The Freshwater Phil guide to Montreal shore fishing spots

Montreal's best shore fishing spots

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ice Fishing tip of the week - Jigging worms for trout

Stocked trout were the first species I ever targeted on ice. Over the past 20 or so years, it's become a yearly outing with my family, as well with a slew of friends and customer new to ice fishing, or wanting to catch lot's of tasty trout, while enjoying to convenience of a wood heated cabin with dry toilet near our lines.

I still remember my first ice trout, which came on a worm tipped jig right on my first drop. Over the years, I've refined my set up, and it consistently out performed the standard "brimbale" style tip down lines tipped with the same bait with a 10 to 1 ratio. Best of all, is the sensation of hooking and fighting the trout with a fishing rod, as opposed to using a handline.

The outfitters general stocked both brook/speckled and rainbow trout into the various lakes I've fished. Rainbow trout tend to scatter under ice, while brookies seem to prefer schooling up in very slow moving schools. Find the school can be extremely productive to say the least.

Quebec allows the use of 3 baited hooks per line, but I just go with a 1/16 ounce lead jig head tipped with 1/2 a worm, and then a #6 to #4 baitholder or octopus hook tipped a the other half.

Rigged on medium light ice jigging fishing rods using 6-8 lb flourocarbon, we have been able to get easy 10 trout quotas on many occasions, and often opted to use second and even third quotas in 4-6 hour outings.

Simply let the line down to the bottom, bring it up a couple inches, and slow jig at intervals of 15 to 30 seconds. When bite is aggressive enough, double headers of trout can be expected.

Scattered rainbow trout seem to enjoy the ice jigging setup just as much. Note the setup my son used to land this fat rainbow trout.

Weather permitting, most outfitters open for ice fishing that stock trout in winter, do so from mid December through late March. I offer guiding services for stocked trout through the winter, fund day for the entire family, and hopefully a tasty catch for dinner.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fishing tip of the week - ice fishing tip up markers

As I get a fair bit fishing related questions and inquiries, I've decided to write weekly "Fishing tip of the week: blog posts. I plan to have them relate to current fishing issues for a the given period of the year, and hopefully, I'll be able to keep cranking out a steady flow of short, but useful tips.

This week's tip relates to ice fishing with traditional flag style tip ups. Various models exist, most of the tip ups I use are HT big game "polar therm" models, pictured below.

While they are visible from afar when there isn't much snow cover on the ice's surface, as soon as you get a few inches of snow, you start to lose visibility of the tip up as long as the flag hasn't been tripped by a fish.

Why does this matter? Well, for a couple of good reasons.

1) As we are allowed the use of multiple lines in winter in many provinces and states, you can get a pretty good spread on the lines. Around Montreal, the use of 10 lines per person, spread at say 40 feet between each line, would result in a potential spread of 400 feet, assuming you were alone. At that distance, there is no way to know exactly where you tip up is set if the snow cover is more than 4 inches or so.

2) Just as you may not know where you row of lines begins or ends, others travelling the lake by truck, snowmobile, ATV or even windsurfing, may not be able to see you're lines until they've run them over.

To negate this issue, I like to mark off where my ice fishing tip up lines begin and end by using something larger, and more visible. In particular, I have bright yellow 5 gallon buckets that I use to store and transport my Big Game tip ups in. When the tip ups are deployed, these empty buckets serve the purposes quite well, as you can see in the zoomed in picture below:

Furthermore, I often decide to use a good numbers of lines away from where I'm actually fishing, in order to target multiple species. Thc classic example is setting up baited lines shallow for pike, and then moving a bit deeper to jig for perch, walleye or trout. By having a visual markers at the extreme ends of my pike lines, when I periodically shift my focus from jigging to looking for tripped flags, I don't have to start guessing or straining to figure out where to look, as my markers are clearly visible from a lot further than I venture away.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

February 2018 ice fishing report

February has been another successful month for some more exploratory ice fishing, just as December and January have been. Not having much clientele for ice fishing this season has allowed me to continuously explore new areas, which I'm enjoying more and more, regardless of whether or not I end up successful.

February 6th 2018.

Headed to the Easter townships to try a new area I had mapped using Google maps. After trekking about 1 KM through about 8-10 inches of snow covered ice, I reached my target area. Drilled some holes holes in shallower water for pike, and then some more deeper for perch and possibly rainbow or brown trout, maybe a lucky landlocked salmon.

