The Freshwater Phil guide to Montreal shore fishing spots

Montreal's best shore fishing spots

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spring fishing for big carp

Spring and fall are typically the best times to land big carp, but as the the big females get ready to spawn, they are at their heaviest in mid to late spring. Once the water temp reaches the 10 degree Celsius range in spring, carp become a a lot more active, and start putting on the feedbag before the spawn.

Accordingly, spring is by far the best time to potentially beat your personal carp record, at least to try and come close to it. A fellow carp fishermen invited me to join him for a few hours one evening last week, to a spot they'd been pre-baiting for a few days. Pre-baiting is a great way to draw in carp to areas you plan to fish, and their work paid off quickly with one of them landing a decent 20 lbs carp within the first 40 minutes or so of our outing.

The flip side of baiting a spot, can be over baiting, especially in cold water. It's very easy to be tempted to bait up after catching a carp, especially when you see them actively surfacing and bubbling near the surface. However, if they are in a negative mood, the more food you put in, the less chance you'll have of getting any bites. It can be a tough call at times, so I personally prefer to proceed with caution, throwing in as little food as possible when the water is still cold.

After fishing into our night session without any more hits between the 3 of us, I decided to put on on of my Fireball boilies, and cast a good 100 feet or so away from the area that was being baited all through out outing. Figured I'd have a better chance at getting a hit once the positive feeding window turned on, as the carp would have less choices other than my bait to go for. Sure enough, the move paid off, I had my first night carp of the season on within less than 1 hour. A chunky female that put on a feisty battle, and much fun on the small 8 foot rod I was using.

As it was past my bed time and my mission was accomplished for the night, I headed home, knowing that I'd have another nice days on the water with Eli the next day.

The following morning, Eli and I headed out to one of my regular hot spots for some more carp. Though the average fish there is slightly smaller throughout the summer, I've caught some very nice sized cap there in the spring. We set up shortly after 10:30AM, and within the first hour, Eli had his first fish:

Not exactly the target species, nor anywhere near the intended size, but at least the Fireball boilie managed to attract some attention.

After missing another run on a Fireball boile, I decided to start switching baits. Sometimes, going out of the ordinary can be a good thing. Eli picked a Black Magic boilie, which I typically use in warmer water, as I hadn't had much spring results with them in the past.

Took close to an hour, and the rod went off. Eli set the hook, and the carp didn't take long to wedge the line into a submerged rock pile. I tried to pry it out, but no luck. After setting the rod down for a few minutes hoping the fish would pry itself loose, I decided to walk along the bank tugging at the line from different angles. After walking about 100 feet or so, I finally felt some give in the line, and put steady pressure on it. I felt my shock leaders scraping in between the rocks, and suddenly, a big head shake, and the fish was free! I kept pressure on the rod all the while running back towards Eli and handed him the rid.

Eli handled to big 12 foot rod like a pro, following my instructions to a tee. When the fish finally surfaced, I knew Eli had just beaten his previous record of 24 lbs. I netted the big carp, lifted onto the landing mat, feeling it's weight I knew it was pushing the 30 lbs mark. Eli guessed it's weight at 27.5 lbs, I guessed 29. Weighed in at exactly 30.25 lbs:

As I got my camera out snap some pictures, to my horror, it jammed, and started acting crazy. No worse time for my camera to go, but we were extremely lucky to have someone else I knew fishing further down the bank. He came over and snapped some pictures for us, saving the day.

Eli had not only smashed his previous record of 24 lbs  set last summer, but he'd beaten his 3 older brother's records as well, earning himself bragging rights (for now).

Fishing was very slow for the next few hours, until about 4:00 PM. Eli caught another nice carp, this one a 20 lbs male, that was kind of thin, but quite long. Again, another angler on the bank stepped in as my camera was out of commission.

The outing ended with 2 back to back runs, one getting cut off in the rocks above my shock leader, and the other with Eli landing a smaller carp in the 13-15 lbs range,

Needled to say, Eli and I are both thrilled that he's joined the coveted 30's club for carp, and I was particularly happy that the big carp hit one of my boilies.

A new batch of boilies is now ready, which means that I have some extra for sale in limited quantity. Order today by clicking:

My carp guiding season has begun as well, book early to ensure the date you want is still available, click:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Extreme saltwater fishing in Florida

Back around 2007, not too long after Youtube was launched, I stumbled on a fishing video going viral. It was one of Captain Ben Chancey and his new "Chew on This" channel. It featured him and some friends going to battle with some huge goliath groupers and monster sharks in Southwest Florida. Upon seeing that clip, I decided that I'd have to try that one day.

