The Freshwater Phil guide to Montreal shore fishing spots

Montreal's best shore fishing spots

Monday, February 1, 2016

Ice fishing for trophy pike

It's not often that I get to go ice fishing for trophy pike. The waterways around Montreal certainly contain some trophy sized pike, but far more number of smaller ones in the 2 to 5 lbs range. Due to the huge numbers of these smaller pike, on any given day, your chances of hooking a trophy sized pike around Montreal measuring over 3 feet in length or weighing in the double digits  are very slim.

For the 2016 ice fishing season, one of my goals was to do a bit of research on fishing water bodies in other regions of the province of Quebec, that aren't too known for their pike, but that have had confirmed catches of big trophy sized pike in 20 lbs range. These waterways do exist, it's just a matter of doing a fair bit research, getting in touch with people that you know have caught some big pike in those regions, and last but not least, checking the regulations.

Some regions in Quebec are completely closed for fishing during the ice fishing season, but have exceptions for certain lakes where it is permissible. Other regions have open seasons during the winter, but many lakes in those are the exception and are closed to ice fishing. Yet other have certain rules for certain species that differ from the given zone. Basically, make sure you are fishing within the regulations, and better yet, print up the rules for the zone you plan to fish and bring them along just in case...

Though I typically target pike under ice towards the end of ice fishing season when they are easier to find, we decided to give it a shot at the end of January. Having never been to the waterbody we planned to fish, we didn't know what to expect, as far as parking, depth, structure, etc. Makes it all the more adventurous.

After drilling to confirm the ice was safe (about 11 inches), we made our way to a nearby shoreline, and drilled our holes at various depths. Having never targeted pike this early in the season, we set our tip up lines with big dead minnows at various depths ranging from 5 to 15 feet in depth, and then drilled some deeper to allow us to jig for panfish while waiting for the pike to hit our lines.

The perch action was decent, with most in the 7-8 inch range. We weren't planning to keep any under 9 inches, and did manage a couple over that size, as well as a couple 8 inchers that were throat hooked and wouldn't have survived. Most perch were caught jigging small spoons and Rapala Jigging raps.

Shortly before 11 AM, our first pike line finally for hit. Though I had explained Ari what to do, he had never fished a tip up before, and fumbled the hookset completely. I was a bit frustrated with him, but we reset the line hoping the pike would come back. It never did.

We decided to change spots after 12:30 PM, due to the lack of any more pike action. Walking close to shore, I found a small feeder creek feeding into the ice, and drilled to find we were on a shallow flat. As the first pike had hit our bait in 6 feet, we concentrated most of our lines near that depth, mainly 5.5 to 7 feet.

As we were still drilling some deeper perch holes, one of our line got hit. Ari and I rushed over, and this time, he made no mistake, getting a solid hookset with the quick strike rig I made. Handlining a big pike if quite different from catching one on a rod, you really need to be ready to release pressure between your fingers when it decides to make a powerful run. Luckily for him, it only made on strong run, before Ari managed to bring it's big head up to the hole. Next, I coached Ari on how to ever so carefully guide it's head up the hole with snagging the ice or horsing out the hook. When he finally got the big pike's head up the hole, I was ready with a pair of fishing gloves, and grabbed the jaw, hoisting out the biggest pike I had ever seen landed on ice.

We measured the big pike at 39 inches, though a bit on the thin side at only 13.5 lbs.

We released the pike in good shape, it kicked it's tail and swam off instantly, hopefully back to fight another day when it's had time to grow some more.

We didn't manage any other pike hits for the rest of the day, but our mission was accomplished, as we had managed a bit bite and made it count.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ice fishing for mooneye in Montreal

After an extremely warm December, winter finally arrived in Montreal in January, though ice still took a while to form. I didn't get out too often by my standards, and when I did, it was a few short outings with mainly smaller perch being all that I caught, as I was limited to fishing only certain areas due to the lack of safe ice.

When the ice was finally thick enough, I made it out to one of my local spots to prospect for pike. I know there were lots of smaller walleye there, and after setting out a number of pike lines while jigging for perch without as so much as one hit, I can safely confirm that the area doesn't hold many winter pike, probably due to the deep water and lack of perch or other forage species.