The first catch of the day was a decent size lake trout measuring 26 inches, put up a very nice fight on my perch rod. As season is closed for lake trout in Quebec, I didn't bother with any pictures, releasing it immediately in good condition as per the regulations.

I move a bit shallower, and stumbled onto a large school of jumbo perch. Perch tend to school up by size under ice, so after catching a few big ones and seeing many more on the flasher, I knew I'd be busy at the fillet table once I got home, as perch are one of the tastiest fish caught in winter.

Took a couple hours or so, and I had a couple dozen perch ranging from 9 to 12 inches on ice, all hit a Swedish Pimple jigging spoon. You can notice how big they are in relation to the 8 inch ice hole.

Managed another accidental lake trout in the 25 inch range at the end of the day near one of my perch holes, again on my perch rod. No pike on the dead bait lines.

February 13 2018.

Headed South of the Border to the upper Adirondacks in New York state, to try my luck on a new lake. The state of New York stocks the lake with landlocked salmon and lake trout, which are both open to fishing year round. As well, there are some big Northern pike in the lake as well, which were going to be my target species for the day.

New York is very particular about the use of bait fish, which must be purchased from local state certified dealers. The frozen store bought smelt and mackerels I normally use for pike are forbidden as bait, so I was at the mercy of the local bait shop's supply. Despite having called them the previous to be sure they had the large shiners I was looking for, when I arrived, they only had small minnows, which still sell for an outrageous $10 USD per dozen.  Not being left with any other options, I picked up a dozen, and set up some lines for pike in shallower water, while jigging for perch with the help of my flasher.

As the lake gets lots of fishing pressure in the winter, the perch weren't to big as expected, ended up with a couple keepers by early afternoon. With no pike hits, and some pesky perch messing with the small minnows and tripping my flags, I decided to trek a good mile or so further out, where I ended up on a large flat about 30 feet deep. One of the locals mentioned it being a decent area for smallmouth bass under ice, a species that I've never caught in winter. Drilled another dozen or so holes over the course of the afternoon, hooked into something big down near bottom while jigging a Swedish Pimple, but lost it before I could get it close enough to the ice hole to see what it was. My guess would be a big bass or small lake trout, I'll never know...

February 15 2018.

Headed back to my new spot in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, in search for some more jumbo perch, and possibly some Northern Pike. The trek out to my spot was easier, as there was less snow cover. Having noted that all the Jumbo perch from my previous outing to that area came from 12-14 feet of depth, I drilled a longer lines of holes at that depth in order to determine whether my spot was wider than I originally thought.

Started off by catching a small 18 inch lake trout, and then some small perch. Fishing all the outer holes around my hot spot, I wasn't able to catch any perch bigger than 7 inches, but did get a surprise rainbow smelt, as I was fishing mainly with a tiny version of the Swedish Pimple jigging spoon

When I eventually fished my hot spot, the jumbo perch were waiting for me as I had hoped. I managed to land 2 of my biggest perch ice at 12.5 and 13 inches, and both were bursting with roe, which made them a bit heavier. The 13 incher is my new all time personal best for perch, weighed in over 1 lb at 485 grams.

Ended up leaving with another dozen keepers, my youngest son and I  had a perch feast next morning for breakfast.

February 19 2018.

Decided to ice fish the Montreal area for the first time in 2 years. Though I normally prefer to travel to ice fish areas and waterbodies where I don't have summer access, I only had a few hours to fish, and a local friend with a waterfront property invited me to come over and fish the area behing his home for pike.

We set up the lines at a variety of depths ranging from 3.5 to 9 feet of depth, and baited them with thawed out mackerel and smelt. Waiting for the pike bite, we tried jigging for perch a bit deeper, where I showed him how to use a flasher. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch anything jigging, and the pike weren't playing along with our plans either. My host went back inside to grab some lunch, leaving me on the ice with his nephews and my son. Sure enough, the flag on the tip up closest to me went off. I ran to the line. carefully moved the tip up out of the way, giving my self a bit of line to play with, as I was fishing the shallowest hole, in 3.5 feet of depth.