Every now and then, I am fortunate enough to be able to make one of my fishing fantasies come true. A couple months ago, I finally decided to go ahead with the Florida saltwater fishing adventure I'd been dreaming about for nearly a decade. I had some airline miles saved up for a free ticket, and though the trip was rather expensive for us Canadians with our low dollar, I figured I could invite a friend along to share the costs. Chatting with my friend Mike, I mentioned my plans and told him I had room if he wanted to come along. Luckily, for both of us, he did.

Our original plan was to fly into Miami on a Sunday afternoon, fish Monday and Tuesday, then fly back on Wednesday. Shortly after booking, the airline cancelled the afternoon flight, leaving us with the option of early morning, or late night flight. With a 150 mile drive to our destination after landing, we opted for the early morning flight. Landing in Miami shortly after 9 AM, we had about half a day to kill in Miami before heading over to Florida's West coast.

We decided to fish on a party boat after having lunch on Sunday afternoon. For those of you unfamiliar with the difference between a party boat and a charter, the party boat costs a lot less, but you share the boat with 25 to 30 other people. I've been on the boats in that fleet in the past (Kelley fleet), so I knew not to expect much other than lots of tangles if the boat got crowded, and high waves if the wind picked up.

We got to Haulover Marina near Bal Harbor well ahead of time. The marina has a section where all the guides, charter boats, and Kelley fleet launch from. The Marina has a park, various attractions with the beach nearby, a long jetty to shore fish from, etc. Nice parking area lined with coconut palms made us feel swaying in the hot wind made us glad to be out of Montreal, which was getting some mid April snow.

When they return, the boats all sell their day's catch to locals waiting for fresh caught fish, which are cleaned and filleted on the spot. As the unused parts of fish get thrown back into the water, the marina is full of species of fish and birds that come to feed there. Unfortunately for us, fishing isn't permitted, as the water is jam packed with tarpons from 4 to 6 feet in length.

After watching the tarpons for a while, we made our way over to the ticket booth, and purchased tickets for the 4 hour drift fishing outing near the gulf stream. Our vessel was the Mucho K, which was quickly filling up with an assorted mix of anglers, from first timers, to regulars that fish on the fleet on a daily or weekly basis.

The rods provided by the fleet are very basic, and designed to get the job done as quickly as possible. Fish caught on the daytime drift outings are typically bonita, kingfish,  mutton snapper, and the odd sailfish, barracuda, or other bottom dwelling fish, depending on the rig being used. Lines are baited with dead or cut ballyhoo,  or squid.

Heading out, we had a good feeling that some of the newbies on the boat may end up sick. Wind was gusting at over 30 km/h, and waves once out on the water were 5 to 6 footers. Sure enough, as soon as we stopped for the first drift and the boat started bouncing in the waves, one of the people vomited all over the boats gunwale. End of trip for him, he sat curled up in fetal position inside the cabin for the remainder of the trip. Eventually, another 4 or 5 out of 25 total people on the boat ended up in the same position.

As for fishing, Mike and I both got rods rigged for bottom fishing, which ended up having tangled a lot less often than most other who were rigged for pelagic species closer to the top of the water column. The day went by, Mike and I didn't even get 1 bite in our 4 hour outing. Aside from the crew that would catch some bonitas speed trolling of the back between drifts, a few people were lucky enough to hook into some smaller fish. Only 2 decent fish landed all day were a small kingfish under 10 lbs, and a decent barracuda in the 10-12 lb range.

So much for our drift fishing excursion, at least it didn't break the bank at $45 each, and I got a picture off the bow of the big fishing boat with Miami Beach in the background.

Getting back on shore, we hopped in the car and made our way West across the sunshine state, driving into the setting sun across the Everglades "alligator alley", then turning North up into Fort Myers, which is where our motel was located.

Next morning, we were up bright and early, and made the 15-20 minute drive into Cape Coral, to finally meet Captain Ben for our real fishing adventure. We got there well ahead of time, and watched the sun rise over Florida while enjoying some classic Black Sabbath.

Captain Ben lives in his own little part of paradise in the self proclaimed fishing capital of the world, and has his boat docked right in his yard.

After meeting our captain and getting on the boat, first order of the day was to catch bait. A cast net is thrown near various structure point like bridge pilings, and soon enough, we had plenty of threadfin shad in the 4-6 inch range in the livewell. 