Not wanting to waste the day, I switched to jigging for walleye by mid afternoon, and sure enough, managed to land a few small ones under 14 inches.

Walleye that size don't give me too much of  a thrill, so I decided to think "out of the box" and try jigging in a deep hole near my walleye spot. I had marked lot's of suspended fish there in the past, and after drilling over a 50+ foot hole and adjusting my flasher, I was marking many suspended fish between 15 and 40 feet. They looked quite small, wasn't exactly sure what they were.

Jigging a micro spoon tipped with a live mealworm at 25-30 feet, I eventually managed to get one to follow my lure. I slowly reeled towards the surface, and the fish stayed on it, following the lure up from to about 8 feet until it hit pretty hard. From the way it was fighting, I though it may have been a crappie, until I pulled it out and was extremely surprised to see it was my first mooneye.

Needless to say, I was more than thrilled. Though I often see tons of mooneye surfacing to eat flies off the surface when catfishing or carping on warm summer evenings, the only time I've ever seen them hooked was by fly fishermen that target them using tiny artificial flies. I had no clue where they spent their winters, nor that they could actually get aggressive under ice. Not that I'd given them any thought, simply one of those species that most fishermen don't think of too often.

I got back to jigging for mooneye again, and sure enough, landed another mooneye about 1/2 hour later.

Though I'm not much one to keep any fish from the waters around Montreal, I decided to keep it for the table, as I had never tasted mooneye before. Turned out to be similar to crappie in texture, though a bit fishier, almost an anchovy like aftertaste. Made be burp like crazy after eating it, so I wouldn't bother trying it again...

After doing some research, I learned that I was lucky to be one of the few to catch mooneye on ice. Doesn't seem like anyone actually targets them while ice fishing, even though they give a surprisingly good fight on light tackle. Many of my die hard ice fishing friends were as surprised as I was, and received many congratulatory comments.

My fishing passion kicked into high gear for this species. The fact that I was able to catch 2 mooneye that evening, proved that it wasn't accidental, but now I wanted to try to build a pattern of what worked to catch mooneye under ice.

I headed back to my spot a couple days later, for a short afternoon / evening outing. We had lot's of rain on the interim day, followed by a cold front. The ice no longer had any snow cover, it was clear enough for me to be able to see under it, even with a good 14 inches of solid ice. Amazingly, I was able to get an accurate flasher reading without even having to drill any holes, which made prospecting pretty easy. Found them marking over a 50 foot bottom again, drilled a couple holes, and started jigging for mooneye using the same setup as the previous outing.

Sure enough, I got my first follow within about 10 minutes, though the hit was less aggressive than the ones on the  previous outing. Fought the mooneye up to the surface, as pretty cool to see it fighting under the ice I was standing on. I had some people fishing nearby snap a quick pic:

With the quick success, I though I had it made, and anticipated some non stop mooneye action. I was wrong. Though I was getting a decent amount of followers, most wouldn't commit to chasing all the way up. Maybe the combination of bright sun through clear ice had them a bit more finicky, or possibly the barometer, as low fronts are typically more productive than high fronts under ice. I fished hard, getting a good 10-12 follows on about 20 or so fish I manage to draw in, but only 1 more mooneye landed at sunset.

I would have stayed after dark, as I know that mooneye feed all through the night, but had to get back home to babysit.

I just discovered a newfound passion for ice fishing for a new species, that is abundant, rarely targeted, and receives virtually no fishing pressure. Though I plan to spend some time targeting bigger fish this winter, I'm quite sure I'll be back for mooneye on ice from time to time.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

First ice fishing outing to end 2015

Finally found 4 to 5 inches of safe ice up North at Pourvoirie Coin Lavigne on the last day of 2015. Better late than never, headed up there with 4 of the kids for some trout fishing on ice to end 2015.

With the ice relatively thin, and a heavy snowfall of over 40 CM the previous day, the ice was flooding with water not long after we drilled out holes. Made for tough conditions for the little ones with 3 inches of water on the ice, and to make matters worse, the trout were less aggressive than normal for this time of year.

Of course, tough conditions at a place like Pourvoirie Coin Lavigne can still make for some great fishing, do to the abundant amount of trout in their lakes.

For my 4 year old Zev and 7 year old Chaya, it was their first time ice fishing.