I quick tug set the hook, and the fight was one. The pike made a few good runs before I was able to ease it's snout up the ice hole, and I was surprised to see that it's was much bigger than I originally thought. While most of the pike I've caught in that area over the years range from 3 to 5 lbs, this one weighed in at 9 lbs, measuring 33 inches. Definitely my biggest ice pike caught in this zone.

That made to outing with back to back personal best for ice fishing. Not too shabby for some February ice fishing.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January 2018 ice fishing report

Haven't done too much ice fishing this January, in comparison to previous seasons. Continuing with this winter's plan of experimenting with new tactics and fishing new areas, the few times I did fish on ice this January were interesting.

January 9 2018:

Picked a relatively warm day to fish, as I planned to target trout and / or landlocked salmon one  of the open lakes in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. With a high of -1 C, I knew I would need to worry much about my line or ice holes freezing up.

Drilled a bunch of holes between 20 to 45 feet of depth, and fished a variety of lures, jigging at various depths with the help of my Humminbird flasher. To boost effectiveness, I tipped the lures with a live mealworm. Additionally, after not catching any fish in a given hole for a while, I then chummed a bit handfull of canned corn into the ice holes. On five occasions, I was rewarded with a good chase, 3 of them ended up resulting in hookups. Unfortunately, they were all from Lake trout, a species which is closed in Quebec during the winter months. 3 came on a Swedish Pimple, the other a small Kastmaster spoon. Ranging from roughly 3 to 6 lbs, nice fight on light tackle. No pictures, as fish were caught out of season, and immediately released as per the Quebec regulations.

January 28 2018:

Was invited up North by a friend that has a place on one of the few lakes open to ice fishing in the Laurentians. Knowing that the lake in questions has some big Northern pike, I was hoping to hook into a trophy. Set up 10 lines under polar tip ups, baited half of them with frozen mackerels, the other half with smaller frozen smelt. Action was very slow as expected, as this lake is better known for size than numbers. Took 5 hours to get the first bite, no trophy this time, but at least we didn't leave empty handed.

January 31 2018:

Got another invite from a friend, this time it was one that has a place in New York state. Having never ice fished outside Canada, I was excited to head South of the border to try jigging for bass. While bass is open in most of New York state, catch and release is mandatory during winter and spring. Ari and I were able to pattern and land 7 of 9 largemouth bass in a short afternoon of fishing. Nothing too big, they were mainly in the 12 to 14 inch range, with a couple of them going a bit smaller.

Most were landed on either the Swedish Pimple or the Williams ice Jig.

Definitely was interesting to fish South of the border, and after doing some research online, I'm pretty sure I'll try going back in the future, with many lake and opportunities for trophy sized pike, as well as lake trout, landlocked salmon, and jumbo perch.

Looking forward to reporting about some upcoming exploratory outings in February...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ice fishing marathon to end 2017

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, anglers fishing out of high end boats with top notch gear and electronics have a huge advantage over us who shore fish. Same goes for people that live on lakes or rivers without, or with very limited access to outsiders.

Ice fishing is the great equalizer, as long as you find safe ice and and a good access point, anyone has a good shot at having a great outing.

This December, my work load was lighter than it had been in most previous years. Additionally, my wife took most of the kids skiing for their new year's break, leaving me home with only Ari, my oldest son.

With extra time on my hands and not much to do around the house, I decided to spend the latter half of the month scouting new ice fishing spots in different zones of the province. Provincial regulations vary by management zone, so it's crucial to check the rules before heading out to new areas.

While zone 8 around Montreal is open for fishing year round, many of the other zones are completely shut down during the winter. These zones have a few lakes and rivers that are exceptions to the rules, where winter / ice fishing is permitted. The MFFP web site has some good search tools for each zone, and is to first spot to check when looking for new areas to fish at. These water bodies were my target areas to kick off my ice fishing season.

December 7 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 11 (Upper Laurentians)

Hoping to find safe ice in the upper Laurentians after a cold front, I headed up North with Ari. Unfortunately, the lake in question only had 2 inches of ice. Instead of heading back home, we decided to head further North to another zone with some lakes where fishing is permitted throughout winter. We found a new target lake on the government's web site, Google mapped it, and headed up to the area. Had to trek for a good 1/2 hour though the woods to reach the lake, and got there to find roughly 3 to 3.5 inches of solid ice. As winter rules for multiple lines and dead bait were not in effect until December 20th, we only had a couple jigging rods and a handful of lures.

