Ice fishing guides

Montreal ice fishing guides

Friday, January 4, 2019

2019 ice fishing season

New year, new blog post to chronicle our ice fishing adventures and outings. Hope to do a lot of exploring, trying new spots, species and tactics this winter. Will be posting most of the season's ice fishing results here, sorted by date in reverse order, to make for easier chronological reading.


Jan 15th:

With my older boys going back to Cegep next week, we decided to try a new spot for stocked trout. The outfitter recently changed ownership, and though the new owners stock brook trout in the winter, there are some good rainbow trout left in the lake some previous summer stockings.

We were given 5 "brimbale" lines to use, and as usual, brought along our own jigging rods. I used a small spoon tipped with a mealworm, while Ari and Avi slow jigged a double worm rig to slow jig with.

20+ inches of solid ice on the lake, and we had to prospect and discover, so we had quite the workout drilling all over until we managed to locate the right area and depths. Avi struggled most of the morning. Keeping the 5 brimbale lines for himself, as well as 2 jigging rods didn't help much.

All the while, Ari and I caught a variety of brook trout and rainbow one after the other, a couple nice big ones mixed in with mainly stocked size fish.



Avi eventually manage to catch some as well, mainly jigging, only 2 trout landed on the brimbale lines all day. We ended up keeping 30 trout, and got my new yearly "year pic" of trout for 2019 with the boys.





Jan 10th:

Ari and I decided to stay local in zone 8 for the day. With generous allowance for 10 lines per person, I set up 8 lines with various bait hoping to lure in some carp under ice, while Ari jigged for bass with the flasher and set up a pike line as well. After drilling double 9 inch holes for the carp with Ari's Jiffy, I stayed mobile with the hand auger, prospecting for bass while waiting for carp to hit.

Morning was very slow, nothing at all. Just after noon, Ari's pike flag went up, but he fumbled on the hookset and ripped the hook out of it's mouth. The pike never returned. Not too long after, I managed a perch and small largemouth bass.


Ari landed a small sunfish, and lost a tiny bass at the hole, and I caught some more pumpkinseed sunfish. No carp hits, we left by mid afternoon to avoid traffic on the way home.


Jan 8th:

One of my main goals for the ice fishing season, is to explore and prospect new spots. Nothing more rewarding than figuring out and catching fish on a new waterbody.

For this outing, I headed down to the Eastern townships, to fish Lake Memphremagog. Though I have fished for perch on ice there in the past, this time my target species were brown and rainbow trout on a deeper section of the lake. I chose not to use any tip ups, as I prefered to stay mobile. After a bit of trekking form where I parked, I found a nice dropoff to prospect. Drill, jig for 5 minutes with a medium sized lure, then again another 5 minutes with a small lure. No hits, start over 30-50 feet further away. Rinse, repeat, etc.

Fishing was extremely difficult. After a couple hours, I managed to land a small lake trout jigging a small kastmaster spoon tipped with a capelin head. Lake trout fishing is closed in winter here, so didn't bother with a pic.

Another few hours without even seeing a fish on the flasher, until I got a nice hit from a good size fish in 7 over 10 feet of water, Came off after 2-3 seconds. Frustrating, as it could have been anything, brown trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, lake trout or pike, they all share the same areas from what I'm told.

Day ended with me landing a couple small perch.

Jan 3rd:

First outing of 2019, I decided to try fishing a spot where I enjoyed some good float tube bass fishing last summer. Being the first time fishing that spot on ice, I left the tip ups at home, and decided to "run and gun" a large area, drilling and fishing until I was able to hook up, hopefully with some decent bass and / or panfish.

Got to my spot and started fishing around 10 AM. Not much doing at various depths, so I trekked to the end point of where I planned to fish, then worked my way back, drilling various depths, and then fishing each hole, first jigging with a Rapala W3 jigging rap, then with a mini kastmaster spoon. Both were tipped with live mealworms, and with the help of my Humminbird flasher, I'd know when I eventually found the right spot.