Chaya broke first ice by landing a couple rainbow trout:

Not to be outdone, Zev landed a nice speckled trout with a bit of help from dad:

Levi isn't much of a cold weather or ice fisherman, but he was glad he came along, managed a few of his own jigging a Rapala W2 tipped with a piece of worm:

And last but definitely not least, Avi broke his personal record again, with a very nice rainbow trout that but up a super fight under ice:

Ended up with a total of 9 rainbow trout and 4 speckled trout in about 4 hours of fishing:

For more information on fishing at Pourvoirie Coin Lavigne, click:

Hope to get out again sometime next week if I can find some safe ice closer to home.

Happy 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

First carp of the winter

So here we are, three + weeks after I figured my open water season was over. Unusually warm weather this December, normally ice fishing fishing by the second or third week in, now, not a spec of ice in sight on the 24th.

After being extremely busy and not having fished in about one month, I was happy to take advantage of the Quebec winter rule that allows the use of multiple lines after December 20th. Though likely designed for ice fishing, when you get a very warm fall or spring, zine 8 has a 10 line limit.

As I was fishing a rather confined area, I set up 3 lines, 2 for carp and 1 for possibly channel catfish that frequent the same wintering area.

Sure enough, didn't take 45 minutes, and I had my first run, very surprising in near freezing water. Landed the small carp without having to do the over under thing with the multiple lines.

That definitely put an extremely relaxed mood on the rest of my outing, even though I didn't get any more bites for the next 5 hours until I left. Can't beat achieving your goal on the first cast, that carp was the first I've ever caught in December, beating my previous latest carp in a calendar year which was on Nov 30th a few years ago.

Monday, November 30, 2015

2015: Another great fishing season

Early December, and open water season is just about over for me, though it may be a few weeks before we get safe ice to kick off the winter ice fishing season. As I've done in the past, I like to recap out season highlights in one blog post. As usual, I'll break down our the season by species, mixing in our new family personal records instead of leaving them all for the end of the post, as I've donein the past.

Overall, a great season for most of the family,  met many new anglers, many big fish caught, and many new personal records set between us all. Best of all, many new things learned, never fails to amaze me just how much one can learn every season.

As with many seasons in the past, the season turned out quite surprising, simply based on the species I spent more time targeting than usual, while others, less time than I had originally envisioned.

One of the species I didn't put much time into in the past, was trout. I can safely say I spent more time trout fishing this season, than I have in any other season in the past. Not because of any sudden love for trout fishing, just happened to turn out that way.

Trout season started off very well, my first trout landed for the season turned out to be the biggest brown trout I've ever caught at 2.25 lbs:

Besides for catching large numbers of smaller brown and rainbow trout, 4 of the kids caught either their first or biggest trout as well.

Here's Ari with some keeper sizes brown trout:

Eli with his new 14.5 inch PB rainbow trout:

Chaya with her first trout:

Zev, my newest fisherman at 3 years old with his first trout:

And finally, after originally putting up this blog post, Avi broke his rainbow trout personal record on the last day of 2015 on our first ice outing of the year:

Though not much of a fighting fish at that size, most of these trout were caught in clean water, and made their way to our table. Delicious, to say the least.

Moving onto some more interesting predatory species, walleye were another species that I ended up fishing for a lot more than originally anticipated. Season started off in January, my first time targeting walleye on ice was somewhat succesful:

Ahead to spring, first day of walleye season was successful, even though I was only on (in) the water for a couple hours.

Avi landed his biggest walleye a few weeks later, trolling near Montreal:

Later that summer, I took Avi on a well earned trip up North to chase some walleye in a clean deep Lake at Le Domaine Shannon for a few days. Lot's of tasty keepers, as well as some bigger walleye as well.

Shore lunch:

Avi's biggest of the trip:

And my biggest of the season at 27 inches, first pass field testing the new Bite Booster lure:

Shortly after that trip, I hooked up with walleye guide Mark Currie. First of our outing was on a blistering hot day, but Ari and I had a blast, landing a few dozen 'eyes:

In contrast to fishing walleye in the high heat, my next outing with Mark was late in November, with the outside temp below freezing. Polar opposite of our first outing, only a few walleye landed, but nice sized to say the least:

Though walleye aren't to best fighting fish out there, they taste great and the bigger ones always bring a welcome smile when caught.

Next on my predator list was the bass family. I largely neglected largemouth bass this season, but first one was a mid March surprise I caught while jigging on ice:

Exception was our yearly trip up North for the bass opener. The smashing success we had left me with little to ask for, for the rest of the season. 5 out of 6 of us broke our lake records for largemouth bass on that trip.

Mine was the first fish of the trip, second year in a row that that's happened. But this one was my first 5 lbs bass on that lake, and only second largemouth i've caught in the 5 lbs + range.

Avi and Levi both caught some in the 4 lbs class:

It was Chaya's first trip up with the boys, she caught some good one as well, and barely managed to boat her biggest at 3 lbs (with a bit of help from dad):

There's a good reason we keep going back to Mijocama every summer since 2002...

Smallmouth bass we another species that I pretty much neglected, but 2 outings with my friend and pro bass guide Jimmy, were all it took to make this another memorable season.

Midsummer in a heat wave, Lake Champlain produced a nice topwater smallie that weighed in at 4 lbs.

And a mid October outing turned out to be the best of the season, my first fish of the day turned out to be my biggest bass ever at 6 lbs:

Amazing fight on my new Fenwick rod, can't wait to try it for some topwater fishing next season.

Didn't do too much pike or musky fishing by my standards, but we still managed some decent ones:

Season started off on ice early in spring, before it closed for April:

Mid May had Levi and I up North at le Domaine Shannon, where he landed his biggest pike to date:

Avi followed up with some nice ones early in June:

Chaya caught her first pike later that month:

Eventually, Avi made it out for his first musky outing with my friend and pro musky guide, Mike.

I got in on the action as well a couple weeks later:

Lot's of decent sized esox, but no big monsters by season's end. Hope to change that next season.

Which brings us to the "big boy" segment of this post, namely, BIG bottom feeders.

Being that I guide for carp, the vast majority of fish caught are fought by either my clients or family members. I still fight the odd fish, but a lot less than I once did. Suits me just fine, I'm perfectly happy seeing their faces when they land their biggest fish ever while fishing with me. Instead of clogging up the post with tons of pics of big carp, I invite you to view the carp picture gallery on my web site at:

Here are a few notable carp we caught in 2015:

I did get a kick out of landing my first carp on ice on a handline to kick off my season earlier than usual:

Avi caught his biggest carp at 27 lbs:

Eli with his biggest at 24 lbs:

Ronit with her biggest at 27.5 lbs:

And the biggest ever caught by one of my clients (Gaetan) at 34 lbs:

After originally putting up this blog post, the weather took a turn for the warmer. Never expected to fish open water for carp on December 24th, but I did manage to hook and land one small carp, which marks the latest date I've ever caught carp in a calendar year, and first ever December carp for me:

Next  on the bottom feeder list is catfish. An early season trip to Dallas in mid February had Ari catching his biggest few cats, first time chasing blue catfish for him:

Much of our catfish outings here were spent chasing trophy sized channel cats, which somewhat eliminated the chances of catching anything under 10 lbs. Eli beat his PB with this fat 18 lbs cat, he needed a hand to help land this one:

Not to be outdone, Levi came close a few days later with his best at 17 lbs:

And last but not least, the biggest fish in the St Lawrence river, the mighty sturgeon. I'm lucky enough to fish with one of the best sturgeon guides in the province, my friend Patrick Therrien.
On his first sturgeon outing ever, Ari hit the jackpot and smashed all family records with this monster lake sturgeon, estimated to weigh 84 lbs based on it's length and girth:

A couple months later, Avi landed his biggest sturgeon at 55 inches, and I didn't do too bad myself either:

That, in a nutshell, was how our 2015 fishing season went. Aside from all the good times, great memories that should last a lifetime for the kids, lots of good laughs, and tough battles, there is one record that reflects it all. I managed to fish at least once on 119 days in 2015, by far the most for me in a season. Granted, some were a short 1 or 2 hour outing, but when you invest that amount of time into chasing fish, you can bet that you'll generally have some nice pics to share from time to time.

Hoping you all had productive seasons as well. For those of you waiting to hit the ice, be sure it's safe when you finally do. Who knows, we may run into each other out there sometime.

Tight lines for 2016!