We managed a few small perch.

The lake had some moose tracks, surprising being that the ice was barely thick enough for us to walk on.

After using Google's satellite map to find an ATV trail to the lake when I got back home that evening, we decided to head back there once again once winter rules were in effect, with the intention of targeting some pike with dead bait.

December 11 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 14 (Lanaudiere)

Kids off school for a day, headed up to Coin Lavigne for some stocked trout ice fishing. Heated cabin came in very handy, as the wind chill was -18 when we arrived. Younger ones stayed in the warm cabin while we got the lines set up, while Levi ice fished with me. Action was extremely slow, we only managed 4 trout all day, but kids had a very nice time, not to mention the tasty dinner.

December 21 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 11 (Upper Laurentians)

After dropping my family off at the airport, Ari and I headed back to the new lake we had tried a couple weeks earlier. This time, I brought along my tip ups, and some frozen mackerels and smelt to use as bait to target big Northern pike under ice. All the gear would be too much to haul through rough terrain in the woods, so we opted to walk an ATV trail to the lake, about 1 kilometer or so from where I was able to park.

The ATV trail had a good foot or so of fresh snow, which made the trek out to the lake towing a heavy sled, quite challenging. The trail was crisscrossed with deer, moose and bear tracks, and after a good 45 minutes or so, we finally reached the lake. It was covered in thick snow as well, took another 10-15 minutes to get to the area we planned to target.

After drilling our holes and setting up the pike lines, Ari and I jigged for panfish, catching a few perch and sunfish. 

Nothing like being out on an uninhabited lake, untouched since freeze up, surrounded by nothing to the calm nature in crisp -13 temps. Ari enjoyed some frozen pizza for lunch.

With close to 1 hours walk back to the car, we had to call it a day a few hours later, by mid afternoon. Unfortunately, no pike for us, and as there will likely be too much snow on the trail for the rest of the winter, I doubt we'll be heading back any time soon.

 Ari stopped for a short break while towing the sled back across the lake.

Though the fishing wasn't great, I was quite happy with the entire experience of finding, trekking to, and trying to ice fish the lake.

December 24 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 6 (Eastern Townships)

Being an observant Jew, I don't ice fish on Fridays or Saturdays. This was the mandatory break in my plan of fishing 4 management zones in 4 days, effectively making my next outing day 2.

Ari cancelled on me do to last minute change in weather which had him cleaning snow into the wee hours of Sunday morning. I headed out to a lake in the Eastern Townships I first ice fished last winter, hoping to find safe ice. Sure enough, I was lucky to find a solid 4.5 inches of ice, and less than 1 centimeter of snow cover. East trekking and hole drilling using my manual auger, I got the pike lines set up again.

My personal favorite for ice fishing with bait is the Big Game polar tip up made by HT Enterprises. Built to last, and to avoid ice hole freeze up, you can pretty much set and forget the lines until the flag pops ups when a fish take the bait.

Unfortunately, no hits from any pike. Only had 4 lines set for pike as I was alone, and saved the 5th line to jig for perch. The perch were slower than ever, took my until 3 PM to catch my first one, and then another one on my way out that swallowed my W3 jigging rap.

December 25 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 14 (Lanaudiere)

The following day, I took my brother David and nephew Yehuda up to Coin Lavigne for some more trout fishing. My nephew had never been out on ice before, so I enjoyed being able to give him the run down, without having to worry about catering to my own kids, as they were away skiing with my wife.

Didn't take long for us to catch a few rainbow and speckled trout. 

Fishing died down completely around noon, and nothing I tried was working. Finally, I decided to slow jig a Sabiki rig tipped with mealworms, and started catching rainbow trout one after the other.

We had our bag limit shortly after.

For those of you that have never heard of a Sabiki rig, it is used to catch bait in Saltwater, and widely available around ocean fishing piers. Having picked one up in Florida last April, I brought it back with my intending to try it on ice for perch. It's made up for 6 small hooks, tipped with a piece of plastic that looks like fish skin, with a small colored bead above each hook. As Quebec rules only allow for 3 hooks per line, I cut it in half, and re-tied it to my ice fishing rod. Love it when innovation works out to save the day.