With 13 inches of solid ice and outside temp of -10, the drilling was a bit tougher than normal, as 8 inch hand auger built up quite a bit of ice on the auger's fins. After 3 hours and 15 holes drilled, I had only landed one small perch. Stopped for a snack, and on my next hole, I knew I had found the motherload. The bottom 3 feet were heavily stacked with fish, to the point that it looked like a thick weedbed. 

First drop landed a nice 7 inch bluegill. 


After landing a small pumpkinseed sunfish and some perch, I finally hooked into my first bass of the day, a good 12 inch largemouth. Not quite the size I hoped for, but I was very happy to have accomplished landing my first bass on ice from that spot, as well well as my first bass of 2019.


Needless to say, I didn't bother drilling any more holes. Over the next 3 hours, I managed to land a total of 5 bass, 6 pumpkinseed sunfish, 11 bluegills, and 14 perch. No monsters, but the non stop action of constantly releasing cold, wet fish in minus -15 windchill had my fingers sort of frozen by  evening. Regardless, I was quite happy with the outcome of the outing, and Zev and I enjoyed a tasty and healthy breakfast of fresh caught perch the next morning.

Hope to get out for some trout next week, stay tuned...

Friday, December 21, 2018

Early winter ice fishing in Quebec

Though winter officially starts on Dec 21st, Quebec fishing regulations in much of the open part of the the province start on Dec 20th. Depending on the zone, the rules allow the use of multiple lines (usually 5 or 10, depending on the region) as opposed to only 1 line per person in the summer. The use of dead / frozen bait is permitted as well, as long as the legal species of baitfish are used.

The use of multiple lines with dead bait lends itself to fishing for Northern pike, probably more so than other species. I'll typically run as many legal lines as allowed if I'm in an area that has a good pike population, leaving one rod to jig with for other species.

My first winter outing technically was the last day of fall (Dec 20), but due to winter rules being in effect, I'd rather avoid the confusion for readers, and post it to my winter bog post. As I have a few trips planned between now and the end of 2018, I'll post the rest of the 2018 updates here.

Dec 20th update:

First day of winter regulations, I headed East hoping to find some safe ice. Got to my spot, and found a solid 3.5 to 4 inches for a good 1/2 KM stretch of water or so. Areas that were unsafe were clearly visible, as their was negligible snow cover on the surface.

The spot is well known to locals, and with easy access, it's gets quite a bit of fishing pressure. There were already 6 others fishing there when I arrived, and a good 50+ holes drilled.

I set up away from the pack, hoping to find some good schools of jumbo perch, and maybe a decent pike for the table, as my kids love eating pike from clean waters.

I baited two of the tip ups with frozen capelin, and other two with larger frozen mackerel. One flag was tripped, capelin stolen, and nothing else on the tip ups at that spot for about 2.5 hours. Managed to find a couple schools of tiny perch, only one decent keeper for the table.

As the fishing was terribly slow for everyone, the crowd left by noon, and I had the entire spot to myself. I moved to where they were fishing, set up my tip ups for pike, and began jigging for perch. took about 15 minutes for the capelin line to get hit, but again, the bait was stolen.

A few minutes later, a suspended fish started darting around my lure, figured it may be a lake trout. When I finally hooked up, I was surprised that it was a Jumbo perch, as they typically rush up from bottom. That's where the Humminbird flasher comes in very handy...


About 1/2 hour later, the tip up baited with mackerel next to the capelin line got hit, and flag tipped up. Fish was still running at high speed when I got to the line, and since I had a quick strike rig, I immediately set the hook. Feeling the big head shakes, I knew it was a decent sized pike. Landed it shortly after, and had one of the locals that just showed up take a pic for me.



Followed up with an autoshoot pic shortly after.


Not much else going on for the rest of the day despite jigging about 20 other holes, I ended up leaving a couple hours later.


Dec 24th update:

Kids of school for a couple weeks, I decided to head back to the new spot I had tried the previous week with them. This time, I brought along my tip ups, hoping to find some pike. I also brought along jigging rods and the flasher, ti tech them how to jig for panfish.

After setting up 11 tip ups baited with frozen mackerel and capelins, I drilled a hole a bit deeper to show Eli how to jig with a flasher. First drop, I hooked a perch for him, and handed him a the rod to go drill another hole for Zev. Within a couple minutes, I saw his rod doubled over, drag peeling off the reel. I coached him through the fight, and he landed his first ever bass on ice, a good 2 lbs fish.


No such luck for Zev, but after giving him the flasher, he still managed to land his first perch on ice.


Around noon, we had 3 flag go off right next to each other, fish managed to steal the capelin first teo times, then left some teethmarks on the third. Guessing is must have been quite small, as the bait was small and I gave it enough time to run with it. No more pike action all day.

Kids started getting bored with the very slow bite, and head out for sled rides on the ice after lunch. Just as well, gave me some time to fish. Did managed to hook up with a couple good largemouth bass.



Kids wouldn't let me stay for the evening bite, we were off the ice by mid afternoon. They only had some much patience, it was their first time out on open ice without the comfort of a heated cabin.

Hope to get some more ice fishing done later this week.


Dec 26th update:

Kids chickened out on me do to cold weather. Truth be told, I can't blame them. It takes very warm clothing to ice fish out in windchills colder than -15, and keeping warm still requires movement like drilling holes, setting lines, etc.

As I was alone, I chose to explore and area where I had some success catching pike from my float tube in the summer. Setup 8 polar tip ups, 4 bait with mackerel on quick strike rigs, and 4 baited with capelin. No bites all day.

Luckily, there are some decent perch to fish for in the area. It did take a lot of searching, but I finally managed to find 1 good hole out of about 20 holes I drilled for panfish throughout the day.

They were aggressive enough early on, hitting a W3 jigging rap tipped with a meal worm. Later on, I downsized to a tiny Acme Kastmaster spoon tipped with a mealworm as well, landed some more perch and small sunfish.

Ended up keeping 11 of 20 perch for the table, kids will be happy at lunch tomorrow.



Dec 31st update:

Last day of 2018, I took Levi, Eli and Zev out to the Eastern Townships. Plan was to target perch at a spot where I found some big ones last winter, and set up some tip ups with frozen bait in case any pike were feeding in the area.

Ice was a good 7 inches clear an solid, to the point where I was still able to get a depth reading with the flasher without having to drill through the ice. Got set up fast and easy, and we were fishing in no time.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to locate and decent schools of perch, despite drilling a couple dozen holes. Eli and Zev both landed small lake trout, caught while jigging tiny perch lures, but other than that, the outing wasn't too productive. No pike in the area either.

Levi and Eli took turn giving Zev sled rides on the ice, and had I known that there wasn't any snow on the lake, I'd have brought along ice skates for the kids, as we saw quite a few local out skating on the lake.

Snapped one last pic for 2018 one the way back to the car.


Thank you again to all my fans and blog followers, 2018 was great. Hoping for even better fishing in 2019!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fall 2018 ice fishing

With this fall being the coldest on record since 1974, we traded late fall open water fishing for an early ice fishing season. For the first time, I got out twice in November, and have some more outing planned before the official start of winter in the latter part of December.

I'll be updating this blog posts with fall ice fishing reports and pics as I fish on ice through the end of fall.

Note that Quebec ice fishing rules only come into effect on Dec 20th, which means that the use of frozen bait and multiple lines is still prohibited up until that date.

November 19th - Quebec fishing Zone 11:

After watching the weather forecast in various regions, I headed up North to zone 11, to a small lake with relatively easy access to early ice. It normally takes a good 5 nights of -10 C to form safe ice on a lake without current or hotspots. As the nighttime temp had dipped below -16 for a few nights in a row, I had a hunch that I might find safe ice to fish on at that point.

Got to the lake around 9:30 AM. As always, fishing first ice requires extreme caution. Equipped with a spud bar and dressed in a floating survival suit, I took my first few steps on to thin ice. Drilled to find barely 3 inches after a few steps, and then the rest was in the 2.5 to 3 inch range. Strong enough to hold me up, but thin enough to cause ripples on holes 20 feet apart every time I took a step. For safety, I fished less than 100 feet from shore, ice was too sketchy to risk venturing out further.

Being limited to only 1 line and no bait, I didn't manage any pike, which were my target species for the day. I did manage one mid sized perch on the Willams ice jig spoon I was jigging in shallow water.



Not much as far as fishing goes, but smashed my previous record for earliest ice fishing trip in a season by a good 2 weeks.

November 28th - Quebec fishing Zone 9:

With most of the province of Quebec's lakes closing for fishing on November 30th, this season opened the possibility of fishing hundreds of lake in the lower an upper Laurentians on ice. These lakes are typically open to residents only during the open water season, and safe ice would be the great equalizer. The issue is finding a lake with some decent fish, and then finding public property to launch from as well was parking.

The lake I decided to try for the first time, met all the above criteria. After checking the depth charts for the given lake online, I headed up to the Lower Laurentians to fish the lake for the first time. A convenient waterfront parking lot that had just been plowed, made for easy access. Ice was nice and thick too, found a good 5.5 to 7 inch of solid black ice, and about another inch or so of grey ice on it. Just about good enough to drive a snowmobile on it, though I was on foot.

Spent the morning targeting shallower water for perch. ended up with a dozen perch or so, most too small to keep but a couple decent ones.


Also landed a fallfish, first time I've ever caught one on ice.


After lunch, I proceeded to fish deeper water, hoping for some elusive trout or walleye I fished a gradual drop off, drilling about 6 or 7 holes over a distance of a few hundred feet, with the depth ranging from 30 feet all the way down to 70 feet. I should mention that it's absolutely necessary to have a flasher or sonar to successfully jig at those depths. No significant action, expect for 1 fish that followed my spoon 20 feet up from 45 to 25, and then turned away.

Around 2 PM, I decided to head back shallow and fish the productive spots I drilled earlier in the day until dark. A few minutes later, I hear a loud speaker (in French): "You with the red coat, get off the lake and head to shore immediately!". And then the sirens turn on.

I see a fire truck and service vehicle on the shore, so I motioned to give me a minute to pack up the sled. When I get to shore, I am told that access to the lake is forbidden until the fire dept tests the ice to make sure it's safe, and then reports back to city hall to announce lake access being open. apparently, they received a call about someone being out on "unsafe" ice.

Despite my trying to convince them and offering to show them that the ice was safe, I was not allowed to get back on the lake. Furthermore, all the lake under that municipalities jurisdiction are under the same rules.

They took my information down to close their "emergency call", and assured me that I wasn't going to be charged for the "rescue".

With less than 2 hours of daylight remaining, I opted not to bother trying to finder another lake and possibly run into similar safety issues. I headed home early to skip rush hour traffic instead.

Dec 11th update:

Finally have some safe ice closer to home, headed out for a short 5 hour outing hoping to find some panfish and possibly some largemouth bass.

After hitting after a good 3 hours or so of "run and gun" style fishing, I finally drilled over the motherload spot. Started icing crappies one after the other.


Also hit a good dozen or so bluegills, which I released.


Towards the end of the day, I drilled another hole adjacent to the one where I had found all those fish. First drop showed a big mark coming after my jigging rap, but missed it. A short while later, I hooked into a big fish. Though it may be a big bass, but when I got it up to the ice hole, I saw the biggest walleye I have ever seen. It darted around the hole a few times, one of my friends came over to land it. Just as I was about to ease it's head up the 8 inch hole, it spit the hook.

Judging from the massive head and thick girth, it may very well have been a 10 lb walleye. Though I was upset that I didn't get to ice it, I was still quite happy to have hook a a giant walleye of that size by surprise. Will be dreaming about that one for a while,

Dec 17th update:

After finding a new carp spot this fall, I had planned to wait for it to freeze up enough for me to be able to get out on the surface and drill holes all around areas I fish in open water. Though this outing was dedicated more to preparing myself for open water carp seasons in the future, I know there are some bass, pike, perch and sunfish in the area, so I obviously brought along fishing gear, in addition to my flasher.

Ended up drilling a good 35 holes throughout the day, mainly to find shoals, dropoffs, and to explore some of what I had observed there in October. Fishing was slow as expected, apart for a half dozen smaller perch and a bluegill.



Only substantial fish caught was this nice 15 inch largemouth bass, put up a good fight on the jigging rod.


Not being able to use multiple lines or dead bait until Dec 20th, I didn't bother targeting pike. Looking forward to winter rules the kick in on Thursday (Dec 20th) in Southern Quebec.





Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 fishing season highlights

Looks like it's about that time of the year again. Just about ready to stow away my fishing gear and get ready for the ice fishing season, which will likely arrive earlier than usual this year. As usual, I'll run through some of our season highlights in pics with narrative.

2018 was another fun and informative fishing season, although I was thrown more "curveballs" that I imagined. From losing spots due to construction and closures, to extreme weather conditions, this season put me to the test a bit more than what I'm usually used to.

As always in fishing, perseverance paid off, and the entire family as well as customers and friends landed some big fish.

Starting off with predatory species, as they embody sport fishing a bit more than bottom feeders, although I do enjoy them all equally...

Bass:

Largemouth bass were my target for this species, the vast majority of time chasing bass was in areas where they are the dominant species. The kids and I all landed some nice largies to kick off the bass fishing season, fishing the Quebec bass opener at Mijocama for the 16th season in a row.




I landed some nice largemouth both from shore, and from my new float tube as well.



While I didn't target smallmouth bass too much, I did manage to land a few quality smallies as well.




Northern Pike:

Spent a lot less time targeting Northern Pike this season, but on the few days that we did, the action was good.






 Some more trophies were landed during trips to to Mijocama, and then at Le Domaine Shannon in July:







Walleye:

Another neglected sport fish species this season, the 2 landed by Avi and I were incidental, while targeting pike.



When I finally did get around to targeting walleye late in the season with my friend Mark, I did just fine under his guidance.



Musky:

I normally don't target muskies much on my own. My friend Mike took most of the musky season off, and by the time I was set to get out with Patrick, he had sold his boat for the season. However, I did manage a couple smaller muskies while targeting other species.

My first musky came shortly after the season opener, I was targeting bass during one of my first ever float tube outings. Casting a buzzbait on a light rod, the musky put up a great fight, numerous jumps, and towed me around until I subdued it and landed it by hand.




Probably my most enjoyable catch of the season.

Carp:

This had to be one of my toughest overall season fishing for carp. The late start to spring, had them sort of lethargic until mid May. The extreme heat and lack of wind we experienced most of the summer was bad enough, but almost every group that I took out all season ended up booking on the worst possible days weather wise, extreme heat, with no wind and mirror like surface.

Still, we managed to save face and land some decent fish, but nowhere near the quality and numbers of seasons past. My 2018 carp picture gallery can be viewed by clicking:
http://www.freshwaterphil.com/carp-fishing-pictures.cfm

My 2 notable catches of the season, cam 2 days apart. My biggest carp landed in 2018 was 31 lbs.


Less than 48 hours later, I took my childhood friend and his kids out for some carp fishing, while they were visiting from NY. First fish of the day, was a stunning mirror carp, just a touch under 20 lbs.


I finally stumbled onto a new spot late in the season, plan to try it again during peak season next year.


Sturgeon:

Our windiest and coldest October destroyed most of my sturgeon fishing plans, with both Mark and Patrick trying to play catchup for the crazy amount of bookings they had to cancel due to weather. Luckily, I did manage a few hours fishing sturgeon with Mark in September, and landed a couple nice sturgeons.



Other freshwater species:

Managed some incidental channel catfish while chasing carp, nothing over 10 lbs though. Some decent perch, sunfish, and small trout as well.



Ice fishing:

I particularly enjoyed my 2018 ice fishing season, exploring more lakes than ever before, landing some nice pike..




Found some good jumbo perch spots, as well as some largemouth bass:









I spent a week in Hawaii, fishing the Pacific ocean for the first time ever. As guides for big game species were too expensive for my liking, I decided to do it all from the shore on my own. Extremely rewarding, and not a trip I'll forget any time soon, read more at: 




And last but not least, my first season fishing out of my new float tube. Great way of combining a good workout on hot days with good fishing. Read about my outings at: 



All in all, another memorable fishing season in the books. Thank you all for following my adventures online. Thank you to my customers for putting your confidence in me as your fishing guide. Thank you to my family (especially my lovely wife) for putting up with my fishing addiction. And most of all, thank you dear God, for giving me the ability to pursue my dreams.