Next, we we given light tackle spinning rod and reel outfits in order to catch some bigger fish to be used as bait, mainly jacks. Mike managed to land a small jack right away, followed by a bird that took his bait. Apparently common in saltwater.

Fishing for jacks wasn't productive at all, so after a while, our Captain headed back home to get some frozen jacks from his freezer. While casting in front of his home, I managed to catch my first snook.

It put up a powerful fight, and as I hooked it right next to his dock, I really had to horse it to keep it from wrapping up in the pilings. I can honestly say I've never fought anything that strong in freshwater, at least not pound for pound. I'd say the fight is comparable to a supercharged bowfin, for those that have had the pleasure of fighting one.

Heading out again, Captain Ben spotted a ray near the surface, indicating that they were getting into the spawn. We headed over to a shallow bay to see if we'd be lucky enough to find one, and sure enough, they were stacked up in there. Our captain climbed into the crows nest with a heavier rods, outfitted with a weighted treble hook. He proceeded to snag a few rays, which Mike and I took turns fighting into the boat. He was very happy that we found them, as the stingray is apparently one of the best baits for both goliath groupers and big sharks.

I shot some video of Mike fighting one of the rays.

Was quite surprised that our captain opted to land them by hand, with them having a highly venomous sting. Of course, the stingers are removed with  pliers as soon as the rays are landed.

Not that we had bait, it was time to hunt down some trophy sized fish, namely, the goliath grouper. Captain Ben was one of the first of the new wave of anglers to target this species, which were commercially harvested throughout the early to mid 20th century. After being protected in order to preserve the species, few were persistent enough to deliberately target them due to the near impossible mission of landing one. 

The Goliath grouper spends most of it's time hidden in structure like rocks piles, or artificial structures like bridge piling. When the tide comes in, it brings fish with it, following the food chain. The Goliath patiently waits in it's lair until bait shows up, inhales it, and starts again.

Though this makes finding them simple enough, getting them out of the structure without breaking off is next to impossible, even with the heaviest of rod and reel outfits spooled with conventional line. After years of having big fish cut his line, Captain Ben revolutionized the technique. He now uses 468 lbs sailing cable instead of line, spooled onto the most powerful T-rex reels with deliver up to 90 lbs of drag force, mounted on a custom Iron Man rod. The heavy outfit must weigh about 15 lbs, and just figuring out how to use them is quite the learning curve.

Instead of muscling fish with your arms, shoulder,or back, to rod is placed under your right hamstring, and pivots on your left thigh. Rell is buried near your gut, and cranked only when rods is lowered,, as it's next to impossible to reel again a fish that size with that sort of drag force. Here is Mike in classic position with the rod getting ready to drop the bacit next to a bridge piling.

Most often, the second angler on the boat become the "spotter". Without a spotter, you are at extreme risk of going overboard during the fight, as your body weight id resting on a rod being pulled down by a fish that can generate 3 times it's own weight in resistance. With Goliath grouper going up into the 700 lb range, you can imagine that even a "small" one can pull you over in a split second.

So it was game time, and I was up first. Captain cuts a wing off the stingray for bait, to be mounted on the biggest circle hook I've ever seen.

Next, the boat is maneuvered right up to the pilings of a given bridge, and held in position as the bait is dropped right into the spaces between the structure. When the goliath grouper hits, you feel a big thump, and know you're in deep trouble. The heavy rod, pumping adrenaline and hot weather, had me sweating in to time. Sure enough it didn't take long, and I reeled down onto my first fish. Despite putting all my 150 lbs onto the rod and holding on for dear life, I would have been pulled in within a few seconds if Mike wasn't there to spot me as the big grouper made it's initial run. Having a lifelong bodybuilder as your spotter definitely has it's benefits, and there is no way I'd have landed the fish without Mike's help, which despite of, I was nearly gassed from a short battle that probably didn't last more than 90 seconds. 

To my horror, Mike realized that the swivel connecting the main cable to the leader had snapped open, and was barely hanging on by a thread. He quickly put on my glove and grabbed the cable leader, saving the day.

The Goliath grouper wasn't a giant, but at 150 lbs of brute force, it more than doubled my biggest catch ever! Once at the surface, they become very docile, maybe and odd splash or roll here and there. Forbidden to bring on board by law as they are protected, pictures with them have to be taken while they are in the water.

After the mandatory high fiving at my trophy, Mike was up for his. Didn't take very long, and he was into his first goliath grouper as well. I grabbed the rod to spot him, but after a couple lifts, he wanted to go it alone, so I eased off, standing by in case of emergency. Mike managed to land his alone, though it was a lot smaller, somewhere in the 60 lbs range. 