December 26 2017 - Quebec fishing zone 9 (Laurentians)

With an incoming cold front and a busy schedule for the last few days in December, this was to be the last of my ice fishing marathon to end 2017. Finally, Ari and I got onto the lake I had wanted to try a few week earlier. Having never been on this lake before, we set up 8 lines for Northern pike, and drilled a bunch of extra holes a bit deeper to jig for perch while we waited for the pike to hit our bait.

Ari setup with a small w2 jigging rap, while I decided to try my Sabiki rig for perch. The bare rig didn't manage any strikes as it would in saltwater, despite my marking a big school of fish on my flasher. Sure enough, as soon as I tipped the hooks with mealworms, I landed this Jumbo perch.

Ari an I landed a bunch more over the next couple hours, but with a -28 windchill, it got too cold on my wet fingers to keep taking off the gloves to free the fish, so I switched to jigging frozen smelt for pike.

Took a couple hours for the first flag to go off, Ari landed his first pike of the winter. Too small to keep, we released it after a quick pic.

Unfortunately, that was the first and last pike of the day. However, Ari managed to jig up a few dozen perch, with some nice ones in the 9 to 11 inch range.

We ended up keeping some of the bigger perch, as well as a few smaller ones that didn't make it. Planned on having some tasty fresh perch for dinner, as the lake we fished was relatively clean compared to most waterways around Montreal.

Unfortunately, their flesh was riddled with white worms (parasites), so they all ended up in the garbage.

Overall, it has been an epic experience getting to scout and try out some new spots, which is all part of the game. Ice fishing from sunrise to sunset in everyday, not to mention driving a good 1200 km to get back and forth, was quite the experience. 

Time invested into trying new fishing spots, rigs, lures and tactics, often doesn't result into much. However, when it all works out and you end up hooking and possibly landing a trophy fish on ice, makes it all worth it.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Our 2017 fishing season highlights

Another open water fishing season is in the books. Thank God, it was another productive season, with some new species and personal records beaten for most of the family. Equally if not more important, I spent time honing various fishing related skills and techniques.

Some if the season's highlights:

Southwest Florida shark fishing trip

Mijocama bass fishing trip

Domaine Shannon walleye trip

And some pics by species:

Largemouth bass:

Smallmouth bass

Walleye / pike

Trophy Musky

Carp pics accessible in the carp fishing pictures gallery page at:

I thank God for giving me the opportunity and ability to be able to fish as much as I do, as well as my wife for putting up with my fishing habit. Thank you again to everyone I've fished with over the past year, we should do it again sometime.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Coldwater trophy fishing in fall

November has arrived, and recent cold spells have dropped the water temperature around Montreal down to where they should be for this time of the year.

Though the biting cold often makes for miserable conditions on a boat, but picking the right day and dressing extremely warmly for a fishing outing can make for some trophy fishing this time of the year. I typically wear a layer of thermal underwear and socks made of quality fleece under my clothes, and then cover up with a survival suit and heavy boots. Basically the same gear I use for ice fishing, as being stationary on a boat for hours at a time combined with the windchill can make for sub zero outer temps.

Many species of game fish such as bass, walleye and musky will go on a final feeding frenzy before first ice. Bass and walleye tend to school up by size at certain areas during the fall, and finding a productive area with larger fish in very cold water can pay off nicely, year after year. Scaled down presentations fished slower than normal are a killer fishing tactic when it comes to fishing for and catching predatory fish species in colder water.

Fished for smallmouth bass with my friend and guide Mark Currie a few days ago. The bite was on, but the bass were very finicky, short striking our lures, resulting in more fish lost than landed.

Still, we managed to land a good dozen smallmouth bass, decent sizes too, up to 4.5 lbs.

Followed up with a musky fishing outing with my friend and guide Patrick Therrien a few days later, water temp had dropped 7 degrees F in a few days.

Trolling paid off big time during our musky trip, I landed my biggest trophy musky of the season, and just about tied my all time biggest musky. Also the latest in a season that I have landed musky to date.

As you see, cold water fishing in fall around Montreal is not for the faint of heart, only die hard fishermen / anglers out this time of the year. However, the rewards are well worth it when you stand the chance of landing your biggest trophies of the season.

Mike, Patrick and Mark are available for cold water guided fishing outings through the end of November, for more information on their guided fishing rates, click: