This one isn't too big, probably in the 35 lbs range. Not a monster by Trinity River standards, more like a baby. But still a nice sized fish for us Northern "city slickers".

Next line is finally mine, I set into my first alligator gar. Captain Kirk's heavy duty gear makes short work of the river monster, end up measuring 61 inches, but weighing over 65 lbs due to it's thick girth. My biggest fish so far!

After catching a couple more, a unexpected cold front blows in, bringing a major storm. For those of you that haven't experience a Texas storm, they are more intense than the ones we get here, especially when you're out on a boat in middle of nowhere. Despite the umbrellas and makeshift ponchos made of garbage bags, we end up soaked and freezing. In a strange turns of events, the river I planned on swimming in if it got too hot, now ends up the only way to warm up, as the water temp is a good 15-20 degrees warmer than the outer temp. I hop in, feels amazing, kind of like a hot bath when you're shivering in the cold.

As I'm floating in the warm water under heavy rain at boatside, another bite alarm goes off. I hop in, we head over to the line, and follow this fish until I set into my first hybrid gar, which is basically a cross between alligator gar and longnose gar, to the both species using the same spawning grounds, leading to cross fertilization of their eggs. Quite rare in comparison to alligator gar, it's only the 3rd one landed this season in his boat.

This fish had the meanest attitude of them all, went ballistics, and kept snapping at use at boatside, trying to chomp down on the lasso. Finally landed it, a good 35 lbs hybrid gar, with a snout significantly narrower than the alligator gar, but still filled with rows of big, sharp teeth.

Contrast the snout of the alligator gar:

With that of the hybrid gar:

The storm eventually dies down, sun comes out, and the fish start hitting all over. We end the outing with a double header, which almost ends up being a triple header.

Getting the boat up the now freshly muddied banks proves to be a nightmare. Took two hours , fighting inch by inch using a 12,000 lbs winch and the 4x4 in low gear, all while being attacked by fire ants.Quite the experience to say the least.

All in all, the trip was a blast, loved catching alligator gar, even though we didn't hook or land any over 100 lbs as we had hoped for, though we did land a total of 8 alligator gar from 30 lbs to 65 lbs, as well as the hybrid.

Quite sure I'll try again if ever I'm down in Texas during gar season again. Shot some video footage as well, check it out on youtube:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Avi's biggest catfish

After the recent success my 8 year old son Eli had while catfishing last week, it was Avi's turn to take a beating his personal best, which is always a possibility this time of the year.

We headed out for a short evening outing, got the lines in the water at 8:00 PM. The flurry start quite quickly, Avi landed his first catfish of the season around 8:15. Quite small for the spot, the catfish weighted about 3 lbs. He followed up with another small catfish about 5 minutes later. Seeing the catfish were less than average, he was starting to get discouraged about his chances. I told him not to worry, and that the bigger ones would start feeding shortly.

Sure enough, it took about 10-15 minutes, and his line went off again. As he set into the big catfish, he new it wasn't a small one this time around. The big catfish put up a nice fight in the current, peeling my tightly set drag a few times before I finally scooped it up with my landing net. Only thing bigger than the big cat's head was Avi's smile, as he instantly knew he had shattered his old record by far.

Fish weighed in at exactly 16 lbs, shattering Avi;s old record of 9 lbs by 7 lbs. We also cam very close to topping my personal record for channel catfish which stands at 16.5 lbs. Season is still young, he may get another crack at it before it ends.