Shot a short clip of him landing it after realizing that he wasn't going to need my help.

As we had both landed our target species for the day and it was getting late, we headed back towards home, stopping to catch some more bait on the way. I hooked into a jack, only to have to stolen by one of the many dolphins surfacing near our boat. Very impressive to see that happen at boatside. The bite was tough, so we headed back in around 4 PM.

Next morning we headed out much further, about 20 miles away near Captiva pass off Sanibel Island to fish for big sharks. In contrast to the previous day, the captain hooked up an entire like stingray a bait, and set the rod into a gunwale holder to drift., while we drifted more shad to try and catch m,ore live jacks. I hooked into to something with the light spinning rod almost instantly, but just as I had it under the boat, it was grabbed by something much bigger that spooled the reel until it broke off. Again reminding me that when fishing saltwater, there is always something bigger ready to take what you've got.

Within minutes, the big rod with the ray got a massive hit, ripping the rod holder mount of of the boat. As captain Ben grabbed the rod, the big fish let go, and the ray swam back up to the surface, right next to our boat, almost intact. This indicated that it was probably attacked a goliath grouper rather than shark, as they are prevalent in the area, and love stingray's as much as sharks do. As the captain turned the boat to retrieve the ray that swam right by us, a huge 250 lbs bull shark splashed up at the surface and stole it in front of our eyes. Just shudder to think what may have happened if the captain was trying to pull it out of the water at the time...

Having only one ray left, the captain chose to use it as cut bait, and mounted it on a more "conventional" boat rod equipped with a huge shimano level wind reel spooled with tons of 80 lb test mono. Unfortunately, nothing was interested in our cut bait, so we fishing for more live bait with the light rods. As we were fishing near some rocks piles, there were many smaller gag grouper in the area. They are considered a game species in Florida, so forbidden to be used as bait, and as they were most of what were were catching, we were stuck without any decent shark sized live bait.

Tough not what we came for, fishing for gag grouper on light tackle is challenging as well. They are powerful fish, and if they aren't pumped/horsed away from their rock piles, they run straight for them to hide when hooked, making them a challenge to land. In addition, with sharks and big goliaths in the same area, you also stand a decent chances of losing them to a super sized predator. 

Mike and I both managed to land a few gag groupers, and much like myself earlier in the day, Mike got spooled by something big while fighting one as well.

After spending a good 4 hours or so without any bite on the cut bait, our captain headed back for one more shot at goliath groupers with the incoming tide slowing down at the shark spot and scheduled to picked up at the goliath spot.

I was up first again, but unlike the previous day, the goliath groupers were much more finicky. I must have missed 5 or 6 hits, and by the time I finally hook one, My arm was aching from keeping the heavy iron man rod in position for a good 45 minutes or so. Mike gave my a hand spotting the rod tip again, and I had my second goliath of the trip, the much smaller than my first one at about 80 lbs.

Mike was up for the last catch of of the day, managed to hook something reel big that almost pulled him over but pulled the hook just as I was about to spot him.

And so ended our Florida saltwater fishing adventure. Reflecting on the trip, I'm extremely happy to have been able to live this experience. Besides for catching my biggest fish ever and getting one of the species that's been on my mind for nearly a decade off my bucket list, I was amazed by entire saltwater experience as a whole. Where everything is constantly running from something bigger in order to avoid becoming dinner, and you're never sure of what's going to happen from one second to the next, I envy people that live in that beautiful part of the continent. Then again, I'd probably never get any work (or anything besides fishing) done if I lived in Florida.

As for fishing the big and mighty goliath grouper, I'm happy to have tried it, but not very sure I'd go back again, at least not under those conditions. Personally, I found this style of fishing to be more brutal than enjoyable, but then again, that's exactly what it take takes to land this unique species of brute. 

I have little doubt that captain Ben Chancey is the best Goliath grouper guide in Florida. He's got his technique down to every last inch and detail, and believe when I tell you he's tried every other method of pulling these monsters out of there holes before ingeniously putting together his current methods / techniques. 

For those of you brave / crazy enough to try catching supersized goliath groupers, I highly suggest Captain Ben Chancey as your guide for and extreme fishing adventure in the sunshine state. 

Captain Ben can be reached at: 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

First carp of the season

It isn't often that we get to fish open water for carp in March around Montreal. During most years, we still have solid ice covering the shallow bays with little current, and I'm typically out on ice trying to catch the winter's last few pike with tip ups.

With the unbelievably warm winter we've had, I was able to both fish later last December than ever before, and now chase carp earlier than most season as well.

I headed off to my favorite spring spot, and  brought Eli along for the outing. Plan was to fish a shallow bay where carp tend to congregate right after ice out, as the water warms up a bit quick than the rest of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, when we got to our spot, there were a couple people already trying to catch carp there. So much for my plans to practise my distance casting, which is a must at that spot.

Luckily for us, my next spot was only a few hundred yards away. I had brought along some shorter 8 foot rods as well, to make landing carp a bit easier on Eli, as he's still a bit small for my 12 foot rods used for distance casting.

Having 2 rods out, I was able to test various baits. After out first couple casts yielded nothing in the first 1.5 hours, I presented Eli with 5 different boilies that I made, explaining him the difference between each. I ask him to pick one as my hookbait, the other 4 were going on my PVA stringer as chum. He selected a 16MM fireball boilie, which has always been one of my best coldwater baits.

Sure enough, the Fireball boilie got hit within 1/2 hour. The fish ran a bit faster and fought a lot harder than expected in frigid water temp barely above freezing. Eli did a great job fight the fish, and I was a bit surprised it wasn't bigger when I landed it. Still a decent carp for this time of the year, just over 13 lbs.

 Eli chose the right bait for the job, and even baited the lines as I showed him how to bait hair rigs and tie PVA stringers. This catch marks the earliest open water carp we've caught, previous best was first week of April. He is now the proud holder of that new family record. That was the only carp we caught all day, no other hits or runs. With a cold front coming in next week, carping might be tough, so I may have to switch the target species if I get out on the water again soon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fishing for blue cats in Texas, part 2

For those of you that have been following my blog for a while, you'll remember our last year's attempt at fishing for big blue catfish in mid winter didn't exactly go as planned. The weather threw us a nasty curveball in form of an ice storm, and we weren't able to get out on lake Tawakoni as planned, and we forced to fish 2 half days on Lake Lavon instead. In case you missed it, you can read the original blog post at:

This year, we decided to try again, took Avi and Levi along instead of Ari, as they were off school for a few days on spring break. We booked to days with one of the best guides in the area, former blue catfish world record holder Cody Mullenix. The weather was nice and warm as hoped for, though the cooler water temps had us wearing jackets in the morning, and sweaters by afternoon. Wind forecast for our second day didn't look too promising, but as I always say when it comes to trips that have to be booked in advance, it is what it is, deal with it.

We met up with Cody on our first morning, and headed out onto Lake Tawakoni in search for some giant blue cats, hoping for a nice 50 lbs + fish. Cody's 23 foot Falcon boat is designed in Texas, specifically for catfishing. Very unique style of boat, lots of rooms to move around and put out as many rods as need be, we used 8 rods.

Kids were excited to be on the water again:

Cody then used his side scan sonar to locate schools of catfish containing the biggest catfish before deciding on a given spot to set up. Very effective, but of course, this is fishing, and nothing's going to guarantee the big ones will bite.

Sure enough, Levi started off the day hooking into a tiny blue cat, his first ever.

Avi followed up with his first blue cat shortly after:

After a few more small catfish, I finally hooked into something big enough to bend the rod a bit more:

Still nowhere near the size we were looking for...

Bite died down for a while, but towards the end of the afternoon, Levi got a nice 34 lbs catfish, his biggest fish ever.

Minutes later, Avi hooked into another big one, which started off running and peeling the tightly set drag with rod still in it's holder. Put up a better fight than Levi's fish, and Avi did a good job fighting the big catfish. He beat Levi's fish by a few pounds, with a nice 38 lbs catfish, his biggest catfish to date. We snapped a few pics:

We also shot some footage, check out our video at:

Unfortunately, that was all for the day.

Next morning, we had to get an early start, due to a gale force winds forecast to blow strong by noon or so. We were on the water at the crack of dawn, hoping to anchor on some spots before the waves were too high.

First few spots didn't yeild much, with me landing another small catfish in the 8 lns range. By noon, the waves were getting bad, and we were stuck trying to locate big fish in the shallow bays and cove at the tips of the lake. We finally found one area that yileded some more fish, but again, nothing big.

By the time we made it back out to the lake, it was no longer fishable, with the wind gusting at 50 km/h, and the waves in the 4 to 5 foot range. Though we were safe in the big 23 foot boat equipped with a 350 HP inboard, anchoring would have been impossible, let alone trying to still fish. We called it a day early, this ending another mid winter Texas fishing adventure.

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!